”“Once upon a time, Martians [men] and Venusians [women] met, fell in love, and had happy relationships together because they respected and accepted their differences. Then they came to Earth and amnesia set in: they forgot they were from different planets.”
“And since that day men and women have been in conflict.”
These passages from John Gray’s best-seller “Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus” could be applied to procurement and marketing. It can seem at times as if they are from different planets.
And the result is a relationship that is often tenuous at best. Marketers see procurement as an overbearing watchdog that must be kept on as tight a leash as possible. Meanwhile, many sourcing professionals view marketing as the poster child for undisciplined spending. This disconnect exists because of fundamental differences between the two functions. They have different goals and objectives, different mindsets and different business cultures.
So, is there a way to bridge the gap between procurement and marketing? Improving the relationship ultimately requires the commitment of both sourcing professionals and marketers, but there are four steps sourcing professionals can take to win the hearts and minds of their marketing colleagues.
Make the Goals and Objectives of Marketing Job One
The starting point for sourcing professionals is to recognize that marketing is all about revenue growth. Marketers live and breathe revenue growth and other growth-related objectives. As a result, they tend to value effectiveness over efficiency when thinking about marketing programs and investments. This creates a potential flashpoint with sourcing professionals, who are trained to focus on cost efficiency.
So it’s critical for sourcing professionals to position their role in the right way. They need to make it clear that they understand that marketing’s goals and objectives are paramount to the company’s survival, and that the role of procurement is to support marketers’ efforts to achieve those goals and objectives.
Focus on “Optimizing the Budget”
Marketers often believe that the primary objective of procurement is to cut costs, regardless of the consequences. In contrast, the objective of conscientious marketers is not to spend less, but to spend better. Therefore, it’s important for sourcing professionals to emphasize that their purpose is to help marketers optimize the marketing budget and obtain the greatest possible value from every marketing dollar that is spent.
In fact, it’s a good idea for sourcing professionals to drop the terms “cost cutting” and “cost savings” from their vocabulary entirely when dealing with marketers.
This approach is more than a communication tactic. Most marketing expenditures should be viewed as investments, not as “garden variety” operating expenses. Therefore, they should be evaluated by the return or value they produce, as well as their costs.
Recognize that Marketing is Different
As a sourcing professional, the second key to building an effective working relationship with marketing is to recognize that the marketing spend category is different from almost every other category that you encounter. Then you need to make sure that your marketing colleagues know that you know they’re different.
What separates marketing from most other spend categories is the degree to which intangible and subjective factors play an important role in purchase decisions. When marketers are selecting an agency, for example, two of the most important factors in the selection process are how well each prospective agency understands their company’s brand and the quality of each prospective agency’s creative work. Both of these factors are intangible, and they must be evaluated subjectively. This is a case where proposal cost and the results on a vendor scorecard are less important than other factors in the ultimate purchase decision.
There are also, however, some types of marketing purchases that are suitable for typical procurement processes. One example is the purchase of printed marketing materials. Advances in print production technologies have transformed printing from a craft to a manufacturing process. So it’s now possible to obtain work of comparable quality from several commercial printing firms.
It addition, the specifications for printed products can be defined in detail, which makes it easy to compare proposals from multiple printing firms. Under these circumstances, obtaining competitive bids from a group of pre-vetted printing firms is just good practice and helps ensure that marketing is buying printed materials at competitive prices.
The important point here is that sourcing professionals must recognize that many marketing purchase decisions will not follow typical procurement norms, and they must be prepared to adjust their expectations and processes accordingly.
Land and Expand
In any relationship, it takes time to develop trust and confidence, especially if some level of skepticism exists when the relationship begins. Therefore, when sourcing professionals first begin to work with marketing, it’s important to take a “land and expand” approach.
By land and expand, I mean that sourcing professionals should first seek to work with marketing on “low risk” purchases. Marketers may perceive purchases as low risk because of the dollars involved, or because the transactions don’t have major or long-term strategic importance. Once the working relationship is established – and once trust and confidence have developed – sourcing professionals will have a better chance to become involved with larger and/or more strategic purchases.
Sourcing professionals and marketers can build a productive working relationship if they make the effort to understand each other. If they are willing to respect each other’s legitimate goals and objectives, the four steps I’ve just described will enable sourcing professionals to jump start the relationship and build a successful joint outcome.