Where do the best marketing procurement people come from?

Who are the best marketing procurement specialists? Are they procurement professionals that ‘learn’ marketing or marketing professionals that ‘learn’ procurement?

These are the two schools of thought on where to recruit people for marketing procurement. Some believe the best marketing procurement people are marketers who then learn procurement skills, while others may look for procurement people who bring their skills to marketing.

But my personal experience and examples have shown that both are right, and both are wrong. I have work in marketing procurement agencies with hard-core procurement people and with marketers who have transitioned into procurement. Neither group is the best, but the best has existed in both groups. So, let’s explore what it means to be the best.

Procurement and Marketing people are different

There is a common misconception in marketing and advertising that procurement people come from another planet. They are alien to the marketing world, obsessed with costs and savings and with little regard for the value delivered. Some procurement people, likewise, feel that marketing and advertising people are aliens to the business world. Focused on creativity and strategy with poorly defined metrics and little accountability.

Based on classic personality tests like HDBI, marketing is red and yellow – people-focused and intuitive or emotional – and procurement is blue and green – analytical and process focused. But the fact is you find all types of people in marketing and procurement. In fact, the two have increasingly more in common than you think.

Procurement and Marketing people are similar

Interestingly, procurement and marketing people come from all walks of life. Very few of the best marketing and procurement people grew up wanting to work in procurement or in marketing unless they had a parent working in the profession. Some took interesting routes through degrees in anything from law, engineering and medicine. Some did commerce or business degrees. Others have no higher education qualification at all, other than common sense and good instincts. I did a Bachelor of Applied Science.

Many have done career development training and study, either at a University or through one of the many industry bodies. It is fair to say many learn more on the job and are continually learning and developing their skills. But the fact remains that neither procurement nor marketing are recognised professions globally.

What I mean by that is, unlike law, accounting and medicine, you can practice marketing and procurement without a recognised degree or qualification.

Marketing is a specialism for procurement

When it comes to marketing procurement, it is important to remember that this is a small subsection of procurement. It is categorised as indirect procurement as opposed to direct.

What that means is that from a procurement perspective, marketing cost is not directly attributable to the delivery of the goods or services of the business. Instead, marketing costs are an indirect expenditure for the business, alongside other professional services, travel and accommodation and a range of other procured services. There is usually a category function in most procurement teams that oversees and manages these indirect services.

Yet of all the indirect procurement services, marketing is the one that can directly impact company sales and revenue. Rather than a cost of business, it could and should be an investment for the business, which makes the marketing segment reasonably unique from a procurement perspective.

What makes the best marketing procurement people?

Interestingly, many of the attributes of great marketers also make the best marketing procurement people. The first is they are curious about the category they are working on. Rather than simply relying on opinion or operating in a vacuum, they are unafraid to ask great questions and more importantly listen to the answers. They collect, analyse and assess data, both structured and unstructured to inform their understanding and strategy.

They engage their colleagues, suppliers and vendors in productive, no-nonsense discussions. They work to define and agree on objectives, outcomes and deliverables. In this way, they position themselves as a valuable part of the team. And when needed they will often share what needs to be said to move the discussions forward.

Marketers as procurement or procurement in marketing?

I have witnessed marketing people in procurement roles be quick to assume they know how it works. Or apply strategies they have used before only to face failure because they have misunderstood the situation they are facing. Likewise, some procurement people have entered the marketing category applying commodity sourcing strategies to many millions of dollars in media investment, reducing cost and media performance.

So, who makes the best marketing procurement professionals?

Those willing to get under the surface of marketing. A person who is willing to invest the time in understanding the challenges of the marketing team and their vendors. A person who goes beyond opinion and gut instinct to bring data and analysis to the role to achieve the objective of every marketer – to improve the value and performance of their marketing investment.

This article first appeared in Producers & Procurers iQ on May 28, 2021

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