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July 11, 2016

Before selecting a content partner, ask these 5 questions

Choosing the wrong partner to support your production efforts can be a financial and logistical nightmare leading to poor output, wasted time, and lost revenue. Make sure you’re working with the right partner by asking these five critical questions:

Question mark symbol above vintage old book on blackboard background

1.    Does the provider really understand what you’re trying to accomplish?

A lot of companies provide pre-press and digitization solutions to publishers, but do they truly understand your problem and provide the best solution possible to solve it?

Sometimes vendors will review requirements and simply check the boxes in their proposal to fit the bill. Look for signs a partner really understands what you need and is making the right recommendations, maybe by suggesting a slightly different approach, or pointing out a potential hazard. This can save costly mistakes down the road.

2.    What do the provider’s customers have to say?

Do your prospective providers list their customers and case studies on their website? Will they let you speak with current or past customers?

A provider should furnish you with a representative sampling of its customer base. Talking candidly with a cross-section of the provider’s customers should be the centerpiece of your due diligence efforts.  It’s also important to know why customers do business with the provider.  Is cost savings the primary driver, or does the provider offer superior customer service, delivery, and technology?

3.    How will my project be managed?

Project management can make or break the success of outsourcing any area of your business. It’s surprising to think a vendor would be disorganized or fail to communicate, but it happens all the time.

During your selection process, make sure the provider outlines who will manage the day-to-day aspects of your project. Will it be a senior level representative or an account coordinator? How and when will you receive status updates and be alerted to any issues? Does the provider use a project management system where you can easily access reporting and get real-time insight into what’s going on with your work? You better hope so! With high-volume content projects, an efficient system to organize tasks and workflows is imperative.

4.    What security measures does the provider have in place?

Securing your publishing data is just as important as securing your other information systems.  With major cyber attacks and hackings splashing the headlines daily, it’s critical to have a detailed understanding of the security measures that protect a provider’s facility and technology from outside intrusion. Proper data security requires vigilance on two fronts: 1) protecting the data from unintentional loss or corruption through mishandling or system failure, and 2) protecting the data from the possibility of intentional loss or corruption through unauthorized access. Find out what safeguards and restrictions are in place to offer a secure physical and technical network environment.

5.    How strong is the provider’s financial health?

Too often overlooked, the financial health of your provider is critical, particularly if the vendor is less than two years old.  If your prospective provider is new, you should ask to review its cash flow position, burn rate, and other financials to mitigate the risk of losing a partner to financial “sudden death.”  Of course, established providers with a track record of profitability are the safest bet in this regard.

With lots of competition out there, it can be tough to weed through the fluff and find the right partner who will simplify your life, not make it more complicated. Make sure you are asking the right questions and avoid having to start the process all over again in another year. Happy hunting!

Can Apex help you with a publishing services project? Contact us to start a dialogue.

About Joel Mills

Joel serves as Apex’s Director of Business Development for Content & Media Solutions. He has over a decade of experience in the content and publishing industries. Joel has successfully led numerous high-profile content projects on behalf of the world’s leading publishers, libraries, government institutions and tech companies. Joel enjoys connecting people with Apex’s powerful solutions and establishing new partnerships.

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