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How to Win at B2B Digital Transformation

Summary

If a business does not believe it can explain their products or services on video, live streams, podcasts, or written, and the discovery process, on behalf of the prospect, can be carried out digitally on-demand, they will fail at digital transformation.

To emphasise this point; we have all grow up watching some of the most amazing films and television programs that are complete fiction or science fiction.  Therefore, it stands to reason, you can make anyone believe what you want them to believe.  Added to this statement, over the past few years we have all become accustomed to using Zoom or Teams to communicate with our prospects or customers, so no matter what your product is, no matter how complex the sale is perceived to be, it matters not, you can sell it as long as you have set up your business for Digital Transformation Success, together with some important Digital Selling Strategy.

Table of Contents

1. Digital Transformation Failure Myth

2. Improving Business Operations

3. Business Process Management (BPM)

4. Customers 'Self-Identify' Their Needs

5. B2B Believe Big Tech without Questioning

6. Unbelievable CVs & Impossible Job Descriptions

7. Technology Stack Confusion

8. Caveat Emptor - Buyer Beware!

9. Automation & PPC (The Hidden Cost)

10. Creating Content is Priority

11. Understanding the Selling Engagement Process

12. Review Your Current Position

13. Takeaways

14. FAQs

15. Conclusion


1. Digital Transformation Failure Myth

From my research and observations, the consensus is that Digital Transformation projects appear to be ‘jobs-for-the-boys’.  The touted historical failure rates appear to be very high, like 75% of all projects fail!  But that can be seen as a bit of an arbitrary figure as there would need to be a scale and clarification of what failure looks like. 

There is ‘push-back’ about the failure rates though, Learning Accelerators question where the figure came from in the first place.  Nice work on their behalf as it seems it’s a bit of a myth.  My point though is identifying what the objective of the transformation project is, in the first place.  And being quite mercenary, I want the believe the board of director’s, placed making the company more profitable as the primary goal.  But if the techies are not quite so focused, this may pose a problem.

There are thousands of publications about digital transformation, and I am not about to weigh in on anything the great and the good have to say about strategies and arguments to go down this route, although I would recommend a couple of the books I’ve read:

leading digital

Leading Digital: Westerman/Bonnet/McAfee – amazon link

digital scale

Digital @ Scale: Meffert/Swaminathan – amazon link

However, there is an interesting avenue I want to consider, and that is, what are the implications and effects of digitising sales and marketing within a digital transformation (DT) project?

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2. Improving Business Operations

There are many varied objectives when it comes to DT projects, but let’s not get too bogged down in all the permutations and look at the most basic, i.e., to improve operations to increase profitability.  This boils down to two simple suggestions:

  • To improve operations for customers
  • To improve operations for staff

It’s all about their access to you and your data (Customer Experience - CX) and the ease of using it (User Experience - UX) and don’t forget, staff are customers too.  Two very good resources would be to buy the books:

x When experience meets design

44 X Experience

X – The Experience When Business Meets Design by Brian Solis - amazon link

DigitalSenseBookcover

44 digital sense nm

Digital Sense by Travis Wright and Chris Snook - amazon link

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3. Business Process Management (BPM)

BPM SaaS or PaaS platforms enable businesses to apply low code solutions to complex business processes and enable API integration between legacy software platforms and new SaaS as well as automating any digital/software-based operation you could think of, to increase efficiency and increase profitability.

Implementing Business Process Management [Notation] (BPM or BPMN 2.0) or low-code software to streamline processes is a common approach and there are companies like Pega Systems, Appian, Bizagi, Tibco, OpenText, Nintex and so on.

logo pega horizontal positive rgb

appian logo be69c56a

bizagi logo

tibco logo

 

No business invests in BPM because they felt like it was a nice idea!  It’s all about the money and the return on investment.  And I am expressly talking about Business-to-Business, not Education, not Public Sector etc., but organisations who need to generate a profit.

If the objective is to increase profitability, then let’s look at the money and where it comes from, i.e., sales.  There’s no point ‘putting lipstick on a pig’, if your sales process is not up to scratch, all else will fail. And don’t be seduced into thinking that marketing has a hand in this.  It does not!

I want you to think of Digital Transformation as converging essential activities to act as a catalyst to create more revenue.  Therefore, we must therefore start at the beginning of the revenue journey, i.e., first contact with the customers and for the time being, we’ll use the word ‘prospect’ to describe them. 

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4. Customers 'Self-Identify' Their Needs

Your job as a business leader is to position your business where your potential prospects hang-out, be it online, magazines, events and so on and execute a process called attraction!  Once a prospect knows they need a certain product or service (Zero Moment of Truth – ZMOT).  This is derived from the Marketing Moment of Truth - (See our video on the subject - opens a new window), your ‘attraction’ efforts make you a contender for their attention. 

01 ZMOT v2

 

For the purposes of this article, I will say that your peers have not been living under a rock.  They know your type of product exists and perhaps have a basic understanding of what it could do for their business.  So, you don’t need to complete educate them from scratch. 

I know this is marketing 101 but let’s face it, B2B marketers keep failing and as a result they account for the highest staff turnover in a business, with CMO’s moving on, every 18 months or so.   This is because they promise the earth and do not deliver, or they do as they’re told and never live up to the board’s expectations.  Both HR and recruitment companies know this to be a fact and know it’s a revolving door process!

Back to attraction.  To be perfectly clear; businesses, i.e., B2Bs buy products from company finances with an expectation that the new product will deliver an ROI and make the business more money and increase profitability.  There is no emotion in this transaction.

The B2C market is different!  It creates adverts to sell products that people, you, and me, will be emotionally charged into buying.  This works because we, the consumers, watch the ads and decide if we like the trainers/clothes/car/holiday and make the purchase personally, out of our own money!

To read what Gartner say about the interaction between suppliers and buyers read their articles here.

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5. B2B Believe Big Tech without Questioning

The B2B market is entrenched in a 1:1 sales model to sell products; one person to make cold telephone calls (BDR’s), one person to follow up (Pre-sales), one person to sell face-to-face and explain about the product and company etc (Sales).  No one in business thinks to themselves “this SaaS product will look good for my business”.  Every purchase is made to improve one or multiple factors to become more profitable.

However, today's B2B marketing does not work because business leaders have been misled by marketing personnel who have bought into the marketing automation software ‘kool-aid’ (lies) from Big Tech MarTech companies.  If you employ anyone to make phone calls, it means your digital process does not work!

This is further exacerbated by the introduction of Account Based Marketing (ABM).  Here’s my observations and illustration on this; Big Tech, MarTech tell every marketer on the planet as well as all the leading consultancies such as Gartner and Forrester (Who talk about the decline of sales and marketing) that some eight to fourteen people are involved in the decision-making process within a business.  This is an accurate illustration of the expression, the tail-wagging-the-dog.

Everyone bought the ABM add-on for their marketing automation platforms.  Every business dutifully installed the ABM SaaS. Add this SaaS to the plethora of marketing and sales SaaS already installed and now you have a stack of software that needs to be managed by - you guessed it, marketers. 

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6. Unbelievable CVs & Impossible Job Descriptions

The job-seeking marketer has responded to the job description that requires them to have taken their previous company from $1m ARR to $20m ARR within two to three years – single-handedly and they’re looking for a new challenge – seriously.  I would be handcuffing them to the desk!  But no, they’re off looking for a new challenge. Being mindful of the 100% inability of the new employer to obtain proof of this amazing marketing feat! 

Job descriptions for marketers get ever longer and more detailed with all candidates presenting the most amazing year on year (YOY) growth they delivered for their previous employer.  The new employer accepts this ‘tale’ and has great expectations of the incumbent marketer.

What businesses fail to realise is that the average turnover per person per annum is approx. £120,000 or $140,000.  Take your annual turnover and divide by your total staff.  This figure has not changed for at least the past ten years. So, you really can take anything a market says with a pinch of salt. 

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7. Technology Stack Confusion

Unfortunately, because the tech stacks have become so large and convoluted and by design made to be perceived as being so complex, marketing departments have been placed in charge of all first contact, i.e., they control who the company talks to as BDRs or telesales, in many cases, report to marketing.  Even if they don’t, they whole company is being held to ransom by marketing out of desperation for new business.

This is one of the underlying reasons for the constant desire to embrace digital transformation as the business seemingly is underperforming and needs modernisation, however, the reality is, digital marketing is slowly destroying businesses from within, and it appears to be extremely subtle, simply because marketers infer they know all there is to know about digital marketing and digital engagement. 

Marketers are admin people!  They are not entrepreneurially creative individuals, they never were.  Do not confuse the creativity of graphic designers or T.V. advertising companies with B2B marketers.  Salespeople on the other hand can ‘apply’ entrepreneurially creative strategies to find new business.

Sales departments have been made impotent and if you want your business to succeed, it is important to see the ‘wood-for-the-trees’ and re-evaluate your new business generation strategies. The main marketing automation vendors are Marketo & Campaign Manager = Adobe, Eloqua = Oracle, Dynamics = Microsoft and Pardot = salesforce.

logo adobelogo oraclelogo microsoftlogo salesforce



Too often, enterprises buy tech from the mega vendors because they are pre-conditioned to do so. Again, is this a mindset issue?

Emma Sinclair MBE

www.erp.today/mindset-cheat-sheet

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8. Caveat Emptor - Buyer Beware!

Big Tech says businesses buy in a linear fashion, following down through a funnel – no we do not!  The crafty marketers now talk of The Dark Funnel and Dark Social’ Yes, seriously, Google it.  This proves they don’t know what they’re talking about. 


MarTech Process

 

dark funnel v2

dark funnel

dark social logo facebook
dark social logo instagram
dark social logo linkedIn
dark social logo twitter

 

We all buy in an almost chaotic way depending on a variety of influences and circumstances.

bouncing path2

Whole3

 

Big Tech says demand generation strategies will increase profitability – no it doesn’t

uk market

Marketing Automation SaaS does not deliver.  Businesses have never increased their profitability per person per annum for decades and sales are still processed 1:1.

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9. Automation & PPC (The Hidden Cost)

The reason why marketing automation fails for B2B is because content on your website is supposed to be crawled by search engine robots, but marketing automation hides the content and places it behind an email form to capture the prospects details.  Therefore, it will never appear on any page of Google rendering SEO useless - read our strategy here

This forces businesses to pay for Pay-Per-Click advertising that can only be marginally successful if: -

  • you have bid enough to appear on page one in the first place
  • your copywriting is appealing for the small advert space available and
  • you have created an engaging landing page to compel your prospect to enter their details

Additional factors are marketing departments have been given KPI’s to provide marketing qualified leads (MQL’s), yet leads, can only come from obtaining an email in the first place.  Also, if a prospect has been forced to enter a transaction simply to get hold of some content and it’s poor, they will immediately unsubscribe feeling they’ve been cheated.

The process becomes subjective if marketing determines if a MQL becomes a Sales Qualified Lead (SQL) and passed onto sales, if indeed they are sales qualified in the first place!  In many cases this fails as the prospect is often not ready to speak to anyone and is still one of the 83% of buyers who research digitally before speaking to or engaging with a salesperson.

And because of such consistent ambiguity with lead generation, B2B always revert to the 1:1 process because no one has the patience to monitor and adapt the content or processes to make it work.

Before embarking on a digital transformation project, you must commit to providing a seamless experience to your prospects who eventually will become customers.

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10. Creating Content is Priority

Obviously, you have your product(s) in place, the next stage is to create an abundance of content to serve the increasingly complex appetite of your audience, irrespective of the enquiry level, and to achieve this, a business has no choice but to provide articles, video, podcasts, live shows, and downloads etc. 

The reason you need such a diverse selection is that no one is psychic and can foretell what type of content a prospect likes and when or where they might engage with it.

Once you have your content in place, you must let prospects know what you’ve got and how your content can help them.  And to do that, the only answer is to create multiple adverts to sell the content that will ultimately sell your products.

This can be achieved by preparing short videos, GIF’s, Memes, and graphic adverts in advance and posting them multiple times a day and every day of the month and repeating the sequence every month for as long as you deem fit – on social media (not pay-per-click).  Click here to review our B2B only specialised social media promotion strategy called Social 444.

If businesses did this in advance of starting up and committing to leasing premises and employing staff, there would be far fewer failures as the business would know in advance how to attract customers.  Once you’ve found the right formula, you scale and grow.  Included in this formula is B2B Live Streaming which ensures the lowest cost of exposure to a total addressable marketing and engagement at scale.

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11. Understanding the Selling Engagement Process

With my sales hat on, your process must begin with F.A.B.Q.  Features, Attributes, Benefits, Questions.  What is it, what it does, what it means and what question does it answer.  Whilst you may well have built your business in this way, most do, your approach to new business generation needs to operate in reverse to this. 

Your prospects are asking questions about their businesses and your salespeople have been answering these questions for years.  They tell their prospects the benefits of your product, which in turn leads to talking about the functionality of a solution which finally leads to discussing the features of your product. And if things are equal, your salespeople will clarify your product answers all their questions and should therefore ask for the order.

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12. Review Your Current Position

As you’re already in business and perhaps don’t have the luxury of taking your time, the solution is to build your new content strategy in parallel to your existing operation.  Over time, digital exposure and engagement will increase and the more costly 1:1 sales approach can decrease as you become more effective and profitable and able to sell one-to-many.

All departments in your business need to grasp how transforming your business processes to a digital model is the only sustainable long-term option for the future to reach more prospects and customers than you have in the past.

Now you know why and how to achieve true digital transformation.  Start with looking at sales and working backwards, then understand attraction and with a bit of trial and error, you’ll get there. I read an interesting article by Brent Adamson formerly a Senior VP of Gartner and penned a response called ‘Is the Decline of Sales & Marketing Finally Being Noticed' also referencing digital transformation and the overall impact marketing is having on new business generation.

Naturally, if your legacy infrastructure can benefit from a low-code platform as a service (PaaS) or SaaS solution then you will of course go ahead with it.  But you can be confident and assured that you do not need the digital transformation process to supplement or augment your sales and marketing.

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13. Key Takeaways

  1. Understanding the digital transformation landscape in B2B is crucial for success.
  2. Implementing a diverse content strategy helps cater to different audience preferences.
  3. Approaching the selling engagement process in reverse can improve prospect engagement.
  4. Assessing your current position and adapting your strategies are essential for growth.
  5. Fostering a digital-first mindset across the organization ensures a unified approach to transformation.
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14. Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q: What is digital transformation in the B2B context?

A: Digital transformation in the B2B context refers to the integration of digital technologies and processes within sales, marketing, and operations to improve efficiency, customer engagement, and overall business performance.

Q: Why is a diverse content strategy important?

A: A diverse content strategy is important because it caters to different audience preferences and consumption habits, ensuring that you engage and nurture prospects at various stages of their buyer journey.

Q: How can we approach the selling engagement process in reverse?

A: Approaching the selling engagement process in reverse means starting with understanding prospects' questions and needs, then presenting the benefits, functionality, and features of your product to address their concerns.

Q: How can an organization foster a digital-first mindset?

A: Fostering a digital-first mindset involves promoting a culture of continuous learning, encouraging collaboration between departments, and providing the necessary training and resources for employees to succeed in the digital landscape.

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15. Conclusion

If you’re looking at digital transformation, there are probably many good reasons to go ahead with one solution or another.  However, please don’t make the mistake of opting for a costly solution without having first evaluated the different options related to significantly increasing your income without any need or involvement with digital transformation.

Marketing technology and the poor understanding of how B2B digital selling and digital marketing should be implemented and managed has meant that, whilst not completely amateur, the marketing operators are continuing unchallenged and are forcing a ceiling on turnover.  Yet this is not the case for Amazon $300k pppa.  Microsoft $1m pppa and Google at $2m pppa.   I suspect there are many other companies out there do more than $140k pppa, but they are not the market I’m addressing.

I hope this helps with your own digital transformation.

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Go to our Digital Selling pages to see how you can change the way you work and scale up your business.

30 April 2024

How to Master B2B Growth using Digital Selling Techniques

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Author

The author and founder of salesXchange, Nigel Maine is a B2B marketing and sales expert with a proven track record in scaling up growth for Technology, SaaS, and Professional Services organisations. With 30 years hands-on experience and unique approach, Nigel has developed an effective strategy that dramatically increases exposure and profitability for B2B organizations.

Nigel has founded multiple start-ups, is a published author, public speaker and hosts both a podcast and business live streaming show, broadcast on LinkedIn Live, YouTube & Facebook. He also has extensive knowledge of MarTech software, creative hardware and software, and A.I. prompting tools.  Contact: 0800 970 9751 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.