B2B Digital Marketing Success

B2B Digital Marketing Success

An effective B2B website clearly defines your brand, value proposition, product/service portfolio (scope of supply) and competitive advantages (or lack thereof). It also provides (or SHOULD provide) one or more calls to action that prompt prospective customers to initiate contact. With a solid website as a foundation, B2B small businesses can begin to identify and prioritize other high impact digital marketing tools/tactics suited to the business’s unique requirements.

In fact, according to Salesforce®, your website is now THE DOMINANT FACTOR in determining digital marketing success. For B2B small businesses this concept is even more significant, since your website is also the fundamental starting point for an effective sales execution strategy. More often than ever, potential customers will evaluate an organization and its products/services vs competitive offerings long before they commit to contacting the company to discuss their requirements. In this sense, your website/digital marketing investments are primarily sales tools, and are often critical to achieving the growth objectives of your selling team.

Digital Marketing Success: A Sales Perspective

There are multitudes of digital marketing tools and tactics available to support your organization’s sales and growth objectives. Unfortunately, it is not always easy to determine which of the many digital marketing tools available is best suited to your current sales situation (visibility, market position, competitive environment, budget and time constraints). The table below provides a list of proven tools that may come in to play. The most effective way to define and prioritize digital marketing investments that offer a reasonable, defensible ROI is to rank them in terms of their impact on your sales process.

B2B Digital Marketing Tools

B2B Digital Marketing Tools

To Summarize …

Digital marketing success — from a B2B sales perspective — is achieved when your investments have a measurable impact on sales, to the extent that the value of new business (lifetime value) exceeds expenditures. Initiatives that focus first on optimizing a company’s web presence, and then on acquiring the tools needed to support the sales team’s day-to-day selling process and competitive requirements for visibility, positioning and messaging are most likely to achieve a reasonable return on investment. And sales performance metrics (e.g. qualified leads, sustainable growth trends) provide an effective “yardstick” for defining the success of digital marketing investments.

B2B Competitive Selling Requirements

B2B Competitive Selling Requirements

In the B2B marketplace, competitive selling requirements are driven by demands for organizational speed, ready access to product information and a consultative selling approach throughout the buying process. Complex account-based relationships are common, as are products and services delivered as packaged or custom tailored ‘solutions.’ Both of these conditions dictate close alignment of an organization’s sales and marketing functions.

The relative contribution of each function will vary, to some degree, based on the unique nature of each sales situation. However, as a general rule, the mix of sales vs marketing inputs will follow a pattern similar to the percentages indicated in the table below:

Approximate Mix of Sales and Marketing Contributions

As you can see, the sales team typically plays a more prominent role in situations where an organization is trying to sell established products to existing customers, while marketing usually plays an increasingly important role in situations where the organization is promoting the sale of new products to new customers. Across the spectrum, although one function may be dominant, contributions from both sales and marketing are necessary to be successful throughout the product/customer life cycle, and the efforts of each function must be: A) aligned with the business’s overall strategy and B) tightly integrated to ensure a smooth, timely hand-off as opportunities progress through the sales pipeline.

Digital Sales and Marketing Platforms

Cloud-based digital sales and marketing tools can help. Unfortunately, most software solutions available today approach competitive selling requirements with a heavy bias toward one function or the other. Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tools, for example, are often focused exclusively (or at least primarily) on the needs of the sales function, while marketing automation tools typically address the messaging and metrics-tracking requirements of the marketing team … with little thought given to the needs of the sales team. Neither is designed to help an organization establish a collaborative relationship between the sales function and the marketing function, thereby falling short of today’s competitive selling requirements.

The fast moving, dynamic nature of B2B selling requires a tightly integrated approach to sales and marketing that adapts to each unique situation and puts the sales team in control of the tools, information, content and collaboration capabilities it needs … in real time. The following table summarizes the essential B2B digital sales tools needed:

Essential B2B Digital Sales Tools

Essential B2B Sales Tools

The B2B Buying Process

B2B Buying Process

The B2B buying process has evolved over the past 10 years to a point where 30 to 50% of the purchase decision is now made before the first sales contact. Your sales team is still the most important factor in the competitive process. However, most buyers will have already done their searches, research, comparisons and initial evaluations before initiating any direct contact with potential suppliers.

B2B Buying Process Framework

B2B Buying Process Framework

Awareness Phase of the B2B Buying Process

The B2B buying process typically begins with the awareness of an emerging business problem or opportunity. Awareness can be driven through internal situations (e.g. recognition of a competitive disadvantage) or discovered through external stimulus (e.g. customer complaint/loss of sale).

Throughout the process, buyers/teams have real time access to relevant websites, blogs, technical documents, user ratings, white papers, ebooks, social media referrals and many other sources of comparative information. Typically, this information is sourced from well-promoted websites and digital marketing content.

Qualification Phase of the B2B Buying Process

As the B2B buying process transitions from the qualification stage to the evaluation stage, more specific information is required: This is usually the point where internal/external sales staff activities begin. Response time, product/solution information, access to experts, sales representative knowledge, after sale support, project management capabilities and other buyer experiences all factor in to decisions made during this phase of the buying process.

After-Sale Support

After the sale, customer service, training, documentation, project management, real time communications and help desk support become critical requirements for retention and renewal of customer relationships. Throughout the entire B2B buying process, the customer expects a seamless set of digital experiences to achieve and maintain confidence in the supplier’s ability to serve their needs.

Technology

Digital sales and marketing platforms that offer cloud-based web content management, business process automation, content marketing and sales enablement support are rapidly becoming an essential requirement to help SMBs meet or exceed customer expectations throughout the buying process. These integrated platforms provide customer’s with a seamless set of digital experiences. Potential customers expect to receive relevant information from initial awareness of a need through final purchasing decision. Any part of the process that is missing dramatically reduces the chances of success.

B2B Digital Sales and Marketing Platform

B2B Digital Sales and Marketing Platform

Digital Transformation Roadmap

Digital Transformation Roadmap

Digital transformation is a stepwise process that seeks to refine legacy business processes by leveraging proven and emerging technologies. These technology-induced initiatives are designed, ideally, to address specific opportunities and challenges. In some cases, the end result may be an entirely new business model, but more commonly, digital transformation is comprised of incremental business process improvements (projects) that add value to customer relationships and/or improve operational efficiency.

As stated in a recent Entrepreneur Magazine article, “Digital transformation isn’t some vague buzzword. For small businesses, digital transformation includes all the little steps forward that add up to massive cost savings, happier customers and improved prospects.”

The Digital Transformation Roadmap: Have it Your Way

Digital transformation sits at the intersection of a business’s overall strategy and the technology investments made by the organization to achieve underlying strategic objectives. These efforts, both small and large, are fundamental to organizational structure, leadership team skills and development; and the sustainable competitiveness of the business.

Solutions are not “one-size-fits-all,” but should be tailored to the unique requirements of each business. In fact, digital transformation is the starting point for development of a winning strategy. This can best be understood and implemented using the following structure:

Strategy/Business Model – The organizational structure and business model impact of smart products, as-a-service revenue, digital partners and other strategic impacts of digital transformation must be the starting point for a company’s digital transformation roadmap. Financial systems, analytics, ERP and other business-wide decisions are driven by these core requirements.

Digital Marketing, Sales & Customer Services – Leveraging the power of digital marketing techniques, sales pipeline/CRM optimization technologies, sales portals, customer portals, virtual offices, and other powerful tools can drive growth and help an organization achieve higher levels of customer satisfaction.

HR/Organizational Development – HR information systems automate repetitive tasks and enable employee self-service. Collaboration, productivity and online training tools improve organizational performance, creating a competitive culture and an engaged workforce.

IT & CyberSecurity – Selecting the optimum IT infrastructure (on premise, cloud, or hybrid); securing data, enabling enterprise mobility and supporting user productivity are all driven by technology decisions.

Advanced Technologies – Strategically applying advanced technologies such as iIOT, artificial intelligence, augmented reality, 3D printing and many others to business functions, operations and engineering can be high impact investments.

In Summary …

Similar to the disruptive impacts the Internet had created by the mid 2000’s, digital transformation technologies have become a major driving force for B2B small business growth and profitability. Early adopters faced challenges, but also gained a competitive advantage over those less inclined to change.

Successful SMBs begin with a digital transformation roadmap; a plan that is aligned with the organization’s overall strategic direction, and thoughtfully divided into incremental, affordable projects. This step-by-step approach helps the management team prioritize technology investments and stay focused on solving real-world issues.

SMB Digital Transformation: Competitiveness and Valuation Driver

SMB Digital Transformation

Historically, small businesses have competed successfully with larger competitors by being quicker, more productive and more responsive to customer needs … leading to higher customer satisfaction levels and retention rates. More recently, cost reductions in information and communication technologies have allowed small businesses to erase a once imposing challenge — the technical superiority of larger businesses with deeper IT pockets.

SMB Digital Transformation: Step-By-Step

Unfortunately, many small businesses have failed to recognize recent trends in technology … including the trend toward digital transformation of key business processes. Innovation and adaptation — once friendly factors for SMBs — now threatens the very existence of those who fail to respond. Big businesses are reacting en masse, gaining ground in areas once reserved for their smaller, more “nimble” competitors. Why? Because they — along with a few smaller, more “tech savvy” competitors — understand the intrinsic value of digital processes (lower costs, faster response times, improved customer loyalty). They also understand the direct impact these improvements can have on financial performance and market value.

Almost every business process can be optimized by structuring, simplifying and automating parts or all of its workflow. These processes include IT and cybersecurity management, marketing, sales, customer support, HR management, services delivery and operations. In future blog posts we’ll discuss specific examples of SMB digital transformation initiatives applied to key business functions, as well as emerging business models that can help SMBs retain or reclaim their historic advantages. In the mean time, the best way to fully understand the potential impact of digital transformation is to recognize the ten most important characteristics of a digitally-transformed process:

1. Stickiness (better customer experience)
2. Increased availability (24/7/365 service/support)
3. Self-service enhancement (DIY/decision-support tools)
4. Improved workforce utilization – (efficiency improvements within a given function)
5. Cross-function collaboration (connected teams, coordinated response to problems/opportunities)
6. External partner integration (connected partners/suppliers/processes/data)
7. Knowledge management (embedded/automated knowledge capture and sharing)
8. Real-time intelligence (via bolt on BI/analytics/sensors, etc.)
9. Streamlined workflows (automation of repetitive tasks)
10. On-demand delivery – (speed/cost benefits)

In Summary …

SMB digital transformation initiatives leverage the characteristic advantages of individual digital processes to deliver decisive speed, cost and customer satisfaction benefits vs legacy business methods. These advantages drop straight to the bottom line, improving profitability and increasing market value. Big business is catching on fast; and the success of smaller competitors, in terms of competitiveness and business valuation, will quickly follow suit.

B2B Digital Transformation Tipping Point

Digital Transformation Tipping Point

Digital transformation is defined as the application of information technologies to business and operational processes, customer experiences, work team performance, transaction speed and predictive analysis. Collectively, the business performance improvements that result from these digital optimization investments are disruptive to the competitive basis and in many cases the business model of an industry or market.

B2B Digital Transformation: Key Drivers

There are three major forces driving B2B industries to a digital transformation tipping point:

  1. The convergence of key technologies such as cloud, mobile, ecommerce, ebusiness, artificial intelligence, IOT and others has a compounding effect on the individual impact of any single technology. The integration of these technologies will likely accelerate over the next three to five years.
  2. The migration of digital experiences from the consumer world to B2B expectations is moving rapidly. B2B customers now expect that their business partners will deliver equivalent buying experiences, speed, mobility and simplicity. The B2B website is the cornerstone of customer experiences and is therefore the starting point for digital transformation.
  3. The digital generation expectations that repetitive tasks will be automated, that they will have access to collaborative problem solving tools — and mobile access to processes and teams — is fundamental to attracting and retaining top talent. This digital workforce will continue to grow in importance over the next three to five years, making it impractical to compete for top talent or customers using legacy business practices and processes.

Collectively, the force driving B2B digital transformation will dramatically change the basis for competition in every industry. From a strategic standpoint, it is therefore essential that every B2B organization define and implement a practical digital optimization roadmap in order to protect the fundamental value of the business.

Enterprise Mobility Solutions

As the benefits of enterprise mobility achieve greater recognition within the small business community, SMBs are slowly beginning to shift their focus from hardware selection (mobile computing devices such as smart phones and tablets) and bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policy development to the selection of software solutions that can be used to integrate distributed work processes and support remotely located team members more efficiently. Project Execution Network’s eBusiness platform, for example, offers integrated, modular capabilities to help SMBs execute high performance across all major functional areas of their business.

Enterprise Mobility Solutions

In a recent article titled 20 Most Promising Enterprise Mobility Solution Providers – 2017, CIO Review empaneled a team of experts (CEOs, CIOs, VCs, industry analysts and editorial board members) to identify promising enterprise mobility software solutions. Our ProjexTeam™ eBusiness technology platform was selected by the panel, and Project Execution Network was recognized as a company at the forefront of those tackling the challenges of practical implementation for enterprise mobility initiatives.

Our eBusiness platform enables SMBs to plan, staff, and execute strategic business development projects and business process optimization initiatives efficiently and affordably. The web-based platform empowers internal and external team members to collaborate, communicate, coordinate, and control business functions from anywhere.

Additional information is available in the eBusiness Solutions section of our website.

Strategies and Technologies Driving the Next Generation Workforce

Talent and Technology for Next Generation Workforce solutions

According to a recent Wall Street Journal report1, the percentage of U.S. workers not directly employed by the company where they work grew from 8% in 2005 to 16% in 2015. This next generation workforce is typically contracted under flexible, third-party employment arrangements.

At the stated growth rate, nearly 25% of the U.S. workforce will become “contingent workers” by 2022 and 35% by 2025. Other studies conclude that this next generation workforce is already at 30%. There are many factors driving this mega trend. On the talent supply side, there is a growing desire for flexible schedules, transferable skills and more control over career paths. On the demand side — particularly with SMBs — there is a need for fixed cost flexibility, on-demand skills and a rapid response capacity for disruptive market changes.

Next Generation Workforce Technology Solutions

The rapid migration toward project-based work has profound implications for those directly affected, and for society in general. Information workers, especially, will need to embrace changes in the nature and location of their work. Society, as a whole, will need to adapt to a new definition for the term “career,” and to new, cloud-based technology solutions that can support remote work without losing efficiency. Virtualized infrastructure, eBusiness platforms, virtual office environments and remote collaboration tools will be needed to make this next generation workforce effective.

These technologies should help transform a loosely coupled contingent workforce into a well-structured opportunity … both for SMBs seeking flexible talent solutions, and for the skilled workers who make up the “human cloud” of talent that fills the demand for project-based work.

1 WSJ 2/4/17 The End of Employees, Laveen Weber