Ready for profit: Execs reflect digital customer engagement
Selling is “the transfer of enthusiasm”, as the old saying goes. For this reason (at least until now) important B2B sales meetings took place mostly in person – and not in virtual meetings, by phone or by email.
However, as the world has become more complex and the pace of change has increased, it has become more difficult for sales reps to keep up with the volume of information they need to ensure that face-to-face meetings are effective.
In fact, the number one reason B2B companies lose business they should win is because sales teams are unable to consistently articulate the relevant differentiated value of their company’s complex solutions, according to Sirius Decisions Research.
Now imagine the increasing difficulty businesses face in eliminating face-to-face sales meetings and events. Online conferencing tools are their only option. Without the ability to connect on a personal level and with the use of (admittedly boring) slide presentations as the sole communication tool, salespeople have a harder time achieving this “transfer of excitement”.
Sales reps have learned for some time that they can no longer rely on discussing the features of their products to differentiate themselves from the competition, nor can they rely on their personal relationship-building skills at face-to-face meetings to transmit the kind of enthusiasm that connects them with decision makers.
The era of digital customer loyalty
Modern sales and marketing require a transformation in the way information is conveyed. Instead of “showcasing” prospects and customers, sales and marketing teams need to engage their audience.
The switch to digital customer loyalty is a challenge for many companies, as it is both a behavioral change (which gives the customer control instead of presenting sales) and a change in the technical infrastructure (slides and videos are no longer sufficient; interactive applications are required).
After working with Fortune 1000 companies around the world to transform their digital-first sales and marketing strategies, I gathered information from the top managers around the world on how a digital interactive strategy could support their sales and marketing teams helped to better demonstrate the value and convert conversations into sales.
One of the key realizations of these global companies is that it is insufficient and ineffective to focus only on the mechanisms of running a virtual sales or marketing meeting as a virtual version of a face-to-face meeting – without considering the customer experience and the desired outcome.
Virtual meeting attendees only pay attention 23% of the time (the rest is spent on emailing, surfing the web, checking their phones, etc.).
The most effective way to get customers is to involve them and let them control the digital experience. By putting customers in the driver’s seat, you will continue to focus on the story they are uncovering for themselves and better understand how your company’s unique value proposition will help them meet their business challenges.
Testimonials for the success of digital customer loyalty
When asked how adopting a digital loyalty strategy helped their company quickly and effectively adapt to a remote sales and marketing model and move from vendor to strategic employee, executives shared their views:
- Mike Herold, Director Global Marketing, Inkjet Technologies Production, and Roger Serette, Director of the Executive Briefing Center, Ricoh USA
When work at home is not an option, staying productive, safe, and focused is critically important. Our interactive solutions have helped us virtually engage and educate shoppers, better tell our value story, communicate technological differentiators, and discover new opportunities.
The agility of our platform has given us a competitive advantage and helped our salespeople move quickly to a digital world. We use the platform for our service organization and our marketing organization. Our customers use it to communicate with their customers. Our entire organization can now have a 9.5 ton press in their office and interact with it [virtually, with augmented reality]. It solved a transformative problem, and in this way we are getting our entire organization to grapple with a product that they may never be able to physically stand in front of.
Angela Carnrite, Market Development Manager, Laboratory Products, Thermo Fisher Scientific
In a competitive industry, it’s difficult to differentiate just by characteristics. We rely on being in touch with customers throughout their shopping journey and digital tools that enable that ongoing engagement, especially in this world where we connect virtually, are very effective.
Alexander Emmert, Head of Digital Business International, FÖRCH
We have followed industry practice in manually developing specifications and designing suggestions for systems configured in our customers’ environments. Today we’ve automated much of that process, improved customer solutions, and dramatically reduced the sales cycle and customer lead time. The system automatically creates consistent graphics to represent a common and correct understanding between the customer, sales and our inventory system throughout delivery and installation.
The pandemic has underscored the value of this digital strategy as the efficiency and interactive nature of the application have brilliantly changed the ability of our salespeople to effectively engage customers and communicate complex product offerings. It’s a game changer.
Lee Howard, Director, GSI Solutions Engineering, NetApp
When we thought about how we were going to get out there, we knew we needed some kind of digital printout … and not just for the physical hardware. Our frequency of innovation was really focused on improving the quality of life. How do you change what you’ve always done? How do you disrupt this muscle memory?
We no longer need to talk and derive value from speeds and feeds, but rather tell stories and articulate business results. To do this, you need to have another way of communicating. This digital interactive platform is the key to this transformation.
Sally Bament, VP Marketing, Juniper Networks
We used a digital loyalty platform to, among other things, create a virtual demo area for our virtual summit. It gives us a content hub that we can continuously update and send back to our customers.
Dennis Wright, Senior Director, Product Marketing for Central Pharmacy, Omnicell
With our interactive digital approach, we have achieved a consistent customer experience. It’s a much more dial-up experience, but with flexibility.
The digital transfer of enthusiasm
Regardless of how the business environment evolves, remote / virtual meetings and events will be an integral part of doing business.
To convey excitement (i.e. sales) in a virtual environment, B2B marketers and sales professionals need to raise the bar to create engaging experiences that evoke emotions, provide multi-sensory inputs, and reveal relevant and useful information.
A long-term digital-first customer loyalty approach can change the competitive dynamics forever and lead to more sales and longer-term business relationships.
Additional resources for digital customer loyalty
Niche marketer, is your loyalty strategy up to date?
Senior Marketer Rethinking Customer Loyalty
The loophole in engagement: How B2B and B2C companies miss the mark