The value of branding: 6 ways procurement can redefine its brand, change misperceptions

Spend Matters welcomes this two-part guest series by Charlotte de Brabandt, a member of the Institute for Supply Management’s Thought Leadership Council, and by Amanda Prochaska, the president of High Performance Procurement, whose article can be read here.

Procurement professionals are not typically known for their ability to be great marketers. However, having a strong brand ensures procurement is at the very center of any business strategy. Look at any of the world's great brands and you will see that they all use their brand strength to gain attention. Strong brands are simply the key to creating value, and when this is done well, the full potential of procurement is realized.

Unfortunately, procurement’s brand has been largely left to their customers to define. These include definitions like “those are the people who negotiate contracts,” or “they buy stuff,” or “they are slow and non-responsive.”

As procurement professionals, we understand we deliver much more value than how we are being defined. So, what does it take to proactively define the value of procurement?

  1. Customer Centric: Successful brands really understand their customers. They know that they must be the first thing a customer thinks of when selecting a product. They know their primary customer target group and aim their brand primarily at them. Increasing the brand's primary customer base helps it to build a secondary customer base. These are customers who are introduced to the brand via the primary customer target group. It is clear to see that these two target groups contain customers who move from one group to another, ideally from secondary to primary, of course.
  2. Unique and Innovative: Procurement branding must be unique and innovative if it is to be successful. The brand must have ways that make it stand out among its competitors. If the brand's acquirement costs measured in money and time outweigh the functional, self-expressive and emotional benefits, then the brand can be described as premium. Lesser brands will command lower costs or may not be worth investigating at all. To flourish, a brand must be constantly innovative, relevant and anticipate its customers’ requirements. Such a brand with quality innovation will avoid being beaten by its competitors. It will have what is known as "Brand Promise." Strong brands require strong leaders and within every organization, there is always a leader at the top that influences everything. Influence and leadership go hand in hand. For the brand to be successful with its customer base, there must be ways that customer feedback on the brand can directly influence the way the brand is constantly updated. This is the job of the person at the hub of that brand. They must ensure procurement is shaped in such a way that it is seen and building the brand with its customers — to be flexible enough to shape the brand proactively with customers both inside and outside of the company.
  3. Define Value: As procurement helps new stakeholders across the wider business, it will need to freshly brand that new service/product — even if the new product is similar to the problems that the procurement process already handles. Procurement is not only about cost. Nowadays it is equally important to manage risk and growth. A successfully freshly branded product requires investment by procurement, but the benefit for procurement’s standing can be tremendous.
  4. Consistency: One of the most important things needed to build a customer base is consistency. Having that within a brand develops a common vision, and this defines the specific procurement characteristics within the company. Procurement can then build this consistency across various categories, geographical areas and required business areas in a way that the procurement process becomes central to the organization. This consistency can only be developed and rolled out by top management controlling the process. It will require all employees to receive training in procurement and its processes in such a way that it is tailored to the needs of the company and the brand.
  5. Measure: Procurement will be able to work with the finance areas of the business to show how these new procurement techniques directly affect the profit and loss. Procurement needs to be measured, and if any unusual activities or noncompliance are discovered, these need to be resolved. The measurement can be done by using transparent tools such as reports and shared applications to calculate how well the procurement process is performing when compared to the initial targets.
  6. Visible: Finally ensure the procurement branding is visible. Procurement must be considered at every stage of the business and with all decisions taken. The aim is to raise the procurement profile within the company and also with external communication such as contributing articles, jointly hosting events and interviews that lead to publication. Procurement can also attend public events such as trade fairs to assist in expanding the team network and improving relationships with others in the same industry. Social media development is also key to improve ways it can reach its full customer base.

Procurement is fortunate to have many great stories and value propositions to share with its customers. The opportunity is to creatively brand that value in new and better ways.

Now that you understand the need for a strong brand and what is required of the brand, part two of this series will explain how to define and strengthen procurement’s value through your brand.

Guest author Charlotte de Brabandt is also ISM’s 2017 Megawatt Star, the top member of the 30 Under 30 Rising Supply Chain Stars.

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First Voice

  1. Patrice Tiolet:

    Great article Charlotte and Amanda about Procurement positioning!
    Communication and branding are key when it comes to sell the procurement value to stakeholders and top management.
    To my point of view, except purchasing and expediting, procurement and supply management are never regulatory. That means that procurement organizations must start by defining and marketing their value against their costs.

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