No, your procurement department (or strategic sourcing, strategic spend management, purchasing or marketing services), isn’t going away. If anything, especially in daunting economic times, its influence is growing as companies seek to cut costs and reduce waste. While its role varies depending on the company, procurement most likely is involved in the RFP and RFI process. Other roles include managing and sourcing vendor lists, benchmarking agency rates, negotiating contracts and more.
What’s a marketer to do?
To answer that question, Event Marketer turned to the pros for advice on how to partner with procurement so both sides win in this tug-of war.
1. Grab Lunch. Bobby Wilkinson, managerentertainment marketing at State Farm Insurance, found that “breaking bread,” as he calls it, helped establish a solid foundation with his procurement team. “It is important to give them an understanding, especially if they come from a world where they have only been procuring desks and pencils and pens and stuff like that,” he says. “The sponsorship and event world is not about going in and trying to get the cheapest asset you can buy to save dollars. It’s about getting a savings but it’s also about a having a relationship so that if you need something or something comes up at the last minute or your external partner has an opportunity for you, that they want to come to you and not feel like they are going to be beat up by the procurement department. Taking them to lunch made the process a lot smoother and the partnership even tighter.” (Hey, Bobby, I’ll have a ham on rye with a side of potato salad!)
2. Include Them. Wilkinson recognizes that everyone has his or her own work style. By inviting procurement to attend team meetings, they’ll meet those staffers who have daily contact with vendors; by the same token, the team better understands procurement’s needs. “It makes the whole process go smoother when everybody is up to speed on what each other’s needs are,” Wilkinson says. “I didn’t want my procurement people to see me as the only person they would be interacting with because that just wasn’t accurate.”
3. Get Them to Events. Victor Torregroza, event program manager at Intel, puts his key procurement partner in the pit at its booth at CES. “This has not only helped our relationship, but it has also opened her eyes,” he says. “When she is looking at agencies, she knows our needs because she has actually worked these big shows with us.” Torregroza says his procurement partner also gets to see how the agencies are delivering on their negotiated contracts, what is working and what may need improvement. This year, she worked the executive briefing center in the booth; a second procurement person, who works part-time as a dj, spun tunes at a lounge for bloggers at the booth. Now, that’s working creatively with procurement!
4. Bring Them to Contract Signings. This helps procurement understand that your team is truly planning year-in and yearout. “It puts in perspective for procurement that we are putting our foot forward with a commitment to participate, and that helps her help us,” Torregroza says. “It’s very strategic. Although it may seem tactical, the fruit that is born from that seed is really strategic in the long run.”
5. Learn Each Other’s Language. After all, as Glenda Brungardt, event manager at HP, puts it, “Procurement is here to stay. Marketing executives are trying to get a grasp on the spend that is happening in trade shows and events, and they are bringing in procurement to do what they do best, which is negotiate and get some of the best deals pricewise out there.” But, she cautions, that means that procurement has to understand the language of marketing, and vice-versa. “For us, it’s about getting that supplier that is going to provide the relationship, the intangible pieces of it, and it is getting procurement to understand we are not buying a widget.”
6. Take the Lead but Be Sensitive. Judah Ziegler, associate vp-retail/consumer marketing at Sharp Electronics, recently partnered with his procurement department in an RFP. “I told procurement in the beginning of the process that I would do the heavy lifting,” he says. “But it was really more of a committee process. If you make them a partner, together you can be really strong.” For example, the RFP originally stated that responses should come back to Ziegler, but procurement wanted responses to go to their department instead. Ziegler acquiesced. “So what did procurement do after they got them all?” Ziegler added. “They brought them all downstairs to me!”
7. Have Procurement Walk the Floor. Intel’s procurement people not only work the booth, they walk the trade-show floor. “They compare us against the big brands and do a nice comparison overall, looking at how much money we spent, our own ROI and guesstimating what the others spent,” Torregroza says. And when they’re done, they take off their Intel badges and pretend they are regular attendees evaluating the experience at their own booth. “We want to measure the impact of our exhibit strategy,” he added. “Procurement does that, too. They really get in there.”
8. Introduce Them to Partners. When vendors stop by to visit Wilkinson at State Farm, he includes procurement in the visit. “It helps the vendor realize this is a real person who works with State Farm and has our best interests in mind, and so does the vendor,” Wilkinson says. “Communicating only over the phone takes away the personal touch that is sometimes needed to close a deal.”
9. Get Them to Industry Events. Wilkinson suggests procurement visit industry events and seminars like the Event Marketer Summit (eventmarketer.com/summit). “There is so much information shared there, and now there is a lot of procurement conversation that goes on at those conferences,” he says. “They get to see how important a role procurement plays in this space, and they can network and exchange business cards and keep in touch with people.” EM