We’re living in innovative times – especially if you work in the San Francisco Bay Area or another creative center in the world. Digital technologies are influencing how B2B products and services go-to-market, and how people find, buy, use, advocate, and replace them.
Your team’s B2B big picture likely includes some form of digital transformation. But is your strategy clear and embraced by all stakeholders inside and outside the organization?
Digital transformation in the marketplace means much more than shifting ad dollars from print and broadcast to digital channels or moving from memos on the bulletin board to interactive experiences via the company’s intranet. The entire structure of organizational communications – internally, how workers and management interact, and externally, how the company tells its stories and engages with customers and the community at large – is changing at hyper-speed.
These transformations have turned business as usual on its head, especially in areas that haven't received the same level of attention. Finance, forecasting, strategic planning and other business imperatives frequently get caught in the tension between old and new ways of thinking and doing business.
Modern marketing is one of the areas that is undergoing significant changes as companies move more processes to the cloud – that is, let more SaaS do the talking with prospects, influencers and customers. More often than not, a low touch/no touch approach is replacing traditional outbound marketing for the SMB segment and an account-based marketing approach is being implemented for the enterprise segment. In both scenarios, digital transformation is a contributor to success.
B2B companies in technology and software sectors are on the leading edge of digital transformation. The problem occurs when stakeholders haven't caught up or bought into the necessary changes that are created with this new approach to business management, growth and development.
Create Strategic Alignment
Strategic alignment seems obvious to anyone who has led an enterprise operation or strategic initiative in the last five years or so. And executing an approved strategy when you're struggling to meet quarterly revenue goals or quell an investor or director rebellion creates more pressure.
Strategic alignment is important to your company's long-term successes, say two tech-sector leaders who know plenty about growing companies in the digital age:
- David Hersh, founding CEO of Jive Software, now an independent investor and adviser to early and growth-stage companies and author of "Stop Letting Quarterly Numbers Dictate Your Strategy," published recently in the Harvard Business Review.
- Blaine Mathieu, CEO and managing director of Clear Strategy Group
"Most B2B tech companies are not living up to their potential," Mathieu says in this video interview with Creatorbase. "The reasons for this are fairly common: an unclear strategy, a fuzzy positioning and a lack of a connection to an effective go-to-market model and, ultimately, a lack of alignment within the executive team and probably across the entire company."
Inadequate revenue growth is the most obvious failure, but it can lead to other crippling developments, Mathieu says:
- Whipsawing or pivoting strategy
- Uninvolved and unconcerned employees
- Investors who demand even more strategic changes, including new leadership
That just starts the whole cycle over again, Mathieu says.
Lack of a long-term strategy and financial myopia also can cripple your business. "Nothing has done more long-term damage to promising young companies than focusing on quarterly revenue," Hersh says in his HBR commentary.
"Short-term scrutiny leads to short-term moves, activist shareholder shenanigans, and other tricks used to bump up the price of the stock. These pressures distract company leaders from the company’s long-term health."
Strategy Tips for Digital Businesses
- Review and adjust your overall company strategy on a regular basis. If your extended team hasn’t reviewed and adjusted its strategic plan in the past 12 months, you might find that it’s already out of date.
- Seek alignment across strategies. Both Mathieu and Hersh stress gaining alignment, whether making sure your strategy aligns with marketing goals and practices, your company goals, employee interests or investor expectations.
- Seek outside advice. B2B executives can benefit from experienced operators with an outside perspective to help them take proven strategic frameworks, bring them together and connect them to effective go-to-market models and drive alignment across the executive team and throughout the company.
- Watch your KPIs closely. Hersh recommends updating the company dashboard using the key metrics that support your company's goals and to make sure they align with your company's purpose.
Can you communicate your strategy clearly to your stakeholders including customers, your executive team, your employees at every level, your investors, board of directors or advisers? Have your stakeholders embraced the strategy and if so, how do you know? If you're a CEO or Chief Strategy Officer, you may also find this HBR article useful.
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