Tuesday, 19 January 2016

Marketing Procurement as a service - the issues

I hear and read a reasonable amount about the need to transfer Marketing principles over to Marketing the Procurement function as part of Procurement's transformation and repositioning.  Procurement Branding is all very well but a Brand is more than a streamline or logo, it's about the mental image conjured up in the potential customers head and that is often shaped by a perceived bad past experience.

It often strikes me that we tend to forget that Procurement is not a product but a service, and that brings with it unique problems. In Marketing the Procurement function needs to be aware of some of those problems if we are to effectively overcome them. Having said that, at some stage in the future I may discuss the Procurement Product Offerings, however, what are the problems:

  1. The Procurement service is inseparable from the person receiving the service, viz, the internal customer of Procurement. You cannot separate the service user from its delivery/provision - their involvement is central. For example, let's say they can't help in shaping the specification or evaluation criteria, then how can you be sure it will fit there quality needs? Let's say they refuse to use you nicely negotiated framework arrangement, it really won't serve its purpose. Let's say they just don't want to take your advice, then regardless how good that advice is, it has little value in that particular procurement;
  2. The Procurement service is heterogeneous, the person who delivers the Procurement 'Product' is a factor in the quality of the outcome. Let's say the Procurement Advisor gives poor quality advice, then the procurement is compromised - quality control is difficult because it depends on the quality of the procurement person and what's more it depends on how they are on the day. Let's say, the Procurement Advisor is caught up in dealing with a willingness to help an internal client, how can you be sure, in their enthusiasm to be helpful, they don't stray beyond their area of expertise and give an inappropriate answer? Let's say the person is just having an 'off day' then they may not give their best; 
  3. The Procurement service is perishable - while the internal customer may be able to make use of FAQs on an intranet, they can't keep you in a drawer and only pull you out when required. Let's say you answer a query from an internal customer over the phone  - the minute the call is over you're vulnerable to whether the advice is misinterpreted or even forgotten. But let's say you were advising based on certain constraints unknown to the user, and the advise provided is wrongly applied by the user to a different environment. Really, once the service is consumed, it can't be reused as the same repeatedly. Equally, really good professional service could be quickly forgotten as a result of some minor bad experience or perceived bad experince;
  4. The Procurement service is intangible - you can't place it on a shelf and say "look what I got from Procurement, would you like one for your Birthday?" . 
Of course we can devise strategies which might overcome these problems, for example, ensuring appropriately qualified staff, placing letters before and after our names, certificates on walls, etc. but if we want to really address Marketing Procurement a good place to start is understanding some of the issues.

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