Making Your Business Model More “Customer-Obsessed” in the Digital World

When your business model includes technology (and let’s face it, everybody’s does right now, at least when it comes to reaching customers) you need the right kind of people on board to uncover your next competitive move. You need the combined strength of product development visionaries; marketing gurus; and business analysts comfortable with the reams of big data that digital business models generate. So let’s say you have the right kind of team in place. What else are you doing right?

Your partners and processes are iterative and agile—you can move on a dime to tweak your sales and marketing plan as the marketplace demands.

Your sales and marketing strategy also has your prospects visiting your website and downloading your content in droves and you’ve got the analytics to nail down quality leads to keep your sales force happy for months to come.

Finally, your product or service continues to morph to reflect the common “pain points” you see out there – and your product development people are enabled via a robust, yet flexible Products and Services Roadmap process to introduce new products – products that “own their space” from the moment of launch.

You seem to be going gangbusters – you’ve obviously got a handle on the customer-facing “tiles” in the framework, above, but you want to be able to supercharge your customer focus. You might think that you need a brand new framework to deal with these new and emerging techno-powered customers. Not so.

You can effectively use the Center for Business Modeling’s Business Model Framework in light of the customer mandates inherent in our new, super-connected universe. Here’s how to do it by focusing on three key questions that will make sure you remain, “customer-obsessed.”

The customer is always right, right?

Let’s face it– your target audience might think they know what they need, but they may not always be right. Ideally, you do, and you can shepherd them through the buying process to educate, inform and, ultimately, inspire them with the product or service offerings that solve their most pressing problems. I remember delivering an IM solution for a group of internal employees back in the day. The pre-pilot benchmark groups were highly cynical about the solution—but once they got it popping up on their desktops they said, “We didn’t know that this is what we needed all along!”

You have this next greatest solution for your customer because you listen and learn with every complaint, every return and from lessons learned from every supposedly “revolutionary” product in your segments that flames out upon start-up. In the connected universe, you have even more signals to prove yourself an innovation partner rather than just a supplier, or one-and-done partner.

Marketplace and Target Audience Identification business model tweaks in this new world require you become a business collaborator—and to become an innovator for your customers before they necessarily know they need one. Ask yourself these customer questions and use them to adjust your customer-facing activities:

  • Do I take the time to find out which industry innovations are exciting my customers? If so, what do I do about it?
  • Are my sales channel partners having the same conversations?
  • How can I digitally enable myself to hear what my customers are saying and start conversations, building the relationship and shoring up my brand equity? Can I be cost-effective when doing it and can I prove it works?

Brian Solis has an interesting take on this last one. He says that: “Stakeholders and investors find it difficult to assess the ROI of customer experiences and the impact of positive reinforcement on the bottom line.” If you can get more quality leads from listening better and listening digitally, that’s enough ROI for us. That means you are creating a customer experience that works—and these days, you must use technology to do it right.

In a recent presentation at Pegaworld, Solis outlines the stakes involved in keeping your connected customer top of mind: “To effectively compete in the digital economy, you are left with no choice; become customer-obsessed or lose! Every moment-of-truth counts when it comes to customer loyalty. For some, this paradigm shift will be easy. For many, you will have to re-think your business model.”

Use CBM’s Framework among your top executives to plot out how this connected, customer obsession will look in your business model. Then, as Solis says, “adapt or die.”

Can You Really Use Marketing to Shrink the B2B Sales Cycle?

It seems at least once a week that I talk to a B2B company about how to shrink their sales cycle. Sales executives and CEOs get especially frustrated because their quarterly sales forecasts become much harder to predict when the sales cycle timing is all over the map. For example, we have one technology client where it seems half their deals close in days or weeks, while the other half can take six months or more. So what is going on and what can us B2B marketing types do about it?

The first thing we need to do is accept certain realities, regardless of the pain involved. And the first reality is that buyers have more control over the sales cycle than sellers. They have come to understand that the offer you claimed was for today only can easily be had tomorrow or next month – especially if they wait to buy until the end of the quarter. And even more significantly, our prospects know they can use Google to find out a great deal of information about your company, your competitors, the product or service category, and what past buyers think about you and everyone else in your space.

Here is the relevant point about the new realities: the important thing is not the actual sales cycle (how long it takes the prospect from the time they start their research to the time they buy). Rather, the key metric is what we refer to as the “effective sales cycle” – how long the prospect is actually in touch with your company.

If you organize your business around the new type of selling model as shown below, the “effective sales model” will shrink and your close rate will go up. This is true because the potential purchaser completes all or most of the first three parts of the process without engaging with your sales staff. In this example, if you start interacting with prospects at the fourth stage, close rates can skyrocket – from a typical 1-3 percent of raw inquiries to as much as 10 percent of those who are educated and self-qualified.

So how do you create the environment to support everyone from early-stage information gatherers to hot prospects who are ready to engage or buy today? Here are a few tips:

New Sales Model

  1. Provide content relevant to the needs of the audience. This will be very different for someone who is doing some general category research (what’s out there) as opposed to someone who is in the final buying stage (pricing, terms and delivery options).
  2. Layer the content. At Fusion Marketing Partners, we recommend the layered content approach. Of course this varies by type of product and offer, but we typically recommend fairly short and generalized text on the landing page (e.g. 300-500 words). On pages that link from the landing page, text can be much longer, running into hundreds or even thousands of words for some technical products and services.
  3. Offer options. Don’t treat all visitors to your website like they’re the same. Some are at early stages: give them a place to browse content and self-educate without a sales person breathing down their necks. Others are at later stages: give these people a way to self-qualify and engage in different ways – phone, chat, email, form submission.
  4. Enable self-service. Sales resources are expensive and whatever parts of the processes you can offload to the website will cut your costs, and assuming you execute this correctly, boost your effectiveness. As reported in a recent Forbes article titled Death of a B2B Salesman, a Forrester Research study showed that “Nearly 75% of B2B buyers now say that buying from a website is more convenient than buying from a sales representative. Further, 93% say that they prefer buying online rather than from a salesperson when they’ve decided what to buy. B2B companies that wait too long to create self-serve eCommerce websites risk losing share to pure plays and omnichannel competitors.”
  5. As you can see, marketing can help shrink the effective B2B sales cycle, but it may require a new way of thinking – as well as some concrete actions to align your selling model with your prospects’ buying behavior.