How to Buy a Digital Asset Management System

How to Buy a Digital Asset Management System

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Working through the process of how to buy Digital Asset Management (DAM) software is much the same for any significant product or service. However, there are very specific considerations to be aware of when it comes to buying a DAM. It’s a specialized field, and as you’ll see from our Ultimate Guide to Digital Asset Management, it’s not the type of service you simply ‘Add to cart”. Here are the things you need to know as well as the questions you need to ask yourself and your vendors. Let’s take it step by step.

1. Define your end goal

Before you dive into the weeds, work out what the current problem is. Talk to all people involved so you get the full picture of where the roadblocks are with your current system. Is it better creative asset organization, access and rights management? Is it the need to scale, enhance collaboration, brand consistency or ensure legal compliance? Solutions can range from solving a very targeted issue to a total overhaul of your workflow and operations.

2. Scope your needs

Sounds daunting, but there are only six questions you need to answer. They’ll help you sort out the type DAM you need now, the DAM you may need in a year and the DAM of five years from now.

Question 1. Who is going to use it?

Which users need access? Think internal departments and external partners, agencies, and freelancers. What level of permissions do you want to grant? Do you want people to be able to self-register to gain access or register for approval? Ensure your DAM provider can structure granular permissions, whether you need them now, or into the future.

Question 2. What type of content will you store?

The volume and type of content you’ll be migrating will determine how much data you need. Sometimes answering this question is impossible, especially if your assets contain archive material stored over multiple methods. If that’s the case, simply draw a line in the sand and migrate what you are using now. Also think about whether you want to manage raw assets, such as logos, product shots, footage and audio clips, or whether you want to store final art and use the DAM as a mechanism to proof, approve and distribute work.

Question 3. Who’ll manage it?

What type of resources do you have for the planning, implementation and ongoing management? DAMs vary in size and capability, which affects the effort required to supervise. Some very large teams have a dedicated manager, while for other teams it may be 10% of a FTE marketing role.

Question 4. Can it grow with me?

The ability to scale your solution is critical. Content creation is only going in one direction, (and that’s up). Whatever solution you choose, it must provide the company with the architecture, tools and processing power to grow. Consider potential expansion with asset type, number of users and additional system integrations.

Question 5. What are the measures of success?

Alongside achieving your end goals such as speed to market or fewer compliance breaches, what other key measures would you like to see on a regular basis? It could be as simple as logins, number of asset approvals and usage or metrics around asset risk? Rather than data for data’s sake, consider what information will actually help you be more effective. To quote Peter Drucker, “What gets measured gets managed”. In other words, you can’t improve what you can’t measure.

Question 6. Will your DAM integrate with existing tech?

No DAM is an island. To ensure approved assets stored in the DAM are truly the single source of truth, your Digital Asset Management needs to seamlessly connect with other technologies. The specifics of this will depend on your existing infrastructure and processes. The possibilities are endless however we most commonly see DAMs click into content creation tools, content management systems and web platforms. You should also give thought to any legacy systems you can retire once a DAM is implemented.

3. Be aware of what a DAM can do

Not all DAMs are created equal. Some are set up to solely manage brand assets, some specialize in media and file management, some are archive focused, and some incorporate ‘all of the above’ plus creative project management tools, automated workflows and reporting. In fact, MarTech analysts Real Story Group define the process of buying a DAM as a journey broken down into three phases:

DAM 1.0

A step up from a shared drive yet usually not connected to the rest of the MarTech stack. This type of DAM system plays a key role as a central source of truth for creative and brand assets, with robust tagging, search and sharing capability. If you need something simple – start with this option – but ensure the DAM provider can increase functionality as you grow.

DAM 2.0

The next level DAM plays a key part in the content creation and distribution workflow. There’s typically a one-way flow of data from the DAM to another marketing system, such as a Web Content Management System, a Project Management Platform, a Communications Platform or a design system. This means approved content in the DAM can be automatically accessed and pushed across.

DAM 3.0

A true omnichannel DAM solution, this level provides a seamless two way flow of information with other software in your tech stack. It also has the ability to generate in-depth usage and ROI data. We’ve put together a shortlist of the most useful and popular functionalities currently in the market. Many of these tools should come as standard, and some, depending on the vendor, can be cherry picked and customized to suit your needs.

  • Store thousands of creative pieces such as images, footage, audio, web assets, finished art and documentation in one centralized repository.
  • Easily retrieve these files through keywords that are pre-populated via AI or manual tagging.
  • Create lightbox collections and share with internal and external users.
  • Download files singularly or in bulk in any format. Turn JPGs into PNGs in a click.
  • Manual or auto cropping ability for images and video.
  • Customize metadata fields to capture important data that travels with the file when downloaded.
  • Manage permissions by role, folder or by keyword filter.
  • Enable public access for some assets.
  • Email links of files to internal and external users
  • Allow the files in your DAM to talk to other systems and trigger actions in other systems via APIs. For example, if a file is added in your DAM, your sales team get a message in Slack.
  • Integrate with web content management systems such as WordPress, Drupal, Adobe Experience Manager and creative tools such as Adobe Creative Cloud.
  • Auditable proofing, annotations, mark ups and approvals.
  • Custom asset review dates to notify you when a file needs to expire.
  • Reminders and alerts to action next steps.
  • Systems for version control.
  • Manage brand creative requests via auto downloads or dedicated inbox.
  • Upload any file type with previews of over 100 commonly used file types.
  •  Add watermarks.
  • Workflow approvals for publishing, downloading and general feedback.
  • Automate repetitive low value work such as sending out logos as well as auto-generating disclaimers and fine print.
  • Usage reporting by file or user to gauge ROI on content and overall platform usage.
  • Customized branded interface or white labeled system embedded into an existing workflow.

4. Vendor selection

Once you’ve scoped your project and are familiar with the functionalities that are available, it’s time to speak with potential vendors. The thing is, many of them look and feel the same, which makes it difficult to select a short list. In addition to how you want your RFP answered, here are the critical things you should be looking for:

  • Do they offer a live free trial? If not, it’s a show-stopper.
  • How responsive are they? This is the dating phase and if they don’t get back to you in a timely manner now, imagine trying to get support later on.
  • What is their support like? Do they have an SLA? Do they have a publicly available helpdesk?
  • Do they offer assistance for migrate and implementation?
  • Will they provide resources to help train your team?
  • Ask to see case studies demonstrating real life solutions and ROI.
  • How long has this vendor been around? What is their client base like? Do you see companies like yours represented?
  • Check verified reviews such as G2 to see what your peers have to say about the platform and overall service?
  • Assess their security infrastructure and get data on any breaches.
  • What is their tech roadmap? Can their system grow with you?

5. The internal approval process

To get your DAM up and running, typically there are four parts of the business who need to sign-off and buy-in;


Ensure others on the team, as well as the marketing heads and leaders, understand the need and support the project. Confirm the marketing budget to fund the initiative.


Bring IT in early. Outline your requirements and seek their opinion on cloud hosting and necessary security protocols such as: SOC2 compliance, proof of penetration tests and Single Sign On capabilities to allow your network ID to login to your DAM.


Procurement teams are obviously experts in sourcing, evaluation, negotiation, and contract management. They can work with you to ensure a smooth and successful acquisition that meets your company’s needs and provides long-term value.


Your legal team can help draft and approve terms and conditions in an SLA, such as intellectual property rights, data storage and retrieval as well as any regulatory considerations specific to your industry.

6. Determine your DAM ROI

Determining the ROI for your DAM system is not only critical for the initial business case stage, but also for justifying the ongoing usage of your DAM. The cost savings to consider are as follows:

Asset duplication

When you can’t find content because it cannot be easily found, and it needs to be recreated or repurchased – this is an expensive exercise. Think about your company’s stock photography budget and assume you are duplicating it by 10%.

Asset searches

Users can spend anywhere between 5-15% of their time trying to locate the content they cannot find.

Asset compliance

Consider the issues your team could face if you publish the wrong asset in the wrong market, or you breach a talent contract. The financial penalties and reputational damage is significant and can cripple a business.

Being picky is prudent

While it may take time to find the right vendor, the ‘sweat-to-gain’ ratio is well worth it. The right Digital Asset Management system can do anything from help you leverage your assets to a full transformation of company wide operations. It can create unity amongst creative assets as well as teams, so you are all, (literally), on the same page.

IntelligenceBank Digital Asset Management helps you store search and share all types of creative assets in one location, with full visibility and control. Find out more here.

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