Marketing ops shouldn’t perform procurement
Throughout my career, I’ve seen many professionals try to function as a buyer. While I acknowledge that in small business settings, or times when getting things done quickly is paramount, evading procurement (if it exists) is sometimes necessary. However, in settings where there is a formal procurement team, failing to use their services has many drawbacks.
Let me be clear. Marketing ops should actively participate in the procurement process when acquiring technology for marketing, but it’s not ideal when they run the show. Don’t worry. Procurement will allow marketing to make the final decision.
Duties and performance
First off, are marketing ops professionals formally assigned and measured by performing procurement duties? If not and they’re doing them, they need to get them formally added to their job description and performance rubrics. Let the professional buyers on the procurement team do what they’re paid to do and what their performance is measured by. Besides, how do you feel when someone else does your job?
While many marketing ops professionals are expected to participate in procurement activities, it is not their job to run the process. That’s not what they do best. If a marketing operations professional is really drawn to the procurement process, maybe they should consider a career shift.
Being slowed down
Some operations experts have observed that marketing stakeholders can view marketing ops as the people who slow things down. However, there’s a good argument that marketing ops professionals offer a wider perspective and help stakeholders better flesh out their ideas, which is crucial. So, if people are afraid that procurement will similarly slow them down, perhaps there’s a good reason for that.
Regarding the fear of slowing things down, remember that RFI or RFP processes aren’t always warranted. Buyers are aware that sometimes their colleagues have a good feel for a vendor sector, and that means a thorough research process isn’t needed. Procurement professionals are like marketing ops folks; they don’t intend to slow things down for no reason.
Product owners and users should avoid the bad cop label. During the negotiation phase, things can get tense. If the primary users are involved, the vendor may get frustrated with them. While they are legally and ethically obligated to deliver the work contractually agreed to, they don’t have to do extra nice things like overlooking when a client has an overage of a pricing factor.
So, perhaps marketers should rethink that aggressive push for cutthroat pricing. Granted, making a buyer the bad cop won’t necessarily prevent vendor resentment toward the primary product owner and team, but it can certainly help mitigate against it.
More than just price
When procurement considers a deal, it involves far more than pricing and features. They’ll look at the overall value. Buyers, for instance, are a lot more equipped to determine the stability of a company. A great product at a great price is only wonderful if the company is healthy, and buyers can help assess that.
Additionally, a buyer will more likely see different aspects of a proposal, contract, or sales order that may not work out well in the long run for the organization. Such a consideration could be organizational commitments to certain supply chain requirements — like ensuring that any foreign supplier (whether direct to the organization or one of its suppliers) meets certain labor conditions. Further, the broader organization may have standards and practices that marketing ops staffers may not fully understand.
Marketers don’t negotiate as much as buyers. I’ve seen multiple times when marketers interact with a sales team while unknowingly revealing more than they should, and that decreases the leverage the organization has in a way that favors the vendor. A full-time buyer should have a better ability to assess a situation and maintain more leverage to use when negotiating with a vendor.
The bigger picture
If a large organization has a procurement team in place, they very likely need to participate in a purchase or renewal process anyway. Keeping them out of the loop most of the time doesn’t help anyone. It’s inevitable.
Procurement serves the entire organization, and while individual buyers likely work with specific departments, the procurement team has a bigger picture view of the needs of the broader organization. If, for example, marketing is looking for a project management solution, procurement will likely know if another department already uses one. While that doesn’t mean that marketing has to adopt that solution, it certainly helps to know that during a research or discovery process.
Conclusion: Focus on making magic
Marketing ops professionals make magic happen between marketing strategy and systems. Let them focus on that, and let their colleagues — like the buyers in procurement — do what they do, so that everyone can focus not only on their actual jobs, but also on what they’re most likely to succeed at doing.
Leveraging those who specialize in other functions may require coordination and time, but in many cases this can yield better results.