Business Strategy in a Digital Marketing World

The future of business is digital, so when business leaders start to formulate a business strategy they need to understand that customers, products, business operations and competitors are now digital. Is business strategy being replaced with digital strategy? And do companies have the sales and marketing skills to compete in a digital marketing world?

A business strategy of viewing digital channels or methods as tactics is no longer valid. Instead businesses should see their company as an online ecosystem that connects digital resources both internally and externally to customers in order to compete. To stay competitive a business must harness digital technologies and channels, not just to deliver sales or superior customer experience but to drive operational efficiencies across all aspects of the business.

digital-world

One big question facing business leaders today is “Is our business constructed to thrive in the digital marketplace?

Digital disruption may be the only possibility for future business success as the barriers to market entry are being blown wide open. Competitors both large and small are rushing in grab a share of the market, so every business has to have a strategy in the digital marketing landscape. Bye now, most businesses know that digital is changing the way we do business. Every business must evolve and have a digital strategy that can take advantage of new sales and marketing platforms, data tools, and digital technologies that can get a business closer to customers.

The adoption of digital channels by the markets means a business must change and ensure that agile adaptation can be delivered in all levels of the company, both strategic and tactical. A business strategy for a digital marketing world may be the only option for some companies to survive and move towards a profitable future.

The market is pulling these business changes as the markets or countries with knowledgeable populations, high standards of living and education are demanding companies face up to the challenges in the digital landscape for communication and commerce. The reality is that digital advancement and the associated challenges will accelerate rapidly in the few years. Business leaders must grasp the straw and realise that innovation, flexibility, and speed of execution will be core to thriving in a digital marketing powered world.

Regardless of B2B or B2C, buyers are now highly knowledgeable, tech savvy, and the Internet and social media is their go to source for information. Today, people communicate differently, buy through different channels and expect a different flavour of products and customer support. The result is digital is not an add-on but is a mind-set, a lifestyle, a way of doing business.

Here are some suggested digital strategy priorities.

Integrated digital strategy across the business

While business leaders see that digital is having a strong impact in the area of sales and marketing they should also review customer service, finance, supply chain and human resources. While most companies start the digital journey by adding-on social media (LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest) they do not integrate these social tools into an integrated business strategy. While the focus on near term activities such as lead generation are positive, to fully maximise the customer experience and operational efficiencies that can contribute to a competitive advantage companies need to expand out the digital strategy to all departments.

Business model evolution

The digital channels have changed customer interactions and expectations, impacted on channels of communication and delivery has resulted in business reviewing their business models. Forward thinking companies see digital transformation as integral to their evolution. Business model evolution is used to innovate and respond to changing consumer preferences including introducing new business models, services and product offerings to drive profits

Develop partnerships

IP, technology lead and more traditional companies can benefit from developing partnerships with outsourced sales, channel partners etc.in order to compete with companies that have grown up in the digital landscape. For the companies that do not have the skill-sets in sales, marketing or social selling, nor the capacity to adopt a digital strategy, it could be more efficient and cost-effective to partner with a digital enabler in their market space or outsource it internationally.  Outsourcing a requirement such as sales via partnerships could speed up the digital strategy while a business is able to harness a partner’s strength while addressing the market challenges.

Focus on the customer experience

The digital channels have seen the rise of faster communication, social news and user generated feedback content. The ability of one to many communication platforms has meant the customer experience is now a critical element for a company to gain a competitive advantage. Relevant in both B2B and B2C companies, the focus in the marketing strategy to a customer approach for content marketing, information dispersal and updates is critical. Companies should strive to deliver excellence across all its customer touch points. A digital marketing strategy should consider what new and innovative services would enhance the customer experience.

Social media engagement

Social media or social selling driven customer engagement can be the disruption agent to drive a business forward. Digital marketing is not just a series of social media tools. While social media tools are a great vehicle to drive brand engagement, companies need to accept “business as usual” is over. The future buyers for products and services live in the digital space, and so will their suppliers. Social media engagement is part of the digital marketing strategy involving content, access channels, audience interaction and ability to influence remotely.

Digital distribution channel

Digital distribution channels need to be explored, defined and redefined as the “4P’s” of marketing are being rewritten. Can a business’s product be delivered or accessed in another way or format?  Digital distribution and ease of customer use may be directly related back to the digital acceptance of the company’s senior team and the company’s ability to execute the digital landscape as a strategic business priority to give it some competitive advantage. Across all regions and market segments of the world, digital disruption to distribution channels is here now. The growing influence of the “Internet Always” population and the impact of digital technologies on the way we conduct business requires business to rethink strategy.

Every business whether start-up or large corporate needs to have a business strategy for a digital marketing world which means to start with acknowledging the changes and then respond accordingly. Remember this phrase “When technology and society change faster than businesses are able to adapt, then the result is extinction” – Karl-Heinz Land.

Social Media Marketing – Powering Sales

The use of social media within digital marketing and inbound marketing has become an important gear in the sales and demand generation engine. The sales and marketing engine needs fuel (supply of traffic or prospects) which the engine turns into visitors and leads where sales converts to customers.

social-media-marketing

The use of social media and lead generation are the gears which powers the engine. The bigger the social media gear size the harder the marketing gear works. And the harder the marketing gear works, the faster and more productive the sales machine will work to generate revenue.

Social media (blog, content marketing, and articles) is the gear that gets the marketing and sales engine working. Social media pulls in the traffic and prospects and converts them to visitors or leads. When driving a car, we push the pedal to the metal in the highest gear to get to a destination faster. The same logic applies to inbound marketing and lead generation. A business needs to work the biggest gear, social media, to ensure a constant supply of visitors, leads and buyers to power the business growth.

Social media also impacts SEO and long tail keywords. So if social media is the gear, then content marketing and blogging platforms like WordPress, Medium, Svbtle, Postach, Ghost, LinkedIn Pulse, Storify, Tumblr, Blogger, Buzzfeed etc. and the traffic they can generate is the fuel that turns the social media gear.

To put the potential impact of social media into perspective, here is some insightful statistics’ on buyer decisions.

  • “57% of the purchase decision is complete before a customer even calls a supplier.”
  • “67% of the buyer’s journey is now done digitally.”

Big business or small business, it is vital to have social media in the marketing plan for lead generation and inbound marketing strategy. Every marketing team has to see social media and inbound marketing tactics as a critical gear in the buyer’s journey.

Social Media Marketing Is Critical for Inbound Lead Generation Success, so is Sales.

The days when demand generation meant only using paid search or media placement and email marketing are over. Today’s buyers are on a different journey where business buyers and consumers are using keyword search and social channels to find content upon which to make informed choices. In fact, they are now in control of the buying process where they are start the demand generation process without any seller being involved.

Social media does not replace selling, good sales or selling practises, as research shows that talking to a sales person still has a strong influence on buyers vendor selection. Social media and inbound lead generation is just a gear (a vital gear) in the lead-to-revenue path that enables marketing to funnel leads to the sales machine, which turn them into customers.

Another reason that social media is a gear which needs to be connected to the sales engine is that while social media and inbound marketing can deliver more leads at a lower cost than outbound marketing or sales, inbound leads take 30 to 40% longer to move through the sales funnel.

The other Digital Marketing Gears

Like any engine, the sales and marketing engine needs more than one gear to power it, gears like social media selling, SEO gear, paid search (SEM) and email marketing gear all play a key role in lead generation and lead nurturing. Successful inbound marketing is about getting the mix right between short term tactics, longer term tactics and tactics that deliver demand now.

The Actions and Actives in getting the Social Media gear moving.

  1. Publish and Attract. This is about pulling in the fuel (traffic, prospects, suspects) into the engine. The greater the reach via multiple blogging platforms for content marketing, research papers, articles, the bigger the awareness a business can generate by posting the content via Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, StumbleUpon, Pinterest, SlideShare, Google+, Reddit and other content marketing sources. But attracting traffic and visitors is only VANITY, leads and customer engagement is SANITY.
  2. Convert. This step is about getting the traffic into visitors who will convert into at least repeat visitors to gather more information or as leads (newsletter signup, free trial, landing page, and request for information form). This convert point means the traffic the social media gear is attracting is the right profile plus they like the content or messaging pushed out. Other good convert points should include the visitors who follow, shared, liked, commented or republished the content. This convert point means a business has taken a step closer to building a relationship and nurturing the lead through the sales process.,
  1. Lead Nurturing. The lead and customer nurturing process fits between the attracting and closing stages. Returning visitors will seek out fresh content or product information, people who signed up for newsletters or email updates need to be influenced. The sales team should now be engaged with social selling to the prospects. This stage is where prospective buyers are sourcing, digesting and reviewing information and content. A recent report by Act-On showed that 85% of Business-to-Business buyers said it takes three or more pieces of relevant content to help make a decision on progressing with a supplier. So, a business can lead nurture by influencing the buyer to take action by feeding them with relevant content on their terms or personalised preference.
  2. Close. This stage is where leads are moved through the pipeline to become customers. Returning visitors will reveal themselves to enter into the sales funnel and existing lead nurturing prospects move down or out of the sales funnel. The key measure here is conversion, what is the lead-to-revenue conversion rate? What is the cost of customer acquisition? Closing is both a sales process and a workflow process so marketing and sales management need to work together to audit the attract, convert, lead nurturing and closing stages to ascertain what is working and what is not.
  3. Pipeline Replenishment. Reduce the cost of marketing by getting customer referrals or customer net promoters. The stage has to do with social media monitoring and sales teams using social selling to stay in touch with customers and expand their network. This stage can include surveys, feedback, and publishing new content and listening to social media chatter

Social media marketing is a process to generate leads via well written content that is published across multiple social channels resulting in lead nurturing activity by marketing and sales where strangers become customers

Digital Marketing Strategy

Any Irish company with growth ambitions needs to have a digital marketing strategy in order to take advantage of the growing opportunities for sales, inbound lead generation, traffic and customers that digital marketing can generate.

The internet is changing the buyer –supplier relationship, today businesses have to know that attention is a currency and social media generates lots of noise so it is becoming increasingly difficult to attract the eyes and ears of the companies target market. Small companies can compete with larger companies but larger companies have well-funded marketing departments, a business is also competing with social media itself for information dispersal and a multitude of social networks are trying to get the attention of the same prospects or traffic.

digital-marketing-plan

So digital marketing has to have a strategy, a well thought out strategy which must support the overall business strategy; in fact a company’s digital marketing strategy may be the engine that powers the sales strategy. Ask the question, “what is our digital marketing strategy based on?” is it customer growth, new product promotion, market penetration or market development? Digital marketing and social media channels continues to expand and influence the buying choices of consumers and business so it is vital that every business learns how to succeed in the online world. In some recent reports published into digital marketing, a lack of effective strategies remains the most significant obstacle to succeeding in digital marketing. In fact, a survey of digital marketing managers showed that over 51 percent of them believed that a lack of connection to business strategy prevented them from achieving the digital marketing goals set out.

A well thought out digital marketing strategy will help a brand or business reach digitally engaged audiences, build deep customer relationships, and create new markets, products, or even redefine the business model.

Planning and executing a digital marketing strategy is essential to out-thinking the competition. In the online world the ability of a business to thrive could well be directly related to how well the business is able to maximise digital media channels. Social networks such as LinkedIn, Facebook, Tumblr or Twitter or keyword searches on Google means it is possible for consumers or potential customers to interact on a truly global scale. Buying channels and behaviours are changing, the sales process and customer acquisition tactics are being redefined which means regardless of the business size or industry, it is critical that a business learns how to tap into the power interacting and engaging customers online.

The number of digital marketing choices can seem confusing, companies can confuse digital marketing tools with digital marketing channels, what is social posting versus SEO, what has content marketing to do with marketing automation? As a result, it can be difficult to determine where to start. Without a clear digital marketing strategy the temptation by a business, particularly small businesses are to try and do it all. Get a video created and post it on YouTube, plug a few promotions on Twitter and Facebook, join lots of groups on LinkedIn, the list can go on and on. Some businesses even use a specific team to handle a social media channel.

The reality is, without the right digital marketing strategy, a business is simply wasting resources and time, even losing ground to competitors. Much the same as any business planning process, the key is to understand the business mission and vision, then get agreement on the overall business strategy roadmap, next develop an understanding of the customer base, what goals the business wants digital marketing efforts to achieve, then selecting a digital marketing strategy that will help you to reach both your target audience and goals. For instance, if the strategy is market penetration or development then the strategy is to reach new customers or if it’s a product development strategy then the strategy is to focus on launching a new product or service.

The point is, without a solid strategy, it is not possible to determine whether the digital marketing tools a business has invested in will actually help meet the goals that have been set.

There is allot of technology hype around tools, social media monitoring, digital marketing courses, SEO submission etc. so thread carefully as the easy option can be to simply jump in on the latest digital marketing buzz word  which may or may not help a business’s digital marketing strategy.

Developing a successful digital marketing strategy is as simple as:

  1. Understand the business mission
  2. What is the overall business strategy
  3. Identifying the target audience.
  4. Developing SMART business goals.
  5. Selecting a strategy for meeting those goals.
  6. Implementing actions and activities for the strategy
  7. Monitor, review and adjust the chosen strategy.

Start out thinking your competitors, develop a digital marketing strategy that can be resourced and has clear ROI. To bring the point home, MarketingProfs reports that 69 percent of senior marketers in large companies expect an increase in digital spend. The time to get digital marketing right is now as digital marketing will impact on a business’s customer acquisition, sales, product development and maybe ultimately business success.

Sales Strategy – Marketing Services – Sales Consultant – Social Selling – Inbound Marketing – Lead Generation

I'm always available to have a chat on your business plans and any challenges in lead generation, social selling, marketing or sales.