The Road to Smart Supply Chain Marketing

Like any business, a supply chain company needs to form its business story and build intelligent campaigns. A few key preparations link directly to a successful outcome.

Management attention
Management needs to invest a chunk of time initially to get the company's story nailed and incorporated into the communications effort. The thread needs to be integrated across the entire organization and in all media. The first step is to consider some key questions and create a positioning statement and key messages. This results in a communications strategy on which all tactics are based. (Think strategy first, then tactics.)

Be brutally honest about how you stack up against your electronic supply chain competitors with an eye toward understanding their established market positions. The competitive comparison may vary across geographies. Understanding this is part of effective planning. Often, a single strategy won't be globally effective.

Capture information from technical and management team members in order to create content specifically of interest to supply chain pros at various levels. Outside sources may also prove valuable. Consider offering information targeted at those working in specialties that make the buying decisions that effect your organization.

Re-using existing relevant content may be a more rapid means of getting started. Whether content is newly developed or repurposed, always focus on areas of interest to people in the supply chain industry, whether it is politics, economics, technology, or human resources.

Have a business or marketing plan
Every organization has a PowerPoint presentation that outlines the basics of their organization. However, this file isn't the same as having a business or marketing plan and strategy statement. It may work with explanation but PPT files are meant to have a speaker. A simple, clear document is needed. Richard Rumelt's recent book, Good Strategy/Bad Strategy, one of the best business books I've read in a decade, offers invaluable advice:

A business strategy is not , as is so often portrayed in the corporate world, an Objective or end point or a bunch of fluff and high-sounding language without meaning. A strategy includes the following:

  • A diagnosis defining or explaining the nature of the challenge. An effective diagnosis simplifies the often overwhelming complexity of the business environment by identifying certain aspects of the situation as critical. (An example might be a missing piece needed by customers that competitors have ignored. It can also be lots of other things.)
  • A guiding policy for dealing with the challenge. This is the overall approach chosen to cope with or overcome the obstacles identified in the diagnosis.
  • A set of coherent actions that are designed to carry out he guiding policy. These are steps that are coordinated with one another to work together in the accomplishing the guiding policy.

I offer these thoughts as a starting point for your team to begin thinking strategically about creating and disseminating a corporate brand identity. The best vehicle is a clear, simple plan that can be widely shared across your business. A good strategy has the potential to drive business. Bad strategy or none at all, meanwhile, offers a superb means of wasting time and money.

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14 comments on “The Road to Smart Supply Chain Marketing

  1. SP
    June 27, 2013

    Nice article. Normally the companies have predetermined strategies detailed out in company presentation on supply chain. 

  2. Ford Kanzler
    June 27, 2013

    Interesting you mention that strategy “normally” shows up in a companies' PPT deck. I've met with a great many companies and that  “normally” just ain't so. You'd be correct in expecting it be there but its not. I sat in on a presentation yesterday for an established tech brand and a clear strategy was missing. Lots of industry buzz words and table stakes claims made by everyone, “easy to work with, we care about customers, experienced team members, blah, blah, blah.” But no strategy. Mostly it was about “what we do,” which is pretty much what everyone in their business does. Nothing different showed up. I suspect this is one of the reasons why they're having difficulty with price-cutting, off-shore competitors.

    One of the things PR pros like me attempt to do for clients when a statement about strategy is missing, is help create a basis for a company's story or communictions program. It's a bit of the tail wagging the dog but having communicating a clear, differentiated strategy is extremely valuable and helps save a lot of time and money once you get down to executing tactics…like a corporate PPT deck for use in sales or other stateholder engagements. Ideally all the “stuff” used in communications is telling the same interesting story that people will understand and value.

    Suggest few companies know what a strategy looks like, can state one clearly or apply it accross a full range of media, including their PPT deck. Sometimes management even keeps it a secret from the rest of the employees. Quite often what passes for strategy is the CEO or CFO's dream, like, “Become the leading supplier in our market sector,” or “Grow 50 percent by next year.” NONE of these are strategies. They're just wishes.

    The best recent info on strategy is Good Strategy/Bad Strategy by Richard Rumelt. In it he clearly points out what's essential for effective strategy. He also has fun with what's not a strategy. Highly recommended. (I have no business connection to this author)

  3. Himanshugupta
    June 28, 2013

    Ford, strategy is very important for any company to be successful. Usually, the higher management tells the employees company's mission, vision and 5 year goal but strategy is not communicated. I do not know why but maybe because revealing strategy is liking telling you opponent the whole game plan and the company might risk losing competitive edge. Also, usually companies have short term strategy but long term strategies are usually missing. Having long term strategy tells how prepared the management is.

  4. Ford Kanzler
    June 28, 2013

    I suspect that strategy is often not shared because there really isn't one or management hasn't agreed on it. When I interview company managers at the outset of a PR campaign, uite  often there is radical disagreement among team members about the most basic issues relating to their business. To help drive strategic direction, I take them through Happy Beckwith's 7 Questions as follows:

    – Who are you?
    – What business are you in?
    – For whom? (What people do you serve?)
    – What need? (What are the special needs of the people you serve?)
    – Against whom? (With whom are you competing?)
    – What's different? (What attribute, important to customers, makes you different from those customers?)
    – So: What single , unique benefit does a customer derive from your products or services?

    There have been rather violent shouting matches among management team members over the answers to these quesitons. Clearly they've never discussed or agreed on these rather essential business points. How can there be a strategy without team agreement?

    I'm not suggesting that every bit of operational detail  (the whole game plan) be shared with every employee. But there certainly ought be strategic information that other managers and staff can grab on to and base their plans on. Everyone ought to be very clear about the broad brush version which ideally and minimally incorporates Richard Rumelt's 3-part kernal…Diagnosis, Guiding Policy and Coherent Action, as provided in my original post. If people don't have that much, how are they to possibly act in a concerted way?


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  5. Susan Fourtané
    June 29, 2013


    Don't you think that a long term strategy would have to be revised many times during the period due to all the rapid changes occuring in today's agile business? A short term strategy plan seems to be more adequate today. You can always renew the strategy after that period of time if it is still updated. 

    As for management don't communicating their own employees about the strategy the company is taken, well, what's the point in keeping secrets from your own people? If you don't trust your own employees you should fire them, and hire someone you trust. 


  6. Houngbo_Hospice
    June 29, 2013

    @SF- You are right, strategies should be revised , especially when the business ecosystem changes. As for sharing the company business strategy with employees, It think it depends on the type of business you are running as some major future plans might better stay with the leadership.

  7. elctrnx_lyf
    June 29, 2013

    The strategy itself should be a vey simple and can be practically achievable under the ideal settings. Any reasons that could deter the strategy to be executed should be solved by the leadership team. No wonder there are so many companies who can do business consulting as an outsider at a very high level to provide a right strategy for company growth.

  8. Himanshugupta
    June 30, 2013

    Susan, i believe that a compay should have a 5-10 year long strategy so that short term crisis do not derail the progress that the company management envision. I agree that short term strategies will need to be adjusted according to the business climate but these strategies, if have a long term objective, will surve their purpose better.

    As for management communicating long term stategies to employees, i belive that they should as it will help employees align themselves better to the needs and objectives. But i also think that too much openness about the boardroom decisions is neither in favor of company nor of employees.

  9. Himanshugupta
    June 30, 2013

    I agee Ford with your statements. i think the main reason for the lack of stragey in tech companies can be due to lack of formal management educations of the managers. Managers kind of know what they expect from their team or the short terms goal but when the bigger picture comes they the managers individually will have different opinions.

  10. Ford Kanzler
    June 30, 2013

    You may be correct. However, I've encountered no shortage of tech company managers with an EE or MS EE and an MBA, which should give tham substanative background in strategic business planning. Short-term strategies need to support, be part of or reinforce a long-term strategy focused on an achievable goal. “Strategy de tour” (constantly changing strategy) is no strategy at all. Unshared strategy among managers is a huge waste of time and money. Management “teams” should all be clear and in agreement on strategy, not hold differing ideas about what the strategy is. I once had a CEO who reminded everyone nearly monthly about the strategy and asked how various managers' (VP, Directors, etc.) plans were focusied on executing against the plan. It was a very successful company. If was much easier to decide what appropriate action is. If it clearly supports the strategy, do it. If not, don't. Departmental plans are built out from the overall business plan. This isn't rocket science. Well run companies get this.

  11. Hailey Lynne McKeefry
    July 1, 2013

    I think this is a critical distinction, Ford. There's an often a great gap between ideal and real in many organizations. There is often a glut of buzz words and big statements that lack any real substance. I would call upon organizations to hold each other accountable. When you are meeting with a potential partner or business asscoiate, keep asking “What does that really mean?” and “How are you going to get there?” It will keep us all more honest.

  12. Hailey Lynne McKeefry
    July 1, 2013

    @Himanshugupt, I think that the fast-paced nature may also be partially to blame for the lack of strategy. That's not an excuse…I think the old adage of “Measure twice, cut once” in carpentry is broadly applicable… More time planning simply saves time in the long run. The focus on getting it down NOW though can push people to give the critical planning step short shrift.

  13. Ford Kanzler
    July 1, 2013

    Hally – Asking the hard questions and uncovering effective responses is SOP if clients are to survive competitive attacks, media/analyst inquiries and perhaps even get customers to pay attention. One of my favorite CEO-stoppers is when a VC or analyst asks, “How are you going to win?” Rarely is there a short, clear answer.

    Completely agree the tech world is all about “Just Do It” and “Stay Busy.” Further, many managements don't truly believe in focusing on much other than perhaps “growing…faster.” (Which isn't an objective or a strategy)

    Engineering teams usually have a clear end point in completing a product and moving it to manufacturing. Of course they may be also simulltaneously working on five or more progressive versions or iterations of a product family. But R&D more often has a plan. The rest of the business may not have any clue where they're going if management isn't sharing their vision, direction and route to the goal.

  14. Hailey Lynne McKeefry
    July 3, 2013

    @Ford, this may sound like fluff, but i think that we have to put quality at the top of the list ahead of fast. i'm not saying speed isnt' important but putting speed ahead of quality leads to issues that slow things down. In this way, putting quality first, speeds things up, makes customers happier and the rest. i think that today's business (and perhaps this has been through time) has been plagued by a set of false goals.

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