I am making a new resource available for free: A Checklist For Selecting A Web Event Vendor. My goal was to give you a way to help organize your priorities and needs as you evaluate webinar or webcast products and vendors.
Large companies often create RFP (Request For Proposal) documents when evaluating potential vendors for big-ticket items. Smaller companies and solo entrepreneurs typically don’t operate in large enough budget territories to make a formal RFP process practical.
But even if you don’t craft a vendor RFP, knowing what questions to ask (or what things to look for in your own hands-on evaluation) can be useful. I often find that companies or individuals “don’t know what they don’t know” – They let the vendor show off features that look good in a guided demo, but gloss over areas where they aren’t as strong.
My checklist first takes you through a self-examination. What will you use your web collaboration product for? What functionality is likely to be important to you, and what can you live without as a tradeoff for other features or lower costs?
Once you have a handle on your priorities, you can pick and choose what you want to ask your candidate vendors to demonstrate or verify. Some of these have to do with the company and their services, support, and stability. Many questions are specific to the functionality you want to have available. And some questions deal with licensing, capacity, and practical business considerations.
I would like to highlight a few things I mention in using this document to your best advantage:
- This is overkill for selecting a web meeting product that supports small team collaboration. Questions are specifically geared for what I have termed “web events” – webinars or webcasts that use advanced features. The larger your company and more varied your use of web conferencing, the more this will help you.
- I included more areas of investigation than you should need to consider. The trick is to focus on the things that are going to give YOU the greatest return and satisfy YOUR highest priorities. A few vendors and products cover almost everything on this list, but they naturally come with higher prices and a sales/support organization focused on high-value clients. Searching for a lower cost solution usually means accepting tradeoffs in how the vendor meets some of the requirements.
- If you just throw this entire list at a sales representative, they are likely to be unresponsive. It’s only worth their time to answer these kinds of in-depth questionnaires if there’s a chance of serious revenue as a result. Capitalism is cruel.
- PLEASE don’t ask for customer reference contacts as part of an initial inquiry. You wouldn’t want to be bothered by scores of people calling to ask your opinion about something you purchased, and neither do they. Providing references is a favor that sales reps have to use judiciously. Save that as a final validation step. Asking opinions on social media is likely to give you more realistic responses than customers carefully selected for their positive feelings about the company.
- There’s a section asking whether the vendor provides services associated with managing and running events. Many vendors don’t, and that should not be a problem. After all, you can always call on Webinar Success to provide those services!
I’m providing the checklist as an unprotected Word Document for your convenience. You can modify questions to fit your requirements and delete the things you don’t need. Feel free to send your own version to vendors with your name and logo on it instead of mine. But I beg of you… Please help me maintain my branding and business benefit by pointing other people to my original.
One last special note for vendors: It wouldn’t be a bad idea to try answering the entire document as an internal exercise. It will give lots of ammunition to your sales force, while pointing to areas where you might want to concentrate future development in order to gain or maintain competitive differentiation. Plus, if a prospect ever sends you my version, you’ll be ready to respond!