Uncertain times lie ahead – from the existing energy crisis to the looming recession, organisations have to tackle issues, both new and old, that impact both their internal and external networks. It is safe to say that procurement professionals are overwhelmed with the growing number of challenges and the need to review, reassess, and realign their corporate priorities, after which any and all changes need to be conveyed to those affected, primarily their suppliers.
And while most organisations will be focusing inwards, there is just as much pressure on external networks. It comes as no surprise that suppliers will have a plethora of questions for their customers about how they might be recession-proofing, whether to expect cost-cutting strategies and if sustainability targets will be compromised in favour of short-term risk management. To effectively address the concerns of their suppliers and remain a customer of choice, organisations need to enhance their communication with their suppliers to reinforce the commitments that aren’t changing, provide clarity and updates on the things that are changing and, of course, reassure them where necessary.
In times like these, large-scale and one-off events are not the way to go. True and impactful communication comes from smaller, more frequent events that address specific supplier concerns in a manner that is clear and digestible. Organisations can target select suppliers with relevant information, focused conversations and specific agendas, while suppliers receive clarity on any changes within the organisation, and how it may affect them.
With frequent touch points, people feel more at ease during times of change and uncertainty, which increases a supplier’s likelihood of investing in their relationship with the customer. This is where Supplier Day helps. We provide the opportunity for organisations to communicate regularly with their supply chain through more frequent and purposeful events.
The perfect supplement to any SRM strategy, frequent supplier days allow organisations to address any important topics at hand and provide corporate/supplier-related updates while developing the overall quality of their supplier relationships.
This is a practice we have implemented with Bayer. Traditionally, Bayer Procurement has hosted a large supplier event every 2 years, Bayer Supplier Day, which became 100% virtual in 2021 during the COVID-19 pandemic. Their goal for these events included: increasing the quality of their supplier relationships, improving access to Bayer’s C-Suite, building a platform to share resources and support, and becoming a customer of choice amongst their suppliers.
With the great success of a fully virtual Bayer Supplier Day, and the audience’s request to have more events, Bayer asked Supplier Day to design an event series that helps them to connect with their suppliers on a more frequent basis. With that, we set about developing Bayer Igniting Networks LIVE.
Igniting Networks Live
Bayer’s second Igniting Networks LIVE event. We piloted Igniting Networks LIVE in April 2022 which launched the Igniting Network series. Bayer’s top 200 strategic suppliers were invited to connect directly with leadership, learn from Bayer customers and engage with one another to better understand their contribution to the Bayer value chain.
It was clear that there was a strong appetite for more and Igniting Networks LIVE returned in November 2022, once again a success, with 532 attendees, from 34 countries, representing over 300 of Bayer’s suppliers and stakeholders.
Leveraging a similar toolkit to their previous event, this Igniting Networks LIVE had a combination of engaging yet informative elements including:
- A Panel Discussion between Luisa Franzone (Head of Global Supply Chain, Bayer Consumer Health), Kai Victor (Director Supply Chain, Bayer Pharmaceuticals) and Marcus Paul Grün (Head of Crop Protection Global Supply Chain Management, Bayer) on ‘Cultivating Stronger Supplier Relationships in Uncertain Times.’
- A fireside chat on ‘Creating Resilient & Sustainable Supply Chains’ with CPOs Thomas Udesen (Bayer) and Angelique van der Burg (Infineon).
- And a keynote from Dr Elouise Epstein (partner at Kearney), on ‘How we can build the next generation of supply chains.’
To further tap into the true value brought by their suppliers, Bayer hosted 2 exclusive breakout sessions on ‘Supplier Inclusion & Diversity,’ with Bonnie Finger (Supplier Inclusion and Diversity Manager, Bayer) and ‘Resilience & Voice of the Supplier.’ with Marc Ofiara (Lighthouse Lead Category and Supplier Management, Bayer) and Nick Hyner (Managing Director, Europe, State of Flux)
On the whole, the event was well received by Bayer suppliers and stakeholders alike, with attendees spending an average of 125 minutes at the event. This was the equivalent of 64% of the total event time! Prior to the event, attendees were asked to indicate how connected their felt to Bayer’s mission of ‘Igniting Networks’, deriving an average score of 7.8 out of 10, however, when asked again after the event, 82% of attendees gave an overall positive response, resulting in an average score of 8.2 out of 10. A clear indication of the event’s success in ensuring attendees felt connected to Bayer and their mission.
A large focus of the event was to reinforce Bayer’s commitment to Sustainability and Net Zero, from which 93% of attendees “agreed” and “strongly agreed” to the event reconfirming their commitment to sustainability and collaboration for the creation of a resilient supply chain. In fact, 0% of attendees selected “strongly disagree” or even “disagree” with this question, indicating an overall success in Bayer’s attempt to align their suppliers with their initiatives for sustainability.
“We need to start [de-carbonisation] yesterday in order to make a contribution on a planetary level” – Marcus Paul Grün, Head of Crop Protection Global Supply Chain Management, Bayer
Finally, when asked to rate their overall enjoyment, 92% of attendees selected “agree” and “strongly agree” to enjoying the event and its content. This was a 14% increase from Bayer’s Igniting Networks event in April, clearly indicating an increase in supplier/audience engagement, and of course enjoyment, Bayer’s suppliers have found across Bayer’s Igniting Networks Live series in 2022.
“There was a good variety of sessions and speakers. The opening session set the tone well” – Bayer Supplier
“Really enjoyed the panel discussions and the keynote speaker” – Bayer Supplier
“Loved the supplier sessions” – Bayer Supplier
“Having external thought leaders reassure us that we share the same concerns and way forwards… It is important for us to be well aware and connected” – Bayer Procurement
How are regular supplier events beneficial?
They help an organisation build resilience within its supply chains.
Having consistent touchpoints with suppliers is the first step in creating a resilient supply chain. Suppliers hold the power to significantly help their customers when faced with global uncertainty, and this support is the foundation for supply chain resilience. But to unlock this, suppliers require regular updates on an organisation’s priorities and strategies, best relayed via regular supplier events.
By remaining well-informed and well-connected, an organisation’s supply chain, and procurement community, can develop a unified resilience that is both impactful and long-lasting, especially in the face of uncertain times.
Bayer has consistently used their regular supplier events as a medium to update and inform their suppliers of their stance on both internal commitments, e.g sustainability goals, as well as external matters, e.g the energy crisis and the looming recession. Their ability to promptly and effectively address matters concerning their supply chain and procurement is the key to the development of a strong and resilient supply chain, and Bayer are leveraging this opportunity to ensure that their suppliers are aware of Bayer’s priorities and have the chance to actively contribute. By allowing their suppliers to feel in tune with Bayer Procurement, they develop the ability to act together in the face of unpredictability and develop the much-desired supply chain resilience.
It allows deeper and more meaningful relationships to be created
Regular events allow you to focus on developing the quality of your supplier relationships, creating deeper and more meaningful relationships.
Regular events are a physical representation of your relationship with your suppliers – If suppliers feel connected to their customers and are invested in their relationship, they would feel more inclined, and even excited, to develop their relationship further by attending such events, ultimately selecting you as their customer of choice.
Therefore, by providing regular and consistent opportunities, in smaller and more focused groupings, you can actively engage with different parts of your supply chain, developing meaningful and personal relationships that bolster your SRM strategies.
Note: we do not believe that smaller events should replace bigger events. Instead, your smaller events should complement your traditional larger supplier events. Both the content and its execution should keep your long-term supplier goals in mind but should be tailored to more specific topics or target specific supplier groups.
What is the value of hosting regular events?
Regular events are the foundation for clear and concise communication with your suppliers, and by hosting smaller, more focused, supplier events you can deliver any of 3 different values.
Maintaining regular touchpoints with suppliers to address current affairs
In the face of unfolding external events, the lack of contact organisations have with their supply chains results in the inability to gather their supplier and stakeholder, and address any macro issues, in a swift and effective manner. However, as in the case of Bayer, organisations who have consistent communications with their suppliers, e.g regular supplier events, can leverage these touch points as a form of reassurance of their vision and corporate direction, despite ongoing external issues.
Bayer’s Igniting Networks Live events are an example of reassurance from an organisation to their supply chain, not only on their response to external affairs but also on their steadfast commitment to their existing goals, including Sustainability and Net Zero. From their first event in April this year, to their most recent event in November, Bayer Procurement have designed their events to reassure its attendees of their corporate directions, both in the way things have stayed the same and the ways things have changed. This reassurance is invaluable to both suppliers and stakeholders, who otherwise might speculate about the implication of unknown changes and their position amongst it all.
Equally, organisations can use regular events to reassure their suppliers of their immense importance to their organisations. Suppliers are the backbone of any company and their hard work/impact should be both reassured and celebrated, even more so during times of uncertainty. This is something that Bayer are striving to do within each of their supplier events.
“Suppliers need to embrace the challenge with us…Resilience is an intrinsic part” – Luisa Franzone, Head of Global Supply Chain, Bayer Consumer Health
Invoking the Drumbeat of Communicating in relation to strategic goals
Organisations in regular communication with their suppliers will have an established Drumbeat of Communication, specially crafted to relay and reinforce their key goals and commitments throughout the year. This is a standard that can be applied in many different situations as a way of recentering focus back to their core goals. And in the face of turbulent times, supplier events are the perfect method to re-centre and reinforce your drumbeat of communications across your supplier network.
Where suppliers expect significant changes in response to uncertain times, regular events are an opportunity to mould the narrative, introducing any necessary changes, but in a manner that reinforces your long-term goals. Through clear and consistent communication, organisations can help answer questions that suppliers may have, including “where does the focus lie?”, ‘how will things change in the short-term?” and “how will it affect any long-term goals?”.
For Bayer, their focus remains on achieving Net Zero by 2050, with the implementation of 100% renewable energy by 2030. Their Igniting Networks Live events have stood as a platform to address their strategic suppliers and reinforce their stance towards global events, as well as their internal stance towards existing commitments. As an organisation, they refuse to let external affairs impact their long-term goal of sustainability and ensure to leverage the opportunity of regular communication, both during their supplier events and afterwards, to reinforce this idea via their drumbeat of communication.
Developing the relationship between an organisation and their suppliers
Enrichment focuses on enhancing the relationship between a supplier and their customer, prioritising quality over quantity to unlock true supplier value. Similar to becoming a customer of choice, enrichment develops the best aspects of your supplier relationship to secure long-term relations and allows both organisations and suppliers to invest within each other.
For organisations, regular events allow them to develop a specially cultivated environment in which suppliers, and their relationships, can grow and thrive. In contrast, suppliers become more in tune with their customer’s business, increasing their alignment to their corporate directions.
Regular events serve as benchmarks for the development of your supplier relationships over time. By hosting frequent events, organisations can compare supplier attendance, engagement levels during the event, and even post-event feedback to receive a clearer image of the development of their supplier relationship, and the true manner in which their frequent supplier events have enriched these relationships, over long periods of time.
For Bayer, their regular events allow them to reassess their supplier’s understanding and alignment with Bayer’s business strategy, across multiple events throughout the year. When comparing the results from their events in 2022, 81% of attendees agreed or strongly agreed to seeing clear opportunities for strategic collaboration with Bayer (Nov 2022), an increase from their event in April, where the same question produced a result of 78%.
Observing the change in audience engagement and feedback after such events, allows organisations like Bayer to gain timely insight into their supplier’s alignment and interest within Bayer’s mission. Should alignment/buy-in start to fall, Bayer can leverage their regular events to address its cause at the next event, responding rapidly and effectively to the sentiments of their suppliers, to enrich and improve their overall supplier experience.
By crafting your supplier events with any one of these 3 values in mind, you not only provide a direction for your event’s content and communications but also unlock the possibility of designing a series of events that follows suit in delivering your chosen value to your procurement team and supplier ecosystem over a lengthened period of time.
For Bayer, their Igniting Networks Live event series still stands in its former years, but with many more collaborative events set to take place across 2023 including a small, focused event in May, and Bayer’s larger bi-annual supplier event in November. Bayer are well on their way to achieving their mission of Igniting Networks between Bayer Procurement and their supply chain, producing impactful and long-lasting supplier collaboration and innovation.
Supplier events, when hosted regularly, can help to redefine your supplier relationships, allowing organisations and their suppliers to become more acutely aware of the other’s needs, as well as the ways they can collaborate together to produce something new and exciting. So, whether you are looking to tackle ESG, establish supply chain resilience, or simply wish to bolster your SRM strategy, regular events can be the key to achieving all of this, with the help of your suppliers.
Don’t forget to check out Bayer’s new Igniting Networks Live Video below.