Yes, yes, I know. It's the start of another New Year: the time when gurus, mavens and self-appointed 'industry experts' are engaged full time in predictions for what the year ahead will undoubtedly hold for those of us working in B2B marketing.
But if you're expecting me to gaze into my crystal ball, I'm afraid you’ll have to look elsewhere, as I’m currently fully engaged in trying to figure out the realities of the present.
Specifically, I’m trying to work out just how digitally transformed our clients and their customers are.
For many, Digital Transformation has provided an attractive destination, and we’ve been lucky enough to count a good number of them as our clients. But only the chosen few seem to be hurtling towards it at speed, whilst many are still standing at the ticket office wondering whether to buy a single or a return.
This is not, by the way, a defeatist attitude. It’s based on the need, in our job, to ground everything in as clear a picture of reality as possible. Allow me to share three pieces of evidence that have recently been shaping our thinking.
Perceived Acceptance of Digitisation v Actual Acceptance
A client of ours provides highly sophisticated data and publications used in supply chain management. Digital transformation is being driven by market forces and regulation, and our client is well into the process of migrating its business model from being a publisher to being a data and software provider: a move that has been met with enthusiasm by many of their customers, as it helps them to automate and streamline their processes.
Research revealed an interesting disconnect however, between how well their customers' managers thought the Digital Transformation was going, and the reality from the front line.
The managers' view:
- 1/3 of their workforce are purely digital
- 1/3 use both
- 1/3 still use only print
The view from the front line:
- 1/3 are pure digital converts
- 2/3 still resolutely use print
That’s an important piece of insight for a business that's reliant on embedding their system into the fabric of their customers' operations. It helps to focus communications on how to manage system integration and adoption, rather than racing ahead of the curve and pushing advanced features and product enhancements.
Digital Acceptance By Purchasing Decision-Makers
On behalf of another client, we recently sat in on some focus group research into the purchasing behavior of SME contractors in the construction sector.
It had been widely assumed that anyone responsible for buying supplies would go online to research products, especially where safety specifications were important. However, it turned out that in most cases only apprentices and journeymen were really engaged with the online world, none of whom had any authority to make purchases for their employers. They used digital resources to upskill and inform themselves after work.
Anyone over the age of 30 said that they didn’t use the Internet for work. The reason? Mobile devices are banned on many sites, so any ordering is done over the phone, or through a personal trip by white van to the nearest wholesaler. After work they’d go home, eat dinner, watch TV and catch up with the kids. They certainly wouldn’t spend time working online.
So how would you target the 70% of the audience over thirty who say they don’t work online? Radio ads? Press ads?
Or maybe you get your message to them via social media when they’re relaxing, eating their dinner at home.
The Blurring of Work and Home Life
Getting to people outside of work is an approach used in our recent campaign for a global IT and business hardware company, targeting IT and procurement decision makers. On the face of it, this was an audience who you would expect to be one of the most digitally engaged at work. The campaign didn’t, however, target them online at work – as you’d expect – but online at home, through social media and behavioural targeting. The result? An uplift of 25% in brand awareness.
We Regret To Announce That The Next Big Thing May Be Slightly Delayed
With a New Year and new marketing plans to complete, it’s very tempting to go looking for the next big, shiny and exciting thing. “Digital Transformation? It's so last year darling!” I hear you say, as you gaze expectantly over the top of your iris-scanning smartphone for the first sight of flying cars.
However, I’d encourage you to cast your crystal ball aside for a moment and reach for your reading glasses instead: because I have to say that based on the evidence so far, Digital Transformation is still very much a work in progress, and we’ll be transforming only as fast as the marketplace is willing and able to adopt it.