Russell Parsons: Procurement should be seen as marketing’s strategic partner, not its enemy

Marketing’s relationship with procurement is more important than ever now that budget forecasts are dropping thanks to Brexit, but as with all colleagues marketers need to form alliances rather than seeing procurement as a financial barrier.

There are many contenders for the title ‘marketing’s best friend’. Externally, a strong case can be made for advertising or marketing technology, for example, but on a strategic and internal level the field is open. Is it the chief information officer, given the role of data in marketing planning and campaign delivery? Is it the chief technology officer, who can help a marketer navigate the crowded digital landscape? Is it HR, which not only has the key to increasing marketing capability but is central to employer branding? Or is it – whisper this – procurement?

I suggest hushed tones for dramatic effect but also to convey what might have historically been a view straight out of left field. Procurement? You mean the killjoy blocker sent by finance to clip the creative wings of marketing and their agencies? A marketer’s ally? Pah!

If there has been tension between procurement and marketing in the past it boils down to perception that procurement is all about quantitative justification that puts cost and numbers at the centre of every strategic and tactical decision – a pejorative view that is particularly prevalent among many in the agency world, which has a long-held belief that procurement is the bogeyman.

Our in-depth feature this week explores a new kind of relationship between marketing and procurement, offering solid insight on why a new approach is needed and how it can be achieved. It is a picture of a true partnership where the two share strategic objectives, a constructive relationship that sees everyone achieving the goals of the business – to sell things profitably.

This should be the case for all businesses. The necessity is illustrated elsewhere in our coverage this week. Our analysis of the IPA Bellwether Report – the quarterly barometer of whether marketers are viewing the world and their lot as half-full or half-empty – on page 8 provides a window into a post-Brexit budget-cutting world, while an update from the US Association of National Advertisers puts improving transparency around media buying on the ‘to do’ list of marketers.

Both require a true bond with the procurement department. Media spend needs to be effective and efficient, without the need to scratch around for fudges that tick the accountability box but do not serve the needs of marketers or their agencies.

Procurement is no better or worse friend to a marketer than any other colleague, internally or externally. It is absolutely imperative that marketers have a constructive relationship with what should now be seen as a partner.

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