Companies institute and develop supplier diversity programs for a number of reasons, not the least of which is how it enhances their public image in their respective industries and communities. In our 2018 State of Supplier Diversity report, when asked to list primary drivers of their supplier diversity programs, 36 percent of the professionals who answered our survey (note that respondents could select more than one answer) chose “gain market share/enhance brand image.”
This result is telling in how much value companies place on supplier diversity with consumers and the community, but the drivers that drew higher numbers also tell a story. For example, 72 percent of respondents cited “corporate responsibility,” but doesn’t an organization committed to corporate responsibility want to tell the world how responsible it is? “Customer requirements” came in at 56 percent; if your customers demand diversity, you will do everything you can to let them know you are living up to that expectation.
Therefore, a public-facing supplier diversity program must constantly maintain and improve its image to ensure a wide array of goals are being met and exceeded—including impressing customers and opportunities to partner with the best diverse suppliers. Here are some improvements to consider:
Get off the Sidelines
Supplier diversity programs can’t simply sit in the background and hope people and suppliers find them. In order for a program to present and benefit from a public image, the people and organizations that care about supplier diversity must know that the program exists.
When you are active in the groups, events, discussions, and thought leadership that supplier diversity professionals, stakeholders, and advocates—not to mention the suppliers themselves—are also active in, the odds you’ll be noticed and touted increase. An easily navigable supplier diversity page on your organization’s website is a great starting point to highlight your efforts for the public.
And whether on your website or through other channels (and possibly both), you should market your program and its achievements to tout your successes and tell the world of your company’s commitment to supplier diversity.
Published and accessible supplier data provides a great strategy to achieve this presence; a quality supplier diversity solution can deliver that data that you can and should brag about.
Make Your Voice Heard
Showing up and standing around isn’t enough.
Supplier diversity programs that want to improve their public profiles must be actively involved in the supplier diversity community as well as the local community. Aside from the brand owner, suppliers, advocates, and peers impact your supplier diversity brand and will form an opinion on how comprehensive, successful, and user-friendly a program is.
Some of the opportunities to be relevant with these key influencers include:
- Building relationships
- Exchanging best practices
- Offering development initiatives
- Participating in committees
- Table talks and panel discussions
Supplier development staffers who regularly engage with others in the community usually experience increased awareness and favorable opinions of their programs. In short, be a resource. This proactive approach not only establishes thought leadership and demonstrates your commitment to supplier diversity, but also helps you find and develop new diverse suppliers.
Forge Strong Relationships
Perhaps the best way to market your supplier diversity program is to create solid relationships within the community.
Alliances with advocacy groups such as the NMSDC, WBENC, NGLCC, and others can help positively branding your program. Moreover, these interactions and collaborations facilitate and strengthen partnerships, thought leadership, and networks.
A good starting point is to attend the advocacy group local conferences - eventually upgrading to the national conferences, if your budget allows for it. There are also many industry-specific supplier diversity groups, such as the Technology Industry Group (TIG). These industry groups offer a fantastic platform to learn from the best supplier diversity programs in your industry.
Additionally, don’t be afraid to reach out to prominent supplier diversity professionals. Let them know that you too are trying to use small and diverse suppliers, and most supplier diversity advocates will be willing to help.
Soar with Suppliers
Alliances position you for so much more than advocacy. They also deliver an invaluable opportunity to build relationships with the people who truly make your supplier diversity program tick: the suppliers.
Every company requires products and services to operate. Larger, highly successful businesses are perfectly positioned to mentor, educate, refer, and develop their suppliers. And what better way to tout your program’s success than to help those suppliers achieve excellence? Their triumphs are your triumphs—and that’s something the public and the world should know about.
Programs and suppliers in strong, healthy, mutually beneficial supplier diversity relationships will sing each other’s praises and become models for the community. And isn’t that the ultimate expression of a positive external image?