How To Help Agencies View Sourcing As Partner Rather Than Threat: Q&A With Schwab's Avelar

Tracy Avelar is managing director, vendor and sourcing management, at Charles Schwab & Company, and will be hosting the ANA Advertising Financial Management Conference in late April.

Bill Duggan, group executive vice president of the Association of National Advertisers, recently interviewed Avelar on “all things sourcing/procurement.”

Bill Duggan: Your career includes sourcing positions at Target, Williams-Sonoma, Gap, BlackRock, Visa, and now Charles Schwab. Thinking back to 10 years ago, what are the key changes in the industry overall for marketing sourcing?  

Tracy Avelar: More so than ever, marketing sourcing professionals are required to understand very granular details about the industry and where it’s going.  

It’s not good enough anymore to just sit with your sourcing team, benchmarking pricing, and then negotiate a standard services contract.  We need to truly collaborate with our marketing and agency partners to understand what their objectives are, then motivate the agency to prioritize our business vs. another company’s so the agency can better drive our business forward.



We need to stay up-to-date on new marketing technology and data companies, as we are required to understand the end-to-end risks associated with the services, including what information we share and what downstream implications there are with third and even fourth parties, i.e., subcontractors to our subcontractors. 

We also need to understand the connections between these third and fourth parties and our agencies, and whether there are any conflicts.

Duggan: Sourcing professionals need to drive improvement on both marketing ROI and cost effectiveness. How do you prioritize and balance the two?  

Avelar: Priorities between these change from project to project. What’s critical is that you understand your business partner’s goals, and help develop strategies to accomplish them. 

Duggan: How have you worked with your external agencies so that they view sourcing as a partner rather than a threat?  

Avelar: In my experience, you need to get to know them as people, not just the “agency contact” on the other side of the negotiation table.  I find more and more that they do understand our role and have been able to develop relationships through open and honest dialogue about each other’s goals.  

As long as both sides come to the relationship with respect, honesty, good intent, and data, we can move past differences of opinion.  

It’s also critical to ask for feedback and listen to how we as a client can evolve and what we need to start, stop, or continue doing.  

Often I find the teams get too focused on the work product, but don’t talk enough about how both sides work.  Driving efficiencies in the “how” can make the agency’s life better, marketing’s life better, and often leads to money that can be reinvested in the relationship.    

Duggan: What advice do you have for someone just starting out in marketing sourcing?  

Avelar: I encourage them to not just focus on the next contract negotiation.  Sure, you need to be thoughtful and strategic in your negotiation, and be up on the latest trends for your remit.  

But in my experience, to be successful in marketing sourcing, you also need to prioritize developing relationships with your business partners, which includes marketing, finance, legal and compliance teams.  

What are their objectives? What are their challenges?  What do they see as the next change on the horizon in the industry?  Then work to determine how you can support them and overcome the obstacles they face.

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