Sunday, June 28, 2009

Your Vendors VS Your Clients : Your Dilemma

I've been stuck in a dilemma.

How do I develop strong relationships with my vendors while preserving my impartial judgement on behalf of my clients?

In the industry, the sage wisdom is to develop strong relationships with my vendors and then have my vendors fund, sponsor, and otherwise support my efforts in return for aggressively pushing their products. How do I develop strong relationships with vendors that want me to produce sales, and still safeguard the trust that the clients have in me to not sell them stuff or services they do not need?

There is the added self interest that my company is more profitable and productive by standardizing around fewer vendors. Yet, I must bring in new vendors that understand the new paradigms that are coming, or do better at a lower cost. Still, I cannot force clients away from the old vendor unless I really believe they will be benefited by the new vendor's product or service. Or that they at least will not be hurt...

But my whole practice has been built around tailoring to the clients specific needs. That sometimes means using different vendors in the same product or service category. Backup is a prime example. Some clients need a backup solution that can give fast virtualization, due to production requirements or commitments to their clients. Other clients need just backup, as they are willing to suffer some downtime. Some have large datasets they want offsite and others have small amounts that need to be backed up. Most vendors do not cover all of this, and none do all well.

I have accepted that I must have 2 to 3 vendors in most categories for my existing client base. I am toying with the idea of making 1 a prime vendor and then putting together a marketing program to find new clients that need the best-in-class product from that vendor. That would give the vendor the activity to justify supporting me. That means I will have to change from growth by referral to actual marketing. Ouch, that is a brave new world for me. Hope to share with you as I work my way through that.

EDIT - Actually, I meant direct response marketing was new. I have put out the fishhook (Yellow Pages, Stuffers, etc) before just hoping something would bite, but you never know what you will get. More directed marketing at a specific profile of potentials, that is what I mean.

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