Experts say companies on the supply side of procurement can play a more prominent role in helping buyers realize the efficiencies that come with electronic procurement systems integrated with other business operations software.

B2B buyers are using e-procurement systems to gain control over their purchasing expenditures, control procurement workflows and optimize their entire logistics process.

E-procurement integration is a space that is not all that well understood by suppliers.

Despite these benefits, however, many buyers — lacking electronic procurement systems integrated with their business operations software — still manually exchange procurement data with their suppliers via email and fax. Even if a supplier has the technological resources to support e-procurement integrations for its buyers, the connections they have built are typically custom jobs that were expensive to build and are technologically complex to maintain, experts say. As a result, e-procurement integration is not necessarily something suppliers on, despite the benefits it can bring to their customers.

E-procurement system integration can deliver buyers such benefits as access to punchout catalogs — or suppliers’ ecommerce sites accessed directly from their procurement system — electronic purchase orders, and automated invoicing.  Suppliers can benefit from the integration, too. Supplier benefits include automatic data-mapping between systems, which eliminates the need for rekeying order data and the risk of data-entry errors, accelerated purchase cycles, higher average order values, and increased order frequency. Nevertheless, many suppliers don’t actively market their e-procurement integration capabilities because of the perceived high cost and maintenance of such connections, even though buyers have increasingly come to expect such connectivity.

Developing a comprehensive marketing campaign around their e-procurement integration capabilities, however, can help suppliers grow their business, attract new customers, and deepen existing customer relationships.

The role of suppliers in procurement integration

“E-procurement integration is a space that is not all that well understood by suppliers,” says Tom Roberts, chief marketing officer for TradeCentric, formerly PunchOut2Go, which automates B2B trade through a single integration platform. “But e-procurement is growing about 20% annually, so having a proactive marketing campaign around e-procurement integration can educate buyers so they can take advantage of ecommerce integration and procurement automation.”


Developing an effective marketing campaign for e-procurement integration starts with understanding buyers, how they purchase, and their business goals. Reviewing their customers and creating profiles of buyers that have e-procurement integrations can provide suppliers with insights into how those  buyers use e-procurement technology, their requirements for using it, and how best to meet those requirements.

“Suppliers need to ask themselves, are there buyers they do business with that are integrating to other suppliers, and what are the gaining from it,” Roberts says. “Have a conversation with them and listen to what they say to learn what you can do to convince them to integrate with your e-procurement system. Good marketers listen before they start talking.”

TradeCentric, for example, offers a cloud-based integration platform designed to expedite the deployment of procurement systems that support such features as punchout catalogs, digital ordering and invoicing.


Once a supplier understands the integration needs and requirements of its customers, the next step in developing an effective marketing campaign is to educate its sales force, the primary point of contact with buyers. Education efforts should focus on the benefits of e-procurement integration for customers and prospects.

In addition, the sales force should be armed with the right materials and follow-up collateral, such as an FAQ sheet that provides answers to common questions about e-procurement integration, including integration timelines, to circulate among existing customers and prospects.

“It’s not product selling, it’s solution selling,” Roberts says. “If suppliers have an ecommerce site, they should also make the same sales messaging available on the site.”

Marketing the benefits of e-procurement integration

Examples of the ways suppliers can use their website to promote the benefits of e-procurement integration include posting blogs, guest articles and case studies providing detailed information about how an e-procurement integration is a more efficient alternative for managing orders, procurement document exchange, and invoicing.


Publishing articles in business-to-business and professional publications detailing the benefits of e-procurement integration is another channel for reaching prospective customers. “Detailing actual customer use cases in publications and through social media, podcasts and email, are other channels suppliers can use to talk about the benefits of integrated commerce and make themselves part of the conversation.”

Sales representatives should also take the time to understand who their contacts within a buyer’s organization report to internally, to identify decision makers. “This is key,” Roberts says. “Those higher up the chain are the ones that drive change within an organization and make the decision on how to improve business processes.”

“Proactively reaching out can also serve as a point of differentiation for suppliers, as it shows they are not reactive to customer needs,” Roberts adds.

Peter Lucas is a Highland Park, Illinois-based freelance journalist covering business and technology.    


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