The value of branding: 9 tips for procurement to create a strong brand, improve its standing

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Spend Matters welcomes this guest post by Amanda Prochaska, the president of High Performance Procurement. Part 1 of this two-part guest series appeared yesterday and was written by Charlotte de Brabandt, a member of the Institute for Supply Management’s Thought Leadership Council.

For years, procurement’s role has been to reduce costs, or at least this is how it has been seen by others.

Procurement has always been a value provider, not just a cost-cutter. It is unfortunate that in the past it has been looked at so negatively, with such a narrow view. Perhaps this was because the procurement environment was heavily focused on negotiating prices. It did not focus so much on people or assets. The bottom line was always price and value.

However nowadays, most of the low hanging fruit where an easy monetary negotiation could be made is gone. And procurement is moving more toward being known as the value providers.

Part of making the transition to value providers is to change the brand of procurement. Learning from those who do this well, here are some tips that marketers use to create a strong brand.

  • Positive Marketing. Can you think of five major brands that you feel you could not live without? Your list will no doubt contain examples of great positive marketing. All the brands you have chosen will make you feel good by having an excellent user experience. They will all show customers that they value them individually, they offer value and quality, and will also make them have a sense of happiness. Customers must trust the brand implicitly otherwise the brand value may eventually become eroded. The brand's reputation is so important for continual positive marketing and the battle for a buyer's attention.
  • Feedback. Customers must be allowed to interact with you. They always have questions, and if there is nowhere for them to ask, then the brand value may be put at risk. Systems connected to the brand should exist that satisfactorily handle customer questions and feedback. Examples are by telephone or online, using either social media or target pages on the brand's website or email.
  • Improving Quality. This will always be good for the brand. Identify if there are any areas within the business that do not consistently deliver quality to the customer. Check all products and ensure they meet or exceed the quality the customer would come to expect from your brand. This can also be done with customer support.
  • Reduce Delays. This may be something as simple as changing delivery options or parcel companies for example. Basically any products or services provided by the company where the delivery time is important to the customer, identify any parts of the delivery system that are slow or can be speeded up. A customer that is served quickly is always a happy customer!
  • Conduct a Brand Audit. Any strengths or weaknesses in the brand will be identified and documented by the auditors. In a small business an audit can often help identify issues that the company isn't able to see.

But how does one create a brand within procurement? Having a strong brand not only supports your interactions with stakeholders but with your employees and suppliers too. This is especially important if you are driving transformation within the organization.

Below are some steps to create a brand:

  • Seek Feedback. Gather feedback on what stakeholders, suppliers and employees think about your brand today. This could be feedback about problems that are occurring, opportunities that the organization has to serve more effectively or inefficiencies within the process that are ineffective.
  • Define Problem. After listening to all the feedback, general themes will arise. These themes should be summarized into one problem statement. This statement should clearly articulate for the leadership and organization the opportunity for the organization to correct and overcome. It should be free of jargon and relatable to stakeholders.
  • Get Focused. Typically, there are numerous ways to correct the issues and approach the opportunities identified. However, to succeed, there needs to be focus on a few areas of priority. Performing a diagnostic on things like technology, people, culture and other areas with a cross functional team will set the course for action.
  • Call to Action. Taking the feedback, problem and focus areas, the team now has the information to create a call to action. This will be the tagline for your organization that should be referenced in everything you do. It is typically short, memorable and has an action word associated to it. For instance, it could be “Make Purchasing Easy,” or “Elevating the Customer Experience.” Ideally, it references words that are used across the organization already, tying it into other strategies or operating principles that are important to the organization.

At the end of the day, procurement’s brand defines what you want to be known for and what value is being added into the organization. While many procurement organizations have great strategies defined, marketing those strategies and the value that is being offered lags behind. From learning from our marketing counterparts and taking the necessary steps to define your call to action, procurement has an opportunity to shine.

Guest author Amanda Prochaska, a self-described procurement fanatic, founded HPP this year.

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