In one of my older blog posts, I referred to a video from the current affairs programme ‘NOVA’, made by the Dutch TV station NOS in 1999. In the programme, several known trendwatchers commented on how big Dutch retailers responded to the rise of the internet. The key conclusion reached by the trendwatchers: Come on, time to wake up!!
As ‘The Netherlands PLC’, we have of course achieved a great deal. Those B2B companies that are engaging with IT/SaaS do now take customers and the internet as their starting point. However, still an incredible number of B2B companies are neglecting opportunities in the commercial digital domain. It’s like the video below shows. To quote Johan Cruyff: you'll only see it once you get it.
Harness the potential
I imagine that 95% of the people we saw in the video not only own a smartphone these days but couldn’t cope without one. At that time, they didn’t see the enormous potential that a mobile phone could unlock. They reasoned based on what they knew and not what could be.
Which is precisely what’s going on within the B2B commercial process. Learn to look ahead. Then you will see, feel and experience the huge potential that lies in store for B2B companies that take commercial digitalisation seriously.
Are you a follower – or do you set the tone?
In the Netherlands (although actually everywhere), there’s a strong tendency to admire the heroes within a certain sector. Whether it’s Ryanair in aviation, Amazon and Coolblue in retail, Take Away in the food sector, Netflix in entertainment, Booking in the travel sector or Tesla in automotive, the message is often: such vision, impressive!! Yes, that’s true, but what can you learn from this kind of disruptive company? That’s the question we should be asking!
If I was to answer this question, it would fundamentally come down to the fact that these companies were extremely good at designing their commercial process and scaling it using the internet. Without the internet, they would never have come this far.
Marketing is a corporate asset
We’ve used many of our articles to advance the view that marketing should – now more than ever – be recognised as the main event rather than a sideshow. We’ve also identified marketing as a corporate asset, with associated IT systems and tools enabling it to be rationalised as a profit centre. To support robust choices, however, you do need to have good oversight.
And that’s not easy. Especially if we look at the huge volume of IT/SaaS systems and tools available to shape your marketing tech stack. If you make the right choices and target clear business objectives, though, you can achieve the ROI just like the above-mentioned heroes did.
Sales involves much more than human effort
It’s just like many sports. Thanks to scientific breakthroughs and lessons learned over the past 25 years, records are still being broken today. We keep going faster, higher and further. We commonly hear from athletes how they just did what they could in the past but, had they known then what they know now, they would have won much more often. As perennial second-placed cyclist Joop Zoetemelk points out: think of material improvements such as carbon bicycles, better nutrition, training schedules, altitude camps, ice baths, medical supervision, etc.
It’s the same for sales. You can still be an outstanding salesperson and visit many customers. But so many tools are now available in the online landscape that you can significantly increase your chance of scoring before you even head out the door. Think of your website as a lead magnet, being recognised as a clear authority within your niche across all online channels, information about prospects, awareness of the DMU, e-commerce platforms, etc. If you want sales to go faster, higher and further, you have to grab those new business opportunities online.
Customer service as business model
Customers who complain are a blessing for your company. You know this, but it doesn’t always feel that way. That’s just because you don’t yet have a good process for dealing with complaints. They disrupt your ongoing processes and all these incidents therefore cost a lot of time and effort. Not ideal, of course, since certainly in B2B – where customer numbers are lower than in B2C – and now more than ever, you need to nurture your customers (assuming there is indeed a good fit).
If you do this, customer service can become a profit centre in the same way as marketing (certainly in the mid to longer term). Firstly, consider active referrals, i.e. a customer who tells your next prospect how satisfied they are with the value you gave them. Secondly, well-managed customer service earns revenue directly as well. You do need to know what your customers are complaining about and how you can resolve the issue. And this really doesn’t have to be under warranty, because good service comes at a price.