By Todd Murphy | February 3rd, 2017
Lately, it seems, the phrase “apples-to-apples” is being used to compare incumbent media monitoring vendors to prospective vendors looking to steal business. The pitch generally goes something like this:
Outside Vendor, “What are the top three things you like about your current news monitoring service?”
Customer, “I really like A, B, and C from my current vendor.”
Outside Vendor, “If I could give you an ‘apples-to-apples’ monitoring proposal for $3,000 less per year than your current service, would you be interested?”
Customer, “I’m listening.”
This is where the game begins. An incumbent vendor is always at a disadvantage when a prospective vendor makes a claim that doesn’t truly have to be demonstrated. In other words, what does “apples-to-apples” really mean to both sides of this pitch. For the normal customer, they believe they are going to get a pitch for service that is 100% comparable to what they are receiving now. Unfortunately for these clients, the outside pitching vendor only needs to demonstrate they can cover some of the media outlets, and provide some of the tools available from the current vendor, in order to say, “We do everything Universal Information Services does”. The prospective vendor only needs to show enough similarity so that the customer, who is predisposed to want to believe a cost-savings will result in the same results delivered by Universal. Features and functionality specifics from the outside vendor are usually not shared with the client, making a granular comparison difficult.
What we’ve learned through secret shopping, and testimonials from returning clients, is that far too often the “apples-to-apples” turns into a bait and switch situation. Once the outside prospective vendor introduces doubt in the mind of the customer, the customer is often willing to believe what is shown to them. If the prospective vendor shows TV, radio, web, social, and “print” coverage, then the customer is inclined to believe that this prospective vendor can do everything a company like Universal does, but for $3,000 less.
If It Seems too Good to Be True, It Probably Is.
These famous words have often been spoken by parents, grandparents, mentors and even the Better Business Bureau. What we know and can demonstrate is that in today’s world sales people feel that by simply uttering words they can make people believe their statement is true. “If they said it, it must be true.” By the time the client finds that the apples-to-apples they were given aren’t the same as what they had, they’ve already committed to a 12 month, or more, iron-clad contract. We see this happen all too often.
It is true, our clients are among the greatest people in the world. I don’t want this post to in any way insinuate that our clients can be duped because they aren’t sophisticated enough to spot a bad apple when they see one. Unfortunately, it is human nature to want to believe in things that are beneficial to us. For example,
An unbelievably low lease rate for that high-end car. (base models only)
A surprise free upgrade to that resort suite. (comes complete with a three hour time-share pitch)
A monitoring service that says they cover all the same TV, radio and newspaper outlets as Universal. (well, only the websites of those outlets that have online content)
The Good and The Bad
I have good news and I have bad news. The good news is that the power to discern good apples from bad apples (news monitoring vendors) lies with the customer. The bad news is the customer has that burden to be ever vigilant against the “apples-to-apples” claim of a prospective vendor. Here are three tips our clients and prospective clients can use to eliminate the bad apples.
1. Know how to spot a bad apple. A tell-tale sign of a bad apple is that their sales outreach is relentless. They will call and email far more than any vendor that is courteous with your time. If you think you are being “hounded” by a prospective media monitoring vendor, be very careful and proceed to tip #2.
2. Ask the right questions.
- So as not to be mislead, have the prospective vendor put in writing their answer to this question. “Can you cover all TV markets and broadcasts, more than 250 radio station broadcasts, read published newspapers in my state or nationwide, comprehensively monitor websites, and provide true social media tracking?”
- Also ask if they will have to outsource any part of their monitoring and will that generate any increased costs? The bad apples generally only monitor web content and outsource the rest of the needed services, often resulting in rising costs that will erode your $3000 savings.
- Lastly, ask the vendor for a short-term contract or a contract clause that clearly let’s you quit them if you find their service is not as they promised. You really must read their contracts because they are invariably iron-clad and 12 months in duration, at a minimum. This is a sign that the prospective vendor needs to lock you in. A truly good service would not hold your feet to the fire if they were unable to deliver what you needed.
3. Contact your current vendor. I can’t stress this tip enough because the sooner you let your current vendor know what the prospective vendor is promising, the more your loyal vendor can help you. Your current monitoring service has a real interest in retaining you as a good customer. If the prospective vendor has made promises that are too good to be true, your current vendor will help identify those for you. And ultimately, if the prospective vendor demonstrates a capability you like, your existing vendor most likely can match it. The service you are using can be your best protection against a bait and switch.
The high cost of change
In the end it saves your organization time, effort, and that equates to saving money if you can stay with an existing vendor. Change is hard, regardless of what a sales person might tell you. Fine tuning your account with a new monitoring service can take months, if not forever, just to get back to the results your current monitoring service was providing. The value of your existing vendor knowing your terms, your special needs, and being able to address that which makes your account unique is of great value. And more often than not, your current vendor can add features and tools you may have identified through the sales pitch from the outside vendor.
Don’t let the promise of a cost savings cloud your judgment… not all apples are good. Download our news monitoring comparison sheet to see how Universal Information Services stacks up against other vendors.