We all get the cold calls, the email spam, the phone call in the middle of the day, or the urgent requests to set up a meeting for our advice on a current Student Affairs issues. It seems every year there is a new mobile or tech solution to a current #SApro crisis that bombards us with a storm through social media but a year later are no where to be seen. So how do we navigate the tidal wave of products and vendors attempting to make our lives easier?
Now some of the companies out there I really like. They are passionate about our field, they produce information and tips for our trade, and are looking to engage us as professionals through offering free webinars or detailed blog posts. While I get this is part of their marketing efforts, I think is great that these organizations are interacting with our field.
But how do we distinguish good products from bad products? How do we know that certain technology platforms will benefit us, our programming, and our assessment? Here are a few tips going through my brain when talking to vendors:
Do the math.
People gotta get paid, have benefit packages, office space, server space, etc. If there are eight people working at a company with only a handful of clients, its best to start inquiring about their financial stability and development plans. Do the math. You can only stretch VC funding so far. One company we had a contract with told us that “they were waiting to be bought out by Google before they did any updates to their software.” Yep. They no longer exist.
Their presentations must be perfect.
Yeah, I get the occasional technology glitch, it will happen from time to time, but listen for enthusiasm for the product from the sales rep. Is the person excited about the product and communicating with passion?
Speaking of presentations, pay attention to their graphs.
I once sat through a presentation in which a vendor’s flagship institution contained extremely little user participation. In fact, their own graph in their presentation showed a steady decrease in user participation after a month. Now that I think about it, I’ve actually sat through two presentations from two different companies that had graphs showcasing users did not use their product. I was greeted with silence when I inquired about this.
Look at their competitors.
Get price points to do some comparative analysis.
Just because it’s mobile, doesn’t mean it’s great.
Think Pokemon Go for a second. People have to have a reason, an incentive to want to use the tech platform. For Pokemon its fun, it relives their youth, and has brand background versus something like Ingress which has a similar theme. Space, data, etc. are all finite on a mobile device so you must constantly ask yourself what is the incentive for students to want and use a platform.
Finally, be a nice person.
You never know who will end up where and with what. Its okay to ignore the emails or pretend you don’t hear the person culling you to the exhibition table but a lot of the people trying to sell us stuff really want to see the field improve.
Second finally, ask for a swag bag.
You know they got them. You know you want them. We all need an extra pen or koozie.