The Future Is Now and It’s Online

By Ida Cheinman posted 08-26-2020 08:09

This article was first published on

The highly anticipated digital future is here.

Although it’s easy to see all the dramatic changes taking place in our physical world, changes in the digital world are often less noticeable.

The present crisis aside, there are many internal and external forces pushing companies to accelerate their transition to digital.

The single most critical driver of change in the B2B space is changing customer expectations. Millennials are now 50% of the workforce, and many have moved into positions that make executive and purchasing decisions. The generation coming behind them, Gen Z, is the first fully digital generation.

These new B2B customers and employees want everything to be online, available, accessible, convenient, seamless and fast, forcing companies to rethink every aspect of their strategies and programs – from brand building to lead generation to customer experience and more.

And while Millennials were willing to work with companies and help them become more tech-savvy, Gen Zers simply expect them to have this all figured out by now.

Being fully digital is no longer simply a goal to be achieved in the future – it’s a must-have for any company that wants to thrive today.

Five Marketing Strategies for Winning with Digital

If we have learned anything in the past few months, it’s that all business is digital business. Managing all operations, communications, business development, marketing, client services and projects remotely has created an urgent need to rely on digital systems to help us where people cannot.

As personal and business activities have shifted online, marketing has been presented with a unique opportunity to lead companies into the future.

1. Make Sure Your Firm Can Be Found Online

We’ve already seen a drastic change in the way prospective clients and employees research, find and select companies.

Online search has become the number one source for making informed decisions. This will only continue to accelerate.

Studies show that today’s B2B customers trust digital sources (such as search engines, corporate websites and social media) significantly more than advice from a company’s representative or a sales professional.

This means your company must be found and seen as an expert online – web, search, social, video, industry blogs, webinars and podcasts.

Think beyond traditional B2B marketing “best practices.” For example, as consumers, we check ratings and reviews when considering a new purchase. What’s the equivalent of those on the B2B side? It’s testimonials, customer success stories, industry research, reports and data that support your company’s point of view, or a mention or relevant content from industry influencers.

Is local marketing important? Then ask clients to leave Google reviews for each of your office locations. To overcome any internal resistance, don’t think of them as consumer reviews – think of Google reviews as client testimonials and apply the same process for securing them.

2. Make Sure Your Website Offers Value

Your website is more critical than ever. It’s a proactive member of your business development and marketing team and a lead generation and recruitment tool.

Today’s buyer journeys are largely self-directed and so your company’s website must attract, engage and convert. It must answer questions and provide the right information to the right visitors at the right time in their decision-making process.

It must also offer a path for deeper engagement. At the very least, your website should allow prospects to initiate their first contact without leaving the site.

Start by asking: How can we automate our marketing and sales process in a way that enables prospects to connect and convert with less human – but more human-like – contact?

Tactics such as providing self-directed online options for initial information intake; automating the new client and employee onboarding process; and adding chatbots, messaging and context-specific online forms for customer engagement align perfectly with how most people like to connect, engage and conduct business today.

You may be thinking, “Wait! What? Our offerings are too complex to automate with a chatbot!” That may be true in general, but since your team can’t be everywhere 24/7, bots are the next best thing and it’s worth challenging your assumptions.

Fortunately, today’s technologies make it possible!

3. Create Personalized, Useful Online Experiences

At the basic level, personalization could mean creating and presenting highly relevant, tailored content and campaigns to individual audience groups. However, the goal is to create very individualized, very one-on-one, real-time interactions and experiences and use technology to do it at scale.

Think about how online retailers provide recommendations for what you may also like based on your shopping history or search patterns. Your website could be dynamically presenting relevant case studies and educational content based on your prospects’ behaviors or actions.

Marketers need to start looking at the engagement process through the eyes of prospective clients and employees, not the company. Think about what your website visitors want, for example – not what your marketing team wants, which is lead generation, but what they want:

  • To find useful information relevant to their specific problem
  • To get answers quickly and efficiently
  • To get what they need, when they need it – not when a business development or recruitment team gets back to the office on Monday morning
  • To have more human-like interactions without picking up the phone or filling out generic contact forms

We need to shift the way we think about the people we want to engage. Don’t think leads and funnels, think “having conversations with people we can help” – and doing so digitally.

4. Rethink Your Email Marketing

Email marketing continues to be one of the most effective communication channels – unfortunately, it’s not used properly most of the time. The truth is: nobody wants to receive your generic, company-centric newsletters!

Your audiences want relevant, personalized content and offers that help them do their jobs, building trust and confidence in your company.

The reason email campaigns can be so powerful is that they can be so very targeted! To deliver more tailored and personalized messages and content to your subscribers, segment your email database into smaller groups.

Marketers who segment their campaigns notice as much as a 760% increase in ROI.

How you approach segmentation depends on your overall business and marketing strategy, the number of marketers and industries you serve, your geographic footprint, and so on.

Tailor your email content by industry, geography, job roles or other criteria, such as stages in the customer employee journey, where you should be serving up targeted content and calls to action.

5. Evolve Your Social

Although it may be challenging for B2B companies to leverage channels traditionally perceived as highly youth- or consumer-focused, you have to meet your audiences where they are.

Although there’s no standard prescription for what channels to use, learn where your specific audiences are and keep an eye on where they’re headed next.

If your company has always relied heavily on face-to-face interactions and live events, use the time you would normally spend doing in-person networking and attending events to do the same activities on LinkedIn. But before you can successfully conduct business on LinkedIn, you need to make sure that your company page and key staff profiles help – rather than hinder – your progress.

In today’s virtual world, showing up online – and how you show up online – is as important as showing up in person, especially since you never know when someone may be researching you on LinkedIn. Do your company’s leaders and key staff make the best first impression on LinkedIn? Do their profiles build credibility and trust?

You Need Data to Make This Possible

To personalize content and experiences at a granular level and to present tailored communications to individual customers, you need to have meaningful customer data.

And B2B companies have to get much better at asking for information.

44% of Gen Zers are more likely to provide their personal data if it means they’ll receive a more personalized digital experience over a generic one. (Source: WPengine “Reality Bytes: The Digital Experience Is the Human Experience”)

Fortunately, we don’t need to know highly personal details like their shoe size. A few pieces of information could help your firm considerably improve personalization. For example, collecting your site visitors’ information about their industry, geography or job roles will help tailor content with what’s most relevant.

Even something as simple as scheduling emails and social media posts based on the East Coast and West Coast time zones isn’t possible unless you have this data. So stop asking only for email addresses in your subscribe form for fear that people may not want to subscribe. If they don’t, they probably don’t have real interest in your firm or what it has to say and offer. If they do see value, they will gladly “pay” with some basic info in exchange for more relevant content and communications.




12-04-2020 11:43

In many cases, restricted travel opens up geographic boundaries. A part of added pressure on digital communications is that they have to "sell" where people cannot, but the greatest benefit of a strong online presence (ugh, hate this expression!) is that it can lead to new opportunities much further away when F2F no longer an option anyway.

Also, getting a quick call with a decision-maker is easier than scheduling a lunch or any face-to-face meeting (a 15-minute phone call is a much lower level of commitment).

And although COVID has accelerated this, it's not just the pandemic. The generation shift, the experience economy, the emergence of a B2B consumer, the blurring of the lines between B2B and B2C, etc. – all of that would have gotten the AEC industry here sooner or later. Now, it's just happening sooner and making firms that were less prepared get caught up and fast.

12-04-2020 11:00

All of this is doubly important during COVID time. I'd love to know your thoughts on how these ideas help sell AEC services when travel is restricted -- and when it's hard to get face-to-face meetings anyway. That's partly because so many people are working from home, and F2F now carries health risks it didn't carry before. Firms need to be where potential clients are looking -- which is why social media is so important.  How else has COVID changed how firms win new business?