Every business from soloist to multi-national, invests in their brand. But there are external factors such as supplier relationships contributing to other’s perception of our ‘brand’ that we may not be aware of.
For example, do you factor in whether your supplier relationships are a good cultural fit with the brand you have created and want to develop? Initial business decisions when selecting a supplier or contractor such as quality, price and timeliness are one thing.
But what about the “do I like them?” consideration.
Then there are those soloists who want to choose suppliers with a similar social and/or environmental approach to their own ideals. If this describes you, take into account whether you are putting demands on your suppliers that result in them being less socially or environmentally responsible than you find important.
Over the last few years several multinationals have come under the spotlight for their choice of supplier relationships and the pressure put on them to make production cheaper. It is harder for small businesses to put such pressure on suppliers because they don’t have the economy of scale, but your decisions still impact on suppliers and their supplier relationship with you.
If you want your brand to convey that your business is socially and/or environmentally sustainable but your suppliers/contractors don’t support this goal, then your message is inconsistent.
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Similarly, if you or your suppliers have a social and/or environmental responsibility program in place, but the public view it as a profit making exercise with no real external benefit, then you will also have a branding issue.
For a while now, I have been advocating the idea that businesses should improve understanding of their supplier relationships. So many businesses undertake research with customers, clients, staff and potential clients, but miss out on improving their understanding of their own suppliers.
Since cashflow is renowned as one of the main ways that a small growing business can fall over, understanding and improving your supplier relationships is critical. If one of your key suppliers is changing their focus by, say, producing in a socially or environmentally damaging way or a way that is not aligned with your philosophy, then these aspects could significantly impact your business. You need to monitor any changes in quality, timeliness of delivery, service, or decreased customer satisfaction as a result of your suppliers’ reputations.
So take an active stance by getting feedback from your suppliers, whether formally or informally. You can then assess whether they are the right supplier for you from a broader perspective and if they are, you can use your supplier selection criteria in your marketing to add further support to your brand.