Why should marketing and procurement teams collaborate in meetings management? Working better together can create optimal results for both parties. Continue reading for insight from BCD Meetings & Events' global experts.
Procurement and marketing are two significant players in any company’s meeting program. They contribute to spend and overall program governance. But, the two departments don’t always work hand-in-hand. In fact, they are often siloed departments that run alongside one another, rather than integrate with each other for the optimization of a meetings program.
At Cvent Connect Europe, one presenter noted that “80% of travel managers/SMM program leaders say it’s “very valuable” to collaborate with marketing but less than 50% often work with marketing.”
So, what are the implications of this practice and how can procurement and marketing align to drive results for meeting management programs? We spoke with four of our experts around the world to understand the challenges for procurement and marketing teams, and how to go about bridging the gap.
Meet Our Experts
Account Director, EMEA
Account Manager, NORAM
Account Director, NORAM
Regional Account Manager, APAC
How to Bridge the Marketing and Procurement Gap
What are some challenges in getting marketing teams to follow policy?
- A belief that no one understands their events as well as they do, so there is hesitance to welcome what can be considered ‘outside’ interference.
- Marketers generally have deep knowledge of their events and have usually worked on them for several years. There may be a reluctance to pass on that knowledge or not enough time to do it effectively before the next event.
- A perception that procurement is solely focused on cost control and not creative.
- A fear of the risk of their roles being outsourced; potentially that they don’t view an agency as a partner but more of a threat.
- If the marketing team is excluded the development of the policy, they may not agree with what is included, therefore making them resistant to following. Teams need to fully understand the benefits of following the policy and the risks of not adhering in order to buy-in and comply.
- If the meetings policy is already in place, but an employee chooses not to follow it, they are setting a poor example for the next person or those in their department and decreasing the likelihood of future adoption.
- An “if it’s not broke, don’t fix it” mentality can also be a challenge. In the eyes of the marketing department, the meetings they worked on in the past went well and were compliant with the parameters they were given, so why should they have to change now?
What are the characteristics of marketing events which would make them seem like they should be exempt?
- Marketing events are often considered to be more creative than other meetings or events.
- They have larger budgets attached to them.
- Long history – marketing events are usually annual programs which may have operated for long periods of time without support from procurement.
- For many companies, marketing is the key revenue driver for their company.
- Marketing meetings might not fit the true definition of a “meeting” within the policy at xyz company. Or, the policy doesn’t specify explicitly that they should be included, or the policy allows them to be excluded, based on how it’s written.
- The meetings might be “too large to track” (for example, events that take over an entire city for several days).
- They are one-time events that will never happen again.
- Engagement at these events is so unique that the marketing team may consider them a campaign or something of that nature that would fall out of the policies definition of a meeting.
What benefits can a strategic meetings management program bring to marketing teams?
- Fresh ideas and shared best practices – including around knowledge of venues, new technologies in the marketplace, what other clients in the same industry are doing.
- Less time spent on areas such as sourcing and ability use their time elsewhere.
- Additional support for them that can be used as required. Not having to recruit an FTE which can be difficult with the peaks and troughs of event season but having a partner who can provide ad-hoc support as needed.
- Visibility to total supplier spend. If they’re using hotel chain or venues that other parts of the company are using, that spend can be leveraged to generate potential discounts for their meetings.
- Safety and Security. Without proper tracking of meeting registration, the company might not know where their employees and clients are in case of emergency-duty of care implications come into play.
- Relevant technology they might have not have access to. Participating in a SMM allows them access to tools like Cvent for better reporting capabilities, etc.
- By engaging marketing in the program, it ensures that the vendors they are using have been vetted by procurement to do business with the organization and are up and running in proper systems.
- Approved vendors are well-versed in company needs and are familiar with the nuances, stakeholders and invoicing/finance processes.
What issues can it cause if marketing is not part of the strategic meetings management program?
- Some control measures can be missed, such as approvals, brand guidelines, safety and security.
- Creates a bad example for other departments across the business and can lead to a drop in overall compliance for the program.
- Holding back the evolution of the SMM program. The future state for a lot of SMM is areas such as attendee experience and this can be more prevalent at a marketing-led conference than others.
- From a reporting and total spend standpoint, you will never fully capture total meeting spend unless these meetings are included and tracked, etc.
- From a safety and security standpoint-if these meetings aren’t registered and something happens, how will the company help them in a time of need?
- By not following the policy, the company has the potential to miss opportunities for cost savings, safety concerns and inconsistencies in spend.
How can procurement and marketing align?
Marketing teams are typically focused on building relationships and connecting people to the brand to drive profitability. They thrive on creativity and tight timelines to push out relevant content. Procurement on the other hand, is transactional and focused on driving efficiencies and cost savings. They couldn’t be more different, yet we know for a successful SMMP, they need to be focused on the same objectives. It comes down to understanding the same objectives from a different perspective. Marketing is one of many procurement commodities and is much more difficult to understand and dynamic in nature than material commodity products. Policies becomes even more difficult to adopt if it seems as if one department is enforcing a mandate to another.
The misconception is that SMMP is adding in another layer, which delays timelines and inevitably leads to reasons to skip the process. The marketing team is under pressure to meet the needs of the business units yet comply with procurement/finance policy. If they follow policy, they can spend less time thinking about risk and contractual terms and focus more on content creation and communication strategy. The risk exposure is even higher when the engagement is external. The policy should alleviate the pressure on the marketing team. The marketing team is looking for the best suppliers to deliver and meet their service level expectations. Therefore, the consultation between marketing and procurement to find the right venue and supplier is critical because it requires a more creative contribution to the process than boxing it traditionally as sourcing. If you look at savings from both perspectives, procurement is looking at the hard dollar, meanwhile, from a marketing viewpoint, its additional spend that can be used in other areas to enhance the program. The objectives are the same but focusing on individual marketing needs will include them in the program.
I cannot stress enough the importance of stakeholder engagement and understanding the voice of the customer from the meeting owners BEFORE planning or launching an SMM program. If you don’t have engagement or alignment from the various stakeholder groups, your program will never truly be successful. Marketing is one of the most important stakeholder groups to align with, as their meeting and event spend usually represents a very high percentage of spend within their company. They have strong voices and can make your job a lot easier if their goals are aligned with the goals of the SMM program. I have seen very well-known and successful companies miss this step and wonder why their program aren’t operating as smoothly as they should.
It is imperative to find that champion in the marketing department that understands and agrees with the [meetings] policy. Having buy-in from within is key to getting others on board and comfortable with adhering to the policy. Personality traits of marketers tend be outspoken, creative and out of the box thinkers, who are not shy to challenge the rules. If they are used to planning meetings “their way”, they can be stubborn to adhere to policy and resistant to “hand over” some of the responsibilities that may have once been theirs. A good best practice is to clearly define roles, responsibilities and expectations to avoid potential disconnect, micromanagement and stepping out of policy. Do not be afraid to push back if you know a request isn’t compliant. Sometimes they will challenge policy knowingly to see what they can get away with.