I found myself watching the last show (CBS, May 25, 2011) of Oprah like millions of guys in America. Many of the businessmen (businesswomen thought that this was a no-brainier !) watching were undoubtedly impressed with the “Kleenex” sponsorship of the event. A virtual Niagara of tears ensued and Kleenex was really put to use ! The Kleenex Product Manager had this completely figured out and congratulations to her/him.
Humor aside, one has to give it to Oprah: 25 years, over 4000 shows, millions of fans for a black woman who would have been at the maximum a “school teacher in a segregated school”(by her own words today) has a huge message for business. Oprah said that every one of her thousands of guests over 25 years had only one need. That was a need to be heard,understood and where possible appreciated or validated. This need irrespective of whether they were weak or strong, rich or poor.
Guess what? in B2B and Supply Chain Relationships the Oprah formula of validation is highly applicable. B2B and Distribution Channel scholars have been studying “power in distribution channels” and examples include:
- As a supply manager you make the weak (frequently small ) supplier wait in the lobby for ages despite an appointment.
- As a B2B marketer you delay responding to distributors who don’t have good volumes.
- As a supply manager you insist for 180 days payment for the weakest suppliers and if you are on the B2B marketing side you insist on advance payment for your weakest distributors.You take opposite positions for your strongest partners.
- And when you are the stronger partner, either in B2B or Supply Chain you really don’t care.
In general you display “power.”
But today Oprah made it clear that weak or strong- all that folks want is “validation” and that simply means that you meet the small supplier or distributor as agreed, even though you cannot give them the volumes or terms that they want. Just explaining why you are doing what you need to do “validates” them and keeps your B2B and supply chain relationships in top shape.
Oprah will have have her huge (validated) following in the Fall on her own channel and B2B marketing and supply chain folks need to think about how well they validate their business partners -be they strong or weak.