How Digital Transformation Is Reshaping B2B Marketing

 

Digital marketing today is more than just a channel – it is actually a “digital transformation” which is reshaping the B2B marketing landscape. Because the B2B world is both inter and intra-connected, it requires an omni-channel strategy based on a cradle-to-grave paradigm. The successful B2B marketers will leverage this digital transformation for competitive advantage.

Digital transformation is much bigger than marketing as it encompasses the entire organization. However, how this transformation plays out varies by organization — in some cases digital requires a significant modification and in other cases an entirely new business model.

Digital Marketing – In the Beginning

When B2B companies began embracing digital, the primary focus was marketing (online marketing, PPC, email marketing, search engine marketing, social media marketing, etc.). Marketing was chartered with putting a “digital face” on customer-facing touch points but didn’t really have the charter to drive digital throughout the other functions of the organization. And, because most B2B marketing organizations lacked the internal skills, resources and people to develop and execute a cohesive and effective digital strategy, digital marketing was outsourced to external agencies.

In addition, many B2B digital marketing organizations built their website and then moved from this cornerstone. The problem though was that sometimes messaging and positioning was a fallout from the website build or facelift. Often the web team (that reported to corporate marketing) managed the front-end design, backend systems and content management systems – or it was outsourced. B2B marketers then added email marketing, marketing automation and social tools – the breeding ground for marketing automation and its evolution. Next, smartphones led the way to mobile apps and mobile app developers. With each new technology, a new group or silo was created and there was often fragmentation even within the marketing organization.

Digital Marketing – What it Takes Today

In a truly digital world, every resource aligned with a business outcome should be part of the digital plan — and that means sales, marketing, operations, services, support, etc. This requires cross-functional teams working in harmony to develop a digital experience to prospects and customers consistent with both the brand and value proposition.

The level of digital adoption varies by industry, geography, size of company, sophistication of the marketing team and other factors. Some B2B organizations have implemented digital marketing technologies and are using them effectively and some struggle as their efforts are not well thought out, are poorly implemented or not well supported. However, B2B organizations that truly integrate and internalize digital marketing are reaping significant returns including attracting, acquiring, onboarding, retaining, up-selling and expanding customers.

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Digital Transformation Changes Marketing

Many marketing technologies (MarTech) today are focused on web, mobile web, mobile app PPC, email SEO and content. But digital transformation also includes new digital touch points and interfaces such as:

 

  • Web
  • Mobile
  • Beacon
  • Chatbots
  • Wearables
  • AR/VR glasses and headsets
  • Connected TVs with an explosion of OTT content and services
  • Connected cars
  • Digital out-of-home signage and digital kiosks
  • APIs as a digital interface
  • New point-of-sale experiences
  • 3D printing for digitally delivering physical items to prospects/customers

Digital Totally Changes the Scope of Marketing

 

Organizations need to make conscious decisions about the customer experience. This includes clearly defining which function in the organization owns which stage, if there is overlap, what the handoff points are, how to measure and manage the transition points and how to continuously improve. Typically the distribution model plays a large role in making this determination – for example, whether the organization sells online, through Inside Sales Reps or through a direct sales organization. The most innovative companies have created a position called the Chief Digital Officer (CDO) and this person usually reports into the CMO.

While digital transformation is a company initiative, marketing needs to play a major role by stepping up to help architect, direct and implement the digital transformation plan. The key is to focus all resources on the core of digital transformation – delivering an ultimate customer experience through coordinated digital touch points that are integrated and tailored to the organization’s value proposition.

As the digital transformation progresses, the entire organization will have to become “digital competent” as marketing will not be able to manage every touchpoint – nor should they be assigned this task. Marketing should serve as not only the brand steward but the digital steward (as digital is a subset of brand). Marketing must also help the organization effectively coordinate and manage digital touch points through a managed, repeatable process that delivers a meaningful and compelling customer experience at every stage of the customer life cycle.

Digital Marketing – Summing it All Up

Technology is finally at the point where it’s time to take a top down approach and think about strategy, structure, organization, systems and processes, in order to develop and deploy a compelling customer experience. It’s time to strategically think about what technology the organization needs, how the pieces and parts fit together and what the new charter for marketing needs to be to propel growth and profitability. Most importantly, these new technologies provide organizations the opportunity to create new or improved customer and prospect experiences that support and reinforce the brand.

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