How to write content for procurement leaders in 2021

International supply chains have rarely been as volatile as they are today. Here's our guide to producing content for procurement teams battling turbulent times.

procurement

The most powerful tool in a marketer’s armoury is knowing your audience. If you understand the problems your reader faces, what keeps them up at night, and what the world would look like if they could wave a magic wand, you have a much better chance of speaking their language.

When we’re writing content for procurement leaders, it’s not so difficult to know what they’ve been thinking over the last year and a half. If you can imagine an internalised scream of frustration and anguish caused by relentless uncertainty in almost every supply chain in the world, then you’re probably not far off the mark.

That is to say, it’s been a tough 18 months. And one that’s delivered some valuable learning experiences for those that have weathered the storm.

This blog is based on our experience speaking with – and writing for – procurement leaders. We’ll look at how they are likely to feel today, what their concerns might be going forward, what it is they need and want, and how you can use that knowledge to craft content that speaks straight to the heart of your audience.

We’ll also share three types of content that we’ve seen work well when writing for procurement organisations.

Procurement: complex, numbers-led, and increasingly strategic

Before we get into the weeds here, let’s take a quick look at procurement from up high – and talk about what the function does, and how it’s changing.

Procurement departments are responsible for acquiring an organisation’s supplies and services, negotiating contracts, and ensuring the required resources are in place to produce whatever the end product or services are. In large organisations, this can mean hundreds of contracts with different suppliers all over the world.

For instance, if you’re a wildly popular microbrewery, you would need to procure every single ingredient that goes into making each of your delicious IPAs.

Your ability to source each of these ingredients cost-effectively can be affected by any number of things, including weather conditions, demand, and distribution channels. So, you can see how quickly things can get complicated.

Historically, procurement has been seen as a cost-cutting function, with its role being to acquire materials for as little money as possible. However, in recent years the perception of procurement has changed.

Procurement leaders have begun to play a more strategic role in organisational decision-making – ensuring the supply of goods and services is in line with the organisation’s overall business goals while reducing risk within the supply chain.

And then, COVID-19 happened…           

For those reliant on complicated global supply chains, having the world’s markets thrown into disarray is probably the worst thing that could happen. Already a challenging job, at the start of 2020 procurement took on new levels of complexity and unpredictability. And that disruption has had a lasting impact.

To do their jobs well, procurement leaders need to be able to predict market shifts, identify alternate supply chains, and anticipate trends. But when production and distribution shuts down all over the world, companies fold without warning, and demand for resources shifts in unexpected directions, the knowledge and expectations procurement leaders previously relied on may no longer apply.

So, what does that mean for marketers – and those of us who write content for this sector?

What procurement leaders want from your content

Above all else, procurement professionals today need one thing: clarity.

Even if the world starts to return to normal – or at least a passable impression of it – COVID won’t be the last major global event that will cause this kind of market disruption. And in truth, it wasn’t the first.

However, for many it has been something of a wake-up call. Today, procurement leaders fully recognise the need for solutions that can help them predict the unexpected or adjust strategies quickly when things take a turn for the weird.

From a marketing point of view then, there are a couple of things we should do when talking to this audience:

  • Show empathy. It’s important to illustrate an understanding of the strategic role procurement leaders have to play, the complexity of that role, and the myriad things that can affect their ability to execute it successfully.
  • Provide insight. Showing a good knowledge of the tools and techniques that can provide the insight procurement leaders need – even in the most unpredictable markets – is essential if they’re going to engage.

But the message is only half the battle. If you’re producing content for a vendor who provides procurement solutions, then you need to start thinking about the best way to present the information. What kind of materials are procurement leaders likely to read? And, with numerous offerings on the market, what makes yours stand out above the rest?

Here are three ideas to get you started.

Three kinds of procurement content that cut through

  1. Case studies showing cumulative returns

Over the last couple of years, we’ve written a great deal of content for a client who specialises in data science and analytics for procurement organisations, and a lot of that work has revolved around case studies.

Due to the sprawling nature of procurement, especially in large organisations, what may seem like minor improvements can actually deliver huge returns. Stories about the metricised success of others can illustrate this point, and make theoretical savings more concrete.

They’re especially effective because procurement leaders are surrounded by numbers. Although in mature organisations procurement is far more than just a cost-saving function, the factors that dictate procurement strategy still come in the form of pricing information, market trends, and other data-driven insights.

  1. Product-focused content that shows the possibilities

Another approach that’s proven successful for our clients is content that shows exactly what the latest tools and technologies can deliver.

Although procurement has transcended its roots to some degree, the experts we speak to paint a picture of a function still in a transitional phase. Many procurement teams are still inefficient and lack the insights they need to deliver true strategic value. And in a lot of cases, they don’t know where to start.

So, content that provides insight into the many tools available to help streamline things like purchase order creation and delivery, billing, spend data analysis, real-time budgeting, and approval workflows, is gratefully received. These tools can free up procurement leaders to focus on the more strategic work that’s increasingly expected of them.

  1. Content that reveals the experts behind the technology

Finally, it never hurts to produce content that speaks to a specific area of expertise – perhaps illustrating that your solutions are developed and implemented by experts with real procurement experience and know-how, and aren’t just plug-and-play algorithms promising returns.

We recently wrote a “Meet the Data Scientist” series for our client, The Smart Cube. The series not only provided a personal touch to help potential customers get to know the people behind the tech, but also did a great job of underlining how The Smart Cube’s work can help to uncover new value streams and deliver significant ROI.

What’s next?

For procurement organisations, the only real certainty going forwards is more uncertainty. Complex global markets will continue to change and be affected by world events, both large and small. So, we need to focus on producing content that can help procurement leaders identify the solutions and support they need to navigate change.

If you need help with your procurement tech content, we’d love to hear from you. Get in touch here, to talk to a member of our team.


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