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The Shortlisting Process

 

In the previous article we outlined a brief summary of what shortlisting is and why it is used. Now we will look at the process itself in more depth, including information on evaluation criteria and the actual scoring system.

Evaluation Criteria

Prior to actually sifting through the sellers and compiling a shortlist- companies should publish their evaluation criteria. These are the essential components by which each seller will be judged. So for example, time at which they can start the work, essential skills, experience, cost, location and any preferred skills. These are just some common examples but each business will have their own specific set of requirements.

When applying, any sellers that don’t meet a company’s essential requirements will be automatically rejected. Those that do meet these requirements will become eligible for the shortlist and that’s when more thorough evaluation will take place, such as scoring.

Scoring

When it comes to comparing proposals, buyers will often be faced with a variety of vendors who are all offering similar things. Therefore the ability to pinpoint which proposals are the most suitable is paramount and this can be achieved using a scoring system.

Obviously, binary answers such as whether a supplier can begin work before a certain date can only be scored in two different ways, 1 and 0 for yes and no respectively. However, when assessing more subjective requirements, such as essential skills, experience and preferred skills, a more comprehensive points system may be required.

For example, when asking sellers to provide proof of experience- the buyer can then judge how far that proof met the requirement- 0/not at all, 1/partially met, 2/met and 3/exceeded expectations. This type of scoring system is a useful technique but it has to be applied in the same way to all sellers that are being assessed, in order to guarantee fairness.

Only applicants who meet all of the requirements will be eligible for the shortlist. However, if that number is particularly high then buyers can choose the highest scoring proposals to take forward. It’s at this stage where factors such as preferred requirements can make such a big difference.

Standing Out

Many businesses will complete background research in to prospective sellers and this can have an effect on their eventual decision. For example, many buyers will utilise sourcing platforms as a way of finding the best sellers. Furthermore, the sellers own website can provide a wealth of information, including case studies, bios and the way in which they approach business.

Reputation is another important factor and one that is often a deal breaker. The cheapest vendors may be tempting but are they reputable and how will their partnership affect the buyer? Reputation can be a difficult quality to gauge but this is where websites and social media presence play such a vital role.  The way in which sellers interact with other customers will be indicative of how they interact with a prospective buyer.

Finally, we should point out that there is an x-factor element to the shortlisting process. As already mentioned, the competition can be tough and the difference between landing on the shortlist and not can be marginal. In fact, sometimes buyers can simply go with their gut and choose a supplier who they feel they can personally work with.

What is Shortlisting?

 

The process of forming a partnership with a new supplier can be time consuming. It’s also a decision that can have lasting consequences for the company and is therefore extremely important.

The B2B buying cycle has become much more complex in recent years. Whereas in the past, it would focus mainly on cost and location, now there are so many other factors to consider. Working with a supplier is no longer a simple business transaction, it’s now a partnership and therefore involves issues such as reputation, marketing, experience and long-term outlook.

With so many suppliers on the market, the task of evaluating them all can be arduous. This is particularly problematic if the requirement for a new supplier is time sensitive. It’s for this reason that many companies now choose to use the technique of shortlisting.

What is Shortlisting?

Shortlisting is the process of sifting through a number of proposals and identifying the suppliers which are most suitable for partnership.

The buyer will use evaluation criteria as a way of scoring each proposal and the highest scorers will move on to the shortlist. The evaluation criteria used will vary from buyer to buyer but they usually include factors such as cost, proof of skills, proof of experience, when they can start work and “nice to have” or preferred skills.

It’s often the case that buyers receive a large number of proposals which meet the minimum requirements and it’s at this point that preferred skills come in to play and can tip the balance.

Once on the shortlist, vendors will move on to the next stage where they will receive a more thorough evaluation before the buyer decides on the successful proposal.

What are the Benefits?

As already mentioned, shortlisting streamlines the B2B buying cycle. Instead of investing precious time, money and manpower in to evaluating a large pool of sellers- buyers can cut out the middle man and identify a small group of the most promising proposals.

As well as saving time and resources, shortlisting also allows buyers to find the best vendors for their specific requirements. Setting an evaluation criteria means that the eventual shortlist will include sellers that offer something meaningful to that particular buyer- as opposed to a more general, one-size-fits-all approach.

It’s worth noting that shortlisting isn’t ideal for everyone. For example, a company may only receive a small number of proposals and therefore it would make more sense to take all of those sellers to the final evaluation phase.

Notification

Once the buyer has compiled a shortlist, they send out notifications to successful and unsuccessful applicants. With unsuccessful proposals will usually receive a stock email that basically tells them they didn’t meet the requirements. It’s at the discretion of the company as to whether they provide further details and feedback.

Successful applicants are sent confirmation that they are on the shortlist and information on the next phase- including assessment requirements.

Getting better blog links

Blogs provide the perfect channel for generating quality links that will help you with your SEO performance.  There’s no easy, hard and fast rules for increasing your chances of gaining quality, organic links, however here are a few tips that may increase your success and help harness blogs as an important contributor for your 2017 link building strategy.

Strike a chord – ensure your blogs provide value and meet your audience’s desire for authoritative information.  It’s far better to publish one or two well researched, information packed blogs than churn to loads for the sake of it.  People will only link to blogs that they feel are of interest to them and their peers.  If you’re piece doesn’t add value, provide a good read or even make someone laugh then your links will be low.

Add links to build links – if you are hoping to get others to link to your blog then don’t forget to include links to other sites in your own blog.  I’m definitely not talking spamming here – which you should avoid at all costs if you want your link building strategy to serve its purpose – but if you can link to useful information featured on another site or provide direct links to products you’ve discussed then this will increase the chances of you receiving back links from other sites, especially if you keep those you’re linking to informed.

Get active elsewhere – keep an eye on other blogs and industry related forums and jump on any opportunities where your content could help others and link to it.  ShoutMeLoud has a great article piece on ‘dofollow’ forums and blogs where this technique can be applied, as well as listing the forums that have Google page rank: http://www.shoutmeloud.com/the-list-of-dofollow-forums-for-bloggers-to-increase-backlinks.html

Get creative – No one wants to hear the same information over and over.  Brainstorm some topics that haven’t been covered and tap into those all important keywords that your competitors aren’t using. Alternatively you could take a popular topic and do something new with it, for example using graphics or video to make you stand out from the crowd. The internet is overloaded with the same old information so if you want others to link to you then you need to be different.

Get your blog blogged – a great way of gaining links is by developing relationships with other like-minded bloggers and get involved in ‘reciprocal linking’.  Any easy way to find potential bloggers is to check who’s already following your social media accounts and start with them.  There are a few things to consider when selecting bloggers to work with as links from low quality websites will have a negative impact on your SEO ranking:

Does it make sense to link?  It might sound obvious but make sure there is a logical connection between the two sites and that you have something in common.  The more relevant backlinks you have the easier it is for search engines to build a strong profile for your SEO ranking

Does the blog have an established following with good reach and visibility?  There’s little point linking to a blog with a limited audience

Does the other blog reflect your own brand values? Remember, you’re trying to build trust and an ongoing relationship with your audience.

Beware of blogs that contain a ridiculous amount of links already or one that is covered in advertising.

When you have determined which bloggers you want to work with consider creating bespoke blogs with a particular blogger and their followers in mind.  This will increase your chances of receiving a reciprocal link and also ensure you create a quality link. It’s a win win situation for both of you blogs as you can provide them with a quality link and receive one in return.

Finally, make sure you actually link to your own blogs across your other websites and social media accounts.  Let your contacts know about your blog and actively promote new content as and when it comes out. People can’t link to your blog if they don’t know its there.

Happy blogging

 

 

 

 

How to Write Shareable Content

There has been a very noticeable shift in the approach to content production in recent years. Whilst in the past the emphasis has been on quality, now the measure of success is the likelihood of a post going viral. The more people that share your content on their own social media channels, the more likely that the article or blog is read by other people and the greater degree of exposure it gains. Writing shareable content requires a whole different set of rules- many of which we will take a look at now.

Lists

Creating content which is simplistic and easy to read is always going to attract more visitors. It is for this reason why many websites are now producing lists instead of straightforward articles. In fact, Buzzfeed have built an entire empire on this approach.

Even if you don’t go down the list route, try to create content with small chunks of information, rather than blocks of text. These types of blogs are much more palatable and readers are more likely to share them on their own social media.

Title

We know that titles are incredibly important and when posting online they can often make or break your content. In order for your work to be shared, it has to be read and an evocative title is paramount.

When considering titles, think about whether there is a different or more exciting way of describing your content. It’s worth noting that numbers in titles and titles which come in the form of a question are particularly successful. Also, it goes without saying that dramatic titles will of course attract more clicks.

Pictures

As we have already established, people are more likely to engage with content when it’s immediately effective. One of the ways in which you can make an instant impact is through visuals. Just in the same way that a title can attract readers, a compelling image can do the exact same thing.

The visual appearance of content is becoming just as important as the work itself. This has probably got a lot to do with the changing face of social media. Sites such as Instagram and Pinterest rely heavily on images and this is affecting how posts are constructed.

Platform

You should always take into account the platform on which you post your blogs. For example as we have established, when posting on Instagram and Pinterest, the visual is everything. Positing on Facebook should take into account multiple factors such as images, titles and the way in which people interact with the site. When sharing content on Twitter, the emphasis is on hashtags as these are what drive traffic to your tweets.

You have to remember, when people share your work it will most likely be on one of these networks. Therefore, content which has been created with social media in mind has a greater chance of success.

Emotion

Whether you like it or not, emotional content attracts more attention than informational. You only have to look at the typical types of posts which go viral in order to understand what they have in common. The reason behind this idea is that emotional pieces have a greater impact upon us and we are much more likely to share them with other people.

Just take a look at Facebook, we don’t react to posts with an “I agree” button, we react with emoticons.

Controversy

Following on from the idea of emotion is creating content which is outright controversial. We know this is a successful technique because we see it all the time. Sites will share posts with a shocking title or picture in order to entice people into clicking. Whether the content lives up to the title is beyond the point, they have already gained a new visitor. We call this clickbait.

Creators should be cautious with this tactic. Being associated with clickbait can be damaging to your reputation and may actually deter visitors from interacting with your content. Even if you don’t post clickbait, engaging with controversial topics can still be somewhat risky. You are much more likely to offend a large proportion of readers. This is something which should factor in to your overall approach.