Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn— they're all about building connections, discussions and ideas, but do they really make a difference in vendor management best practices? The answer is, increasingly, an enthusiastic yes. Having outgrown their beginnings as mere conversational forums, these online tools are shaking up the way business is done, and the reverberations are echoing all the way down the supply chain.
Take a look at how social media is rapidly becoming a critical tool for vendor management success or an Achilles' heel, depending on how intelligently it's implemented.
Alternatives Are Closer Than Ever
Make yourself and your company visible on social media and the open market for suppliers will follow.
Everything you need, from machinery to packaging to end-consumer products, involves a supplier at some point. With a few very rare exceptions, each of those suppliers is in competition with others for your business. The tone of that competition is directly dependent on two factors: How motivated you are to research alternatives and how motivated those rivals are to capture your attention. The double-edged sword of social media has closed this gap neatly, taking out the “long game”— the intricate dance of proposals, meetings, cold calls and the like— in favor of a short, perhaps even informal, communique via social media.
When individuals ranging from the lowliest mailroom clerk on through to the CEO are all instantly available on social media, bending the right ear takes much less persistence than it used to. This is bad news for suppliers, but excellent news for your business, because the best deal may be as close as a message in your social media inbox.
No More Invisible Reps
Escaping scrutiny on social media is nearly impossible for suppliers.
You've been there before— you need a time-sensitive quote, an update or an order alteration and you just can't seem to get ahold of the right decision-maker at your supplier's office. If your actions are held up by their inaction, the hiccup quickly builds into a real headache as one node after another comes grinding to a halt.
Social media, in addition to acting as a direct connection tool, also serves as an archived broadcast, a sort of timeline story about the relationship between a supplier and their social media-active clients. Much like Yelp reviews for restaurants or Amazon reviews for products, no company wants to appear unresponsive or unprofessional when the world is watching. Cultivating a regular public discourse with your supplier— leaving out sensitive company information, of course— can be an excellent insurance policy to keep them answering your calls and emails in a timely fashion. If they know you won't hesitate to speak up on social media, the idea you'd also complain, or worse, seek out an alternative, is hardly far-fetched.
A Peek at Their Cards
Negotiations just got more transparent.
If a supplier has a robust social media presence, discovering who your counterparts are can be as simple as checking out a friends list or connection grid. If you incorporate a little reconnaissance into your pre-negotiation research and vendor management best practices, you'll be able to leverage certain weaknesses and motivations to obtain better deals.
From gaps in geographical reach to eagerness to break into certain industries, the shortfalls of a potential supplier can easily be turned into deal-strengthening points of interest in the right light.
Social media isn't just a way for you to reach customers and build your brand, it's also a dependable link to your suppliers, enabling you to get the best deals and updated information as it's needed. Ignore it at your own peril— your rivals will be all too happy to pick up the slack as they tweet, update and private message their way to niche dominance via supplier management.