Four steps to a 'long and happy marriage' with marketing

posted by George Smart
8 October 2019

Supply Management September 2019

Following our recent piece on how procurement and marketing work together, George Smart, group director of business development at APS Group, has pulled together four steps procurement can take to strengthen its relationship with marketing. 

In the past, the relationship between procurement and marketing has been portrayed as fractious. With marketing largely measured on sales - and keeping an eye on innovative and creative thinking - procurement’s role has been to take a more practical view. 

Sure, each department has a different agenda, but that doesn’t have to mean they function as separate entities. While there are no silver bullets, these are some of the considerations I see both sides taking to achieve a harmonious working relationship. 

1. Don’t ignore the difference in skillsets – utilise it

The 1974 Netherlands team is one of the greatest football teams not to win the World Cup. Dutch football had never seen success on an international level, yet in 1971 they enjoyed a golden age, dominating the European Cup for three consecutive years. While they didn’t clinch the ’74 cup, they are still considered to be one of the most successful teams of all time. This was partly down to how they trained as a team, with each player assuming one of their teammate’s positions. Goalie would be striker; striker would be defender and so on. When match day came around, each player had an awareness and appreciation of the other’s needs and could respond accordingly – they knew where they needed to be, and what they needed to give to the person next to them to work effectively. 

This appreciation of difference is just as important for procurement and marketing. Both need to understand what each role brings, and how one can benefit from the other’s strengths. To do this, it’s crucial to spend time assessing what skillsets, personality types and communication skills both departments have, just as those players did out on the training field.  

2. Understand that as the marketing world evolves, so must procurement

It’s a lot easier to focus on what’s ‘safe’ but, as the world of marketing changes, organisations have to continually explore new ways of working in order to innovate. If a company has worked with the same printer for years, it’s unlikely that the supplier will ever advise its client not to print. There’s no incentive for them to help their clients innovate if it’s going to hurt their bottom line. 

As a procurement professional responsible for driving cost-savings, money isn’t something you want to gamble with. But, in all honesty, it can be more of a risk not to take a risk when it comes to innovation. In SMs recent piece, Barry Byrne states that he believes the function has been treated for too long as a cost-cutting machine and that the focus must be on “value-in, not cost-out”. For me, this is spot on. Yes, partnering with a new supplier can be a time-consuming process, but the overall benefits outweigh the short-term stress.

3. Don’t forget to communicate and ask questions

The execution of marketing strategies changes frequently, so the procurement team needs to be kept up to speed and involved in the reviewing process. Make sure to ask questions and organise regular face-to-face meetings with marketing. Maintaining dialogue helps to build relationships, gain a greater understanding of the client’s needs, and create a space where new ideas and discussions are welcomed. 

This collaborative approach also means you can agree with marketing on what success looks like when working on creative campaigns, and how that can be measured at each stage along the way.

Also consider broadening your networking beyond those in your immediate circle - whether that’s by being present on LinkedIn or attending events such as ProcureCon. There are lots of initiatives and platforms available, including The New Face of Marketing Procurement online forum and the WFA’s Global Sourcing Board, which aims to help accelerate change, formalise what good marketing procurement looks like, and help other procurement leaders progress from cost to value.

4. Think about the language you use

Although the CFO might like to hear words such as “budget” and “savings”, others in the business won’t be as appreciative. It’s important to let marketing know you’ve met your targets but do it without using financial buzzwords and emphasising how procurement has created value beyond financial savings. 

By communicating procurement’s achievements to marketing, you can also highlight possible opportunities which marketing can benefit from, such as extra budget which can be used in a creative campaign – extra budget that is available because of procurement’s work.

Sergiusz Szacki, who started out as a media planner and buyer before moving to marketing and then marketing procurement, said it helps that he “speaks the same language as marketing”, and I completely agree. My business development role means I have to understand the work of multiple departments as well as connect with different team members, so being able to communicate with each team in a way that suits them makes my job a whole lot easier.

You’re always going to hit a few bumps in the road when working with multiple parts of the business on a project. But by putting yourself in another team member’s shoes you can increase the chances of building a stronger, winning team. 

For more insights on the relationship between marketing and procurement, take a look at APS’ latest industry whitepaper, ‘Partners in time: can marketing and procurement dance to the same drum beat?’ 

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