I don’t need to tell you we are living in unprecedented times. Not only is it painfully obvious, but everyone else seems to be telling us this every day, which is one of the big reasons that it’s quite an interesting time to be a marketer. Not only has content messaging required a swift and potentially hasty overhaul (hence the over-use of the obvious phrase unprecedented times), but often our buyers' needs have also completely changed. On top of that, many marketers, and the sellers they support, are still working remotely, which let’s face it, really just means working digitally.
Speaking of overused (yet true) phrases… necessity is quite often the mother of invention, and for many organizations, the forced necessity for better digital tools had become an accidental opportunity for innovation. Although certain operations are somewhat back to normal, for many businesses, this physical shut down quickly forced all communication, collaboration, and distribution of materials to basically become digital or non-existent.
This may have felt like a dangerous landslide but hindsight might prove otherwise. Since most marketing initiatives in the last few years have involved digitizing analog processes, this brisk pivot to remote working has forced changes toward digital innovation that might have taken years without a powerful catalyst.
Implementing new digital workflows in a selling space that’s changing fast requires agility on top of effectiveness. For example, your CRM is most effective if it can talk to your accounting system… especially when it’s challenging for your VP of Sales to talk to your CFO because they are not in the office. Ensuring your solutions integrate is key for digital transformation, but the stakes are even higher when decisions are being made quickly to solve new crucial problems because of various distance or economic impacts.
A Look at Opportunities for Digital Innovation
Sales conversations have changed dramatically and understanding your buyers new needs is critical for changing the messaging to something that resonates. I’ve recently helped a few customers get some key feedback from sellers to ensure they have it right. Implementing a straightforward fillable form that always gets in front of the right eyes was a great start. Once they had direct feedback from the field, they were able to make changes that resulted in more content being requested by buyers, and with the Modus Sales Hub analytics they could see that open rates also increased so they knew they hit the mark.
Training and keeping remote teams up on new messaging and potentially dynamic selling points becomes even more crucial in an uncertain economy, and suddenly it has to be fully digital. One customer had grand plans to add webinars and easy mobile access to their regular new rep training in 2021.
When the shut down hit, the webinars needed to start early, and they found that reinforcing the knowledge using short bite-sized courses was how they filled the gaps of in person knowledge sharing. Shorter lessons were both simple to create and engaging for reps, and their sales team has by and large continued to make their numbers.
We’ve also really seen an uptick in customers interested in integrating with their content management systems. With messaging changing so often, updating content in only one place rather than multiple systems keeps remote teams always up to date, even as things change quickly.
CRM and Marketing Automation inquiries are almost as high. With trade show budgets on the table, and everyone at home, small projects that bring more precision and visibility into sales and marketing processes are being requested. Even at large organizations where there’s often pushback or tons of red tape on these integrations, I have seen more willingness to get these important systems optimized during this time.
Tips for Doubling Down on Digital Transformation
I’ve helped a lot of digital marketers implement our sales enablement solution as they set up their tech stacks in normal times, and it’s important to double down and triple check on precisely what the integrations you’re setting up do. Ask your vendors more than once to make sure there are no misunderstandings. There’s nothing worse than implementing a company wide project management tool that integrates with your CRM… only to find out that, no it doesn’t do that exactly…
Now that digital transformation has changed from an objective to a reality almost literally overnight, marketers have been scrambling to get new procedures and workflows in place to ensure they are still supporting fully dispersed and fully digital sales networks.
It comes as no surprise to me that none of the customers that I’ve talked to seem to think this is entirely temporary. Most people seem to be planning for a slow transition to a hybrid of continued remote work and some different version of the old ways with close physical contact. It’s a balancing act because teams are leaner, results need to be faster, and they also need to be somewhat long term.
On the flip side of the fortuitous push to cross the digital transformation finish line, is the adjustment for sales teams. For some salespeople this can be a big shift. Nonverbal communication and personal charisma can be assets to in person sales conversations, and some reps might feel less than confident in a fully virtual sales process.
Making sure adequate training is provided for new tools and processes is key for the success of your new digital strategy. What I’ve learned after supporting our customers in launching and maintaining a digital content tool is that training is never over. Don’t overlook training as just a product function either, virtual tools can be used to teach sales messaging just like they can product specs.
Digital Transformation is a Pivot Worth Making
Due to all of the fairly catastrophic events of 2020, pivoting like this in B2B marketing so quickly and completely seems less explosive than it might otherwise. With this perspective, I’ve seen marketers step up to this challenge with some excitement and energy. After all, chaos like this does ebb and flow and when we get to the other side, wouldn’t it be great if we looked back and saw we used this time to fully tackle our digital transformation?