This post will explain what Digital Sales Engine is, some compelling benefits of adopting it and how to start.
We at IBD Consulting often talk about and refer to Digital Sales Engine as a tool and process that allows us to significantly grow international business. We refer to this concept frequently and casually, and we don’t always have the luxury of taking 20-30 minutes to explain in detail what we mean. So, let me take the opportunity now to try to do exactly that!
When looking for a solution, in more than 70% of cases, the business decision-maker of today will start with a generic web search. Moreover, before a customer is ready to make contact with sales representatives, they will have consumed 3-4 pieces of content independently.
The buying process that includes searching, gathering information and researching is called the buyer’s journey.
The best a B2B vendor can do is to make this buying journey the path of least resistance.
In a way, competition between different vendors takes place on a level of buying journeys. The journey that is easiest to make usually wins.
Digital Sales Engine makes use of various types of content across different marketing channels to make sure all possible questions that buyer might have on her buying journey are answered, thus trying to design a buying path of least resistance. Rich analytics allow for instant feedback and optimization along the way.
Digital Sales Engine is a set of modern technologies and proven processes that allows the benefits from modern digital technologies to be harvested, the marketing and sales process to be integrated, and the process to be optimized and significantly simplified.
It is an end-to-end process that takes products to international markets at a reasonable cost.
It is also a process-focussed mindset that simplifies otherwise very complex ideas of digital marketing, lead generation, lead nurturing, sales processes, etc. Digital Sales Engine is also a service that IBD Consulting can deliver.
Think of it as like the assembly line (conveyer) system used in production. Production process is split up into discrete steps, each with certain objectives, tools, costs, specific measurements, etc.
In 1913, Henry Ford introduced conveyor-belt assembly lines at Ford Motor Company. This allowed the company to dramatically increase the efficiency of automobile production while reducing costs. In fact, Ford managed to break the production process of a Ford Model T down to 45 steps and reduce the time taken to assemble a car down to 93 minutes. Moreover, the company reduced the price of a Model T, from 825 USD in 1908 to 575 USD in 1912.
Similarly, it is possible to obtain striking benefits by using Digital Sales Engine. Each step on the way is defined as a discrete step with certain outcomes and dependencies. As a result a very small team can achieve significant business results, and many of the steps required can be easily outsourced to third parties.
While the improvement/alignment/re-engineering of the business process is not at all a new idea, shifting customer preferences and increased availability of marketing technologies has enabled significant marketing automation at a fraction of the cost of traditional marketing activities. An underlying analytics framework allows us to understand customer activities in detail across a range of digital channels.
To take an example, if you are reading this blog, we already know quite a bit of information about you: where you came to our site from, whether you actually read the blog, what other content you looked at. On top of that, the information that large market players such as Google or Facebook have already collected about you allows us to know demographic data about you, what your interests are and other information. But, unless you have signed up for a newsletter or one of our other offers, we will not have your personal contact data.
Then you decide that some of our offers are well worth sharing your data for (to give an example of one: we offer free assessment of your digital assets!). As soon as you do this, we can match your contacts with your behavior and we can also draw a conclusion regarding how serious your intentions are. If we notice that you have visited our site several times, read our blog posts and the “how to contact us” page, we can conclude you are rather seriously interested in our offers and so we will pay extra attention to any requests from you.
As well as your behavior, we constantly track our marketing and advertising pipeline to make sure that we have a sufficient number of first-time website visitors to make for the necessary number of interested customers and qualified leads. We track the marketing pipeline in a similar fashion to the way companies track their sales pipeline – we make sure both pipeline and functions are tightly integrated and support each other.
One of the most important aspects of Digital Sales Engine is ensuring tight integration between marketing and sales.
We measure the success of our marketing our marketing by the number of leads generated and passed over to sales.
Marketing analytics allows us to measure customer activity and draw conclusions about our customers’ readiness to talk with sales representatives. We are a small company and concerned about our productivity. Salespeople are expensive, great salespeople even more so.
For this reason, we want our salespeople to focus on potential customers that have demonstrated a high level of interest in our services, and so our salespeople get transferred only those leads whose activities show high readiness to purchase.
Prospective customers who haven’t yet demonstrated a high level of interest/readiness to purchase are continuously nurtured with automated and semi-customized content flows that gently guide them closer to making the decision to engage with us.
To give an example, we use customer-nurturing emails to educate customers about our offers; we also use online webinars, blog posts and YouTube videos. Once we see a customer is showing a sufficient degree of interest in our content, we conclude it is the right time to initiate a conversation.
By contrast, we spend almost no time with prospective customers at early stages of the marketing pipeline. Instead, we focus on creating content, content flows, events, and other activities that allow us to engage with significant number of customers in a 1-to-many fashion.
With all the marketing automation options available, we just cannot afford the luxury of salespeople educating customers in a 1:1 fashion – unless the customer is an Extremely Important Very Large Company of course.
The critical test of any good idea is its implementation. So how is the engine implemented?
I covered this process to some extent in an earlier blog post, “How to start with Digital Marketing in B2B”.
A good first step is to start with the strategy and do competition analysis early. This will provide a clear answer regarding what it takes to successfully compete in your industry and how much it will cost. If you are fortunate and your competitors are not too advanced in terms of marketing, even modest investment in content and processes can ensure significant growth. It can also happen that after competition analysis, you decide to focus more on certain geographic areas or certain market segments.
One key driver behind a decision to focus on certain geographic areas can be the cost of marketing. As you can see in the graph below, the cost per click (or cost for getting a single website visitor) varies significantly between countries.
The next step is developing a product marketing strategy. This includes creating buyers’ personas, designing customer journeys, developing a marketing content calendar, producing an action plan, along with cost estimates and statements of work, responsibilities, deadlines, etc.
Once there is an agreement in place, it is time to start producing the first set of content, designing landing pages, setting up an analytics framework, implementing software codes, setting up advertising campaigns, etc.
Once the marketing campaigns are up and running, a continuous process of learning, analysing and improving begins. Remember – the customer journey of least resistance wins. Only data tells us what works and what doesn’t.
While the exact length depends on the sales cycles of specific products, I would say that on average it takes several weeks at least until the engine is producing leads who are ready to talk with sales. These discussions provide additional learning points on the way to continuously improving the engine.
IBD Consulting can provide Digital Sales Engine as a service, including provisioning of the respective CRM system and internal sales process implementation for proper sales pipeline management. In this scenario, the customer would only need a single salesperson to work with qualified customers.
We are also open to training customer’s personnel and transferring the engine processes and knowledge to the customer entirely.
Knowing the ever-changing technological landscape and the scope of knowledge required, we would still recommend using third-party expert knowledge to make sure your engine is running optimally, unless you have a whole marketing department with highly skilled professionals.
A good first step to see how IBD Consulting can help your business is to ask us to carry out a free assessment of your digital assets. After this, we will have an online discussion focussed on your particular needs.