For B2B marketers, the transformation to digital B2B experiences is a large undertaking. This is especially true for larger organizations where the stakes are high and institutional resistance is greater.
Over the years I’ve helped scores of brands re-invent themselves as digital-first. During these efforts, I’ve discovered several lessons that B2B marketers must address as they embark on this journey.
Lesson #1: It’s a Journey
There is always the quarterly pressure to get things done and drive results. But digital transformation will not happen overnight. Setting expectations – especially with management – that it’s a journey, not a quick fix or website build, will lead to overall program success. My conversations with executives, regularly involve a 1 to 2-year timescale for overall program success and institutionalization.
As such, we need to plan the effort and measure success accordingly. To start, you must plan the entire journey. You may not know all the details of each project that is to come about, but you need to understand the implication and trade-offs of one project versus another. Mapping the whole journey will help you see these challenges beforehand.
Lesson #2: Plan Big, Execute Small
Digital Transformation is hard. If it were easy, every company would be digital-first. By planning big, your effort will have two key elements that aid in the overall program’s success. First, your program will have a clear vision. This is the Why for this program. We need to articulate clearly, “Why are we doing this effort?” Secondly, your program will have the scope you need to protect underlying projects that may or may not succeed.
Good digital transformation plans will have many underlying projects that can be managed as a portfolio of efforts that are a contribution to the firm’s overall digital transformation. Thus, if one project fails the whole effort isn’t for naught. More importantly, executing smaller projects that add up to a larger impact can not only reduce the risk of failure but also demonstrate wins along the way. This will help with management buy-in – even through shakeups and changes. And deliver overall program success.
Lesson #3: Always Get Executive Team Buy-In
So many times I’ve seen folks with good intentions start digital transformation efforts. But without executive buy-in, their efforts fail. Not because the right approach wasn’t taken, but, rather, the executive team didn’t believe. The executive team provides the air cover for strategic priority setting, resources, etc. to help get this company-wide initiative to fruition. It’s a function of will.
Additionally, notice I didn’t say one executive, but the executive team. This is an important distinction. This shouldn’t be a pet project of the CEO, or COO, or CMO. Digital Transformation is a company-wide mandate and the whole C-suite must be on board. Additionally, I like to partner with the CEO to ensure the Board of Directors also understands the value of this complex undertaking and the long-term benefits, business cases, and the requirements to execute. Now we have organizational alignment from the very top to embark on our digital transformation journey.