traffic speed at night

Jean Gerber

What do you think of when you hear “digital transformation?” Moving business online? An expensive initiative? A never-ending project with lots of consultants? Or maybe you view digital transformation as something old line industrial companies are forced to do: plot a five-year plan, assemble an internal tiger team, and hope it comes in on time, on budget or that the business doesn’t go under before transformation happens.

McKinsey & Company define digital transformation as “the adoption of digital technology to transform services or businesses, through replacing non-digital or manual processes with digital processes or replacing older digital technology with newer digital technology.”

The modern internet has been around for 30-ish years. Yet companies are still struggling to make this shift to a business built for a digital world. Until now. The global pandemic and uncertain future have forced transformation and change overnight. It has done more to accelerate digital transformation that any Board of Directors or C-level executive ever could or would. And as a result, we’ve learned and done more in the last eight months than we have in the last eight years.

Digital Transformation: Driven by Breakthrough Brands, Accelerated by the Pandemic

Every week new upstart companies come to market as digital-first solutions, disrupting old business models, providing ways for customers to interact directly with the brand, and obtaining and controlling information instantaneously. Stripe, Coursera and SOFI are all shining examples of disruptors.

Meanwhile, organizations pondering digital transformation moved slowly and unimaginatively, meeting in conference rooms and hiring consultants, seemingly unhurried by the need to transform. When COVID-19 hit, business leaders had few options but to change, and change quickly. Three-year plans needed to be executed in three months. Every aspect of how a company was doing business, from the way they managed their employees to the way they served their customers, had to go digital to support a remote world. Companies had to scramble to move operations, supply chains, services, manufacturing, procurement, and marketing and sales into cloud infrastructures while operating out of their home offices. Digital technology — remote connectivity, security, identity management, apps and cloud-based infrastructures — were spun up to get the ball rolling.

So here we are. Eight months in and literally every business is now a digital-first business. How we market to, sell to, service and supply customers has forever changed. What’s more, how customers buy and the service levels they expect has also been forever changed. To understand the rapid change, let’s take a closer look at the impact of digital transformation on the world of marketing, starting with the buying process.

Related Article: What Does Great Customer Experience Look Like Today? Giving Customers Peace of Mind

The Buying Process Has Gone Digital, Remote

Historically, in the B2B world, marketing has been responsible for building a brand, educating prospects and customers about their solutions and offerings, and supporting sales by generating demand to contribute to revenue.

In the digital-first era, B2B marketing must adapt to a more complex, more chaotic buying and selling process. Buyers want to be in control of their purchase process, the same way consumers do in their everyday life. Marketing — with digital at the core — must be much more precise today because:

  • More than two-thirds of the buying process is done without contacting a vendor representative.
  • 90% of the purchase process today is done remotely.
  • Digital channels have doubled in importance to B2B buyers.

Source: Forrester Research 2020

B2B buying teams can no longer assemble at a white board to strategically game plan a solution to their business need. They are forced to evaluate the best vendors and solutions via endless Zoom calls. Today, research and evaluation are done online, through a series of online video chats, phone conferences and webinar presentations. Procurement is done via the Cloud and contracts are reviewed online, shared and signed electronically. It’s all digital.

Related Article: Now Is the Time for B2B Marketers to Lead Customer Experience

Marketing Must Go Digital First. Are We Ready?

The shift to digital-driven buying and selling is now pushing B2B marketers to rethink and overhaul the bigger, more impactful role marketing plays in generating demand, accelerating pipeline and expanding customer relationships. Let’s look at marketing’s digital transformation and the shifts underway, through the change in the buying and selling process.





Marketing Automation

Revenue Orchestration

Internal, Linear Funnels

Buyer, Account & Customer Journeys

Generating Leads

Delivering Experiences

Email nurture and cold calls

Digital nurture and informed outreach

Ad-hoc Campaigns

Precision Demand Generation

Related Article: How to Use ‘First Principles’ to Create Disruption With Your Marketing

5 Things Marketers Can Do to Accelerate Digital Transformation Today

  1. Act, now. Initiate an honest assessment of your digital readiness. Write down, sketch out and take inventory mapping your current state to your desired state of becoming a digital-first business. Examine how customers, prospects, partners and your community experience, engage and interact with your brand — now and in the future.
  2. Blow up and challenge your go-to market model. Is an all direct sales approach the right model? Can you design marketing and experiences into your product that accelerates adoption?
  3. Get your data right and connected. If you don’t have 100% marketable, permissioned data, you are limited in delivering relevant and meaningful experiences with prospective and existing customers. No matter how smart your go-to market model, the experience will be awful, and you’ll fail to engage and delight your best opportunities.
  4. Focus on engagement, not leads (I know it’s hard). Shift from a marketing team that delivers campaigns and creates awareness around something we think buyers may want, to an approach that gives buyers the control to choose what they want. Simply, let them consume your content and brand; stop calling or blasting automated emails when somebody attends your webinar or downloads a white paper.
  5. Invest in hiring and developing digital talent. Digital DNA and experience are essential to help set the bar, teach, guide and lead by example. Make sure this talent is not siloed as the digital guru — impart this wisdom across your team.

With all the anxiety in the world, let’s not waste a time of uncertainty and chaos to change. There’s never been a better time for B2B brands to go all in and digitally transform the business. These last eight months have shown us what’s possible.

Scott Vaughan is CMO of Integrate, a marketing technology software provider automating and
orchestrating demand marketing for B2B marketers. Scott leads the company’s go-to-market
and growth marketing strategy.

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