In a January 2005 white paper, Meeting Professionals International (MPI) called attention to the fact that although procurement departments have always existed, after the Enron scandal which also was the undoing of the giant accounting firm Arthur Anderson, they became much more influential, moving from tactical to strategic corporate entities and becoming the guardians of transparency in interactions across departments.
Although the event that precipitated the rise of procurement power happened years ago, that power is now firmly entrenched in corporate governance. Marketing, and especially (or so it seems) face-to-face marketing, is much more carefully scrutinized than in the past, not only for any hints of impropriety but also for costs that are deemed out of line. Face-to-face marketing is a major budget item, and because it occurs off-site, there is a distinct tendency to underestimate its contribution to revenue as well as to misunderstand the entire strategy.
Building brand engagement by partnering with procurement
How do brand marketers deal with procurement people when, in many cases, the same approach is used to evaluate the purchase of creative services as is used to buy commodities like computers or paper clips? Procurement departments are not going away anytime soon, so here are a dozen tips to help you work collaboratively with them.
- Bring your unique skills to the table. Procurement does not have much exposure to your world, and your mission is to make what you do accessible. Use storytelling, place your colleagues in the picture, and explain how you build the brand through face-to-face initiatives.
- Partner with procurement in bringing value to every piece of your program. Be open to the possibility that there are other ways to look at your program, but don’t be afraid to disagree respectfully.
- Discuss efficiencies with procurement. For example, if you are developing a digital application for trade shows that can also be used in the field by sales, show how this will be amortized over the many uses.
- Develop metrics. Showing value is infinitely easier if you have a measurement program in place. Your metrics should reflect what is important to the company and be the product of cross-department consensus. If you need help in determining what to measure, read this.
- Benchmark–against data from your industry, against data from other industries, against data from complimentary companies.
- Learn to speak business. Describe how your program provides shareholder value, talk about amortizing capital expenses, explain how an impressive exhibit can influence financial analysts.
- Manage your supplier relationships intelligently and professionally. Don’t let personal attachments cloud the way you work with partners.
- Cultivate internal strategic alliances with both procurement and legal. You will all learn something valuable.
- Manage your resources intelligently. Review the way you are investing in your face-to-face marketing, and see if there are more cost-effective solutions. If and when you find that there are, let the procurement department know what you’re doing and the process by which you arrived at your actions.
- Don’t fight regular bidding. Yes, your suppliers hate it, you hate it, but it is part of procurement’s job. You don’t want procurement telling you how to do your job; return the favor. On the other hand, open a dialog with procurement before the bidding process begins, and share what is important to you and to your program.
- Develop tools to educate procurement and legal and to prove the value of your face-to-face program. Something as simple as documenting your trade shows with photos helps those who aren’t on site to understand what you do. If you can integrate trade show leads with your corporate CRM, call attention to how you are appending the data. Anything that sheds light on your program will certainly be an asset to better working relationships.
- Break down department silos. Nothing interferes with collaboration like an us-and-them mentality. Even if you notice that procurement holds on to turf, your positive behavior can change the situation.
- Just to make this a baker’s dozen, here is an extra tip: Invite procurement people to a trade show or event. Your face-to-face initiatives should extend to internal customers as well as external customers. You just might find that once they experience the power of face-to-face marketing, your procurement people become your biggest supporters.
At Access, we know what is important to both brand marketers and to procurement departments. We can help! Contact us now.