The time for revolution in marketing procurement is now - so the argument goes.
We’re already seeing a big shift in the way brands think: less saving, more value. Procurement demands fewer potential partners and healthier rosters with strengthened relationships. This can hopefully rid the procurement profession of bad practice.
Cue The Positive Pitch Pledge.
Yet evolving hardwired opinions requires changes in the way procurement works with numerous internal and external stakeholders.
That will involve: evolution of processes; boosting knowledge of procurement’s reason for being and the benefits that brings; building new performance KPIs beyond cost-cutting; and including external partners for a fair and honest perspective.
Following two years’ hard work, the WFA Global Sourcing Board and the WFA Sourcing Forum identified elements that can impact brands’ perception of marketing procurement.
Their most recent report comments on the progress that has been made since WFA started to formally raise the topic within its network. It is designed to inspire procurement professionals across the country and end the “race to the bottom” that some practitioners contribute towards.
As the report states: “It is not a route-map to perfect practice but the start of a journey.”
With procurement and pitching stealing headlines in top marketing publications, thanks to ISBA’s and the IPA’s recent work around positive pitching, Ingenuity has discussed a potential response from agencies to the current procurement upheaval.
Some observers, believe the process will only be dramatically improved when agencies are no longer expected to give away their services for free during pitches.
Perhaps there’s an element of truth to that.
But as we wait in the gates for a fully fledged transformation to a pitching approach that’s become increasingly arduous, frequent, complex and costly to agency and advertiser alike, agencies can take small steps right now to rebalance the process and boost their chances.
I’ve seen many agencies overlook the role of procurement and category managers in pitches. They’d sooner impress more animated and “in-the-know” budget-holders, such as traditional marketers and brand representatives. That is understandable but also short-sighted. Don’t underestimate how much a procurement professional can make an agency’s life easier.
Here are my four top tips to giving procurement teams the respect they deserve.
1. Make each interaction count
The procurement function has evolved from a traditional bookkeeping, bums-on-seats role to something more strategic, and notably more influential. As marketing teams, channel plans and roles and responsibilities expand, so does the role of the procurement professional. They’re now being used extensively as project managers for pitch processes. I’ve witnessed a lot of marketing directors use procurement people as a sounding board for how agencies are performing throughout a process: the “procurement mole”. Thanks to this role renovation, there’s now a direct correlation between the success of an agency and their personalised effort with their procurement rep. Make every interaction count… they have more influence than you know.
2. Cosy up & clarify favours
It’s important to be as mindful as possible that procurement folk, while fantastic at their job, don’t understand agencies as well as some marketers do. Hence agencies’ natural desire to impress and connect with the marketers in the room. Clarity in this instance is key. Point two leads on from point one: they’re often project managing, dealing with admin and process, so it’s even more important to impress them. Cosy up where possible. Use plain English – lose the agency lingo. Connect on a human level. If you do, you’re much more likely to get favours: “Can we pitch first?”; “Can we pitch last?” Become friendly and gain control of the pitch on your terms.
3. Know it starts with initial consideration
When it comes to initial consideration, procurement professionals are the ones compiling the long list. Sure, they’ll take some recommendations from the marketing team, but their job is sourcing. Remember that the opportunity to pitch starts with initial consideration. Maintaining a healthy, positive relationship with the person in charge of that final list is therefore crucial if you want to feature.
4. Benefit from part-time practitioners
The need to shake up an agency roster, or shop around for agencies, isn’t a constant. Due to the intermittent nature of the job, marketing procurement roles are often part-time and professionals in this space jump from big brand to big brand. If you befriend a good marketing procurement practitioner and impress with your work, your agency name and reputation will stick in their mind as they move around.
Consideration in the form of long lists starts with great procurement relationships.
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