Transparency has become a key component of business. The information age has naturally demanded more data in nearly all aspects of business. For instance, consumers expect authoritative and detailed marketing content to help guide the customer journey. Honest and thorough internal communication has become a foundational factor in employee retention. Corporate social responsibility initiatives strive to resonate with consumers by demonstrating company-held values and ethics.
One area where it can be challenging to maintain transparency is in sourcing. From supply chains to warehousing, product packaging to ingredient lists, establishing a sense of clarity and honesty throughout your business operations can be an excellent way to attract and retain loyal customers. However, it can be difficult to promote an activity that takes place on the back-end of your business endeavors. Here are a few tips to help you do so effectively.
1. Prioritize Customer Education
As already touched on, the information age has revolutionized how customers go about making purchasing decisions. Gone are the days when a well placed 30-second commercial was all it took to convince customers to patronize an establishment.
Customer education has become an increasingly important factor in marketing, often replacing traditional advertising activities in the sales process. Everything from detailed advertisements to press releases, company websites, and even product packaging must all provide information to help educate consumers.
When it comes to maintaining transparency in your sourcing, content is a particularly effective way to educate both existing and potential customers regarding how you source your products. Take, for example, the fabric cashmere. There are a lot of knock-off fabrics out there, so the luxury fabric requires some education from brands around where the fabric comes from and how it is made.
Content around the fabric, or any other high-end luxury item, helps to educate readers regarding a company’s business practices, quality standards, and code of ethics. It also organically creates a sense of transparency and authenticity for a brand, both of which are particularly alluring factors for modern consumers.
2. Weave Sourcing into Your Marketing Message
If you want your sourcing efforts to be transparently and effectively disseminated to the public, it’s important to find ways to integrate your procurement efforts into your larger marketing message. In other words, if you want to establish a transparent and positive reputation for how you source your products, you must communicate this information to your customers as a part of your larger marketing strategy to increase brand awareness and relevance. When this is done, it naturally associates your products with sustainable practices from the moment customers first come in contact with your brand.
For example, the New Zealand-based beverage company NZ Drinks prides itself on the fact that it sources all of its plastic water bottles from rPET plastic (that is, 100% recycled plastic). The company makes this commitment to sustainability as clear as its water, utilizing it on the company website as well as throughout their promotional material.
By harping on its commitment to sourcing recycled materials as a part of their marketing efforts, the company has managed to increase its brand awareness and customer loyalty. This has even enabled them to dominate the bottled water industry throughout its home country. NZ Drinks stands as a perfect example of how sustainable sourcing can be intimately woven directly into the heart of an organization’s marketing strategy.
3. Establish Outward-Facing Consistency
Nothing feels more insincere than receiving two different responses from different customer service reps who work for the same company. This is why it’s essential to prioritize consistency throughout your outward-facing communications with the public — especially when it comes to communicating how you source your products.
If different representatives or multiple pieces of content contradict one another, it will quickly undermine any transparency that you may have established. This has the further potential to erode customer loyalty and tarnish your brand’s reputation.
In order to prevent this from happening, address your internal communication efforts by setting up easily-accessible company-wide guidelines that clearly define your brand’s voice, tone, and beliefs. Make sure that these guidelines are regularly updated and that all personnel fully understand how to use them to represent your brand. In addition, consider establishing quality assurance safeguards in order to review every piece of customer-facing information that addresses your procurement practices. By establishing consistency in your communication, you can assure that your brand’s eco-friendly reputation is maintained over time.
If you want to genuinely foster customer loyalty, don’t just communicate your sourcing activity in the name of high-minded goals such as transparency and corporate social responsibility. Imbue the public information with a sense of passion that shows your vested interest in preserving resources, operating sustainably, and generally caring for the Earth.
By communicating your own interest in sustainably sourcing your products, it can reinforce a reputation both of authenticity and transparency. It demonstrates that you are personally interested in seeing that your business doesn’t negatively impact the Earth that you share with your customers. Showing personal commitment to sustainable business practices can help to disassociate your brand from an image of mindless corporate behavior purely done in the name of procuring new customers. Instead, it allows you to build an intimate bond with your clientele in the name of your shared concern for environmentally-conscious behavior.
5. Be Honest About Improvement
Finally, there are times when transparency in sourcing can be used to ameliorate a negative situation. For example, when Keurig Green Mountain came under fire for the unsustainable nature of their coffee pods, they used the occasion to incorporate sustainability into their sourcing model. Their 2017 sustainability report provided a breakdown of their value chain as well as many clear commitments, such as responsibly sourcing 100% of their coffee and brewers within the next three years.
By steering into the sustainability skid, Green Mountain was able to salvage a potentially destructive scenario. The coffee titan ultimately wove their sustainability criticisms into a more transparent business model aimed at cultivating customer loyalty to their brand.
Whether you’re addressing an existing problem or thriving to communicate deeply held values that are integral to your brand, it’s important to be transparent about your sourcing activities. This is particularly relevant two decades into the 21st-century. Informed, eco-conscious, and socially-minded consumers are actively looking for trusted companies where they can invest their hard-earned cash.
So review your current sourcing model and identify points where transparency can use a boost. Then look for ways to better communicate that information to the public in order to increase transparency and cultivate a loyal customer base that will support you far into the future.