1. Understand how you want to use the technology and evaluate a vendor to make sure its capabilities match what you're looking to get. This will likely mean doing more than evaluating a pitch deck, and moving into an in-depth demo or a hands-on test. "Most every company says the same thing: "We have the best tech, the best optimization and the best services,'" said Philip Smolin, senior VP-market solutions at Turn.
2. It seems obvious, but get as much information as possible up front about the tactics a vendor will use to reach your goals and their associated costs -- including, for example, the price of ingredients such as additional data. If you don't, the prospective partner could take a loss on a test to win the business, and adjust tactics once it is on your media plan.
3. If you are conducting a test between vendors, make sure you have proper control groups in place to make apples-to-apples comparisons. Simultaneous campaigns outside of the test could affect results, as could two vendors bidding against the same ad space.
4. Watch out for shortcuts when tests are evaluated on costs per acquisition, said Marc Grabowski, chief operating officer at Nanigans. Prioritize vendors that deliver customers with the highest lifetime value to you vs. simply the cheapest customer to acquire.
5. Don't assign test-dollar amounts arbitrarily. Equations exist to help you estimate the amount of impressions -- or spend -- necessary to run a statistically sound test.