Article written by Cyndi Masters
Businesses that hesitated to embrace digital transformation find themselves at a disadvantage as the world economy contracts from the coronavirus pandemic.
They face imminent peril.
Make no mistake, business hasn’t stopped. It is realigning. Quickly.
Amazon, for example, announced plans to hire 100,000 warehouse and delivery people.
Pharmaceutical companies are scrambling to meet demand. They are inundating suppliers with orders for packaging supplies.
These companies, and smart ones like them, don’t rely on person-to-person sales. It’s all happening on websites or apps using savvy digital marketing along with equally savvy sales reps.
While many consumer products companies turned to websites for selling products and engaging customers, many B2B businesses have not. Sales reps accustomed to cold-calling prospects, visiting clients or attending trade shows now must find new ways to sell. Travel has stalled, and face-to-face meetings are a health risk.
For the economy to recover requires more than digital marketing tied to sales. That represents only half of the equation.
What holds the fragile system together is not simply selling but buying.
Supplying the online retailers and drug manufacturers creates a ripple effect throughout the economy. It’s more than hand sanitizer and toilet paper. Packaging requires ink for printing labels or boxes, and plastics and foil for packaging. It’s a complex, and, as we’re seeing, fragile ecosystem.
These operations hire employees from small communities like Jeffersonville, Indiana, or larger metropolitan areas like Cincinnati, Ohio.
Governments around the world are proposing stimulus measures. In the United States, a proposed stimulus package in the range of $1.4 trillion to $2 trillion would help struggling businesses and citizens. On the other side of the world, Australia could inject $11 billion into the economy down under.
These measures can help stabilize the economy if the individuals and businesses they’re intended to help use the cash to buy goods and services.
It’s time to sell and buy.
Saving a stimulus payment for a rainy day is not the solution. Because, guess what, the storm has arrived, and it’s a deluge.
It’s unlikely business will return to the way things were before the onset of the pandemic. Already the pace of digital change described as the Fourth Industrial Revolution has accelerated the speed of innovation and accompanying disruption.
Digital transformation has altered the way businesses sell and buy — forever.
The success of consumer brands using digital channels set the bar for B2B companies. Businesses must deliver the same experiences found at online retail giants — think Zappos. Digitally savvy companies offer ease of purchase, customer service through many platforms, information for download or instruction videos.
Business is sluggishly continuing with remote work-from-home. But, B2B sales and buying requires more than working with a laptop and internet connection at home.
Agile companies have already embraced the opportunities of this Fourth Industrial Revolution. Forward-thinking companies disrupted competitors by using digital systems for many business functions.
Companies may not have anticipated the eventualities of a coronavirus pandemic or a natural disaster. Adoption of digital systems to leverage marketing and virtual sales positioned them to maintain business continuity. They recognized that savvy, self-empowered buyers were increasingly turning to digital platforms when evaluating products and services.
To be clear, virtual selling doesn’t replace the sales rep. As Gartner reports, 55% of buyers discover “an overwhelming amount of trustworthy information.” Companies that have adopted virtual sales and digital marketing systems have sales reps who help buyers navigate preliminary research in the initial stages of the sales cycle.
Companies must begin adapting their sales methods even now. It’s no longer an option. It’s the difference between survival or demise.
Business and production will return. Selling and buying will be changed forever.
The unprecedented upheaval we’re experiencing only accelerates the need for adopting a digital transformation.
Cyndi Masters is CEO of DBS Interactive, Women’s Business Enterprise (WBE) focused on enterprise website and app development, digital strategy and marketing services.