“People do not fully grasp or get the internet”, says Pim van der Feltz (managing director Google Benelux) in the June edition of Emerce magazine. The internet continues to develop at a rapid pace. Looking back and comparing the internet ‘then and now’ is interesting. Developing some understanding as to how the internet may evolve is even more interesting. This provides a basis for understanding as to how business-to-business companies can better reap the opportunities that occur in the digital channel as a results of the evolving internet.
Information overload or a tranquil oasis
When referring to people’s lack of understanding of the web, Van der Feltz alluded to the added value in sharing relevant information online. This helps to bring together demand and supply of information, insights and solutions. In his opinion, sharing information with not just computers yet with colleagues, peers and friends helps to make the world a more efficient place. In an era of choice paralysis and information overload companies should strive to be an ‘oasis of tranquility’ whilst offering personal, relevant information and advice according to the Google executive.
Van der Feltz stresses that companies should listen more closely to customers’ signals. There is a wide gap between the fixed, static patterns that companies use to market their goods and services on the one hand and the possibilities to connect way more dynamically to customer demands on the other hand. ‘The one way traffic of most brands is getting increasingly stale and old-fashioned’. Companies should become partners in dialogue – ‘conversation companies’ – which build and deserve a relationship with the customer based both on trust and on historical data.
From marketing to marketending
Traditional marketing has little eye for the person or party on the receiving end. This causes significant noise, waste and frustration with prospects and customers that are being presented with the wrong message at the wrong time. New marketing does not emphasize one’s own proposition, yet the actual customer demand and customer need. Van der Feltz aptly refers to the as moving from ‘marketing to marketending’, emphasizing tendering, issuing a tender as a starting point for customer/vendor-dialogue.
Customer demand: explicit and implicit
This sounds rather obvious yet is far from reality in most B2B companies. Many organisations pay lip service to a strategy based on customer centricity. It’s high time according to Van der Feltz to value implicit customer needs based on their actual value. Better leveraging the combination of content and context is crucial in that respect. What content was searched, consulted and shared for instance through social media? And in what context did that happen: via a mobile device after clicking a banner ad, in the morning behind a PC on a business social network like LinkedIn or in the evening straight after viewing that new campaign’s microsite? A customer’s digital body language ‘at a distance’ provides all kind of valuable clues as to ascertain a customer’s real needs and wants. And offers insights as to how far the customer or prospect has progressed in his or her buying journey.
Websites often are a mere digital version of a person’s business card or a company’s traditional hard copy brochure. Static, not well-tuned to the receiver and inadequately addressing the specific question here and now. The technology itself has sufficiently advanced to help companies reap the benefits of the digital channel in their personal, relevant dialogue with customers, prospects, alumni and other stakeholders. Marketing automation based on solutions like Marketo, Eloqua, Sitecore or HubSpot, predictive CRM and business intelligence solutions are three examples of available technology conditions that can be met. Yet there is more than meeting the challenges in technology. There should be attention first of all to achieving effective digital processes and governance supported by the right digital mindset and culture in order to fully use the opportunities the digital dialogue has to offer in the long run.
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