Procurement specialists can be a marketer's ally

Many marketing people cringe when they hear procurement will be managing the agency search or rebidding process.

Many marketing people cringe when they hear procurement will be managing the agency search or rebidding process. But, given today's economy it is likely we will be hearing more and more about the role of procurement in marketing.

I have begun working more frequently with external procurement specialists as both a vendor and a PR partner and discovered there is no reason for fear. It boils down to this; a well-managed agency review process benefits everyone as both sides end up with a clear deal and hopefully a mutually beneficial financial relationship.

So why the fear? Let's address the realities of procurement and the benefit to marketing agencies.

New marketing procurement specialists make the experience better than before.
Companies are increasingly turning to external procurement specialists to help them with marketing relationships. In-house procurement teams usually focus on core spending, meaning tire companies will understand the ins and outs of rubber prices, but will not have in-house specialists for every other area such as legal or marketing.

It makes sense that specialists who conduct thousands of marketing RFPs a year will have deeper market intelligence regarding agency options, rates, and models than a marketing director or in-house procurement pro that may do one review every few years. The benefit of having a marketing procurement specialist involved eliminates the concern that general procurement does not understand our industry.

Procurement specialists add as often as they subtract.
I have often heard it said that procurement always recommends agency consolidation, but sometimes the right thing to do is consolidate. Sometimes the right thing to do is add. For example, procurement specialists will recommend adding niche agencies to a client's roster for more efficiency and/or to satisfy diversity goals. The benefit of this is boutique and minority firms can rise up and be noticed if procurement specialists are on board to help clients meet special needs. 

Good procurement specialists do not just look to cut budgets.
Yes, smart procurement specialists look for waste but efficiencies can add value to both parties. If you could lower a client's out-of-pocket monitoring expense and repurpose those dollars into new creative ideas that drive more results, wouldn't you do that? Negotiating deliverables along with costs is all part of the process. And, procurement's job is not over once the deal is made. An agency that has been awarded the business loses out if employees go around the contract to hire who they prefer for projects. Ensuring employee compliance is a critical component of successful procurement. Just as good fences make good neighbors, good contracts make for good PR partnerships. Procurement specialists want to see both sides hold up their end of the bargain.

Sadly, most companies are not effectively managing expenses and you can see how the waste adds up by clicking here. But one last benefit to consider is whenever savings drop to the bottom line; there is opportunity for smart agencies to recommend projects to fuel growth and innovation.

Finally, I have learned that not all procurement specialists are created equally. Check out the procurement company conducting your search to see if they have deep marketing expertise, if they have the infrastructure and technology capabilities to set up a process that works, and if they see the work through to the end to ensure the benefits are actually achieved.

To find out more about successfully navigating the procurement waters, read the Council of PR Firms' whitepaper The Procurement Professionals Q&A: Advancing the Working Relationship with PR Firms and review this video of Fortune 1000 company in-house procurement experts courtesy of Procurian.

Christine Barney is the CEO of rbb Public Relations, a marketing public relations firm. She can be reached at christine.barney@rbbpr.com.

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