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The B2B Marketer’s Guide to Creating a Digital Strategy

From internal apps to customer-facing portals, new and improved platforms are disrupting B2B marketing in virtually every industry — revolutionizing both internal processes and customer relationships. To stay relevant, businesses must continually refresh their digital strategies, optimizing them to fit their industry, their customers, and their internal processes. Those that don’t keep up will be left behind.

Still, the ever-evolving digital landscape is hard to navigate. The modern B2B marketer needs a road map to identify, develop, and adopt the right innovations. Here’s how to create an effective digital strategy:

1. Prioritize Your Business Drivers 

You wouldn’t plan a road trip without a destination, so why would you attempt digital innovation without setting goals first? Begin your digital strategy by identifying and prioritizing your company’s business drivers. 

This looks different for every company and every industry. For instance, your business drivers might be gaining new customers, upselling existing customers, or increasing internal efficiency. To pinpoint where you should focus your efforts, list all the factors that significantly influence your company’s bottom line, and ask your analyst to prioritize their impact.

Make this assessment part of your annual planning process; then, let these priorities direct your digital initiatives. If your analyst identifies cross-selling products as a key business driver, you might add product recommendations to your client portal. If your analyst says you need to focus on internal efficiency, you might create a social intranet to help employees save time and collaborate more effectively.

2. Cater to Your Audience

Design each platform from your audience’s perspective. Every segment of every audience has different expectations at each stage of the customer life cycle, and you must provide the right content and functionality to meet these expectations at each point.

Depending on the business drivers you identify, your audience could be investors, partners, employees, or customers, and various segments exist within each of these audiences. Start by mapping out each stage of the customer life cycle by segment. List each segment’s needs and wants for every stage, then identify what content and functionality your platform must have to meet those wants and needs.

For example, if your primary business driver is upselling existing customers, map out what each segment of your existing client base wants and needs in each phase of that customer life cycle. You might find that one segment of your audience wants to see case studies of other upsold customers, while another wants a clear timeline for the new products. Once you understand these wants, you can design your portal to provide the right content with the right functionality to the right segment. 

3. Act Like a Startup 

Too many companies are still using legacy software that doesn’t meet the needs of modern marketers or modern customers. Shake off the chains of dated technologies by partnering with IT to develop software and platforms that work for your company and your clients. Give your team enough time to follow industry best practices and optimize performance and security. 

Incremental releases improve development. If you delay releases for a grand reveal, you’ll sacrifice all the insights you could have gained from smaller launches along the way. Many Fortune 500 companies spend a year in development before launching a new website, but they could learn so much by running A/B tests on top-level pages while simultaneously developing secondary pages. Incremental releases allow you to not only gather more knowledge, but to also generate leads early on rather than wait to reap the benefits after the launch.

Third-party web services and open-source projects also help development. From contact form validation tools to Salesforce’s CRM system, available third-party services integrate seamlessly into existing software and keep your development team from reinventing the wheel. Similarly, open-source projects lower the cost of ownership and development, provide a better interface, and make it easier to keep up with design trends. These tools are so readily available that it makes no sense not to use them. 

Of the available open-source projects, I recommend Drupal. It has one of the most flexible frameworks, enabling developers to achieve pixel-perfect designs, and this year’s launch of Drupal 8 will introduce more flexible back-end decoupling. Engineers can then use Drupal for back-end development while front-end developers choose whatever language they prefer, from AngularJS to Symfony. Plus, Drupal is so secure that the U.S. government trusts it to run 

My company recently applied this road map while working with a manufacturing company. After identifying internal efficiency as one of its key business drivers, we created an internal iOS application to help its field sales team order new marketing collateral for retail partners’ locations. The app saved each team hours every week. Multiplied over a large national sales team and amortized over a year, the increased efficiency and ROI were tremendous. 

No matter what your industry, a smart digital strategy is essential for B2B marketing success. You can’t afford not to innovate. Following this road map for a tailored, up-to-date digital strategy will help you meet your B2B marketing goals and stay relevant in the ever-evolving digital landscape.

Kevin Rice is the Chief Sales & Marketing Officer at Hathway Agency, a mobile innovation agency which is soon expanding its offices from San Luis Obispo, California, to San Francisco, and which has nearly 50 employees to date. Hathway ranked No. 601 on the 2014 Inc. 5000 list.