Four lessons from social media marketing for driving supplier engagement

I recently took part in a review of how S4RB uses social media to champion concepts like supplier engagement. Working with our friends at Nottingham-based PR agency Tank PR, we identified many new and exciting opportunities to share the benefits of supplier engagement with even more people - people just like you.

It didn’t occur to me at the time, but the lessons learnt within those various exploration sessions hold almost equal relevance to our work with our retailer clients, and more importantly with their private brand suppliers. After all, the objective of driving action through successful engagement is shared by social media marketing and supplier engagement.

Here are my four tips for using social media marketing to drive supplier engagement

#1 Understand your audience

Your suppliers are a collection of individuals. These individuals all hold different roles and responsibilities within the entity most commonly referred to as the 'supplier'. And these roles naturally determine how they prioritise their work.

For example, asking the financial administrator to confirm what corrective actions they have taken as a result of their last manufacturing site audit is likely to be as effective as posting about train interiors on a Facebook group for new mothers.

Help your messages to be heard and acted upon by targeting each communication to specific roles within your supplier’s organisation.

Learn more about targeted supplier communications in Supplier Communication 101: Everyman and his dog food supplier (targeting your audience)

#2 Understand their journey

Before we purchase anything, our minds have to go on a journey. That journey starts with us not even knowing we need the product, and ends with us handing over our hard earned cash. At different stages of this journey, certain types of information and materials are more successful than others at moving us along towards the goal of making a purchase.

Driving quality or compliance within your supply base involves a very similar process. Only in this case, it’s your suppliers going on the journey from not knowing they need to complete certain tasks, to getting the job done to a high standard.

Understanding the journey that your suppliers will need to go on when completing your requests will help you to:

  • Pre-empt any additonal knowledge or support gaps
  • Create appropriate materials to fill those gaps to help their understanding
  • Empower your suppliers to get the job done as quickly as possible to the required standard

Learn more about understanding the supplier journey in Tackling the Supplier Assault Course

#3 Share valuable content

Social media – pretty much everyone is at it now. For consumers, this means there is a lot of noise out there, both from retailers and from their peers. Therefore, every company has to fight for consumer attention and loyalty.

You, your colleagues and your competitors are in a similar boat. You are all fighting for the attention of the individuals within your suppliers. More likely than not, your competitors are asking for very similar information, probably in a slightly different format and the suppliers are going to have to make a choice and prioritise which task to undertake first (or at all).

Improve your ranking on that supplier to-do list by building stronger, mutually beneficial relationships with those individuals. When not often working face-to-face with suppliers, this can be tricky.

So how can you make your content your suppliers’ priority? Give yourself the edge by seeking out and sharing information and materials that you think your suppliers may find of value. An example could be notifying your honey suppliers that legislation affecting them has recently been changed and making it clear what they need to do to be compliant. Or you could simply instruct your smaller, artisan producers with less technical expertise on how to sign up to Food Standards Agency alerts.

Learn more about sharing valuable content with suppliers in Supplier Self-Help: Your Suppliers’ Personal Concierge

#4 Listen and learn

Social media's power lies in its ability to provide a platform where both consumer and brand voices have the potential to be equal. All you need is a compelling message and there are no limits to how far it can travel.

The danger for brands is when that compelling message puts your brand in a less than favourable light. And that's why millions is being invested by brands all over the world to monitor and listen to the online chatter.

By listening, brands can quickly respond and mitigate risk. By listening, brands can learn what works and what doesn't and over time, refine their messages to drive action faster. And just like the social media managers up the hall from you in Big Retail head office, you too can benefit from putting your ear to the ground.

Listening to your suppliers doesn't have to be complicated. Here's a quick and easy technique to get started:

  • Create and promote a single email address for supplier queries and feedback
  • Monitor and respond to queries daily to demonstrate the value you place on this channel
  • Perform a monthly review to identify common themes
  • Identify what material needs to be created, which messages need to be clearer and which processes could be reviewed to address the most common query and feedback trends

Find out how we combined all of these techniques to ensure Waitrose Local and Regional suppliers were compliant with the new Food Information Regulations.

Tags: Supplier engagement

David Taylor

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