Digital-first experiences are becoming increasingly important in B2B marketing as more and more business buyers are turning to digital channels to research and make purchasing decisions. Research shows that businesses that adopt a digital-first strategy can gain a serious competitive advantage by leveraging the power of digital marketing to achieve results.
- The global market for digital advertising and marketing is projected to grow from $350 billion in 2020 to $786.2 billion by 2026. (PR Newswire)
- 63% of businesses increased their digital marketing budgets in 2022. (HubSpot)
- 72% of overall marketing budgets get put towards digital marketing channels (WebStrategies)
In this article, we explain how to get started with a digital-first approach. But first, let’s address a few commonly asked questions….
What is a digital-first strategy?
A digital-first strategy is an approach to marketing and sales that prioritizes digital and online channels over traditional ones to reach and interact with target audiences.
A digital-first strategy is designed to meet the changing needs and preferences of modern buyers who perform their research and buying activities online. It puts a brand’s website and digital campaigns at the center of its sales machine by creating a user experience that is:
Digital first marketing typically involves a strong focus on content marketing, social media marketing and digital advertising to reach customers where they spend much of their time – online. It leverages digital marketing tactics – such as omnichannel marketing, hyper-personalization, video and audio content, mobile ads, chatbots and interactive content – to connect with customers in more meaningful and relevant ways. A digital approach enables businesses to be more agile and responsive to changing market conditions and to convert and retain more loyal customers.
How is a digital-first approach more effective than a traditional marketing strategy?
There is a time and place for traditional marketing tactics – such as at tradeshows and industry events. While they’re not totally defunct, a digital-first approach has clear advantages:
- Real-time engagement. Traditional sales and marketing tactics are one-way and lack opportunities for meaningful engagement. For example, direct mailers, printed brochures and ads in magazines, television and radio provide no means for an audience to communicate in real time. Digital marketing has the advantage of real-time, two-way communications that build stronger relationships.
- Accurate metrics and analysis. It’s difficult to prove attribution and measure the success of traditional marketing and advertising efforts. On the other hand, a digital-first approach provides reliable and valuable insights that a business can use to make data-driven decisions that improve marketing strategies.
Aren’t digital marketing capabilities enough?
Businesses that piggyback digital capabilities to legacy marketing systems are often integrating technologies that weren’t designed to work together seamlessly. This results in technical problems that impact:
- Overall system performance
- Data security
- Accuracy of data
- User experience
In short, the experience created by tacking on digital marketing efforts may be disjointed and the results subpar.
What are the advantages of using a digital-first approach?
A digital-first approach to marketing offers several advantages for B2B, including:
- Precise targeting. With digital marketing, businesses can accurately target their ideal audience based on demographics, interests, behaviors and other criteria. This enables businesses to reach the right people, with the right message, at the right time, increasing the chances of converting them into customers.
- Improved customer experience. A digital-first approach allows businesses to provide a unified, personalized and engaging experience to their customers across all online channels. By understanding their customers’ needs and preferences, businesses can create tailored content and offers that resonate with them, providing a better customer experience and driving customer loyalty.
- Adaptability and scalability. Digital marketing allows businesses to quickly adapt to changing market conditions and adjust their campaigns and strategies accordingly. Digital campaigns can be easily scaled up or down, enabling businesses to reach new audiences, test new ideas and optimize their results in real-time.
- Greater ROI. Digital marketing offers businesses a greater return on investment (ROI) compared to traditional marketing methods. With digital marketing, a company can track and analyze their campaigns’ performance, understand what’s working and what’s not and make data-driven decisions that optimize their marketing spend and maximize their ROI.
- Cost-effectiveness. Digital marketing is often more cost-effective than traditional marketing methods. With digital marketing, businesses can reach a larger audience at a lower cost, eliminating the need for expensive print or broadcast advertising.
Now that we’ve addressed why a digital-first strategy is a more effective approach to B2B marketing, let’s explore how it’s done….
How to develop a digital-first strategy
The pillars of an effective digital-first strategy can vary depending on a brand’s specific goals and objectives, but they typically include the following:
#1 – Marketing technology
Marketing technology (martech) forms the infrastructure of a digital-first strategy that enables businesses to deliver custom, real-time experiences across all digital touchpoints.
Martech provides the tools and platforms to collect and analyze customer data, automate marketing processes and execute targeted campaigns at scale. This includes customer relationship management (CRM) systems, marketing automation software, email marketing tools, social media management platforms and analytics software, to name a few examples. When a martech stack is properly designed and aligned, the experience – for the business and the customer – is consistent.
By using martech tools, businesses can track, analyze and optimize campaigns in real-time and make informed decisions about their future marketing strategies. A digital-first strategy cannot be effectively executed without a robust martech infrastructure in place to support it.
#2 – Integrated marketing
A digital-first strategy requires an integrated approach to marketing, with all teams and channels working together to deliver a seamless customer experience. This means integrating digital channels with traditional marketing channels, sales and customer service.
In the B2B space, buyers typically engage with multiple channels during their decision-making process, including search engines, social media, email and content marketing. An integrated marketing strategy uses market research and data to personalize each customer experience. This builds trust and familiarity with the target audience, which is essential for generating leads and driving sales.
For example, businesses can use targeted social media advertising to promote a new product or service, and then retarget those same customers with email campaigns or display advertising to drive conversions. By integrating these points of contact and delivering consistent messaging, businesses can improve the effectiveness of their marketing efforts and drive more conversions.
#3 – Client-centricity
In a digital-first approach, businesses need to understand that modern buyers want to have more control over their buying journeys and are empowered to engage with brands on their own terms.
To create a client-centric experience in a digital-first B2B marketing approach, businesses need to focus on the following key areas:
- Buyer personas. For a digital-first experience to be effective, brands must know what drives their audience’s buying decisions. Unfortunately, as the economy and market conditions shift, so do customer dynamics. And when the challenges, opportunities and goals of target audiences evolve, brands find previously effective marketing tactics no longer bring the same results. For this reason, businesses must regularly reassess and redefine buyer personas to ensure they are on-target.
- Buyer journey mapping. Mapping out the buyer’s journey is essential in a digital-first approach because it helps businesses to understand when, where and how clients interact with their brand. What type and level of content do they prefer to consume at what point of the buyer journey and on what channels? Analyzing and understanding client behavior and preferences enables businesses to optimize digital channels, campaigns and overall brand experiences.
- Today’s buyers expect a more personalized experience. A digital-first approach involves artificial intelligence (AI) and automation, which make personalization possible. To promote personalization, businesses must create more relevant messaging and experiences that speak directly to the needs and interests of individual clients.
#4 – Strong omnichannel strategy
Omnichannel marketing is entrenched in a digital-first approach. An effective omnichannel strategy maintains a unified brand presence and unique client preferences as a customer moves from one channel to another. Just how effective is omnichannel marketing? According to research, companies with a strong omnichannel strategy have an 89 percent customer retention rate, while those with a feeble omnichannel approach retain only 33 percent of their customers on average.
#5 – Data-driven insights
Data and digital work together. A digital-first approach makes possible the collection of reliable, real-time data. It also relies on accurate data and analytics to provide insights into customer behavior and preferences. By collecting and analyzing data, businesses can refine their messaging, improve their campaigns and drive better business outcomes.
#6 – Agility
An effective digital-first strategy requires businesses to be nimble and flexible, able to adapt to changing customer needs and market conditions. This means being able to quickly adjust digital touchpoints, messaging and campaigns to deliver the best possible customer experiences.
Other vital components of a digital-first strategy
A strong online presence. A digital-first approach requires businesses have a strong and user-friendly online presence. This includes an easy-to navigate website that is optimized for search and mobile and has a clear call-to action to drive conversions. It also includes a presence on the social channels where your audience spends their time.
Keyword research. Keyword research is essential in digital marketing because it helps a businesses to understand the questions its customers have, the solutions they’re seeking and what they value. It informs new and existing web content and narrows targeting to attract more of the right web traffic.
High-quality content. To attract and hold its target audience, a brand’s messaging must provide value and address their pain points. It must also include a range of different types of content that targets different verticals, roles, reading/viewing preferences and stages of the buyer journey.
Regular measurements. A digital-first strategy involves constant measurement of key performance indicators (KPIs). Which KPIs a brand uses to measure performance vary depending on the business and marketing goals. Measurement includes:
- Determining which KPIs are relevant to success
- Understanding how to gather and analyze the data
- Using the insights to continually refine and improve digital marketing strategies
Work with digital marketing experts
A digital-first strategy creates a seamless buyer journey that guides prospects from initial awareness to final purchase. This involves optimizing your website for search engines, creating targeted digital campaigns and using personalized messaging to engage and convert customers. It also involves using data and analytics to optimize campaigns and strategies over time.
Delivering a personalized digital-first strategy requires a deep understanding of customers and their needs and a commitment to ongoing experimentation, measurement and optimization. By focusing on digital channels and leveraging martech to drive engagement and sales, businesses can build a more efficient and effective sales machine that delivers results in a rapidly evolving digital landscape. If you’re ready to get started, partner with an agency with digital marketing experience. Contact us to learn how Elevation Marketing can help.