Marketing & Sales Technology in B2b - An Overlooked Accelerator for Customer Driven Innovation
With this article, I would like to raise a higher awareness around modern sales and digital marketing technologies. It is also my ambition to inspire around how to accelerate shared customer insight and customer-driven innovation using modern sales technology and how to deploy and use it within cross functional teams.
In 2020 the world did a 5-year leap in digitalisation habits in less than two months. E-business grew with high numbers, and working habits changed overnight. In this context traditional B2B sales, (meeting F2F and going to physical fairs), was facing a challenge. At the same time Autoliv started a new business division with a higher focus on addressing safety outside the car. Now we had to find new ways of reaching out to completely new prospects with completely new products. To a large extent this meant a new audience outside the automotive industry which had never heard of Autoliv. It was time to start and understand how more modern marketing and sales technology could be used together. A learning I found was that these new platforms could contribute with interesting opportunities also from a business development and innovation perspective.
Marketing & Sales Technology correctly used could quickly enable new dialogues with new prospects and partners. At the same time many companies continue to drive product development and communication strategies as before with limited natural customer interaction. Being able to talk directly to customers is often considered complicated in product development or innovation teams. Many also seem to think that B2B customer dialogue is very different from B2C communication when it is not. In an hyperconnected world our B2C consumer habits have heavily influenced expectations also in the B2B context. With this article, I would like to inspire igniting broader dialogues within your company in relation to how you would like to interact with your customers.
Most companies consider their Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system as their main sales tool technology. It is often used as the repository of customer data and sales planning. It is also most often how sales figures are reported to management and the market.
What is Marketing &Sales Technology?
Alongside CRM (Customer Relationship Management) systems, we today have a long list of sales and digital marketing and communication tools at hand.
• Webpages, Landing pages, Whitepapers, Articles, Apps.
• LinkedIn, Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, and other Social Media tools
• The Digital Advertising duopoly of Google and Facebook* »»In 2019, this duopoly collected more than 60 percent of all U.S. digital ad spend (eMarketer, 2019). Google’s strength in paid search and Facebook’s strength in precision-targeted display advertising (Stafford and Pilloli, 2018).Amazon, Microsoft, and Apple and many others all offer AI-related algorithms and advertising opportunities supporting the interpretation of large volumes of data.
• Databases of influencers are covering different target audiences. A highly growing marketing area predicted to be THE most important source for sales and marketing in the future. Here we do not only talk about volumes of followers, but we also look at what influencers build trust within a certain segment. Few niched loyal followers might matter more than volume.
Many seem to think that B2B customer dialogue is very different from B2C dialogue when it is not. Especially, not in the hyperconnected world! All our B2C consumer habits have heavily influenced expectations also in the B2B context
• Virtual conference and webinar solutions. Virtual and physical events when possible. The most important area for customer dialogues during the pandemic.
• Survey tools covering the opportunity to buy online answers in almost no time from the different users or interest groups within different geographical areas.
»» At Autoliv, we could forex. within two weeks do a global study of attitudes towards driving and safe driving skills within weeks in Sweden, India, the U.S., and France.
How to utilise Marketing &Sales Technology in B2B to increase customer-driven innovation?
1. Storytelling : The key to success is about aligning on the storytelling of why the company exists and why it would be wise to spend your money here.
2. Content Creation : After this comes the essence of building relevant and interesting content to be able to build a dialogue with prospects and leads being in a buying process.
3. Getting out there : experiment with fairs, seminars, webinars, whitepapers, landing pages, and articles. Offering easy ways to request information or signing up for newsletters. Experiment with the list of marketing platforms to see what works for you. Can you find an influencer that could support reaching out to your specific audience? Failing is equally important to understand what works and what does not work.
4. Finding relevant prospects : Giving consent to store data is the same as saying; yes, I am interested in your content and/or story. I would be curious to understand more. Today we want to own the buying process ourselves. That is also why it is so important to create a lot of interesting content where the entire company needs to contribute. Outsourcing content creation to an external agency will make you lose a lot of valuable experience and know-how needed to be and stay relevant to your customers.
5. Building dialogue : It is in this phase that I truly believe that product and solution development departments and innovation teams, in general, should be involved. Be open in experimenting with what is on your mind in relation to customer-driven innovation. Find groups relevant to have an interactive dialogue with. Just trust that they will feel honoured being invited to the development cycle.
A lot of capabilities are lost due to that most organisations still are working in silos related to marketing, sales, communication, innovation, and I.T. By setting up cross functional teams you ensure that engineers, marketing people, sales, designers, and research are working together finding new ways of addressing a newly identified need. New partners can more quickly be evaluated. Everyone working with the same goal of quickly getting something interesting out there to test and learn from.
Most decision processes online take place long before requesting a quote or solution. The younger the workforce, the stronger the likelihood of preferring an online-based decision and buying journey. Contacting a physical salesperson is, from many aspects, considered both old-fashioned and, to some extent, even intruding. The above working process will not only serve product development with customer dialogues – but it will also load the traditional CRM system with new prospects. This will automatically also transform the CRM platform from a “feed the dragon tool” to a “want to go to place” and remove pain points for employees and customers alike.
Most probably also leading to increased sales, more qualified sales funnels, and more happy customers, (having a larger influence in the innovation process).
This article is the essence of inspiration from my ongoing work as Global Director of Digital Sales at Autoliv and from a career of Business Development within IT and Manufacturing.
Autoliv has been developing automotive safety systems during more than 6 decades and are present in 27 countries with 68 000 employees serving more than 100 Car Brands. Our vision is “More Lives Saved – More Life Lived” where we annually save more than 30 000 lives.