Supply Management Professionals: Develop Your Brand

Spend Matters welcomes this guest post from Kaitlyn Krigbaum, executive search consultant at MRA Global Sourcing.

We are inundated by brands every day. Consciously or subconsciously, they inform our decisions and influence how we will act. Their inherent advantage is in creating a visceral, emotional connection with people, fostering loyalty and engagement. Although it may be a topic in vogue, it still begs the question, “Why should supply management professionals invest time into developing a personal brand?”

The answer is simple: because branding works. Brands drive shareholder value and create wealth and power that transcend geographical and political boundaries as well as cultural differences. By establishing loyalty and engagement with stakeholders, colleagues and suppliers, supply management professionals essentially create internal and external advocates who can attest to their expertise.

What is a Brand?

We’ve determined that branding is important, but first we should discuss what branding really means and how you can use it to gain credibility and a major edge in increasingly competitive markets.

A personal brand is your unique, specific and consistently cultivated impression of yourself. In other words, it’s how people perceive you. Your brand should communicate what people can expect from you, and it should act as a differentiator. In essence, your brand should represent who you are, who you want to be and who people perceive you to be.

Defining your Personal Brand

As supply management professionals, it is important to realize that you, too, are a brand, not only representing yourself as a practitioner — think generalist versus SME — but also representing your business unit. You decide the way people perceive you. Who you are and what you represent (your brand) can either launch your career or torpedo it, and a strong personal brand can yield tremendous ROI for yourself and the function as a whole if you craft it right. Like anything else, it is important to go about building your brand strategically, through training, networking and social media.

The benefits of developing a strong personal brand include:

  • Becoming ‘known’ within the business for the right reason. Be positive and collaborative. This will shape you as a leader and influence the people and projects you interact with.
  • It’s much easier to gain recognition with the business. Achieve recognition and credibility by growing your knowledge and skillsets through training. This should not only be for branding purposes but for your own edification. If you asked around your organization for the best salesman or woman, many people could answer you. What happens when you ask who is the best procurement guy or gal? If people can’t answer this, then continue to develop your brand to gain recognition as the expert. When people think supply management, you want them to picture you.
  • Building better relationships in and out of work. This is a bidirectional, beneficial relationship. You need to continue networking and building relationships to achieve a strong brand, but in developing that strong brand, you also increase the ease and likelihood of building more social communities. Build up your network, because these relationships turn into alliances. Demonstrate your brand within these social communities: Are you the master of negotiations? Are you a change agent who thrives in transformative environments? Whoever you are, make sure you’ve built the strategic alliances to get you where you need to be. When you receive that big promotion, you will need the backing of as many people in the organization as possible to help drive the improvements and changes you put forward.
  • Career progression. Don’t just talk the talk, walk the walk. Be an idea generator, not just a process follower. Use what you’ve learned through training and networking to propel your career to the next level.

Promoting Your Brand

We’ve discussed the importance of supply management professionals developing their personal brand as well as the benefits a strong brand creates. But how do you promote your brand?

One key tool is social media. Your connections on social media include current and former colleagues and friends, who all are typically entrenched in similar industries, professional affiliations or have similar skillsets. When you market your personal brand through the use of social media, you are representing yourself as an expert to a relevant audience composed of potential clients, peers and employees.

The benefits of using social media to develop and market your personal brand include:

  • Advancing your personal career. Your personal brand is indispensable for your career progression. You should consider it your other full-time job, continuously defining yourself as a leader and a value-add to the team. This does not mean self-promotion; rather, create a strong impression of yourself so that others will promote you.
  • Contributing to the development of the purchasing profession. Social media technologies help people communicate interactively by creating, sharing, broadcasting and exchanging information in online communities and networks. Help break down traditional silos by fostering engagement and open discussion in online collaboration rooms. These internal work communities can share their thoughts on best practices, strategies and potential suppliers, regardless of their location, time zone or level within the organization.
  • Improving your networking within the organization. By staying active on social media, the supply management function becomes more closely interlinked with marketing, HR and IT — crucial internal stakeholders. The innovation and collaboration social media enables further solidifies the function and asserts that it should have a seat at the table with all other relevant stakeholders.
  • Improving your networking with suppliers. As many supply management professionals can attest to, it’s important to stay informed on relevant suppliers. Using public social media networks to stay abreast of what suppliers themselves are saying, or more importantly, their customer base, will not only allow practitioners the insight they need to make informed decisions during crucial negotiations but also help cultivate stronger relationships with these suppliers.

To recap, a personal brand is the active and consistent effort of creating an impression in the minds of others. It is greater than your reputation because it is active rather than passive in nature. It is not self-promotion but rather a continuous process of becoming a leader in the minds of others through collaboration and innovation.

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