b2b digital transformation trasformazione digitale
The product isn’t enough. B2B and the challenge of the digital transformation
Digital also revolutionizes the relationship between supplier and customer. The keywords of companies thus become marketing and service
Marketing and B2B companies: a new, but already essential, combination. Until recently it was the commercial department that was responsible both for the establishment of a reputation with companies and the conversion of those companies into customers. With the digital transformation, the landscape has changed. Italian companies, historically not very attuned to marketing, have suddenly become aware of its importance.
Giuliano Noci, Professor of Strategy and Marketing at Politecnico di Milano, explains this to us: «The change derives from two elements. One is of a technological nature, the other tied to a decline in the results of traditional commercial networks».
Technology requires a closer relationship with the customer
The technological component that requires B2B companies to focus on marketing involves two aspects: «First of all, it is no longer enough for a product to be technologically advanced. To be attractive, it must work in a certain way, according to the customer’s expectations», says Noci. «The relationship between supplier and customer is revolutionized, where the latter doesn’t so much buy the product, but the service associated with it. Traditionally, B2B companies have always boasted a great knowledge of what they sold, which however didn’t correspond to an equally thorough knowledge of the customer and their needs. Marketing is today the tool with which to establish this new intimacy. And it’s here that the second element tied to the technological aspect comes into play: the boundaries of competition are changing. Organic and systemic analyses of the business context, competitors and customers become crucial. Only by knowing all these factors is it possible to intercept trends and respond to the needs of customers, supplying them services that otherwise would be provided by someone else».
The relationship, before the transaction
On the other hand, the performance of commercial networks on which companies have relied until now aren’t comparable to what they once were. This requires a strategic rethink, according to Noci: «The industrial buyer adopts behaviours similar to those of private individuals who buy online. They build up a network of possible purchasing alternatives and only afterwards meet the supplier. This means that you need to think about building an omnichannel system, starting from the classic web site, and also encompassing social media, like LinkedIn. To manage all these new elements, the integration between marketing and commercial departments becomes unavoidable, so much so that function of the latter increasingly resembles that of advisor to customers».
These changes require companies to alter operational paradigms: «The model to look towards will no longer be transactional, but relational, because new technologies sublimate the human dimension. Likewise, one doesn’t need to think in terms of product, but of service. If a company concentrates solely on the product, it can generate operating margins only on that, while the real challenge and the real earnings are tied to services connected to the product itself.
It takes courage, especially for small companies, which can take advantage of greater flexibility: step out from your comfort zone and understand how to position yourselves in a network of businesses offering services», advises Noci.
For managers the challenge is cultural
In this process, managerial figures become fundamental. «They don’t just have to be extremely competent and possess marketing and strategic skills. Since they must guide companies through a change that is above all cultural, they must boast great leadership skills, with allows their lead to also be followed by those who have worked in a different context for many years» concludes Noci. In this perspective, the short courses in the B2B marketing area at MIP have the goal of providing concrete tools to cope with the growing importance of the digital transformation.