B2B organizations are developing innovative business strategies and adopting new technology, hoping to keep up with today’s customer demands and outpacing the competition. However, sometimes, these companies aren’t looking before they leap and fall short of their goals.
According to Gartner, 87% of senior business leaders view digitalization as a priority. Unfortunately, when implementing projects, digital leaders and teams at B2B organizations can make critical mistakes that are holding them back from reaching their target returns — much to the chagrin of senior leadership.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. With 2023 wrapping up fast, here’s your roadmap to avoiding the most common missteps so you can set your digital investments up for success:
1 – Be eager, but go in with patience
To succeed in digital initiatives, you first need to have a realistic mindset. B2B is complex and requires significant alignment between its many departments and stakeholders. As a result, projects will take time. They require patience so you don’t get demotivated.
That being said, remain ambitious and eager. It’s a long game, but it’s worth the wait. Digital transformation can make a huge impact.
2 – Strategize upfront
Before diving into a digital initiative, take a step back and ask yourself key questions. For example, what is our North Star? Where do we want to be in two years? How can we support these overarching goals in the near term in the most efficient way? What are the risks?
To ensure digital projects are compliant, efficient, and aligned with core company objectives, you must prioritize building a strategy upfront based on these short-term and long-term insights.
3 – Check your digital readiness
Evaluating your current digital landscape and team should also be a core part of strategy development. Sometimes, B2B organizations start executing projects before understanding their digital readiness. What do we mean by this? First, look at the team you want to assemble to embrace the digital transformation. Do you need to onboard new people, or can you train incumbent people? Or do you want a partner to help kickstart your initiatives?
Another example is the IT landscape you must deal with. In B2B organizations, IT landscapes can be complex and sometimes outdated because of legacy systems. The ‘buy-and-build’ strategy, where an organization acquires companies to speed up growth, can often result in a complex IT situation. We’ve come across companies with over 32 different ERP systems!
That’s why having a personnel plan and future-proof digital framework is essential to accommodate your company’s anticipated growth. This planning strategy helps to ensure smooth and stable rollouts while mitigating the risk of operational setbacks.
4 – Don’t get distracted by the tech
When it comes to digital transformation, it can be easy to lose sight of your strategy’s “human” aspect. Why? Because technology is exciting! New solutions promise answers to companies’ biggest challenges — from ensuring customer satisfaction and building loyalty to leaping ahead of competitors.
However, technology shouldn’t be the sole focus of a digital project, and you can’t rely on it to be a one-stop solution. Instead, human engagement is the driving factor behind your B2B digital transformation strategy, and technology should serve as an enabler. In the end, to maximize the impact of your strategy, it’s all about people.
5 – Prioritize your clients
Clients play a major role in the above sentiment, and you shouldn’t take their buy-in for granted. Interestingly, many B2B organizations still aren’t prioritizing getting their feedback. A good feedback approach doesn’t simply mean listening to the first client spokesperson you meet. Instead, take a deep dive to understand how your clients’ businesses work and what they really need. For example, meet up with them in person, shadow their worksites, or conduct various in-depth interviews with the people who are, or will be, interacting with your digital touchpoints.
Going above and beyond to get to know your clients through these in-depth conversations and analyses will help establish a trusting and transparent relationship. It also ensures that your digital transformation projects are in-line with their expectations and demands to benefit them in both the short and long term.
6 – Set baseline measurements
Digital initiatives are typically sparked by a desire to achieve a certain outcome. With heads turned towards these loftier goals, teams and individuals often skip basic measurements. Before you get started, don’t forget to measure the baseline. For instance, how much time do your support and sales teams spend helping clients order the correct product? What channels are they using? Phone calls, emails, or even faxes, maybe?
You will need this data to prove your business case. It ensures that ideas and ambitions align with concrete goals such as reduced costs, greater efficiency, and more. You will have data and results to get further support and budgets from C-level executives.
7 – Don’t try to do it all at once
Attempting to squeeze multiple ambitious digitalization projects into a single implementation is feasible, but costly and often unwise. It requires meticulous mapping, risk assessment, and effective management, or the approach can quickly grow outdated amid continuous innovation. If rolled out unsuccessfully, B2B organizations could face several potential downfalls, including:
- Stakeholder resistance: Employees may grapple with adjusting to sudden, drastic changes in their daily operations.
- Weakened efficiency: New platforms require sufficient training, which will inevitably reduce productivity.
- Slow customer adoption: Implementing such prodigious changes requires a lot of attention, and customers may feel sidelined in the process. For any digital projects, you need to spend time on customer onboarding as they may be resistant to change or struggle to become acclimated.
While you need a holistic strategy, realistically, you can’t do everything all at once. Start with prioritizing smaller projects based on your company’s needs and the quick successes they can generate, then roll them out gradually. This helps internal stakeholders and customers comfortably adapt to changes and gives you the flexibility to update your digital transformation strategy as technology continues to advance.
It’s a complex but necessary journey
Digital transformation continues to surge across industries, and companies that are failing to implement initiatives effectively are at risk of falling behind. In fact, a recent report found market pressures are the leading driver of digital initiatives, with growth opportunities (51%) and increased competitive pressure (41%) spurring most efforts.
Digital transformation in B2B is complex, and it takes a lot of time and effort. The rewards and benefits, however, can be huge. Elevating your customers’ experience will add a lot of value that typically results in a bigger share of wallet and customer loyalty.
Clearly, this is no longer a nice-to-have, so why not make the most of this momentum? Following this roadmap will help you see the greatest return out of your investments — and keep you sane in the process. Good luck!
About the author:
Mascha Tamarinof is the Global Vertical Lead B2B at Valtech, a digital agency involved with B2B digital transformation and customer experience projects. Among her responsibilities is hosting Valtech’s Let’s Talk B2B network for manufacturers and distributors.
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