4 Simple Steps for Starting a Business Blog: A Beginner’s Guide

4 Simple Steps for Starting a Business Blog: A Beginner’s Guide

Nearly half of B2B buyers read 3-5 pieces of content before engaging with any salesperson. If you are a B2B technology or computing company, for instance, around 63% of articles in your industry are found and read through Google searches. Depending purely on social media to tell your story is not sufficient as organic searches overtake social media for website referrals. One common way for your potential buyer to find and learn about your business is through content marketing. Therefore, you might consider starting a business blog.

Starting a Business Blog, Step 1: Setting Goals

Starting a business blog YO! Marketing

Step 1: Setting Goals

Before starting a business blog, you must decide what your goals are. Goals differ from business to business so it is important you take time to:

  1. Establish your goals
  2. Identify ways to measure progress towards your goals
  3. Review your goals in case they need to change

Establish your goals

The ultimate goal of blogging is usually to attract new customers. But you must break down your goal into actionable chunks to allow you focus on creating content that meets specific needs. For instance, you might want to establish yourself as a thought leader in your target market. This goal makes sense if you are new on the scene and you have other competitors offering similar products or services.

RELATED CONTENT: How to write a marketing plan

A follow-on goal could be to build an email list of people who are interested in your services. Remember people read many things you have written before signing up for anything. Therefore, showcasing your knowledge through thought leadership is the place to start.

Measure your progress

How will you know whether you’re achieving your goal? If you are building your personal brand as a thought leader, you could measure how many followers you have each month. While it is great to see your follower count increase, don’t get fixated on it. It is more about the quality of your network. Invest in your online relationships by creating content that starts conversations. Get involved in those conversations and reach out via email if appropriate. Other measurements might include webpage traffic, number of likes, number of downloads and shares.

Review your goals

Starting a business blog with specific goals in mind is a great way to focus your efforts. However, things change. If you find that your business has changed or the feedback you receive from customers is not quite what you expected, it’s reasonable to review what you are doing. A Tel Aviv-based B2B marketing agency had to review their content marketing strategy after they discovered that they were being investigated for spam. They started tracking and evaluating everything they were doing including:

  1. Links in their content
  2. Which piece of their content linked to
  3. Groups where they posted content
  4. Who’s the buyer persona we’re addressing
  5. Actual post copy
  6. Which buyer personas each content addressed
  7. Feedback from their target buyer personas

They looked at a few other things but the above shows a thorough review, which led to positive changes in their goals and strategy.

Starting a Business Blog, Step 2: Identify Whom

Starting a business blog YO! Marketing

Step 2: Identify Whom

Identifying why you are writing is great but it is arguably more important to know who you are writing for. Developing buyer personas will help you to create focused and relevant content. If your buyer is an Operations Manager with an objective to maintain staff morale while cutting costs, you can start creating articles that will resonate with that buyer. Every buyer has a different set of challenges so you must segment your content accordingly. Consider using categories and tags to do this. For instance, you might have content about time management hacks, improving staff retention and a separate category for the most effective team collaboration apps. When identifying who you are writing for, consider:

  1. Job responsibility
  2. Greatest challenges

Job responsibility

When developing your buyer’s persona, you must understand what your target buyer is responsible for and what he is accountable for. Write a rough outline of what his or her job description is likely to be. Note key responsibilities. For example:

  • Can he/she make buying decisions?
  • Do he/she have a budget?
  • How big is that budget?
  • Is there a team reporting to him/her?

These sort of questions allow you to better understand the motivations and likely goals of your target buyer. There are several great buyer persona templates on the web like this one on the Alexa Blog.

Greatest challenges

Every job has challenges. To catch your target buyer’s attention, you should offer solutions to their greatest challenges. Now that you understand their job role, you can stand in their shoes and identify the likely challenges that they face. One way to do this is to make a list of all the tasks that are involved in their role. Then against each task, add a measure of performance. Ask yourself: What obstacles would stand in the way of performing well on this measure. You might need to speak to current or previous customers to develop a comprehensive list.

For instance, a Marketing Manager could be tasked with increasing brand awareness for his or her employer. How will the employer know that brand awareness has improved? Perhaps they measure web traffic, time on a web page and the number of followers they have on Twitter. What is likely to make it difficult to achieve good quality web traffic? Poor content, no content or misleading content. Now you can start to provide potential solutions…

Starting a Business Blog, Step 3: Be Practical

Starting a business blog YO! Marketing

Step 3: Be Practical

The most valuable content is always practical and actionable. Valuable content leaves you with at least one thing you can do straight away. Therefore, your readers will be more inclined to tell others about your article. Some ways to create highly valuable content is to:

  1. Answer burning questions
  2. Share interesting/alarming stats about your industry
  3. Create a guide for a beginner or an ultimate guide with more in-depth content for advanced learners

Answer burning questions

There are some great places on the web to find questions that people want answers to. Check out RedditQuora.com and AnswerThePublic.com, for instance. Your customers are also a good source of questions. Also, talk to your customer service team to create a list of frequently asked questions that you can address through your blog posts.

Another approach is to follow popular comment threads in your industry to see what people are saying. This will give you an idea of what is topical. It gives you an opportunity to write content that showcases your knowledge and answers today’s burning questions.

Share interesting/alarming stats

Much like how I started this blog post, stating stats is a powerful way of drawing people in to read your content. Depending on your industry, there are likely to be a worth of resources for trends, stats and case studies that you could use. I often use MarketingCharts.com and WordStream.com. Articles in Entrepreneur.com and Forbes.com tend to include stats. You can follow the links to those stats and find the original report.

Create a guide

I love it when I’m looking for advice on how to do something and I find not just a blog post, but a GUIDE. It’s like, “Wow! All my prayers are answered!” A guide is not just about blogging, it’s about creating lead magnets. Lead magnets are content that your readers are willing to give their email address in exchange for access. They are usually more than a 500-word blog and include more detailed information. Popular guides are how-tos, checklists and cheat sheets. You can also create a guide from a series of blog posts. For instance, if you’ve written a few blogs on start-ups hiring their first employees, you could create a kind of compendium for start-up founders. Designrr is a great tool for turning blogs into e-book guides.

Starting a Business Blog, Step 4: Share Online

Starting a business blog YO! Marketing

Step 4: Share Online

The distribution side of blogging is often forgotten. If you write a blog post on your website, it is not automatically found and read. You will start to get organic readership through online searches but that will take time. A new blog needs lots of exposure and that’s where sharing comes in. Here are some channels to consider before starting a business blog:

  • Social media
  • Email marketing
  • Influencer marketing
  • Online groups and forums

Let’s briefly go through each of these.

Social media

Part of setting goals and identifying your audience includes knowing which social media platforms are relevant to engagement. Don’t try to be everywhere. If you are just starting a business blog, pick 1-2 social media platforms and build an audience there. Follow influencers and engage in conversations.

Email marketing

When people start to sign up to hear from you, that’s a big deal! Email marketing allows you to make direct contact with someone who you already know is interested in what you do. You may build this list from online sign-up forms or from your own list of contacts if you’re starting from scratch. Start somewhere by emailing your blog posts to your contacts. And remember to ask them to share.

Influencer marketing

This type of marketing focuses on influencers rather a target customer. To use influencer marketing, you must identify people that might have an influence over your potential customers. These people usually have a passion for sharing content. Direct your content to them and get them to share your content. Influencer marketing platforms such as Mavrck and Social Bakers are good places to get started.

Online groups and forums

If you create content for a niche audience, online forums are your best friend. You can answer questions with your content and explore the real challenges for people in your industry. Over time, you will be known as a thought leader in your area of choice. This is a great way to build an audience for not just your business blog but for your personal brand too.

Have you recently started a business blog? What is working for you? What isn’t going quite as you thought it would?

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How to use storytelling in your business writing

How to use storytelling in your business writing

When was the last time you engaged and became persuaded by a set of bullet points?

One reason you may not have been persuaded (apart from the potential for boredom) is that our brains are not built to retain information that is set out as bullet points on a slide. In fact, bullet points are the least effective way of sharing ideas.

This explains why Amazon’s CEO, Jeff Bezos repeated his ban of Powerpoint in his 2018 annual letter.

“I’m actually a fan of anecdotes in business”

Jeff Bezos

Neuroscientists have found that the fastest way to share ideas in business is through stories – particularly ones that trigger emotions.

The narrative structure of stories is more impactful than bullet points on PowerPoint, our brains are wired for narratives such as storytelling.

Other studies have proven that social storytelling is responsible for more than 65% of conversations had in public. It, therefore, makes sense that when you write content for your business, you’ll get more online engagement if you tell stories about your brand. Storytelling is a great way to keep your online messages consistent throughout your website, social media and blogs.

So why do we try to sell our vision and spread ideas through bullet points? It isn’t very inspiring.

Here are four storytelling ideas for creating content for your business:

Storytelling: Customer stories & anecdotes

storytelling - YO! Marketing

Through Your Customers’ Eyes: Customer Stories & Anecdotes

Jeff Bezos notes that when the anecdotes and metrics (data) disagree, the anecdotes are usually right.

Customer stories are a credible way of demonstrating your expertise as a business. Ask customers about how they came to use your product and/or service. What did they try before and how did it feel to work with your company? Document the customer’s journey from finding out about your product/service to getting real outcomes from their interaction with you. It could be rags-to-riches, which develops an instant rapport with your readers and is inspiring.

Storytelling: Pictures, Videos, Action

storytelling - YO! Marketing

A Picture Tells A Thousand Words: Use Images, Videos & Action

Neuroscientists have proved that we recall things better when we see pictures compared to when we read text on a slide.

According to a report by Social Media Examiner, 74% of marketers are using visual assets. Visual marketing can help you tell a consistent story with every image, matching with your brand style. Also use video when possible, with eye-catching shots and engaging conversations by staff, suppliers and customers.

Storytelling: Analogies & Metaphors

storytelling - YO! Marketing

Get Creative: Use Analogies & Metaphors

As a child growing up in Africa, I was told many stories about the tortoise, the hare and the elephant. There were always lessons in those stories – lessons about the world, manners and good character.

Stories are not just for children and young adults. A great story teaches, inspires and engages. Try using analogies and metaphors to convey your idea to your readers. I once used the analogy of a duck on the water to describe the ease of using a certain software. The duck represented the simplicity and slickness of use while the duck’s feet pedalling like mad in water represented the robustness and accuracy of the algorithm behind the software. It worked very well in conveying a distinct competitive advantage.

Storytelling: Fictional Characters, Buyer Personas

storytelling - YO! Marketing

Show You Understand: Use Fictional Characters & Buyer Personas

One of the coolest ways to engage your target audience is to show them you know what is it like to be them.

In a recent video, I used a fictional company to show how B2B companies struggle with internal and external alignment. This video was based on buyer personas, created from years of experience dealing with marketing, sales and engineering teams in medium to large technical industries. Sometimes, they fail to understand their competitive environment well enough to create a unique competitive advantage. The video illustrated an understanding of that misalignment and proposed a solution.


Are there any other types of stories you can tell about your business? Tell us in the comments and share this blog with your network!
11 Ways to Improve Your Email Open Rates [Focus: B2B]

11 Ways to Improve Your Email Open Rates [Focus: B2B]

 

The past few months have brought some anxiety about GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation), which comes into force from May 25th. We are yet to see the impact that it will have on email marketing, for instance. Some consequences will be the reduction in email lists and a change in how companies ask for and store email addresses. Our hope is that companies continue to use email marketing as a key channel to reach, inform, educate and engage target audiences.

Compared to Facebook or LinkedIn, email marketing is a particularly profitable channel as you can reach customers who have already indicated interest in your product or service. According to the DMA’s Marketer Email Tracker 2018 report, ROI for email increased from £30.03 for every £1 spent in 2016 to £32.28 in 2017. Therefore, email marketing should be part of your overall marketing plan. In this blog post, we will outline how you can continue to use email marketing effectively, and even increase email open rates with your opt-in lists.

 

Factors Affecting Average Email Open Rates

First, let’s define Email Open Rates. Email open rates are the % measure of how many email recipients opened your email during a particular email campaign. Email marketing platforms such as MailChimp and Mailjet will give you an open rate for each campaign and also an average contact score for each person on your email lists. Your email open rate depends on many factors. Some factors are:

  • Industry
  • Demographics
  • Geography
  • The content of your email
  • The headline of your email

In 2017, the average email open rate across all industries was 24.7%. The highest email open rates are in Government (44.99%), Legal/Accounting (36.43%) Public Relations (30.15%) and Non-Profits (30.02%) [Source: SmartInsights]

We generally aim for 25% or higher but if you have open rates that are lower than this, don’t worry too much. As noted above, there are other factors out of your control that could affect your open rates. For instance, the UK has one of the lowest email open rates at 13%, while Denmark has one of the highest at 31%. The important thing is that your email campaign achieves the results you want. That could be sales, engagement or simply raising awareness of your company’s activities.

When it comes to technical B2B markets, where there is usually more complex content and perhaps less marketing know-how, we see low to average email open rates. For instance, Engineering/Manufacturing have an open rate of 21.28% and IT see 26.69% of their emails opened by recipients.

How to improve your email open rates

We’ve touched on a few factors that affect how many recipients open your emails. The reason we want people to open our emails is that we want them to take an action. That action could be to click on a link or offer (we will discuss click-through-rates (aka CTR) in a separate blog). First and foremost, we need to understand the audience that we are trying to reach.

Run some tests

The best way to understand your audience is to run tests. A recent study by the DMA reveals that 47% of companies test under a quarter of their emails. 15% don’t do any testing at all. You could run tests on several aspects of your email. For instance, split your email list and send out identical emails but with a slightly different email headline or call to action. Don’t change more than one thing per test otherwise you won’t know which attribute made impact on your email open rate. Make your opening engaging and personal, then test away!

Write to a specific person

When you send out your emails, write them as if you are addressing one person. Use your recipient’s first name in your opening (add <<First Name>> tag). In the body of the email, use ‘You’ and ‘Your’ when possible. For instance, if you are referring to the recipient’s team, write “your team” instead of “the team”. Familiarity and an active tone are likely to draw in your reader. If you have understood your target audience, you will use words and phrases that engage them and ultimately moves them to take action.

email open rates YO! Marketing Yekemi Otaru

Provide relevant content

Have an email marketing content strategy before you start sending out emails. Your strategy must consider your target audiences’ needs and the kind of content that they are likely to engage with. If your email recipients know that your emails will contain useful and actionable information, they will look forward to it and engage with it. Sending predominantly sales-y emails or irrelevant content or content that they can get elsewhere will result in low open rates.

Avoid words/phrases that scream “Spam”

Many email filters flag up emails that have words and phrases like “discount”, “offer”, “xx% off”, “sale” and “promotion”. Avoid using these words in your emails. Also, do not use all caps in your subject line or inside the body of your emails. If your email appears suspicious, your recipient’s email filter will put your email in the spam folder. Keep your email informative and relevant. Limit the number of links to ensure that your email is safe to open.

Send it from a person rather than from a company

Your emails are likely to get a higher open rate if they come from a person rather than from a company. Some email filters mark emails as “promotional” if they come from a company. For small businesses and startups, it is easy to send your email from your company founder or the marketing director, for instance. You will increase engagement and open rates if your recipients feel that your email is personal. Sign off with your first name – it’s a nice touch!

Ensure your subscribers have opted-in

The new GDPR (General Data Protection Regulations) rules are topical as the deadline looms. Under GDPR, you must update your privacy policy to include more information about what you will do with your recipients’ personal data. Email addresses on your list must come from people who know that they are on your list and have given you their details either by filling out a form, becoming your customer or a supplier. There are several aspects to GDPR, which we will not go into in this blog. What we will say is that sending emails to people who did not opt-in will not only lower your email open rates, it will also put you in breach of GDPR.

Best days and times

Some research shows that the best day to send emails is Tuesdays if you want a higher open rate (>19.9%). But Fridays seem to get the highest click-through rate (>4.9%). Avoid sending business-related emails on the weekend or late in the evening. We have found that the best time of day is between 6 am and 10 am to get the most engagement from our email list. But don’t take our word for it! Try sending your emails at different times and days, see what works for your target audience.

Segment your email list

You might have a list of 500 subscribers. Do you send all of them the same emails? If so, you should segment your list and send them only what they are interested in. If you are an IT company, you could have an email segment for IT managers (i.e. decision-makers) and a separate one for IT users (i.e. not decision-makers). IT managers might want to read about cost-efficiency and tips for user adoption to technology. IT users would be more interested in shortcuts to make them more productive in their day-to-day work. When you keep the email relevant, you will see your email open rates increase.

Reward your top contacts

Most email marketing tools will score the people on your email list. Contacts who regularly open your emails will get a 4 or 5 star while those that open your emails occasionally or never open them will receive a 1 or 2 star. Try to offer rewards to your best contacts. For instance, offer an exclusive gift to them or invite them to a preferred contact event. Building a strong relationship with your best contacts will make them even more likely to open your email. Occasionally sending emails only to this group will significantly improve your email open rates.

Content structure: Simple/Complex

One challenge for email marketing is to stand out within an increasingly cluttered mailbox. Companies are finding that their subject lines and content are simply not attracting the attention of their audience. Consider having very brief initial descriptions, coupled with a very clear call-to-action. This is perfect for subscribers who quickly skim their emails. Try short content e.g. an email with just one link to a piece of content.  Then try adding videos and more content to test how your email recipients engage with multiple pieces of content. Remember: fewer links are better.

Optimise for mobile

55% of emails were opened on mobile devices from May 2016 to April 2017 – up from just 29% in 2012 [Source: B2B Marketing]. Therefore, it is crucial that you optimise your emails for mobile. Some quick things you can do are to shrink your images and enlarge the font on the page. Remember that mobile devices automatically flip the orientation of the screen so your email should look good in portrait and landscape formats. One way to optimise for this is to use a single column layout. If you are not optimising for mobile, your email open rates are probably much lower than what they could be.

Have we missed a tip? Share your best email marketing strategies with us! And please use the buttons at the top to this blog to share with others!

How Business Development and Marketing Work Together

How Business Development and Marketing Work Together

I’ve been called many things in my 13-year career including Technical Sales Engineer, Business Development Executive and Marketing Manager. I suppose there are worse things to be called. Each role felt the same at times, the same purpose dressed up in a buzzword job title. Now that I run my own marketing consultancy, I get to work with talented business development professionals and it is clear to me that business development and marketing are different but must work together to achieve business goals. How can these roles work together and achieve business growth for their organisation or client?

When some people think about marketing, they imagine brochures, logos, matching colour schemes and perhaps promotional goods and beautiful websites. This is all important for supporting a business. However, marketing goes much further than that. I’ll come to how in a moment.

Business Development and Marketing in Sync

Let’s first examine the role of business development (BD). BD is about working on the front line of client relationships. The main aim of the role is to cultivate relationships for the long-term, creating sustainable business growth.

That’s how I see it. Coming back to the essence of marketing, I’d argue that that’s my aim too – to help businesses grow. But I do it differently from my business development colleagues. I push out well-crafted messages through relevant channels. They ensure that the fruits of that effort are nurtured and nourished for the long-term. I cannot live without their follow-through and they cannot live without my seed planting.

Business Development and Marketing Enrich Your Buyers’ Journey

My favourite way to break down the stages of the Marketing-BD collaboration is using the funnel approach. We have Awareness (top of the funnel), Consideration (middle of the funnel) and Decision (bottom of the funnel). Here’s an infographic to summarise the customer’s journey through the funnel:

business development and marketing YO! Marketing buyer's stages infographic

This approach is used by companies like HubSpot and is commonly referred to as inbound marketing.

Let’s look at how BD and Marketing work together throughout the funnel.

Funnel Stage Marketing Business Development
Awareness Define ideal customer profiles

 

Develop the value proposition for each customer group

Create a list of potential customers based on the profile

 

 

Make an initial introduction to customers that fit the profile

Consideration Publish content on industry best practices

 

Perform competitor analysis to understand potential customers’ options

 

Create lead magnets as part of an email marketing strategy

Deepen relationships with new contacts via networking

 

Ensure relevant compliance requirements are in place

 

Create a customer engagement strategy and a process for maintaining existing relationships

Decision Schedule demos

 

Set up webinars and free trials

 

Create and share case studies

 

Develop a program of regular interaction with the customer via relevant content and customer events

Set customer’s expectations

 

Ask questions about product and services and next steps

 

Handover to the sales team to close the deal

 

Identify future opportunities for upselling

 

Benefits of Business Development and Marketing Working Together

Considering that 67% of the buyer’s journey is complete before a buyer even reaches out to a salesperson, it is more important than ever that sales, marketing and business development work closely behind the scenes to facilitate this journey. The advantages of working through the process together are that you:

  • Know who your customer is (hint: it is NOT “everybody”)
  • Go from a general description of your customer (macro-view) to a list of specific companies (micro-view) that you want to engage with
  • Add value to potential customers before they even ask for information (or realise they need you
  • Ensure you have what it takes to do business with your potential customer before you go in for the deal
  • Have a clear strategy for interacting with and informing your target customers of what you do
  • Meet your potential customers face-to-face, not just online thanks to strategically selected events and networking opportunities
  • Build trust by ensuring that all teams are aligned with your messaging and what the customer can expect from your business
  • Have the best people from each role guiding your potential customer from start to finish

It is a pleasure when I see this collaboration across teams, it allows the business work smarter (and not harder) to achieve business growth. I call it nothing short of amazing!

Download our Marketing Planning Template

This blog was originally published on the Sarah Downs Ltd blog on 28 February 2018

Marketing Proposals: 10 Reasons Why We’re Using Bidsketch

Marketing Proposals: 10 Reasons Why We’re Using Bidsketch

Like most new businesses, we struggled to get the right tools in place. We used Excel to track revenue, clients and projects. When it came to proposals, a Microsoft Word template was all we had. But we have now found better, more efficient ways. Bidsketch is a proposal writing platform that cuts the time and effort it takes to write proposals. We tried it for recent marketing proposals and we have to say we are hooked.

It’s amazing how much time you could spend doing admin in a small business. Yes, admin is important. It supports the overall business and keeps you right. But it takes up valuable time that we could spend on business development, strategy and delivering high-quality client work.

At YO! Marketing, we realised that we needed better tools once we started to grow. That’s why we took a trial version of Bidsketch a few weeks ago. We used it to write one of our most important marketing proposals yet – a high-value project that we wanted to add to our growing portfolio of content marketing gigs.

YO! Marketing proposals bidsketch

Here are 10 things we love about using Bidsketch for YO! Marketing proposals:
  1. It is easy to start a free trial – just one click and you are all set
  2. You get a customised domain – ours is https://yomarketing.bidsketch.com. You can customise it further if you wish!
  3. There are built-in templates that cover various types of proposals such as content marketing, social media management, project management, IT consulting, mobile app development etc
  4. The templates are customisable so you can add and remove sections depending on your project needs
  5. Your marketing proposal contains sections where you can sell the value of the project and your team Bidsketch YO! Marketing proposals quote by Yekemi Otaru
  6. There is existing text in each section that provides inspiration for you to create your own text. For instance, the value of the project is a key section where you need to think about why your potential client should consider such a project in the first place
  7. Our favourite feature is probably how Bidsketch allows you to break down the client fees in our marketing proposals. We itemise each work task and define them as one-time fees, monthly fees or yearly fees. You can also add optional add-ons separately. This is hugely valuable for us as we always want to be completely transparent so that there are no hidden fees. Our proposals provide the whole picture of what our clients could get depending on their budget
  8.  You can add your own logo to the proposal as well as an image on the cover page. Therefore, our marketing proposals have our brand and feel like us!
  9. Once you’re done, you can simply send the proposal to your client within Bidsketch. Within Bidsketch, you can see when the client has viewed the proposal and how long they viewed it – cool, eh?
  10. And finally, there are a number of actions the client can take via the Bidsketch link. The client can accept the proposal or request changes/revisions

For our proposal, we often make changes based on client requests. It was easy to do this within Bidsketch and resend the proposal to the client

We not only cut proposal writing time but we could be really clear about the project scope. We love how easy it is to present our clients with high-quality proposals that communicate our expertise and the impact that the project will have on their business.

A couple of things that we would like to see in Bidsketch:
  1. Incorporating our brand colours and preferred fonts
  2. Adding more information about the client e.g. industry, location and key contacts

Overall, we love Bidsketch! We have incorporated it into our process and we know that can upgrade as our team grows. Thank you, Bidsketch for giving us our YO time back – whew!

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B2B Digital Transformation: Best Practices in Sales & Marketing Teams

B2B Digital Transformation: Best Practices in Sales & Marketing Teams

For a recent Forrester report on the B2B digital transformation, the team interviewed senior execs from global corporation giants GE, IBM and Cisco Systems. The report highlights key themes arising from the move to align sales teams with the new reality of the digital world.

Why B2B Digital Transformation?

B2B digital transformation is driven from the buyer’s side as companies seek to attract digital buyers. Previous articles suggest that the root cause of sales and marketing misalignment is a lack of understanding of the buyer. Some practitioners explain that closer alignment between sales and marketing could even shorten sales cycles.

Therefore, global leaders like GE, Cisco and IBM have taken steps to reevaluate sales and marketing strategies and to enable new ways of empowering direct sales teams. Part of the reevaluation is a digital transformation. According to the Forrester report, key areas of best practices are experimentation, collaboration and innovation. Similar practices apply to any change management programme including social media and technology adoption.

BOOK: The Smart Sceptic’s Guide to Social Media in Organisation

In this blog post, I will summarise the three case studies: GE, Cisco and IBM to draw out key insights.

Cisco: B2B Digital Transformation through Collaborative Innovation

Cisco aims to tie innovation to business outcomes and to de-fragment pockets of innovation throughout the business. The goals are:

  • Meet customers where they are
  • Reach new markets more efficiently
  • Give sales teams more time for actual selling activities

Focusing on innovation and collaboration, Cisco executed its B2B digital transformation as follows:

  • They built and piloted new tools, managing the innovation from incubation to scale. The new tools were based on increased efficiency and higher quality interactions with potential and existing buyers.
  • They established collaboration and shared goals between sales and marketing. For instance, they paired marketing’s sentiment data with sales data. These create insights that tie to opportunities for the organisation.

GE: B2B Digital Transformation through Centralised Innovation

GE is a complex, matrix organisation with several products being sold across different divisions. Therefore, the emphasis for the industrial giant are:

  • Centralise new technologies
  • Form new collaboration partnerships across the divisions
  • Reduce sales cycles by 50%

Some of the positive benefits of executing the initiative were that:

  • Centralising enables scaling of technology. For instance, it allows the reuse and recycling of successful tools and processes. It also provides a 360 degree view of interactions at all levels across the organisation, hence increasing collaboration on opportunities.
  • Collaboration enables sales to respond to customers 50% faster. For instance, GE built an app to reduce time that sales teams spend addressing forecast questions. Salespeople can input information on the fly through voice text solutions. Overall, GE’s sales teams are spending more time on customer-facing selling activities.

IBM: B2B Digital Transformation through Data-Driven Sales Innovation

IBM saw significant incremental sales revenue from putting data scientists in sales teams rather than at corporate level. The success from leveraging data science can be attributed to:

  • Making data scientists part of the sales team. The organisation developed deeper understanding of buyers due to a more scientific approach. For instance, salespeople could differentiate between a motivated buyer and a latent buyer. Also, the teams could more accurately assign sales cycles and measure the impact of new tools and tactics.
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Conclusion

  • Identify pockets of innovation in the sales team then empower salespeople who already have digital affinity to test new approaches. This drives a culture of innovation starting with early adopters.
  • Seek out tools that increase efficiency in the sales team, enable more personalised engagement and provide rich buyer/seller/relationship analytics.
  • Have at least one data scientist that aligns with sales.

To read the full report, contact Mary Shea, PhD or visit Forrester.com

Feature Photo by Joshua Earle on Unsplash

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