Procurement Can Be a Strategic Partner for Marketing—Just Give Them a Chance

Let me start by addressing the elephant in the room: Procurement and marketing—no matter what industry they are in—are not exactly natural allies.

Marketing teams are tasked with advancing a brand that helps target customers connect with a product. It’s not exactly a quantitative or analytical process, and the high level of creativity required establishes the relationship between the brand team and their agency as highly strategic and critical to the company’s success.

Procurement, on the other hand, is usually driven by straightforward processes designed to maximize resource efficiency. Okay, you caught me—procurement is evaluated on their ability to generate savings. Sometimes, our drive to get more (or the same) for less alienates creative, objective driven teams like marketing. But it doesn’t have to be this way.

Procurement may be measured on savings, but we know many different bridges to take to get there. Each route to savings serves a different purpose for the groups we work with, and they don’t all have to do with getting the lowest cost provider. If procurement and marketing can align on shared goals—and there is no reason to think that we can’t—the result is likely to be positive all around. Marketing will get what they want: More resources to invest, better performing agency relationships, and a brand that outperforms competitive alternatives. Procurement will get the opportunity to contribute to the efficiency of a new category of spend by applying a range of capabilities on marketing’s behalf.

Procurement as Bridge to the Macro Environment

One of the first questions procurement is likely to ask marketing is, “how satisfied are you with your current service partner(s)?” Assuming few marketing teams are in a big hurry to change out their agency, they are likely to respond that they are happy. Even if you really are happy, how do you know your expectations are in line with the rest of the market? Could you be overpaying and/or under-receiving? Describing how happy you are with your agency is like when someone asks if you got a good deal on a new car. The vast majority of people will likely answer that they did, but how do they know?

Unlike when you’re buying a car, you need to know whether you are getting the required performance and value when you allocate funds on behalf of your company. This is an area in which procurement can use their expertise to assist marketing—by benchmarking agency performance against the rest of the market. Start by identifying why you love your current agency and give procurement an opportunity to make sure no one else would be better at delivering that value or filling that role. In other words, validate that their performance is as good as you think it is.

Procurement as Bridge to Finance

Being in procurement isn’t all spreadsheets and roses, you know. We spend a lot of time working with other internal teams to make sure we deliver the kind of results the company needs in order to operate effectively. Some of the groups we regularly interface with give us yet another gap to bridge. One of the teams procurement works with all the time is finance. This relationship provides another opportunity for procurement to help marketing achieve their goals.

We’ve already acknowledged procurement’s drive to generate savings, but where do the savings go? You might assume that these “saved” funds end up being taken out of marketing’s budget—after all, isn’t the sourcing process designed to prove that you can get the same services for less than you thought? Well that doesn’t have to be the case. If you let us, procurement can negotiate with finance to let marketing keep their savings. These additional funds (which aren’t really additional are they?) can be used to increase marketing’s ROI by reinvesting them in the brand to accomplish more than was expected.

Procurement as Bridge to Suppliers

Supplier business reviews: Love them or hate them, they need to be done. Why not let procurement do the heavy lifting so you can focus on the value you’re trying to derive from that particular supplier relationship? We can do “post mortems” on former campaigns, monitor work in the pipeline, gather metrics, outline corrective action, and establish and monitor service level agreements (SLAs).

The key point about this particular procurement capability is that while we are best known for our processes, we are just as good at forming and managing relationships. That includes internal teams as well as external partners—and we’re prepared to step in and take action or facilitate when expectations are not being met. Just give us the opportunity to show you what we can do—you’ll likely be pleasantly surprised.

Procurement doesn’t have to be what marketing has come to expect based on past experience. As a field we’ve gone through some major changes in the last few years, driven in large part by feedback from groups like marketing and a whole lot of professional soul searching and evolution.

We know that when any group—marketing or otherwise—is forced to work with procurement and our processes, we’re going to be perceived as cumbersome, and that is certainly not the goal. We can take a more positive, proactive role on marketing’s behalf. We need savings. Tell us what you need and we’ll find a way to travel forward together.

  • Jen Duane

    Jen Duane is the Sourcing Director at tealbook. Boston-based Jennifer brings 20 years of sourcing experience to the tealbook team. Jennifer joins tealbook from Millennium (now Takeda Oncology), where she was an Associate Director of Sourcing.

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