Does procurement stifle marketing creativity? (Part 1)

(It's quite a while since we had a guest post from Alex Ranson, whose experience includes senior roles in both procurement and marketing.  She is currently a Director of Specialmoves, an "interactive studio who create incredible experiences on mobile, web and in the real world". Alex recently and bravely spoke to a procurement audience on this topic and kindly agreed to put her thoughts on paper for us!)

Does procurement stifle marketing creativity?

1)     Yes, inevitably.  And that’s a good thing.  No organization can afford (or needs) the luxury of completely unlimited creativity.  The question is, does procurement stifle creativity to the extent it harms marketing effectiveness? And the answer to that, in most cases, is…

2)     Yes.  It all comes down to a huge misunderstanding of what value for money in marketing means.   The most important thing to get right is making sure you’re spending money on things that will deliver the results the business needs. If the idea and execution don’t work, it doesn’t really matter whether you’ve spent £100k or £120k: the ROI will be close to zero and so will “value for money”.

3)     Yes, marketing IS a special case.  In marketing, unlike other categories, standardization is the enemy of effectiveness.  Today, successful marketing is all about differentiation, personalization and innovation.  How are you going to “surprise and delight” your customers when the pre-negotiated spec (and thus budget) forces you to rehash the website you made two years ago?  Electricity category managers, say, don’t have this problem: they know exactly how many lights one megawatt of electricity will keep on.   Marketing category procurement managers are too far away from the client problem and lack the expertise to be able to assess the likely ROI of a piece of marketing expenditure.

4)     Am I saying, procurement should just butt out?   Yes.  Or at least, they should give up pretending they can secure value for money in this category.  It’s actually counter-productive: by taking away the responsibility for delivering value for money from marketing teams, and instead giving it to procurement, businesses are making the marketing department less accountable.   In fact, usually no one ends up accountable at all– because who’s going to come after procurement if a piece of creative work fails to deliver?

5)     Yeeees but, I hear you say…procurement does lots of other useful things.  Like negotiating contracts.   True. (Although procurement often ends up being a go-between the supplier and the client legal department…).  But in 99% of cases, contracts are about risk-managing the event of catastrophe.  Helpful - to a very limited point.  Contracts are as good as useless at making happen creativity, effectiveness and good supplier relations.   The same applies to the pitch process design and management: another situation marketing procurement regularly cites to justify its existence.   What we really need are marketeers who are good at – and actually prioritise - managing their agencies properly after the pitch is won and the contract signed.   And no, unfortunately that can’t be delegated to procurement either…

(Part 2 tomorrow...)

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Voices (5)

  1. Keith Neill:

    Alex – I don’t disagree with your comments. 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 proffesional help never look back, because inserting knowledgeable buying expertise into their projects is just a better, smarter way of doing business.

    1. Andy Mathieson:

      “The trouble is, like the spoiled child, they often refuse to listen.” 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

    2. Alexandra Ranson:

      Hi Keith!
      If you read part 2 I hope you saw that I agree with you! I see buying expertise is an integral part of a marketer’s skill set. It cannot be outsourced to another department. And if held properly accountable for their actions, even spoiled children have to grow up 🙂

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