Supplier events can hold a great deal of value for an organisation looking to communicate and collaborate with their supply chain. It provides Procurement functions with a chance to connect with their suppliers and convey strategic updates, launch new initiatives, or simply celebrate the successes the company and suppliers have achieved despite industry challenges.
When organisations choose to host regular events, they can gain long-term benefits, including building supply chain resilience and developing more meaningful relationships, as well as unlocking a range of different values that they can implement with their suppliers.
However, when done just for the sake of it, regular events lose their impact.
Regular events run the risk of becoming boring, monotonous and gimmicky. If the organisers lose sight of the event’s purpose, and the value they need to deliver, attendees will start avoiding them altogether.
The value of an event, within the context of your supplier relationship management strategy, is only as good as its content and agenda. When an event loses sight of producing an engaging agenda and delivering informative content, they risk developing messaging fatigue amongst their audience.
Messaging fatigue, especially amongst suppliers, is detrimental to your initiative. It can cause them to feel distant and unrelated to the entire process, resulting in a loss of interest and personal investment in achieving the end goal.
It can also reflect badly on the entire Procurement function – Procurement is trying to rebrand itself as a strategic and essential part of their organisation, however allowing messaging fatigue to manifest shows that they are struggling to develop a communication method that resonates with both suppliers and business partners. Procurement needs to be able to demonstrate that they know how to communicate so effectively that the rest of the organisation sees significant buy-in from suppliers towards shared goals. Therefore different departments would be more likely to turn to Procurement to help them reinforce any key messages to suppliers. Without this, Procurement’s impact within the organisation and their value chain will be severely limited.
Bayer is one such organisation that has held regular supplier events, under their banner Igniting Networks. Their Igniting Networks LIVE events are Bayer’s opportunity to maintain consistent touchpoints with their suppliers and a way for them to reinforce their drumbeat of communication on topics including Decarbonisation and Bayer’s strategic focuses in each of their 3 divisions. With a cadence of an in-person event every 2 years and regular virtual events acting as check-in points throughout the year they have successfully avoided developing messaging fatigue amongst their audience.
So how do you avoid creating messaging fatigue?
Messaging fatigue is a direct result of the over-relaying of unimpactful information. It overloads the audience with overstretched and irrelevant information over multiple events and communication touchpoints.
To avoid this, everything should have significant meaning, both to the audience and the company.
Content and Agenda:
Content is undoubtedly the most important aspect of any event. It forms the foundation of the agenda, audience engagement, and post-event ROI. And when dealing with virtual events, it is one of the main attraction points for the audience. Only when there is relevant and interesting content that delivers value, will suppliers feel more inclined, and even excited, to attend and participate.
The content you fill your event with should directly reflect the value you are trying to deliver or receive from your selected audience. It should also effectively intertwine your event’s core messaging in a way that is clear for the audience to identify, understand, and engage with.
There is a tricky balance to strike with multiple events: the general rule of communication is that an audience needs to hear or read a piece of information at least 7 times before they remember it. So although the core messages within a series of events shouldn’t change, if they’re delivered in a repetitive and monotonous way the audience will no longer see the value in attending.
For Bayer’s virtual Igniting Networks LIVE events, Supplier Day designed building blocks for the agenda that could be replicated for each event but with different speakers and delivered in different formats to ensure the message felt fresh and enriched the audience’s understanding of Bayer’s strategic priorities.
Key to the agenda is a session that focuses on spotlighting supplier success stories which presents a new supplier in a different division at every event. This session highlights the positive impact of Bayer’s suppliers on their customers and encourages suppliers to contribute and be featured in the next event.
Attendees are the ultimate adjudicators of the success of an event, so it makes sense that the event needs to be built with a select audience in mind. Whether you are inviting strategic suppliers, procurement professionals, or business partners and stakeholders, your event, or event series, should account for those attending with a clear understanding of what they are set to gain.
The worst events are the ones that have not considered their audience – either their function to the organisation or their value – at all! The resultant event would be irrelevant to them, a waste of their time, and disrespectful to the efforts they have made in order to attend the event in the first place. It is also not a positive step towards developing deep and meaningful relationships with those suppliers/stakeholders. You run a real risk of losing your supplier’s faith in your messaging and your initiative.
Most companies don’t know exactly what they need to achieve their goals, so it’s even harder for suppliers to understand how to help their customers. However, the more information and insights a customer can provide, the higher the chance suppliers will be able to pitch meaningful solutions. This is why supplier events need to move away from the standard gimmicks and focus on the specific ways suppliers can support them, and the resources they can provide to suppliers, to make such events beneficial for both parties in the long term.
Another element of Bayer’s agenda is to include strategic addresses from each of their divisions: Pharmaceuticals, Consumer Health and Crop Science. This was designed in direct response to feedback from their audience.
“We have really tried to orchestrate the programme in line with your feedback”, Thomas Udesen (CPO at Bayer) stated in the latest Igniting Networks Live event. “It really is that input that makes it possible for us to be as relevant for all of you, as we possibly can”
By presenting a mix of session polls and pre/post-event surveys, Bayer have sought to identify what does/does not work amongst their select audience as well as understand what their suppliers would find helpful to hear in the next event. Similarly, by running regular post-event surveys, Bayer Procurement can see how their regular supplier events are producing a steady increase in audience engagement and an overall improvement in supplier awareness of the strategic and collaborative opportunities they have with Bayer.
How Bayer avoids messaging fatigue
To avoid messaging fatigue or event monotony, Bayer prioritises what suppliers really want to hear from their Igniting Network events. They achieved this by focusing on 2 things:
1. Supplier Feedback
As mentioned before, audience feedback is invaluable in determining what did or did not land with previous events. And when the audience can see that their feedback is being actioned, it aids in deepening supplier relationships.
“We are going to learn from the experiences that you [the audience] have, even if it takes us out of our comfort zone” – Thomas Udesen
Feedback not only tells Bayer what to improve upon but, through consistent measurement, shows whether or not the content in their events is truly aiding them in achieving their long-term goals. And where it isn’t, they can use the feedback to guide adjustments to the agenda and the quality of content.
As a rule, Bayer uses their audience feedback to maximise supplier engagement.
For their third and latest event in their Igniting Networks series, held in April 2023, they gathered feedback from their previous event in November 2022 to determine what their audience would like to hear. Feedback included:
- Hearing “more about the long-term procurement strategy of Bayer”
- “Practical advice on how to achieve the sustainability goals”
- And “more guest speakers discussing forwards thinking ideas”
Overall, there was a desire to receive more strategic updates and information that would allow suppliers to accurately identify collaboration opportunities, see where supplier input has created value/positive changes for both sides, as well as Bayer’s future portfolio/general Procurement direction.
Using this feedback, Supplier Day worked with Bayer to design content to reflect their audience’s requests and deliver an event that engaged their suppliers emotionally and on a business level. This included:
- Inviting guest speakers to discuss specialised subject matters (Breaker Barriers in Women’s Health: Partnering for Progress)
- Hosting a panel discussion with representatives from select suppliers (Conversations with suppliers: unlocking market insights to drive customer value)
- And creating focus sessions with external thought leaders that tackle core Bayertopics including ‘Sustainability’ and ‘Resilient Supply Chains’
The entire event was well received with a 68% attendee turnout (14% above the industry standard) and 198 unique supplier companies present, from 39 different countries. ⅔ of attendees rated between 8 to 10 on how clear the opportunities for strategic collaboration with Bayer were and how they, as suppliers, could contribute. Similarly, 91% of attendees chose either ‘agreed’ or ‘strongly agreed’ on whether they enjoyed attending the event. This was a 13% uptick in attendee enjoyment from Bayer’s Igniting Networks Live event in April 2022.
Audience Feedback included:
“Good tight agenda. Speakers were well prepared and hit a good depth for the topics they were presenting”
“Great insights into Bayer’s strategy, full transparency on Bayer’s sustainability approach, and the consequences for suppliers”
“Loved the format. Loved that it was spotless in the schedule, also the content was super important and passed to us in a very manner”
2. The Bigger Picture
Events are seldom held for the sake of it. They are typically used as a medium to lead their audience closer to a bigger picture, such as the launch of a new strategy, initiative, or product.
When it comes to hosting regular events, focusing on the bigger picture helps make sure that the events do not get stuck in a cycle of monotony. Slowly but surely, organisations should use their events to deliver more strategic and nuanced information to their select audience.
Hosting an event series is a company’s chance to take their suppliers on a journey and develop a narrative that encourages supplier buy-in, innovation, and collaboration. While the end goal, and the narrative, stays the same, each event should build towards their bigger picture with an increasing number of supplier alignment in tow.
For Bayer, this event was used specifically to set the scene for their larger, in-person event in November 2023. As Bayer Procurement continues to build their Igniting Networks identity, having hosted regular virtual events over the last two years, they are now taking a huge step towards their bigger picture of truly innovating and collaborating with suppliers by bringing them and Bayer business partners together for their Bayer Supplier Day 2023 – Igniting Networks Summit.
Bayer leveraged this event to relay the necessary information and updates that attendees would require to incite engaging conversations and discussions in their next event, building up suspense and excitement.
Messaging fatigue can be tricky to navigate. When considering the different ways to communicate with suppliers, it can be tempting to throw in everything at once. But by pacing your information, assessing your content and audience, and keeping the bigger picture firmly in sight, you can keep your suppliers engaged and excited for the great things that are to come.