The Leader's Guide to Successful Vendor Management

At Boss Lady Consulting, our team has extensive executive leadership experience in marketing and communications. Having worked with hundreds of agencies, vendors, and partners, we know the difficulty in scoring their effectiveness. Add in today's omnichannel approaches with a seemingly endless combination of platforms and solutions. It’s enough to make even the most seasoned leader dizzy.

You may find some of these scenarios familiar:

  • A vendor is brought on board and then left alone to "do their thing".

  • You inherit an agency or partner from the person before you without a Scope of Work.

  • An executive returns from a conference extolling a magic tactic and an inked contract with the vendor who pitched it to them.

Did you pull your hair out yet?

Regardless of your situation, we are sharing our insights from decades of leadership in hiring and firing partners, evaluating and determining what makes sense for our business, and resources that work for non-profits to Fortune 50 companies.

As a business owner or accountable leader, it is YOUR right and responsibility to check in on your vendors and make sure they are delivering what you agreed to.

So how do you do this?

  1. Insist on a Specific Scope of Work - If an agency or vendor will not or cannot provide you with an exact Scope of Work (SOW) that outlines deliverables, timeline, and costs, including outcomes you can expect, then don't enter into business with them. If they can't be specific about the value they will bring to you and in what timeframe, beware!

  2. Have Specific Check Points - Your SOW should outline specific time frames for check-ins. If not, make sure you get specific dates and times to receive updates on your projects. It is a red flag if a vendor will not provide you with a regular schedule of reports, updates, or check-ins. Insist you get it or move on.

  3. Ask Questions - Just like hiring an employee, you have hired this agency or vendor to perform a specific scope of work for you, so ask questions! If they are unavailable or unresponsive, outline specific expectations for communication and reporting. Be clear about what you need and when. Don't be intimidated to ask questions or request reports. And if something isn't clear or doesn't make sense, ask. You are the boss.

  4. Evaluate Their Performance - You hired them. You get to review their performance and accountability to the SOW. Therefore, you should review their work and performance to your agreement and provide feedback. Make sure that your evaluation is based on the statement of work, which essentially is their "job description". At the end of this article is the vendor scorecard we have used in many organizations for your use.

  5. Update your Scope of Work - If your needs as an organization have changed or are shifting focus, ask for a revised SOW. To get value from your investment, your work and SOW must align. That will help you avoid any unforeseen costs or surprises if you need to change your project focus.

Remember, when hiring an agency or vendor to support your marketing efforts, the priority is clarity.

Take the time to define exactly what you need (i.e. to increase leads, sales, improve engagement, etc.) with a specific and measurable metric tied to that need. This data will be the most helpful preparation for entering an agreement with a partner. While they may not be able to guarantee a certain # of closes, it will provide the information they need to develop a winning strategy for you and your business.

A trusted partner agency should always be looking for ways to grow your business, meet your needs, and innovate on approaches to expand your reach. If your relationship has grown stagnant and "status quo", it might be time for a change.

Get The Vendor Scorecard Here