I’m looking for an apartment right now. While I doubt it’s fun anywhere, it’s a special kind of trauma in New York.
You’re lured in with one thing, only to be shown another. An inept sales broker can’t answer basic questions but still gets 10% of your money. You’re pressured into acting quickly before deals disappear (even though half the building is empty). And each time you enter a contract, you move in, realize things weren’t what they seemed and blame yourself for not asking the right questions.
It’s a lot like buying SaaS.
And while both are processes painful, both are also unavoidable. But that doesn’t mean we can’t get better at asking the right questions so we can get what we want.
I’ve rented a lot of apartments and bought a lot of software (I was actually a BounceX client before I joined the Strategy team). So I’ve combined my tips for what to look for when shopping for an apartment and for a MarTech solution. Because moving and switching vendors both suck, hopefully you’re a little more likely to renew your lease.
1. “Is the Super on-site?”
Things will break. It’s a given. So how big is the engineering team, and where are they located? How are clients involved in the product roadmap? If you want to make this a long-term investment, you’re going to want to be heard. Make sure there’s an avenue for it.
2. Ask for a winter utility bill.
Those high ceilings and loft windows are great until you get the $600 bill for heat. Make sure you know exactly how your base pricing can be affected, and get specific by running model scenarios.
3. Get promised renovations in writing.
If a promised feature is critical to you (be it a new kitchen sink or an API to another vendor), ask for the right to opt-out or for a discount if it’s not available by a planned date.
4. Check how old the mailbox labels are.
Happy people stick around. So how long have they had their clients? What are their churn rates? You probably won’t meet a tenant before you move-in (or, frankly, talk to a neighbor before you move out), but you should definitely get a reference check.
5. Ask friends, “Do you like your management company?”
There are a million options. Talk to people you trust about what vendors they use, and get intros to the right people. Not only will it save you time, but trust goes both ways. If they’re a good client, you might just get a deal out of it.
6. Have the realtor shut the bathroom door and flush the toilet. And don’t be embarrassed about it!
Wall thickness matters. So ask the tough tech questions. Ask about site speed and migrations. Ask what slows down integrations. Get specific before you end up embarrassed in front of your colleagues because things are constructed less well than you thought.
7. “Can I lock in this rate for a 2-year lease?”
If you like the place and you’re confident you’re going to stick around, try to get some savings. Or at least get pricing for year 2 in advance.
8. And lastly, turn on the shower and check the water pressure.
If you’re going to live in this thing (and let’s be honest, you feel like you live in some software backends), the little daily tasks can make or break your day. Ask someone to walk your internal end-user through building a campaign. Bring work you’d really execute and see if it‘s something they’d really be happy to do every day.
Look, this list isn’t exhaustive. And you’ll still learn something every time you go through the process. But that doesn’t mean you can’t go into your next conversation a little more prepared.
(Oh and as a P.S., while I have no analogy to Martech for this, make sure your bedroom window isn’t precisely at a bus stop. Because while “the bus never comes in New York,” you’ll soon learn that it always comes at 2 a.m. and that beeping sound when the bus kneels every single night will get really annoying).