Supply Chain Challenges and the Role of Marketing
A supply chain is the network of those involved with the production and distribution of a company’s products or services. Supply chain operations include the internal and external steps and processes required to design, create, market and deliver products and services to customers. They cross department lines and involve multiple activities, people, entities, data, information and resources. Supply chain examples include refining raw materials, manufacturing, transportation, inventory control, finance, retailing, packaging and marketing. With such an important role, supply chain management (SCM) needs to be a component of the strategic planning process to deliver ongoing improvement in marketplace performance, productivity and profitability. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and other global factors, supply chain challenges increased in recent years.
The Broken Supply Chain
Since the pandemic, there hasn’t been a day when supply chain disruptions didn’t make headline news. Now demand is on the rise. Whether due to the reopening of businesses or lifting of pandemic lockdowns, consumers were quick to return to spending. Yet many facets of the supply chain struggled to keep up. Add staff shortages and ever-changing supply chain rules, regulations and protocols, and businesses across many industries are still experiencing significant growing pains.
How Marketing can Support the Supply Chain
When roadblocks occur and supply chains are struggling, there are tools to grease the wheels and bridge the gap between the supply chain and customers. In an era of supply chain crises, marketing’s involvement can make a difference. Here’s how:
- Marketing can communicate conditions, expectations and guarantees to current and prospective clients. Through marketing communications such as email, newsletters, press releases, podcasts, social media or video, marketing can provide clients and prospects vital details about business conditions. Customers seek transparency from the businesses they work with, especially when supply chain issues are impacting their own experience. Research shows 86 percent of customers say a lack of brand transparency is likely to drive their business to competitors. Keep prospects and clients informed so they know what to expect, including delays, product changes and stock or personnel issues. Establish and communicate how you will continue to deliver services. A predictive study by research firm Forrester estimates “brands will lose 50 percent of sales on backordered items unless they compensate with [a] proactive customer experience. Managing this churn puts tremendous pressure on contact center agents who must not only deal with angry customers but also recommend alternatives to products stuck in the supply chain.” To reduce that pressure, be proactive with marketing to communicate these challenges and create a transparent business relationship.
- Marketing can leverage data for all levels of the supply chain to anticipate future needs and make strategic changes. Marketers use data and analytics to further their understanding of their audiences and marketplace conditions. Data can be harnessed far beyond marketing and sales departments. This can include touch points along the supply chain with vital information, such as what technology trends are improving SCM. The marketing team can help everyone from suppliers to stakeholders understand the inner workings of the company, their customers and how they tackle problems. Armed with this information, supply chain managers can better understand customer priorities and the tools needed to tackle them. Mike Edgett, product marketing director at Sage, stated that, “Businesses will look to upgrade and adopt the latest technology solutions for supply chain management. The businesses that adopt these technologies will experience increased visibility and transparency into the entire operations process — an invaluable tool when managing such an unpredictable supply chain.”
- Marketing can help leaders, stakeholders and employees understand their role and contribution to the supply chain. Marketing communications through multiple channels help educate employees, stakeholders and other decision-makers about the brand and products they support. This gives players an understanding of how they contribute to the delivery of the final product and the customer experience. Marketing can create content providing employees with a clear view of their role, goals and company mission, and internal strategies. This content also can provide stakeholders with the understanding they need to make strategic investments and personnel decisions. This requires marketers to understand how all stakeholders fit into the supply chain. They also need to recognize the challenges faced at all levels of the company.
Strengthen the Chain
The supply chain is exactly what its name implies: a chain of events, activities, people and ideas that all go into making products and services possible. Supply chain challenges ripple through the entire marketplace. Marketing can’t produce more raw materials, solve logistics issues or deliver goods and services. Marketing can make achieving those goals possible by communicating needs and uniting all parties across the supply chain.