Once you get Marketing’s attention, you’ll probably be put on probation. Just because the CFO views you positively because you are helping the organization identify 5% to 20% savings annually in every category you touch, this doesn’t mean Marketing does — even if Marketing acknowledges that they need to get their spend under control and deliver more value. So you’ll be given permission to help with one or two “pilot” projects, and if you want to get on Marketing’s good side and take back the Procurement Pie, you will have to succeed and impress. This sounds easy enough, since you already have a standard five/six/seven step sourcing process which is generic enough to be applied everywhere, but, as always, the devil is in the details! Unlike most indirect purchases, it’s not as easy as searching a database or sending out a Request for Interest. Different agencies have different strengths, and different capabilities. Some can manage third party production houses, some can’t, for example. You need to have a firm understanding of what Marketing needs to help identify the right agencies. Second, evaluating an agency pitch is not like evaluating a physical product or manufacturing plant. What are you looking for, and what aren’t you looking for. Again, you need to have a firm understanding of what Marketing needs and a solid understanding of the lingo used by the Agencies as well as Marketing.
And you need to present Marketing with a clear picture of the process you are going to follow up-front and make sure that Marketing understands the process you are using and the critical importance of not circumventing the process, no matter how many times the incumbent Agency representative uses his direct-dial rolodex and asks someone in Marketing to let a requirement slide or just skip straight to the pitch. To get Marketing’s commitment, the process should look like it has been customized to them and use terminology they understand. If you need a good starting point, a recent paper by Source One Management Services, LLC. has a great process graphic you can use in their recent Marketing Insight Report on Fueling Effective Collaboration: How Strategic Sourcing Delivers Results for Marketing Groups.
Be sure to pay special attention to the following tasks:
- Scope of Work (SoW) Definition
This is what the agencies respond to and will determine not only whether or not the right agencies respond but how accurate their responses are.
- Agency Identification
You don’t want to send the SoW to an agency that you know is not appropriate or that would present a conflict of interest (especially if they are working with your direct competitor).
- Market Assessment
You have the RFI/RFP process down pat, but you are not necessarily experts in the Agency Marketplace or in what the standard rates are (or should be). This is where your benchmarking skills are really going to come into play.
- Pitch Evaluation
You have to make evaluations a qualitative and deliberative process on your terms, not a seat-of-the-pants decision in the Agency’s boardroom, which is what The Crazy Ones want you to do. You have to work with Marketing to build a quantitative scorecard that will be consistently applied to all pitches and select your finalist(s) based on the scorecard.
- Negotiation, SoW, and Contract
You know better than everyone that the way to avoid a contract dispute is to address and negotiate the issue up front because, as the saying goes, if you have to reach for the contract, then you’ve already lost the argument. This means leaving no “i” undotted, no “t” uncrossed, and no potential risk, no matter how small, unaddressed. This is your forte. You can make sure no stone remains uncovered, which greatly increases the chances of unblemished project success. (Which, to be honest, is often all Marketing really cares about.)
You also know that you have to move Marketing away from just handing over the account and letting the agency run with the account to specifying detailed contracts, statement of work, budgets, and rate-cards as well as processes for selecting and managing third party vendors. You have to help Marketing make the agencies understand that while they can run free on creative within the boundaries specified by Marketing, print, production, etc. has to be managed according to guidelines and budgets.
While you won’t be thanked for your many successes, even though proper benchmarking and reporting will have you recognized by the CFO and CEO, you will get all the blame for any and all failures if you screw up just once.