There was a time when clear distinctions were made between B2B and B2C businesses. But those days are long gone. And B2B companies who want to stay ahead need to change their thinking.
The lines between B2B and B2C business models are getting blurrier every day. In fact, there may come a time when those terms will lose most of their meaning. With the rapid pace of technological development, and new players disrupting nearly every market, the only thing that matters today is how companies interact with the humans who use their products and services. And how B2Bs can use technology to create relevant impact.
Finger on the pulse
A MIT and CapGemini study showed that digitally mature companies have 9% higher revenue, 26% higher profitability, and 12% higher market valuation than their less mature counterparts. But attaining digital maturity can be a complex and overwhelming endeavor.
At the B2B Digital Europe event on October 3 in Amsterdam, the digital landscape was in the spotlight. And Mirabeau’s own Floris Nijdam, Lead B2B & Customer Experience, spoke to attendees about the most common mistakes B2B companies make as they attempt a digital transformation. “B2B is a complex market, with its own unique challenges,” Floris says. “But just like B2C companies, the key to success is to focus on the user experience (UX), and explore the ways that technology can support and enhance that experience.”
To be prepared for a digital future, B2B companies need to focus on making their customers happy, and discovering key differentiators. “Many companies already know what makes them unique in the market, so the key is to create a digital mindset and culture that supports that,” says Floris. “But time and again, we see B2B companies struggling to create that mindset and culture. It requires a lot of work, and quite a bit of expertise. But if companies can avoid the six most common pitfalls, they’ll be well on their way to creating a relevant, human-focused model that uses digital solutions to truly reach their customers.”
The Big Six
In his years working with B2Bs on their digital strategy, Floris has identified the six ways that many B2B companies go off track. He has also developed clear ways to avoid those mistakes and build a stronger, more robust digital future.
Mistake 1: Business Owners who control design
In many companies, management teams set out KPIs per business unit, and business owners set about addressing their own needs and KPIs. They establish their own teams and engage agencies to achieve their goals.
The Solution: “B2B companies that want to get ahead, need to change their structure and create a UX-based governance system,” Floris explains. “Led by a UX strategy team, all levels of the organization should work together to achieve UX goals that reach across the silos and positively impact the customer.”
Mistake 2: Downplaying the customer journey
When individual silos, like marketing, sales, product development, customer service or IT work on their own digital solutions, there is no way to protect the complete customer journey. This leads to solutions that solve only one problem for users, but often create more problems down the line.
Solution: “When you make the customer journey the center of your focus, then you ensure that your digital solutions will have the results you need. Model your organization into multidisciplinary teams that can flexibly embark on each journey, and break down those old silos bit by bit. Only then true collaboration can happen,” Floris advises.
Mistake 3: Too little communication with the customer
A company can’t create solutions without first knowing what the problems are. Constant communication with – and more importantly, observation of – customers and other stakeholders will provide all the insight companies need, not only to identify pain points, but also to identify the strengths that should be capitalized on.
Solution: “Gather as many insights from your customers as you can,” says Floris. “Both qualitative and quantitative research: shadowing, interviews, surveys, context mapping… whatever it takes to get inside the minds of customers and know what it is they’re really looking for. The answers may often be surprising.”
Mistake 4: Lack of tools for consistency
Developing for digital is all about rapid growth, fast flexibility and constant change. If there is no underlying structure or methodology in place, things will become very muddled, very quickly. And opportunities can be missed.
Solution: “It’s essential to create an effective design system and digital style guide, and to stick to it in every development,” Floris explains. “Then, every product and feature will remain consistent, clear, and focused on the end-goal: UX.”
Mistake 5: Lack of digital capabilities
Often, companies have many of the skills and capabilities they need in-house. But effective digital transformation requires a few experts who are equipped with the knowledge and expertise needed to really make progress. From copywriters to front-end developers, and from Design Managers to usability experts, companies often fail to realize that the skill levels matter.
Solution: “If a company can ensure that each member of their internal team is qualified and capable of realizing a digital transformation, then that’s great. But very often, the internal skills need to be supplemented with either external experts, or additional training and education for internal teams. It’s an investment worth making. The quality of the end product depends on it. If you hand the same recipe to an amateur cook and a professional chef, the two resulting dishes are likely to be quite different from each other,” Floris says.
Mistake 6: The ‘project’ mentality
Many B2Bs embark on digital innovation as a separate ‘project’, with a clear beginning and end. But innovation is a journey, and it never ends. It can also impact every level of your organization. So it should never be separate from the overall business strategy and day-to-day work.
Solution: “The only way to avoid this mistake is to change the company mindset and culture,” Floris says. “Companies need to adopt Agile processes and inclusive strategies that ensure that innovation and collaboration are part of everything they do. All, of course, with an eye on the best possible customer experience.”
Begin at the beginning
Changing a company’s culture doesn’t happen overnight, and it shouldn’t. But B2Bs who want to start the process of digital transformation can take a few easy steps, starting today, Floris says. “The very first step is to ensure that your entire company – from the top down – is taking the customer experience and digital opportunities seriously. If the digital transformation doesn’t have the full support of the CEO, it won’t ever happen.”
Once commitment has been established, companies can start gathering the resources they already have, and studying the customer journey for areas for improvement and opportunity. “Again, it all starts with the customer. What does their daily life look like, and why? What do they love about your company? And what do they hate? Then, step-by-step, the company can amplify and utilize their strengths, and work on their weaknesses, in small, flexible, iterative steps.
“Transformation doesn’t happen overnight,” says Floris. “It’s important to start small, with one issue or opportunity. Build an Agile team to address that issue. Learn from mistakes along the way, and build on successes to address the next issue or opportunity.”
With the right team, the right mindset, and the right tools, B2B companies can uncover the best ways to thrill their customers, using technology that provides an optimal experience.
Want to know more? Contact Floris Nijdam, Lead B2B & Customer Experience at Mirabeau.