Digital Transformation Defined
The new buzzword in the marketing world seems to be “Digital Transformation”. As with all new terms, it has become increasingly confusing with many convenient definitions. Wiki defines it as “the changes associated with the application of digital technology to all aspects of human society” (SNORE). Other folks simply define it as “the move to a paperless society”. And others simply consider it the result of a pretty corporate website.
Regardless of how you define it, Digital Transformation is happening across industries. Start-ups are thriving because of it. Agencies are banking on it and big retailers have died because of it.
But for a manufacturer or distributor, digital transformation has been a slow road. Many of them are just now starting to understand the need for better content and better online tools. Perhaps a few customers are asking for it or your CEO is thinking about it. It’s time to get up off the couch and force organizational change.. It is critical to your survival when the next-generation becomes your buyer.
Your Content Strategy
So you purchased a Content Management System. Good for you. My next question is…how is that working for you? Often organizations believe that a single piece of software will be revolutionary for their business. Unfortunately they find that the tool is only as good as the content that is available and many expensive CMS systems remain underutilized.
I have always believed that they key to a successful content strategy is to identify all of the unique personas doing business with you. This often includes: end-users, buyers, dealers, distributors, sales reps and customer service reps. Once you have identified them, ask them the features and content that they would like to see online. This is often a surprise as each type of user is looking for very different features and content. End-users may want to access manuals or warranty information while distributors may be looking for syndicated content they can add to their own website or online catalog. Buyers may also be looking for order history or invoices (yes, that’s content too). The bottom line, if you don’t ask, you may spend critical time and money on content that is not important to that persona.
Your COMMERCE Strategy
So what’s the goal of all this content? Revenue! It never ceases to amaze me how often companies spend a ton of money on an expensive public website but provide VERY weak portal tools to existing customers. Your content strategy MUST include the transactional content and features which are the next step in the conversion process. Let’s look at an example:
The engineer who has purchased items from your company in the past is looking for a slight variation. They go to your corporate website and find the item they need. Do they…a) login and buy now or b) have to phone or email someone to purchase? If the answer is “b”, I suggest you refresh your resume. Seriously… the next step in any content experience is the ability to convert and purchase that item. Providing your customers with a streamlined way to search, order and follow up moves you one step closer to “transformation”.
Bringing them Together (the chocolate & peanut butter)
Here comes the big bang…bringing together your content and commerce efforts will require that your IT and Marketing organizations get into a room and develop a plan together. That might sound dangerous but it is the only way to synchronize great content experiences with great ordering experiences. Traditionally, marketers have steered wide from any transactional data or activity and IT has not been involved with content. The result of this approach is either a pretty website that does not convert or a data-filled portal that looks like a spreadsheet. Either way, you lose. My strong suggestion is that you execute on a strategy that combines the transaction power of a portal with the brand experience of a corporate website.
Your Next Move…
Leadership is critical. Ideally, you would hire a highly experienced digital leader to begin building a team that would live between IT and Marketing. If you are not ready for that, I would suggest that you identify a champion within the organization who will be measured by online adoption and success. From there, it is vital to create a plan. A DIGITAL ROADMAP is a great way to identify the different personas, features and sites and build a 3-5 year plan, which lays out the goals and budgets for launch. Here are some suggested steps:
- Create a plan – define personas, sites and features they desire
- Select partners – identify the right agency, content platform & commerce platform
- Pilot and deploy – Start with a small group of users and then launch
- Market – Remember to promote the launch
- Iterate – Measure, monitor and constantly improve
Get it right, and your organization will become a leader in your industry and well positioned for the next generation of buyers.