As the head of marketing at the software company CSB-System, I not only communicate digital transformation, I also contribute to shaping it. Within just three years, CSB increased its number of digitally generated leads by 420 percent.
This is the result of a coherent change of strategy, which we started back in 2016, long before the coronavirus outbreak. Today, it is no longer a question of whether we digitize our marketing, but how we do it – or rather, how digital our marketing communication is. I am writing this because I learned a few lessons that are decisive for the digitization, not only in marketing. From my point of view, three factors play a vital role in the successful digital transformation:
1. Two sides of the same coin.
Data brings measurability and objectivity. Especially the introduction of the Hubspot marketing automation software to supplement our CSB-System meant an advancement. It enables us to test, compare, and optimize the response to topics and products, in different markets, via different channels, formats, texts, design alternatives, and many other things. We now have a pretty clear picture of the demands of our target groups and of the behavior of our prospects along their digital journey. I say pretty clear, because we are nowhere near as good as players like Netflix. This is one side of the coin.
The other side is that especially in B2B, the buyer journey is a complex and long one. Was the lead really generated digitally, or has the person seen the ad in a technical magazine and followed up by looking it up on the internet? Are we neglecting actions that are not measurable by preferring actions that can be measured, but might be less effective? And, ultimately, do we reduce the decision-makers to a mere data record that passes through a purely digital journey? Data is critical to success. It establishes a basis, but it also creates a false sense of security, and it definitely does not reflect the full reality.
2. User experience. It´s the experience, stupid.
In the digital transformation, data is not an end in itself. In marketing, it helps to improve the user experience. What the prospects want from CSB is a solution to their business issues; they want essential information, simple, well structured, concise, straightforward, no nonsense. The problem here is that in a Netflix world, every content is exposed to competition. It's all just one click away – a better webinar, a white paper that is even more relevant to my situation, or the blog article that provides even more interesting figures. Trends, user behavior, and competition are changing, also in B2B. What we refer to as “content marketing” was made a reality by digitization. Really good content is still rare. This is what we experienced at CSB, too. After having produced lots of content, we now focus more on the popular topics and on making them really good. What is the content to us in B2B marketing, is the products and services in classic business.
3. Agile strategy. Do, learn, and continuously improve.
“No plan survives contact with the enemy,” Moltke is claimed to have said. Replace “enemy” with “touchpoint”, and Moltke’s quote would still be true today in digital marketing. As I see it, developing a coherent strategy has top priority. It then needs to be tested as soon as possible and, after measuring the results, improvements have to be implemented. The classic plan - do - check - act cycle. However, digitization has made this cycle move faster. Action does not replace any strategy, and strategy without action is but a mere theory. It is therefore important to roll out a really good pilot as quickly as possible, to test the response of the target groups, to optimize the pilot based on the experience gained and finally, once it is successful, to multiply it.
In many cases, an agile strategy is not easy to implement in practice. While in the old game, it was amazingly easy because the strategy was driven by the executives, today it is only one direction. Go ahead with it, learn, and continuously get better. The exciting challenge for the management will be, for all adjustments, to stay on track, and to give continued guidance. The data extracted from the feedback of our target groups will help us to achieve this. With their data, the people we address tell us whether we are on the right path.
Our plan for 2021: become more human
Whether Netflix, Amazon or CSB: good data, a great user experience, and an agile strategy will help you to improve. And this is what we at CSB marketing are planning for 2021: It will be more digital, cooler (hopefully), and – despite the enhanced digitization – more human. We want to grow even better.