Sourcing Strategies for Marketers That Actually Work
I’ve noticed something about marketers.
Most of them have the same frustrations when it comes to suppliers. As an marketing execution consultant, I work with a lot of marketers and hear the same issues over and over again.
Any of these sound familiar?
“I’m putting a lot of time and effort into managing suppliers but not getting any meaningful results.”
“I feel stuck in my supplier relationships and don’t know what to do to get unstuck.”
“I don’t understand why other marketers so much less time than me with suppliers when they should be in the same situation as me.”
“I’m not in procurement, but I feel like I spend a lot of time managing contracts and SLAs.”
“I don’t really have a sourcing strategy or any idea how to drive costs down with my current suppliers.”
“I’m creating a lot of different stuff, but feel scattered and have trouble focusing on any project long enough for it to succeed.”
“I can’t figure out how we compare to other organizations or if we are using the right suppliers.”
If any of those resonate with you (and I bet several do), then you’ve come to the right place.
In this post I’m going to share 5 sourcing strategies specific to marketing that you can start using today to save time, save money, and reduce risk in your marketing supply chain based on work I’ve done with marketing clients over the years.
I know these work because I’ve seen them work over and over again for all different types of marketing clients.
You don’t need to do them all, but the more you do, the more likely you are to start gaining traction.
If you’d like more hands-on help, email me and I’ll be happy to give you more details about how I work with clients.
Now, on to the strategies…
1. Use fewer suppliers.
You don’t need to use every marketing company you have today. In fact, you shouldn’t.
Just because there is a company out there who does social media marketing, media buying, print production, market research, email marketing etc. Doesn’t mean you need a separate company for all of those things.
Any one of those companies has more than one capability and the fact that you only use them for one or two things and have dozens or hundreds of other suppliers is a mistake.
The fewer suppliers you use, the more leverage you have.
That’s because aggregated spend kills the long tail of suppliers, enough to generate the optimal results.
So pick your two or three favorite suppliers to use and focus your energies on figuring out what else they could be doing for you.
This gives you leverage and reduces your risk by lowering your exposure in the marketplace.
2. Build deeper supplier relationships.
The most common mistake marketers make with marketing suppliers is to assume their suppliers have their best interests in mind.
That’s the fastest way to wind up with subpar work.
Yes, you can use metrics to track performance, but it’s actually a crappy way to manage suppliers because these days the KPIs don’t create dialogue, and communication is key to get the most out of your suppliers.
With most suppliers, you’re lucky to get a good conversation out a quarterly business review.
The real strength of building relationships is connecting on a level that makes it easier to get what you need out of a supplier. We are much less likely to hurt a friend than a client we barely know.
These relationships are a powerful way to connect with individual people, companies, and influencers who you otherwise may not be able to reach. Using it in that way will generate way more value for you than simply getting a report once a month on performance.
Come up with a list of individual people – or at least types of people – who you’d most like to connect with within your suppliers organization and set up ways to meet them, interact with, and develop relationships with them.
Your list might include C-Suite people like CFO’s, COO’s, head of sales and more experienced people or it could include front line folks like accounting and account reps.
Taken a step further, you can seek out relationships with people in the organization who have their own clients doing similar work as yours. For example, if you work for a big bank, build a relationship with other sales executives in the organization who work with big banks and leverage their experience.
The path to getting meaningful attention for you as a customer isn’t to just meet them once a month, it’s to build relationships with others who are likely to enjoy and add value to the conversation.
3. Test the market.
Your success in using marketing suppliers effectively is directly related to your ability to identify where the market is for the services offered.
No one likes spending more than they have to. For some small businesses that could be the difference between success and being out of business.
When I ask marketers when the last time they bid something out, far too many of them say things like “we have a great pricing I’m sure” or “I don’t have time for RFPs” Those answers make it incredibly difficult lower costs.
You need to manage your spend, or suppliers will continue to reap the rewards.
The larger the category of spend, the easier it is to find and secure relationships with great suppliers who are eager for your business.
Bidding your work doesn’t need to be the ONLY way to lower costs, and it doesn’t mean you have to move the work if you love the results you are getting from your supplier. But it is something you have to do to ensure you aren’t getting ripped off for those services.
Think of it like a dartboard: You get the most points for hitting the bullseye (smallest possible cost), but some shots will land outside the bullseye (necessary evil) and still get you some points.
So, how do you figure out what your target should be? Try this.
If I guaranteed you 10% savings on a category of spend and it wouldn’t take a lot of your time or energy would you do it?
You don’t have to move to a new supplier and you don’t have to haggle or beat down a supplier you like.
You would choose the supplier MOST LIKELY to excel at your work and who has the best pricing the market will bear.
Once you confirm the market for the services you need, you have options. And that’s a great position to be in regardless of whether its creative services or email marketing or media buying. Options are everything when it comes to suppliers. It gives you the power.
If you don’t know what other suppliers are charging for the same services you are buying from your current provider, you should allocate the time work on that or find a marketing execution company to test the market for you.
4. Don’t waste time on ordering or processing invoices.
It may be one of the worst uses of time that any marketer can spend. Inefficient means of ordering and checking invoices and processing them.
Did you go to school and work all those hours at the bottom to work your way up for that?
Is that what your company is really paying you for?
Most likely you think of this as a necessary evil. It’s just something that has to be done, suppliers have to get paid and I need to make sure they are right.
But there are better ways to get this done.
If you are still emailing orders, or god help us all, faxing in orders for marketing services, you are wasting your time.
There are software programs out there that make it very easy to order the marketing services you need, even with the suppliers you already have. And couple that with a billing aggregator and you just saved yourself and your organization 25% of your day at least. For everyone on the marketing team.
I know this because I have implemented dozens of these systems for clients and it is one of the biggest breakthroughs in their organizations.
Most people think that it is too hard to implement and takes too much time and is too expensive.
But it doesn’t have to be.
You can do this for almost no cost at all with the right partner. Save time ordering with a couple of clicks, make the suppliers ensure the invoice matches what was ordered, and keep a record of every single thing you buy all in one place.
This should be your top priority if you aren’t doing this now.
If you need help with this, email me, I’ll be happy to answer any questions you can think of related to this. You will 10x your productivity once you are up and running, and your company may just give you an award for bringing it to them. That’s how big this will be.
Take a look at your ordering process and how you handle invoices. Does it need to be modernized immediately?
5. Decide if you want to spend time dealing with suppliers at all.
We can talk for hours about the value of outsourcing marketing execution, but here’s the cliffs notes version:
Most marketers spend too much of their time with suppliers, instead of on creating. Ordering things, correcting errors, processing invoices, reviewing reporting.
That’s fine if you want to spend your time on that. You may enjoy that part of the job and know that you need good partners to execute your vision.
Suppliers — even the best — shouldn’t be who you spend your time on. Instead, you should be focused on strategy, on creating and bringing in more customers or keeping the current ones happy. On building the brand.
Doing so will make it easier to grow your business and easier to provide value to them more frequently because you don’t have to hold your suppliers hands.
(Side note: I’m not suggesting you eliminate all suppliers. You have to ease into this. But I am suggesting this will be the greatest decision you ever make.)
Find a marketing execution company to do all of this for you, they will save you money, save you time, and ensure you have the right partners who are working for you, not secretly working against you.
Sourcing and Marketing can go hand in hand and it doesn’t have to be burdensome. But getting it right is critical
These strategies will help you do that well.
If you feel like you could use some additional help figuring out where to start and what to do, shoot me an email and I’ll let you know how I work with clients.
Thanks for your interest and good luck!
One more thing…
I spent hours writing this because I want to help as many marketers as possible. I know it’s hard out there and it’s frustrating to see so many talented people not getting the results they deserve from their marketing suppliers simply because they don’t know how best to manage it.
So, if you found these strategies helpful, or you want a deeper dive, I’d love it if you would share this post with others you know who could benefit from it directly or share it on your social media platforms.