Five ways to improve your marketing procurement

16 June 2017

The ins and outs of marketing procurement were examined in depth at ProcureCon Marketing in London.

Difficult stakeholder relationships and deep-rooted issues of mistrust were among the hot topics discussed, but here are five take-home messages:

Humanise procurement

Marketing procurement professionals need to focus on the “marketing” bit of what they do and “humanise” procurement, according to one panel on internal stakeholder engagement. Jade Wigmore, marketing procurement manager at O2, said her team had made a concerted effort to “show we are not just blockers”, using storytelling to show how they add value. She said they were also rewarding stakeholders with “random acts of kindness”, such as spontaneously buying them coffee.

Networks are key

With technology moving so fast, you can’t expect to know everything anymore, said Tina Kataria, procurement director for Western Europe at Coca-Cola. When she realised how things had changed in just a few years, she thought: “Damn it, I’m not going to be the subject matter expert on everything anymore. It was really hard to let go.” Procurement needs to be comfortable with ambiguity and learn to find solutions for problems across its network of partner agencies. Find what expertise your procurement and marketing teams need to create these alliances, she said. 

Learn to take a risk

It’s important for agencies to work with innovative new partners, even if it means the product won’t be perfect first time, said Jonny Spindler, chief innovation officer at agency BBDO Worldwide. “[If innovators are] doing something really interesting with the technology we should invite them in.” But this means procurement teams need to bend the rules a little too. While the rigour and expectation for core projects should remain, agencies need to know, “you’re not going to get fired on the core stuff if you don’t deliver this [innovative] stuff quite so perfectly”.

Take the emotion out

Transparency and accountability are two of the most emotive areas in negotiations. “There is definitely an element in all of our negotiations of suspicion and unease about the questions that we’re asking,” said David Bond, partner at the law firm Fieldfisher, which helped eBay in media contract negotiations. It’s important that potential suppliers know these questions aren’t personal. “I think that will break down in time but until then I think it’s important that you say that we’re just asking these questions because we have to.”

Think of agencies as goods not service providers

Treating agency output as a quantifiable good will allow procurement to price their work more accurately. This may go against agencies’ image of themselves as creative service providers, but in the long run it will make pricing more appropriate, said Michael Farmer, industry consultant and author. In turn this will make agency partners more stable and add value to both sides of the relationship. Farmer said because procurement treats agencies as service providers, buyers are constantly eroding prices, leading to a drop in quality and constant re-tendering as clients search for a better product.

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