Should procurement keep out of buying marketing services – readers’ comments

Continuing our series of great debates we’ve seen in our “comments” sections recently, today we’ll pick up on the responses to Alex Ranson’s excellent two-part feature on procurement of Marketing Services (here and here). Her conclusion – procurement people are usually doing more harm than good in these categories.

The first comment came from Keith Neill, which partially supported the author’s view that Marketing need to take more responsibility for procurement activities:

Procurement does not have the knowledge or expertise to add value to marketing spend. However, that should not absolve marketing from being intelligent in the way they buy. There is expertise available to marketing that will get them more value for their money and actually stimulate creativity, not stifle it. The trouble is, like the spoiled child, they often refuse to listen. The ones that do listen and embrace professional help never look back, because inserting knowledgeable buying expertise into their projects is just a better, smarter way of doing business.

Andy Mathieson didn’t like that “spoiled child” analogy!

That view of marketing/sales matched with their frequent view of purchasing as “sales prevention” is guaranteed to spoil any co-operation and hence finding value. That’s a shame because there are many areas in marketing where good procurement will benefit the ROI.
Since this is procurement blog then I suggest procurement need to sell their benefits to marketing & sales for the good of the company just as sales have to justify their product/service to the customers. Never one to sit on the fence ……I will now go and find a marketing blog and tell them to go and find the value in procurement!

There was then an excellent conversation between Alex and RJ after we published the second installment. Here is  RJ:

Firstly, on the points I agree with: if Procurement teams want to be taken seriously in dealing with Marketing spend and teams then they have to understand that value is not driven by cost reduction alone. The availability and release of creativity and innovation are often driven by relationships and certainly are stifled by heavy-handed buyers wanting to haggle over rate cards which, as you so clearly point out, is counter-productive in any case. Developing SRM and working with other teams to identify how “value” is defined and measured are definitely keys to unlocking marketing suppliers’ true potential.

However, RK identified three ways procurement can support marketers:  acting as a check and balance on the wildest excesses of marketing’s creative streak; the risk management aspect asbuyers dig marketeers out of contractual holes”; and the ability to challenge some of the other costs involved in marketing like “rip-off proposals including tied in sub-contract costs, ridiculous expense claims (e.g. the photographer who insisted that a photo of a mocked-up deckchair could only possibly be taken on a beach in Antigua) ...”

Alex responded suggesting that marketers need to take more responsibility itself for some of those issues; but she did agree that “the almost complete lack of care and transparency related to third party costs is something that the marketing industry desperately needs to address. Procurement definitely has a role to play in sorting this out – abuses are so widespread that it’s a major change project”.

RJ again:

“… marketing people are recruited to provide creative communication skills, while procurement teams should be filled with strong negotiators with an eye for commercial analysis. We all know of some great individuals on both sides of this fence who possess more than adequate doses of both skillsets to do a grand job on their own. However, particularly in larger organisations, it usually makes sound business sense to employ teams with complementary roles.

All this comes with the caveat, though, that I agree wholeheartedly that a “traditional” procurement approach to buying marketing services will completely knock the stuffing out of any innovative approaches or relationship-building.

And to complete the conversation Alex admitted to a certain idealism...!

Maybe I just have a foolishly naive view of the world that senior marketing people on six figure salaries with 15-20 years of experience should be able to recognise creativity AND possess relationship management, analytic and commercial skills. But I went to b-school in the US, where they knock a lot of that kind of thing into you, if you hadn’t already learnt it along the way. Perhaps we should do the same in the this country.

I know the “Comments” are very much appreciated and enjoyed by  many readers, so thanks to all of you who contributed.

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