Email Marketing – July the 4th Be With You!

Planning your next holiday email marketing campaign and struggling to stand out? Here are some top tips to help you steal the show.

Photo by Stephanie McCabe on Unsplash

Holiday email marketing campaigns can make or break a business. A study by Experian performed a couple of years ago shows that emails promoting special offers and incentives sent during the two weeks before the 4th of July resulted in dramatically increased open and transaction rates.

The best rated strategies included the following in subject lines: free shipping, vouchers and other cash incentives, 4th of July discounts and coupons, and 4th of July clearance sales.

Here is a prime example from Nasty Gal:

Email Marketing – A Strategy for Every Business

There are a number of approaches. The best one depends on the sender, the offer and the message a business wants to send across. First of all, it is important to remember that this particular holiday appeals to people’s patriotism. 

Contrary to popular belief, Americans tend to spend a lot ahead of the holiday. According to the National Retail Federation, people spend considerable amounts of money on food, clothing, party props and décor. The percentage stands at 93 per cent for young people aged 18 to 24. If your business caters to younger audiences, there is definitely room for increased transaction rates around the holiday. 

Even if that is not the case, a proper strategy will inspire customers to consider the offer. Coupled with the above-mentioned incentives, a clever marketing campaign will offer a little something to everyone. Here are some ideas on how to go about the 4th of July email marketing campaigns.

Animate the Audience

Holidays do tend to inspire partying, so adding animation to the emails is a good choice of action. A picture featuring fireworks or similar will boost the mood and make your offer more tempting. Here is an example from Nicole Miller:

Other examples may come to mind; remember to be creative and keep it cheerful.

Focus on the Holiday Mood

Holidays are fun, and the 4th of July is no exception. In fact, it may well be the most cheerful holiday nowadays. Whether spent with family or friends (or both), people focus on good times. It is, therefore, recommended to appeal to the atmosphere by creating fun emails. Rover did it brilliantly:

Be creative and humorous and look for ways to link the message to the offer.  

Stress on Patriotism

To appeal to overall patriotism, many campaigns fly the American flag. If you find it too generic, trust your brand’s specialty to add some zest to the offer. Here’s how Sperry nailed it:

Highlighting patriotic products is also a good idea. M&M did a splendid job with that with their 4th of July edition candies.

That isn’t to say that you need to create special themed products for the occasion, though. You may simply plaster the offer onto the American flag and get creative with the fireworks around it.

Things to Keep in Mind

The 4th of July is an American holiday and the biggest one next to Thanksgiving. If your business is international, do your homework with segmentation. Sending promotional offers to people outside of the U.S. would be a waste of effort and money, so focus on the target audience.

Further out, the 4th of July falls closely to Father’s Day and Memorial Day. You may easily kill two birds with one stone if you couple the offers. On top of it, sending too many emails too frequently is more likely to annoy the recipients than to inspire them, so use the opportunity to combine multiple offers into one email.

If you have a physical store, don’t forget to include business hours and the services offered around and during the holiday. It’s also important to include information on holiday shipping and delivery deadlines.

Finally, remember that the best of the best campaigns tell a unique story. It is not all about the offer. On the contrary, statistics show that people tend to remember the stories rather than the offer, especially if they are emotionally charged. Sharing an experience and showing the heroes being rewarded is what people will relate to the most. Adding a video or a promo campaign ahead of the holiday will keep customers connected to your brand and keep them coming back for a long while.

Piggyback Existing #Hashtags

To boost the outreach, don’t shy away from social media. Use the hashtags such as #4thofjuly and #fireworks to reach a larger audience and follow up with personalized email messages. Remember that younger generations are the key to your 4th of July campaign. Primarily, they use Snapchat and Instagram, with somewhat lesser percentage sticking to Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.

Add an additional giveaway or two to attract more people. Some ideas include giveaways and social media photo competitions. The more interesting the offer, the more people will share the post. Photo competitions are known to go viral, if done the right way. Use your imagination and may, well July, the 4th be with you!

Bridging the Cultural Gap – A Case in Point

Having an understanding of Cultural Intelligence in one thing. Knowing where and when to apply it is a different thing altogether.

Photo by Wojtek Witkowski on Unsplash

Over the last few months we have discussed the idea of what Cultural Intelligence (CQ) is, the 4 key components that comprise CQ and how they are can be utilised in the workplace to assist us to work more effectively across distance, culture and time.

From here I will describe some case studies so that you are better able to grasp some of the issues that can arise when working across culture. Then I will explore ways to reduce tension and miscommunication.

Recognising the Cultural Differences

Recently I was with an Australian organisation that has a global presence. As their business grows and matures in the international market, it is becoming increasingly important for them to adopt a more culturally agile approach. During the discussion an incident was raised that did not have the desired impact.

Due to the growing awareness around mental health and the increasing rate of suicide in Australia, a dedicated day called “R U Ok Day” is held on September 12 every year to focus on mental health. The idea of having this day is to encourage people to ask others how they are feeling, if there are issues to share, so that they feel supported and not isolated.

It is recognised in Australia as an important step towards reducing suicide and developing a strong and supportive network for those that may be struggling with mental health.

This organisation extended the recognition of the “R U OK Day” event to it’s international offices, thinking it would be a powerful, well received and progressive gesture.

Despite the good intentions held by the organisation in promoting these values of openness and support, the organisation received a lot of resistance particularly from offices in the Asian countries. The pushback from the Asian offices occurred because, while the organisation acted with the best intentions they did not foresee the impact of those intentions.  

The organisation failed to take into consideration how this kind of discussion might be received in different cultures. In many Asian cultures, discussing mental health or experiencing mental health issues is very taboo.

Admitting you have problems is a source of shame in these cultures so understandably this initiative caused unease and tensions for the offices. The offices felt that this had been forced upon them and it was anything but well received.

Avoiding Cultural Tension

How then can we avoid a situation like this in our own workplaces?

Some points for consideration are:

  • Be Conscious:

Be aware of our own biases – this means being mindful that the way in which you view a behaviour, practice or topic may not be the same as some one from a different culture. Culture is effectively the lens through which you view the world, so it is important that whenever you are working across culture you consider how your actions, attitudes and behaviours will be received.

At the same time, how do you attempt to understand the “other” point of view?

  • Ask Questions:

When introducing new initiatives, it is imperative to ask questions and receive feedback so you are able to gauge the response before putting things into place. Listening to the perspective of those in a different culture will broaden your perspective especially with new initiatives.

  • Be Adaptive:

If an initiative is introduced and not so well received in a different cultural context, then it becomes necessary to consider how to adapt, adopt or modify this so that it can be more easily accepted by the cultural group involved.

These types of situations require the utilisation of all of the components of Cultural Intelligence that we have previously discussed – Drive, Knowledge, Strategy and Action. By incorporating these elements into our cross cultural interactions we are in a better position to maintain and strengthen our relationships, which will lead to better outcomes.

Talent And Motivation Are Critical To The Success Of Your Business

Individuals of great talent can have a significant and disproportionate bottom line impact in jobs that are highly complex…

talent
By Dirima/ Shutterstock

According to McKinsey’s global talent survey.  Talent will increase productivity by 800 per cent in jobs that are very highly complex, but by just 125 per cent in high complexity jobs and just 50 per cent in low complexity jobs.

Very high complexity jobs include software developers and high level managers. Low complexity jobs are unskilled or semi-skilled labour such as assembly line workers.

This doesn’t mean the entire team needs to be highly talented.  A highly talented engineer can produce the work of nine average engineers in the same amount of time. 

Even ensuring one in five are highly talented will lift the average productivity of the team in high complexity jobs. It will also significantly reduce the time it takes to complete a project. 

As the late Steve Jobs once famously said after noting that his best engineers were 50 to 100 time more effective than his worst, “Go after the cream of the cream. A small team of A+ players can run circles around a giant team of B and C players.”

Disproportionate Impact

Talented individuals can have a significant and disproportionate bottom line impact in jobs that are highly complex, so, rather unsurprisingly, the competition for talent in those industries is fierce. Almost one third of senior leaders surveyed by McKinsey cited ‘finding talent’ as their most significant managerial challenge. 

And with a predicted shortfall of up to 18 million high skill workers in the United States and Europe by 2020 (and 23 million in China), that is to be expected. 

Based on the labour market sizes, this means 1 in 10 high complexity jobs in Europe and the US, and 1 in 6 in China will go unfilled.  Companies in complex industries will not be able to fill a significant percentage of the high skill jobs at all, let alone fill them with the most talented individuals.

Against this backdrop of significant talent shortage, you might assume businesses were highly skilled at seeking out and retaining talent. And you’d be dead wrong.  According to the McKinsey survey 82 per cent of Fortune 500 executives don’t think their companies recruit highly talented people and just 7 per cent agree with the proposition that their companies retain high performers.

No Engagement, No Talent

Big companies, by and large, are just not good at attracting and keeping talent. This is likely due to a lack of engagement.  A talented individual can work anywhere and usually knows it. If they are not motivated by the job, or engaged with it, they will probably leave.

Gallup conducts an annual survey of employee engagement for US employees.  While the numbers are improving, according to the latest results, more than half (53 per cent) of US workers are disengaged with their work or workplace and an additional 13 per cent were actively disengaged.

A disengaged worker is turning up and doing the minimum required but will leave the company for a slightly better offer.  An actively disengaged worker has a miserable work experience and would quit tomorrow if they had any other choice. These statistics match up to other surveys which suggest about three in four workers are actively looking for another job at any given time.

According to Gallup data, businesses that are in the top quartile for engagement achieve earnings per share growth that is four times that of their competitors in the bottom quartile.  They also experience better retention, fewer accidents and 21 per cent higher profitability.  Attracting and retaining talent by keeping them engaged is a license to print money.  But doing that is far from easy.

According to McKinsey, the key is to correctly identify the roles adding the most value.  Sometimes this is easy. Maybe it’s the engineer who checks in the most code or the salesperson who sells the most but usually its not that obvious.  Companies need to look below the surface for long term value.  Is the code bug-free?  Are the sales repeat business?  Is it actually a brilliant code tester adding the value or an incredible sales engineer?

Honesty Over Money – Honestly!

Once those roles are accurately identified the organisation needs to focus 95 per cent of its retention efforts on engaging and retaining those key individuals.  But it isn’t just about money, according to the McKinsey and Gallup surveys, money is the least important of the four primary motivators for retaining high value talent. 

The other three in order of importance are having inspirational and empowering leaders, working for a company with a reputation for honesty and integrity and having a job that makes a difference (has impact).

In short, don’t employee psychopathic leaders, develop an industry-wide reputation for honesty and integrity, doing something that makes a difference and treat your employees the way you would like to be treated and you will be a long way down the path to attracting and retaining the kind of people who can attach booster rockets the size of a SpaceX Falcon Heavy to your bottom line.

Procurement Needs the Human Factor

Procurement is evolving and developing and leaders have a chance to create a function to meet all an organisation’s future needs. But first they need to remember the importance of the human factor.

human factor
Photo by Min An from Pexels

Procurement leaders now have an unprecedented opportunity to be the architects of a new function that puts customer satisfaction front and centre. This is a function enabled by technology whose value proposition goes beyond mere cost savings, and becomes central to business’ ability to gain a competitive advantage and deliver shareholder value. Delivering this shift will require a complete realignment of the traditional procurement skill-base and a whole new operating model.

Our latest research study, “The Human Factor: Strategic procurement and the leaders of tomorrow”, surveyed 500 senior procurement leaders including CPOs and CFOs worldwide, to explore this new shift in the procurement operating model, as well as the expected skill-base required to prosper in the future world of procurement.

Here are some of the significant findings.

The Operating Model of Tomorrow

We’re seeing a growing acceptance in the industry that things need to change. Procurement leaders are starting to acknowledge that in order to develop and elevate their position, procurement needs to become more relevant to the business and suppliers it connects.

In line with this, our research found 53 per cent of procurement leaders to have revamped their procurement operating models in the last 12 months, rising to 80 per cent in the last three years. 46 per cent listed ‘structure’ as one of the top three aspects they had recently revised.

However, in our view, the new operating model needs to go beyond a change in roles and responsibilities, or a restructured department. It needs to be people centric, with a focus on enabling the optimal interaction between those people and the right mix of technology, insights and expertise.

To get it right, first consider what information the people in the organisation will need, when they will need it, how they will access it and how it will help them serve their customers better.

Significance of Soft Skills

Taking a step away from traditional procurement training, ‘soft skills’ are becoming increasingly important for future procurement leaders. A ruling 78 per cent of our survey deemed them to be either essential or very important to the role, with the ‘ability to influence and lead’ ranking as the number one ‘soft skill’ to possess – reflecting a clear shift in focus for the new operating model.

The study also found ‘Flexibility and agility to manage ongoing change’, ‘Courage to challenge conventional thinking’ and ‘innovation, creativity and problem solving’ to be among the top valued soft skills by respondents. In our view the expectation is clearly for future procurement functions to lead business change, challenge how they’ve operated to date and adopt a more project-based mentality with an agile approach, in order to better meet the needs of the business.

Mind the Digital Skills Gap

As society is growing increasingly tech-savvy, it’s no surprise that digitalising procurement processes and systems topped the priority list of the leaders in the industry. There is an understandable temptation to buy gadgets with the belief that spending money on software will afford a competitive edge.

However, our study revealed over a third of leaders believe that new technologies are not supported by the right processes and skills, a quarter say there is a false expectation of technology in the field, and 15 per cent feel there is a lack of adequate talent which prevents procurement from realising the true power of technology.

In order to benefit from technology, procurement leaders need to understand the impact of that technology on their workforce, the new and different skills that will be required, and then figure out how to bridge the gap. However, it seems that procurement is starting to address this as two thirds of respondents indicated that they have already taken steps to tackle the talent pipeline shortages and skills gaps in their functions.

The Future of Procurement Learning

With the procurement landscape changing so rapidly, adaptation is necessary and key to enabling this is training.

Learning and development opportunities were recognised by the industry leaders surveyed as the top method for retaining talent, so why did 94 per cent fail to have a structured approach to training in place across all levels in the organisation?

Providing such a programme is a vital way to up-skill employees in a cost-effective manner, while also playing an important role in attracting prospective, highly-skilled talent.

However, our research reveals 79 per cent of leaders believe procurement’s approach to training needs to change in this regard, showing there is clearly a gap between what procurement leaders believe is needed, compared to what is actually being implemented.

A structured approach to training ensures the knowledge, skills and competencies developed can support the strategic development of the function and wider organisation beyond it. In our view the best way to deliver this training is to have the recipient in mind, first grasping an understanding of how they will consume the training, to then design and deliver it accordingly.

Generation Z and Beyond

As the younger, more digitally native generation enters the workforce, businesses need to overcome and engage with the different attitudes that Millennials and Generation Z hold. From misconceptions about the value of the procurement function, to misplaced expectations about how technology should work, procurement leaders need to address these preconceived beliefs and position the function in a light that will attract these new workforce demographics.

The study shows a clear divide in what organisations believe to be the best way to attract and engage this young talent. A quarter identified salary and remuneration to be the key factor, 21 per cent believed it to be procurement’s role in sustainability and CSR, and a further 20 per cent ranked additional financial benefits top of the list.

Organisations clearly have an idea of what matters to the next generation of leaders, they just need shout about it more loudly.

The Human Factor – Moving Forward

The future procurement operating model is looking to embody a digitally literate workforce with strategic minds and an abundance of soft skills – a step change in requirements from ever before. Attracting this talent is a challenge, but this is the future of procurement.

Procurement needs to create a culture that enables an inquisitive mindset, but one with the confidence to challenge constructively, both internally and externally. It needs structured training programmes to empower employees to develop real, transferable hard and soft skills, but places heavy emphasis on the importance of self-learning and reinvention in an era when knowledge has never been cheaper.

It’s vital that procurement leaders confront this change challenge head on and in doing so, they will not only realise procurement’s full potential as a value creator for the company, but also to ensure its continued existence as a function.

For too long, procurement has been characterised as the “process policemen” or “final price negotiator” – charges it would like to deny but often lives up to. To become more effective in the future, procurement leaders need to build this new, technology-driven, skills-enabled procurement operating model that really values the human factor.

Download the full “The Human Factor: Strategic procurement and the leaders of tomorrow” report, here.

Efficio is the world’s largest specialist procurement consultancy operating across ten offices in Europe, North America and the Middle East. Efficio works with clients to identify, deliver and sustain improvement opportunities in procurement. Their international team combines unparalleled procurement expertise and industry experience with a unique blend of intellectual capital and technology to deliver results and advance clients’ procurement capability.

Blockchain: Supply Chain’s 21st Century Truthsayer

No-one can predict the future. But we could all use a truthsayer to help us protect ourselves in the here and now…

Photo by Mitya Ivanov on Unsplash

In most supply chains, communication is point-to-point and one direction. There is no single, shared record of events across multiple parties. This is no longer an efficient or effective way to do business and most organisations know this.

And where there is no single point of truth or shared records, trust in supply chains and from consumers can be eroded. What procurement and supply chains need is a solution that can deliver data, but also be unimpeachable.

But how to solve this issue and penetrate the dense forest of new ideas and myriad technologies all offering to be some form of truthsayer?

A Truthsayer in our Midst?

New technology is, however, transforming that linear disconnected approach, and providing momentum to the movement for mature supply chains to operate in a “network of networks”.

By placing a supply chain on the blockchain, it makes the process more traceable, transparent and fully digital. With blockchain, organisations can shine a light on the provenance of their goods, but also earn the trust of consumers by proving the safety and traceability of the goods. And in a fast-paced environment, those organisations who don’t engage with blockchain face the reality of being left behind.

From farm to plate, the food supply chain can now be tracked in an open, transparent, fully traceable and entirely digital way. But what has started out in the food supply chain has all the applicability we need to cover all supply chains. Everywhere.

How then do we get involved? And how also do we sell this concept to a probably sceptical organisation (and budget holder…)?

Join our Webinar

Help is at hand in the form of Procurious and IBM’s latest webinar, ‘Blockchain – Supply Chain’s 21st Century Truthsayer’.

Sign up now to join our panel of experts at 14:30pm (BST) on Tuesday the 15th of October:

  • Tania Seary, Founder, Procurious
  • Shari Diaz, Innovation Strategy and Operations Program Director, IBM Watson Supply Chain
  • Professor Olinga Ta’eed, Director of the Centre for Citizenship, Enterprise and Governance

In the webinar, you’ll hear from a panel of experts on a range of topics including:

  • The importance understanding products’ provenance in your supply chain;
  • The link between successful blockchain adoption and rising consumer confidence;
  • Success stories from across the globe in blockchain implementation; and
  • How to start the conversation in your organisation to get the ball rolling.

FAQs

Is the Blockchain webinar available to anyone?

Absolutely! Anyone & everyone can register for the webinar and it won’t cost you a penny to do so. Simply sign up here.

How do I listen to the Critical Factors webinar?

Simply sign up here and you’ll be able to listen to the on-demand. 

Help – I can’t make it to the live-stream of the webinar!

No problem! If you can’t make the live-stream you can catch up whenever it suits you. We’ll be making it available on Procurious soon after the event (and will be sure to send you a link) so you can listen at your leisure!

Can I ask the speakers a question during the Blockchain: Supply Chain’s 21st Century Truthsayer webinar?

If you’d like to ask one of our speakers a question please submit it via the Discussion Board on Procurious and we’ll do our very best to ensure it gets answered for you.

Don’t Miss Out!

This webinar promises to provide a fascinating insight for all procurement professionals into the wealth of possibilities that Blockchain has to offer procurement.

Make sure you don’t miss out by signing up today!

Confident or Arrogant? The Fine Line Between Success and Failure

Confident? Arrogant? What traits impress employers the most? And which ones could cost you a job? It would be good to know before you apply for that new role…

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

It probably comes as no surprise that when hiring, firms are looking for people who are confident. In fact, this personality trait is a top priority for six in ten employers (61 per cent) – only slightly behind being reliable (62 per cent) and just above being honest (58 per cent).

So, when looking for a new job or a new promotion, a confident character is the one you need to project.

After all, being see seen as self-confident and self-assured inspires others to believe in your ability to do the job. And nobody is going to get hired if they admit they are “not sure” they can do something or “will give it a try”. What are needed are positive answers like “Yes” and “Of course”.

However, don’t go overboard in boasting about your abilities and or bragging about your achievements. There is a fine line between confidence and arrogance when making that first impression. Cross this line and it can be career suicide.

In fact, employers believe arrogance (which scores 65 per cent) is worse than dishonesty (at 62 per cent) and is the No. 1 turn-off when hiring new recruits, according to a new survey from independent job board, CV-Library and CV-writing firm, TopCV.

Personality is now the Deciding Factor

“Historically, assessing job seekers was contingent on two factors – experience and skills – but our survey reveals that more intangible qualities, such as personality, are determining which candidates rise to the top,” says Amanda Augustine, careers expert at TopCV. 

“Today’s hiring managers are tasked with assessing whether a candidate will fit in with the company culture, and this determination is primarily based on how the candidate behaves during an interview.”

So, it is not just your CV that can make you appear arrogant. You also have to be careful with your body language – as well as the language you use too.

Facts Beat Fiction Every Time

Getting this balance right means starting with the basics: skills and experience are still vital to secure an interview and, as such, score slightly ahead of personality.

So, focus on these and be factual and truthful (remember dishonesty comes a close second to arrogance in the list of top “hates”). Quantify each statement so that each “claim” can be verified. Rather than stating that you are a “confident and competent team manager”, demonstrate this using facts and stats.

For example, “I directly manage a team of six”, “Over the last three years, the cost control programme that I manage has resulted in £Xk of savings” or “I have helped to mentor five junior members of the team who have all been promoted.”

It is a case of “show” rather than “tell” on both your CV and during the interview.

If you have ever heard the expression “Confidence speaks for itself”, then you will know what I mean. Leave an impression that you are confident and competent without actually using these words.

Cheats and Liars are NOT Welcome

Do not be tempted to lie: it is relatively easy to check things like your job title or years you have worked for an organisation. Not only could this cost you a job, it might not be necessary anyway.

 “In the current market, where skills shortages are making it harder for companies to find the right hires, employers are increasingly opting to recruit on potential over experience.

“So, if you’re looking for a new job right now, you’re in a good position; as long as you impress with the right personality traits,” says Lee Biggins, founder and CEO of CV-Library comments.

Interestingly, when asked to choose between experience, education and potential, employers believe potential (62 per cent) is more important than experience (35 per cent); while only 2 per cent say education is most important. 

So why jeopardise your future claiming to have 1st class Hons degree when you only have 2:1? Employers (on the whole) really don’t care. However, if they check and find you have lied then you have failed to meet No 3 and No 4 in the top traits list – honest and honourable.

How to Avoid Crossing the Line

During an interview, when you are racked with nerves and desperate to make a good impression, it can be difficult to get the tone right. Your enthusiasm might come across as having too high an opinion of yourself…not a good look.

Remember, confident people have high self-worth, while arrogant people overcompensate for having low self-esteem.

To avoid falling into the latter category, spend some time boosting your self-confidence.

Start by identifying your strengths and weaknesses

The better understanding you have of your abilities, the higher your self-worth. If you are not sure what your strengths are, ask for feedback from colleagues and friends.

Focus on these strengths when identifying new opportunities – if you are a team player, then look for roles where this is important. However, if you like to be told what to do, roles looking for a “self-starter” might not be for you.

Be honest with yourself to be honest with others

Arrogant people are not good at acknowledging they have weaknesses and are not great at hearing criticism either (so if this sounds like you, then be aware that you could come across as having an over-inflate ego). Remember, nobody is perfect and it is important to acknowledge that this includes you!

Also, if you are asked one of those tricky interview questions such as “If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?”, you need to have enough self-awareness to recognise your weaknesses. Saying “Nothing” is the fast-track route to rejection.

Mind your language (verbal and otherwise)

Being self-centred is another character trait employers dislike so avoid talking about yourself all of the time – think of some questions to ask the interviewer and take an interest in what they are saying. Tone down your use of ‘I’ and do not constantly interrupt (it shows you think that what you have to say is more important than what the interviewer is trying to tell you).

Also watch your body language. Leaning too far back, smirking rather than smiling or being too relaxed might make you appear arrogant. But avoid going too far the other way – folding your arms across your body, failing to make eye contact, uncomfortable silences and lowering your head do not convey confidence…and that is your goal.

Why Knowing your Market Can be the Key to Success

Are you dooming yourself to failure in procurement by not knowing your market before you start? Market research and analysis is a key component of the procurement process – but it needs to be done right.

By PHOTOCREO Michal Bednarek/ Shutterstock

When Martin Luther King Junior stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., in front of 250,000 civil rights supporters, he knew his audience. He knew that the people he was addressing supported his cause and agreed with his words. The speech was a success and helped paved the way for President John F. Kennedy’s Civil Rights Act.

This is not intended to be a crass use of what is one of the finest speeches in global history, but an example of how success can be tied to knowing how an audience will react to words, proposals and actions. 

Conversely, not taking the time to understand the audience or the market can lead to painful rejection (though in fairness, sometimes the failure to understand the market lies on the other side of the table). Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak were rejected by Atari and HP in when they presented the concept of the personal computer. Perhaps just as famously, record label Decca rejected The Beatles stating that “guitar groups were on their way out”. 

Both of these cases, and many more, are a prime example of organisations not understanding their market and ending up without that all important ‘win’ in the column.

Criticality of Analysis 

You’re probably wondering how this relates to public procurement. The examples here show how critical it is to know your audience and market, and that the key is that hard work needs to be put in to provide the foundation for success. 

Take a look back at your own career in procurement. How many times have you gone to market on the back of flawed or non-existent market research and analysis? When you have laid your hands on the final draft of a specification, did you always trust that the input was from a good cross-section of the market? 

You may think you lack the time or resources to carry out market analysis as part of your tender process, but the business case for doing it well is there for all to see. Market research can be critical in ensuring that the goods, services or works being procured meet the needs of the taxpayers, at a cost that is acceptable and provides best value. 

Public sector organisations can use market research and analysis to get a greater understanding of their customers (usually the end-users of the services), to analyse the market and the competition in a particular area, and then to test before launching services.

Informed Decision Making

The same applies in procurement, just from a different angle. Procurement gets to understand the supply market, its competitiveness, how mature it is and the key suppliers, some of whom may already be supplying to the public sector.

It creates a level of informed decision-making, rather than approaching every tender in the same way. As it’s put in the Procurement Journey, analysis of key trends and market dynamics and how the goods or services in question sit within this can help to shape a specification, tender and route to market. 

It can also help procurement to understand the role of SMEs in the market and how they could better set out a tender to increase SME involvement. Even down to using market analysis in order to understand how commercial models can be set up and what Community Benefits suppliers would or could offer as part of tender submissions. 

Market Research Favourites

There are a variety of methods available to procurement too, some which are desktop based, others which require direct interaction with the market itself.

A few of the most common are listed below:

  • Prior Information Notice (PIN) – The PIN can be used to gather information on almost any aspect of a tender and allows procurement to understand and gauge the interest in the supply market. The added benefit is that, depending on the type of PIN used, they can also be used as a call for competition and reduce procurement timescales. 
  • Soft Market Engagement – This doesn’t have the formality of a PIN, but can be just as useful. It can be done via email or phone calls and is particularly useful if there is a smaller, known supply market, and the engagement is being done to test the water on a specification or aspect of the Technical or Commercial Evaluation.
  • SWOT, PESTLE, Kraljic – Old favourites for anyone who has ever done courses in procurement! These can provide a picture on the suppliers (SWOT), market conditions (PESTLE) and product category (Kraljic), better informing decision-making and strategy.
  • Applied Analytics – The likes of Dun & Bradstreet and Spikes Cavell provide information on the supply market, from spend analytics to market analysis. All of this data is presented in a usable form, saving procurement from having to carry this out themselves. 

Paralysis by Analysis 

While market analysis is a critical part of the procurement process, it’s important to remember that it’s only one part of a much wider whole. Perfection is the enemy of progress – striving to capture all the information possible, to speak to every supplier and put this all together can lead to stagnation in the process and actively hinder decision making. 

Avoid decision-making by committee at all costs and decide where you, as procurement, will draw a line under the analysis and move to the next stage. Mark this out at the start of the process and stick to the timelines. After all, you don’t want to spend so long analysing the market that you never actually go to market. 

Know your audience, pick your method and crack on! 

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this article and the series of articles on the challenges facing public sector procurement in 2019. Leave your comments below, or get in touch directly, I’m always happy to chat!

Stop Freaking Out, Checking Out and Burning out

So much to do, so little time to do it. Are you one of the people who need to stop freaking out long enough to stand out?

Photo by Atul Choudhary from Pexels

You’ve got a million and one things to do today. The house must be immaculately clean before bedtime, you haven’t made lunch for the kids, a three-hour morning meeting in the office looms and you simply can’t delegate a single task – because only you know exactly what needs doing and how it needs to be done.

In times like these it might be worth taking a step back, reflecting on your current state of mind and getting your boundaries in order before you freak out, check out or burn out.

We’ve all been there, or know and love someone who’s been there. It’s easy to feel trapped in a cycle of self-inflicted pressure and high expectations. But according to Alison Hill, a professional psychologist (or self-titled “head mechanic”) who has spent many years tweaking the minds of top performers in some of the world’s largest companies. It is possible to stop oscillating between these three states and embrace a fourth alternative: to stand out.

I recently interviewed Alison for the Inside Influence podcast and she offered some amazing tools to stay in that mode.

Know your boundaries

For Alison, knowing your boundaries means being really clear about what’s ok and what’s not ok for you personally. When you set your boundaries in any given situation; whether it’s in the workplace or in your personal life, you need to establish what’s your ‘flex’ and what’s your ‘non-negotiable’ line in the sand. When you take a moment to unpack where all of your energy is going and where your biggest frustrations and anxieties are coming from, setting your boundaries becomes easier.

For example, if you’re due in a meeting that you know you don’t have the capacity to be present at (physically or mentally), there are more options than simply going or not going.  As Alison suggests, you could attend some but not all of the meeting, give someone your notes to take along, join the meeting via Skype to avoid unnecessary travel, talk to someone on the phone to get the key points, or send a representative in your place.

Go guilt-free

So many of us want to live a big, bold life. We want to influence the world around us and do grand, amazing things. And yet, we often come to the realisation that this desire impacts our energy, time, health and well-being.

Alison came to a point where she was completely overwhelmed. Her ongoing worry was that if she were to drop just one ball, her whole world would come crashing down. When she finally allowed herself a day to rest and recuperate, there was so much noise reverberating in her head: “What are you doing? You can’t do this! This is valuable family time! How can you be so selfish that you take a day for yourself?”

Yet, she argues, it has to be ok to just let it all go. Hating yourself for being selfish will mean you don’t get anything out of this reset time. Spending time justifying your actions to yourself and alleviating guilt lays on too much pressure to be perfect; to be high-achieving even in a time that’s supposed to be relaxing.

Support freak outs

If you’ve managed to maintain your boundaries and reined in your lifestyle to reach a level of contentment, how do you then support those around you who are going through a period of freaking out, checking out and burning out?

When someone enters a meeting flustered or agitated, the natural response is to go into solution or fix-it mode. Your troubleshooting instinct is to immediately get to the bottom of what’s going on and determine how to fix it so they (and you) can move on.

Whilst this can be useful, Alison argues that the most important response is compassion. Think about what you can do right now for that person. It might be as simple as making them a cup of tea or listening while they get something off their chest. Or it might be something they can’t talk about at that moment, and need some time away from the office.

It’s also important to avoid taking on a colleague’s freak out as your own. Often we can find ourselves getting caught up in a story that may have nothing to do with us. Let that go, listen, support and focus on being a role model instead.

Live a stand-out life

The idea of living a stand-out life conjures up images of fame, celebrity and influence. But, for Alison, that’s not the point. This point is really focusing on building alignment between your intention and your purpose.

Having a clear sense of purpose can transform even everyday things – such as conversations with a colleague or time spent with your children. Ask yourself: why am I having this conversation, why am I spending time doing this activity? What is the intent, and does it match with my overall purpose? Then act accordingly.

Standing out comes from a combination of decisions. However most importantly, it involves focusing on the things that light you up. Then deciding to no longer waste precious energy on anything that involves you freaking out, checking out or burning out.

Julie Masters is a globally recognised expert in influence, authority and thought leadership. She is the CEO and Founder of Influence Nation and Founder of ODE Management – responsible for launching and managing the careers of some of the worlds most respected thought leaders. Julie is also the host of the soon to be launched weekly podcast Inside Influence. An exploration into what it takes to find and own your voice – and then use it to drive a conversation, an idea, an industry or a Nation. To subscribe check out iTunes or http://juliemasters.com/inside-influence/.

Why Leaders Shouldn’t Leave The Stories To Marketing

Are we all too busy getting on with the business of running the business to be telling stories? It’s an easy thing to think until we understand the value and power of stories...

By Johanna Altmann/ Shutterstock

Once Upon a Time……And so the story goes….. There wouldn’t be too many of us who cannot remember even one story from our childhood. It might be something we liked to have read to us on repeat, no doubt driving our parents crazy with our enthusiasm for the same thing over and over. And as we develop our own experiences, we create our own stories to capture the big moments.

Who hasn’t been to a milestone birthday, wedding or other celebratory event where the speeches section of the evening engender dread that they will never finish? Or laughter and delight at the humour and good nature of reflection and personal insight?

On a professional level, we develop stories also. Our resume becomes the formal story of record of our work history, references the story of our previous performance. We share stories about an interview we had, a great outcome we achieved, as well as a failure for something that has not gone as intended.

Science of Stories

The science of story telling is something well out of my area of expertise. I know enough to be able to rather simply explain that there seems to be a consensus that as humans, we had storytelling in us from the get-go. Before we wrote, we spoke, and stories were the way that individuals and tribes shared achievements and tribulations, their history and their myths. 

Studying classics, I participated in more than a few heated debates on whether Homer really did author The Odyssey in the way we understand authoring today, or whether he simply documented stories told by others and deftly added his by-line to a transcript that has become a classic for many different reasons.

Organisations tell their own stories too. It is not just Hollywood that understands the commercial value and engagement of a superhero’s origin story (As big of a Marvel Universe fan that I am, I have to give it to DC for the Wonder Woman movie). How powerful is the origin story in helping us understand the culture, intent and values of an organisations?

In my time with Hewlett Packard, the story of Bill and Dave in the garage was told over and over, and with IBM, the legacy of the organisation in its role in advancing racial and gender diversity, as well as its integral role in the Apollo space mission were part of the stories that help employees understand the scale and capacity to achieve great things that the organisation is capable of.  

Organisations Telling Stories

In today’s digital world, it’s not only the mature organisations that understand the value of the story in creating and evolving their brand. Digital natives tell stories of their inspiration, entrepreneurs tell stories of the many failed attempts to become an overnight success, and if you spend any time on social media, you will have read, followed or liked personalities, products and groups for the stories they shared that would have resonated with you.

It’s actually the stories that form part of the personal or organisational brand; the idea for Facebook originating in a dorm room, Air BnB from a trip to San Francisco with no accommodation available and Space X as a lifelong ambition of a very, very young Elon Musk.

On a more practical level, organisations tell stories about their products, or their services. It might be the juxtaposition of the before versus the after scenario capturing us with the promise that we too will be able to replicate the same level of success if we buy or consume.

Or it may be the a carefully crafted script on how a product is made, the people who made it, and how it will make our lives so great we are likely to wonder how it was possible to live without it. Other times, it is much simpler.

Product placement on the screen allows us to create our own story; that we too can be like the people in the movie and share their success, superpower or characteristic that made them so memorable (I am not sure this aspiration should extend to villains however owning a car based on a great car chase may be fair game).

What Can Leaders Learn?

Savvy marketers are well aware of the impact of stories and how they can initiate dopamine and oxytocin and translate this to brand awareness, a purchase and more importantly, brand loyalty. It’s what makes consumers stick with you, even when confronted with products or services that don’t meet market expectations, and it’s also what drives profit and growth. The challenge and cost of keeping a customer is much less then the cost of attracting new ones.

So what can leaders learn from all of this? Aren’t we all too busy getting on with the business of running the business to be telling stories? It’s an easy thing to think until we understand the value and power of stories.

Attract the best talent

If it is a great strategy to attract new customers, why would it be any different for attraction of employees? In a market where employees have choice about how they work and who they work for, organisations looking to secure a reputation for employer-of-choice would do well to have their leaders understand that stories matter in attracting those who not only perform well, but also align with the values and mission of the organisation.

And as with customers, hiring the right people is only a very small part of the talent challenge. Retaining employees in environments that are challenging, constantly changing and demand more, can be a competitive advantage.

Connect and engage

When stories are shared, they can create connection and engagement. In fact, they can also create empathy. And in today’s digital environment, the constant change, always being on, and the reactiveness of many organisations means leaders need to be vigilant to signs of change fatigue and disengagement.

Storytelling can span reasons for an initiative, shared success, and even foster a learning environment from failures. They can help leaders and organisations re-write the narrative on culture, performance and why what is being done matters, helping harness purpose through inspiration and a focus on the outcome. Hopefully with some learning and laughter along the way.

Dollars and Sense: What are we Really Saving?

It might have started with dollars and cents, but what should procurement really be saving now? It’s time to shift the dial.

Photo by Kat Yukawa on Unsplash

For years, procurement was stuck in the old ways of doing business. It was the role of the profession to beat down suppliers and the only consideration was cost, but the proponents of this methodology are fast becoming extinct as procurement undergoes a new evolution. While savings will always be an important element in what we do, the important question we now need to address is: what are really trying to save?

I’ve previously spoken about how strategic sourcing in procurement can help us to change the world, but it’s easy to believe that issues like modern slavery and environmental pollution are still beyond our reach. They’re buzz words or problems too big to solve, they’re issues that are unlikely to find a solution within a single career.

But that’s not true. Every day we’re seeing political mandates, new regulations and social pressures that are driving change at an unprecedented pace. However, the window for change to actually solve environmental issues is closing just as fast – meaning we can’t sit back and focus on cost alone if we’re really committed to making change.

Saving vs the Social Good

When we talk about optimising our supply chains, there will never be a time where cost doesn’t form part of the conversation. Even if you’re not solely focussed on cost-cutting measures, there needs to be the ability to invest in solutions that will drive positive outcomes in the years that follow – and that can’t come without the budget to back it up.

In fact, when we look at how much money we’re able to save through strategic sourcing for large multi-million dollar companies, compared with how much their net value can fluctuate on the stock market from day to day, the savings are actually negligible.

What we’re really able to do when we’re effectively reducing costs within our supply chain is reinvest that money back into the organisation. This macro-level approach to cost-saving lets you support the needs, beliefs or even employees of your company to help bring about changes that will actually have an impact. Whether you’re looking for widespread industry reform or to bolster your own company initiatives, cost will always join the conversation.

Saving and the Successful Supply Chain

At Source One, a Corcentric company, we counsel our customers to constantly be improving and optimising the way their companies develop relationship with suppliers. To get the best results and a positive, long-lasting supplier relationship, there needs to be an element of a partnership between procurement professionals and their supply chain.

Good supplier relationships help to create value for both sides of the agreement – whether it’s a new product, process or an improvement that can make everything more efficient. The key piece of supplier and vendor management that is often overlooked is the ability to be creative and innovative to help challenge the status quo.

We’ve seen that by following and developing procurement best practice, and encouraging our suppliers to think about the problem we’re trying to solve together, we can enable these things to have a bigger impact in a tangible and evident way.

What changes the way a company acts?

Not all companies are started with a social responsibility guidebook in place. The organisational stance on environmental, social or political issues usually develops with time and as such, there is rarely a budget set aside for supporting global issues. New regulations or social pressure can both have an impact on the way a company acts.

Its reaction to these pressures is either going to change the way the company is perceived – in market share or reputation – or it will change how the company will need to do business going forward.

For example, a new worldwide mandate will come into effect on 1 January 2020, where all ships and vessels operating anywhere in the world will be required to use fuel with a sulphur content of less than 0.5 per cent, compared with the current regulation of 3.5 per cent.

While those operating in the shipping industry can change to a cleaner type of fuel, they’ll now find these are more expensive due to increased worldwide demand, likewise they could utilise ‘scrubbers’ to essentially clean their current fuel source, but this will come with its own ongoing investment.

Those who don’t comply with these new regulations will face hefty fines – so no matter which solution each company implements we’re looking at $30 billion dollars worth of investment across the industry.

What We’re Really Saving

This type of regulation will fundamentally change how that company does business as they’ll now have to factor in the increased cost of fuel to operate once it comes into effect. This also presents an opportunity for procurement to support the ability for shipping companies to comply, which will present its own positive solutions to environmental issues, while also absorbing some of the cost or finding other ways to mitigate, diversity or reduce their exposure and help lead the way to a more sustainable future.

Procurement really can make a difference, but these outcomes are best achieved when they’re working with and are supported by our cost saving measures rather than being seen as the antithesis to an optimised supply chain. Sure, you can have one without the other, but by reinvesting in the future of the world around us we’ll find the best way forward.

Source One, a Corecentric company, were one of the key sponsors for the Big Ideas Summit Chicago 2019 and Diego was one of our great keynote speakers. If you want to catch up on Diego’s Big Ideas for procurement and saving the world, join the Summit’s group. Click here to join in and catch up now!