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Three Reasons Why Marketing Needs Its Own Supply Chain

If you ask marketing people how their organization sources marketing materials and services you’ll likely get one of two answers. One is “we order them from places that did other work for us.” The other is “we have our procurement department do it for us.” There are good points, and bad, for both of these answers. On one hand, sourcing projects as part of marketing operations keeps control close to those most familiar with the project. On the other hand, without proper tools and training, sourcing could become a practice in subjectivity and inefficiency. Sourcing marketing materials and services through a purchasing department brings procurement expertise into the mix. Unfortunately, the tools, methods and supply chains common to general-purpose procurement don’t take the uniqueness and complexity of custom-printed marketing materials into consideration. Marketing procurement, just like other marketing operations, requires special tools and skills.

Forward thinking organizations that understand this have gravitated toward the concept of the marketing supply chain – a unique, self-contained supply chain specifically for marketing. Still not convinced? Here are three reasons why marketing needs its own supply chain.

Strategic Differences

Marketing can’t rest on its laurels. It needs to constantly move forward better than before. While there obviously must be synchronicity between the strategies of marketing and the greater organization, those of marketing are often on a more unique and faster moving wavelength than others. Traditional procurement strategies and the supply chains they rely on aren’t built to encompass all of the processes and dependencies involved in sourcing marketing materials. Timing or quality is often sacrificed in favor of price in general sourcing situations. Such sacrifices in marketing can lead to absolutely disastrous results. A proper approach to the marketing supply chain will find the best mix of timeliness, quality and cost.

Custom Nature

Few marketing materials are generic. Branding, message, audience, creative vision and distribution channel all add layers of customization to a marketing communication project. Saying that all brochures are alike is like saying all snowflakes are alike. But many traditional procurement approaches are not set up to be able to consider the minute detail by which marketing materials are specified. This leads either to creativity being pigeonholed to pre-determined formats or the risk that a complex, custom project will not be produced as expected. Marketing needs access to a supply chain that has the right capabilities, capacity and innovative approaches – as well as the right tools to manage it – to maximize the impact of the materials it creates.

Need for Collaboration

Marketing is an area of operations that often spreads into other areas. It’s not uncommon to have roles outside of marketing – such as legal, finance, accounting, product development, IT and even outsiders like agencies – involved in a marketing material project. Unlike the purchasing of supplies, raw materials, commodities or equipment, these roles are often involved at various points through the sourcing phase, making them an integral part of the marketing supply chain. Scheduling, communication, task management and vendors management must all take this collaborative nature into consideration. Traditional task and approval workflows aren’t designed to do that. A true marketing supply chain and the tools used to manage it are.

Of course there are many other reasons why marketing needs its own supply chain. It’s likely that every organization has a mix of them that is as unique as its own approach to marketing. Take a look at your own operations and think about how building your own marketing supply chain can help deliver better results.