How digital transformation is stamping out passé B2B sales techniques
Dave Jones of agency True argues that a new era marks the end of the old B2B boys’ club.
Digital transformation is breathing new life into niche industries / Mathew Schwartz
As marketing press and LinkedIn feeds fill with increasingly imaginative uses of ChatGPT and generative AI, you could be forgiven for thinking that the idea of digital transformation is a little dated.
But escape the myopic buzz of adland and you’ll find whole sections of the economy that are embarking on their journey toward digital transformation.
In the world of business-to-business marketing in particular, a combination of lengthy sales cycles, complicated purchasing processes and a focus on long-running client relationships have insulated many organizations from the wave of disruption that has reshaped most consumer markets.
But across several recent projects in our work at True, we are seeing something interesting.
A new breed of marketers and entrepreneurs are going into some of the most niche B2B industries and finding opportunities for disruption.
Implementing modern approaches to customer experiences, digital communications and platforms is giving them an edge. In even the most unlikely and old-school sectors, innovation is flourishing.
Take recruitment, a growing industry with a difficult reputation and – traditionally, at least – a reliance on face-to-face relationships and occasionally overly pushy salespeople.
But forward-thinking clients are starting to change all that. They understand that they can generate just as much value for clients by sharing market insight around pay, conditions and employee engagement as they can through their network of contacts and candidates.
If you can make those insights available through an online portal or smartphone app, all the better.
They are also investing in digital onboarding journeys that use facial recognition technology to ensure that their clients comply with government right-to-work legislation.
Not only does this speed up and simplify the onboarding process for the candidate, but gives peace of mind to clients who need assurance that their new employees or contractors really are who they say they are.
Or look at Independent Financial Advisors, a group more associated with provincial golf courses than cutting-edge technology.
Since Covid, we have seen a growing desire amongst younger IFAs to adopt more technologically sophisticated ways of working.
They are rolling out mobile apps that allow clients to check their portfolios when it suits them. They are using digital signature tools to speed up lengthy approval processes and introducing marketing automation software to send emails that help clients navigate key moments in the financial year.
They no longer see these as nice-to-have activities but as a core part of the service that their clients are coming to expect. As time goes on, you can be sure the market share of this new breed will grow.
Brands selling into the mining, shipping or heavy-lifting industries might be the last place you would expect to see the digitization of marketing processes.
Like many niche B2B sectors, the market is made up of small, tightly connected groups of buyers, often with years of experience and specialist knowledge.
That can lead to an idle mindset amongst salespeople, with a black book full of contacts, as to thinking: why bother with digital marketing or pushing an online presence?
But as all kinds of heavy industry come under increasing pressure to behave in more environmentally sustainable ways, decision-makers are evaluating suppliers and partners against new criteria.
Buyers are turning to search engines to do their homework, increasing the need for marketers to consider SEO, PPC and content marketing strategies, where previously they could have relied on stands and conferences and salespeople armed with PowerPoint presentations and print collateral.
The truth is that whichever niche sector you operate in, your customers are used to the modern digital experiences now provided by their bank, retailer, telecoms or entertainment brands.
Their expectations are formed by their experiences of consumer products and services and, in their role as a B2B customer, they are more likely to choose those brands that best live up to them.
Being a B2B business or operating in a niche sector is no longer an excuse for old-fashioned processes and customers’ experiences. The rewards are there for those willing to innovate.
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19 years ago true was founded with the aim of being different; straight-talking, to the point, focussed on delivering long-term growth, not through chat, but through action. Creating work that was true to our clients’ needs, true to their customers’ needs and true to our own expectations.Find out more