Who's the sports coach in your organisation?
This is a serious question and one which will define future winners in B2B e-commerce. As Forrester Research concludes in its report ‘How e-Commerce is Transforming B2B Commerce’ (August 2013), “…companies must upgrade their e-commerce infrastructure from top to bottom…” And, to help you take pole position, we need to take the sporting analogy just one step further…
Think of any mainstream sports competition; anyone can enter, anything can happen and anyone can win. And, as every champion knows, however hard you train there is always a young pretender waiting in the wings to seize the crown! Today’s e-commerce is just the same. Success today does not guarantee success tomorrow. It all comes down to strategy, to your game plan.
Yes, there are certainly some differences between sports and e-commerce. In many ways sporting life is easier - fixed playing times, fixed rules and all competitors experiencing the same environmental influences simultaneously. By comparison, business is a much tougher game and it’s global and 24/7 too, which is exactly why having the right game plan is not just good business sense - it is essential if you are to succeed. The key question, however, is who is the right person to steer your game plan?
In the world of sports, the answer would be obvious - the coach. And while the game may be different, this is exactly what your business needs too, a coach.
A good sports coach nurtures a successful team by being an expert strategist, but of course this requires extraordinary insight to the game itself. So let’s start with this, the ‘game’ of B2B e-commerce. What are the rules, the parameters, the predictables and the unknowns?
Well, it’s a tough game precisely because there are very few! The action is unpredictable; change happens unexpectedly and instantly - prices, incentives, offers, new products; buyers may flock to you one day and then, overnight, migrate to a competitor. In fact, the one single most reliable element is that as soon as you get ahead, you can bet that your competitor will be primed with something even better! So, how can a business possibly take a lead and stay ahead of the competition in such a constantly-shifting game?
The answer lies in the strategy, the game plan. Whether you are responsible for manufacturing, developing brands, marketing, logistics or sales, e-commerce is not about the product, not really; it’s all about the total customer experience. And because this comes from your entire team, the perfect coach has to be able to engage with this team in the right way.
Below is a list of the core elements of a competitive sports strategy, translated to the world of B2B e-commerce. As you read through the list you might be able to identify who in your company is ready to coach your team towards a winning strategy.
Knowledge: understand your competition - and always have a counter-strategy to do digital business in a remarkable and better way
Equipment: map your current and future IT landscape; ensure you can use your technology to engage, impress and convince your customers competitively
Anticipation and defence: can you predict or respond directly to situations or challenges (out-of-stock, product recall, surge in demand)?
Team behaviour: your e-commerce strategy impacts across the entire organization; are your staff supported and enabled as team-players?
Analysis: is your customer-feedback system adequate; do you listen?
Training and positioning: roles evolve and demands change; is every team member in your organisation trained up, well informed and ready to adapt and seize the advantage?
Weaknesses: it takes just one weak link to bring down a winning team; can you spot and resolve this before it happens?
Innovation: listen to your customers closely; focus your IT and marketing on new initiatives; look ahead - and stay ahead
And finally, tactics: OK, so you have all the above; but do you have the right game plan, the right strategy and the right Coach?
Remember, sport is the ‘soft’ option and when time’s called, the game is over. In successful business it’s never over. This is why B2B companies need a game plan to be a living force, constantly changing and evolving, able to document and share every ingredient with all key players.
The issue of devising an effective game plan is discussed at hybris' ‘Game Plan’ event on October 28th and 29th in Berlin. http://gameplan-b2b-forum.com/berlin/