Step back a little more than a century as electricity was being commercialized. I’m sure in bars and meeting rooms, sales people and marketers were talking about how wonderful electricity was and what it could do to improve sales and marketing. I can imagine conversations like:
Sales person: “We can now light up our displays at shows, so people can really see our products and how cool they are. We could never do that with kerosene lamps or candlelight….”
Marketing person: “We no longer have to work in the dark, we can work longer hours, producing more content for you to hand out to customers. Imagine all the brochures, flyers, data sheets we can produce…..”
Customers were independently thinking: “Now we can inspect these products more carefully, we can shine a bright light to make sure they are great quality….”
Roughly the same time, the telephone was coming into popularity. Conversations probably were:
Sales person: “Wow, now I don’t have to actually see the customer, if they have phones, I can just call them up……We can start a movement called telephone selling….”
Marketing people were probably equally excited: “We need to get all their telephone numbers and start calling them every day about our products……”
And customers were independently thinking: “Imagine if they invented something like Caller ID, I could avoid all these annoying calls…..” (OK, I’m getting carried away.)
Those sales and marketing people learned these tools, electricity and the telephone, augmented and helped everything they did in selling and marketing. It shifted a lot of investments into leveraging these technologies. For example, the concept of the “traveling sales person,” was changed somewhat, but still a very important element of sales execution. After all, our ability to connect and communicate is still far more impactful face to face.
But electricity and the telephone weren’t just about sales and marketing. They revolutionized the way we live, the way businesses work, and created literally millions of new opportunities for business, societies, and people.
Fast forward to today, sales and marketing people are engaged in the same conversations–not surprisingly on social media–LinkedIn, Twitter, SnapChat, Facebook, and thousands of other sites and blogs. Our customers are embracing their digital buying journeys as well. They leverage digital sources throughout their buying process–both out of convenience, because of the abundance of information, and out of avoidance–the desire to put distance between themselves and sales people.
Our conversations are similar to those imagined conversations decades ago, they focus on how we leverage social channels to sell and market, and how our customers leverage these channels to buy.
Ironically, these discussions rarely capture the bigger implications of the digital revolution in which these social tools actually play a very small part.
Digital Business Transformation impacts every one in the world, it impacts and is reshaping our businesses, societies, and cultures. Just like the previous industrial revolutions, virtually everything will change. Business models, that were once very successful, are being shattered. Everything we thought worked in the past is being challenged.
Our own organizations and our customers’ are challenged with making sense of the opportunity digital business transformation presents.
Focusing only on our customers’ digital buying journeys or our own social selling efforts limits our abilities to understand and address the opportunities and challenges of digital business transformation. It restricts our thinking for our own businesses–both how we leverage these tools and the solutions we offer. It restricts the value we create in helping our customers make sense of their own digital business transformation.
Yes, we absolutely have to engage our customers in their digital buying journeys, we have to leverage these tools in our own selling and marketing. But we can’t stop there, we have to re-imagine whole new businesses, completely new solutions, and completely new ways of serving and engaging our customers.