The following is features topics from the September 17, 2020 webinar.
In 2018, a Wall Street Journal editorial declared that “Every company is now a tech company.” Since then, the term digital transformation has become the catch-all phrase for a company’s plans to apply advanced technologies like mobile, cloud, and AI to their core processes to make them more efficient, flexible, and innovative.
With the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic, the push toward digital transformation became even more urgent. As the folks at McKinsey put it: “Businesses that once mapped digital strategy in one- to three-year phases must now scale their initiatives in a matter of days or weeks.” Virtually overnight, organizations had to reinvent the way they do business and refashion their strategies and processes for digital engagement—including the way they market to prospects and customers. Whether they wanted to or not, marketing departments are now doubling down on digital.
A sudden shift in priorities—and budgets
Even before the pandemic, marketing was evolving quickly in the area of digital engagement. SEO optimization, blogging and content marketing, email campaigns, video, social media—they all played a prominent role in marketing strategy. Now, they’re mission-critical, given that digital is the primary—and in many cases, only—way to engage prospects. The shifts in marketing spend illustrate this significant change in priorities. For example, despite the economic headwinds, U.S. B2B marketers are expected to spend $8.14 billion on digital ads this year, up 22.6% from 2019—partly due to the shift away from in-person events.
Maintaining quality connections
So, what do marketers need to keep in mind as they double down on digital engagement? One of the things at the top of the list is the quality of the customer experience. Some 75% of consumers say they expect consistent interactions across all departments of an enterprise they do business with, but 58% say that they feel like they’re communicating with separate departments and not one company. Marketers play a significant role in ensuring that the brand experience they create translates into a consistent ongoing experience as the customer moves through the sales cycle and beyond. A reliable, relevant experience is more than a nice-to-have. One study found that 84% of customers say that the experience a company provides is as important as its products and services.
A new way of listening
Improving the way we listen to customers is another critical element of doubling down on digital. Customers are hungry for authentic, personalized connections with brands, and creating those connections requires listening to and understanding customer needs and motivations. How do we do it in a digital world? Social media is one area. In one survey, 79% of marketers reported that social media is their most important channel. Customers and prospects aren’t shy about voicing their opinions. Marketers simply need to tune in more and make sure they respond. Artificial intelligence offers another way to get the pulse of the customer—and more marketers are discovering its value. Some 84% of marketers report using AI in 2020, up from 29% in 2018. AI can help you spot trends and anticipate customer needs that may not be obvious from raw data alone — or even from what customers tell you directly via social media.
Digitizing the entire engagement cycle
Finally, even in a digital world, the bottom line is still the bottom line. One of the timeless, iron-clad rules of business success is to always be ready to accept the customer’s money. Digitizing the customer experience includes digitizing transactions, whatever form they take. B2B marketers and sales teams need to follow the lead of the real estate industry, which is pioneering a digital closing experience. Even in an industry known for face-to-face engagement and doing business with a handshake, innovative organizations are reinventing how they do business and drive revenue.
By doubling down on digital, marketers have accelerated the pace of a journey they started long ago. The challenge will be to maintain the authentic, human connections that customers value as we rely more on advanced technologies to help us find and connect with audiences in fundamentally new ways.
Archived webinar description is available here.