Things Have Changed: Digital Growth in the B2B Space
B2B brand loyalty centers around one thing–unified digital customer experiences. In this month’s episode of Smart Route we sat down with Marc Waldeck of Brave New Markets, a Digital Growth company that partners with private equity firms and their B2B portfolio companies, to understand “digital growth” and how it applies to customer acquisition and retention. Marc shares tips on how to get started with your own digital growth strategy along with technology recommendations and best practices to drive results.
About Marc Waldeck:
Marc Waldeck is founder and Chief Results Officer of Brave New Markets. With more than 20 years of digital experience, he is a pioneer in harnessing the reach and scalability of customer-facing technology to unleash potential for rapid growth and value creation. Marc is a recognized thought leader, as well as a respected speaker, on topics of Digital Growth, business transformation and customer success. He is a graduate of West Virginia University and serves as an Advisory Council member for The George Washington University School of Business Transformative Leadership in Disruptive Times.
01:29.31 Courtney Tyson
Hello and welcome to episode 8 of Smart Route Podcast. I’m your host Courtney Tyson. Thank you for listening in. During this episode we’re going to be learning more about digital growth in the B2B space from expert Marc Waldeck. Thanks for being here, Marc.
01:41.73 Marc Waldeck
It’s a pleasure to join you today.
01:46.99 Courtney Tyson
Before we get started I’m going to share a little bit more about you with our audience. They have a good understanding as to why we invited you as our guest today specifically for this topic. So Marc is the Founder and Chief Results Officer of Brave New Markets, a digital growth company that partners with private equity firms and their B2B portfolio companies to increase enterprise value. He has more than 20 years of digital experience. He’s a pioneer in harnessing the reach and scalability of customer facing technology to unleash potential for rapid growth. He is a recognized thought leader. As well as a respected speaker on topics such as digital growth, business transformation, and customer success. Did I miss anything important Marc?
02:32.83 Marc Waldeck
No, that sounds great, makes me sound really good!
02:41.42 Courtney Tyson
And obviously you have some really great expertise that we’re looking forward to you know, learning more about today specifically around digital growth and what all of that means. Before we dive in. Let’s kind of talk about your business concept. So I find it to be very interesting. Can you tell us a little bit more about where the idea for Brave New Markets came from and how everything kind of came about?
03:03.59 Marc Waldeck
Sure. I spent the first years of my career and in sales and marketing management roles and in mid to large corporations which was a great learning ground. Getting on into my career, I participated in a global branding project for a change management consulting firm that provided me a great understanding how consulting firms work and when that completed I was ready to ready to start working for myself and and help multiple companies at the same time instead of just 1 as as working for them so ninety ninety nine I launched Brave New Markets with the idea of providing marketing strategy and services that were actually focused on results.
So as I mentioned I’ve been in a number of organizations and up until that point I’d been involved with marketing companies you know and and hired them many times but you know and actually they just seem to pay lip service to results and they were more focused on just moving from campaign to campaign and not much about assessing the success of those campaigns but just wanting to donning wanting to sell the next one so that was kind of my motivation to start Brave New Markets and where to start helping our clients. We were just getting started.
and getting traction with the organization when the dot com bubble bust occurred back in 2000 but nevertheless we were hyper focused on results and quickly determined client ROI was best from all of our digital efforts in digital capabilities and that’s what early on started steering the Brave New Markets ship to digital.
04:54.78 Courtney Tyson
Interesting I Love that you know you were so focused on results from the start whereas I think you’re right? You know 20 years ago. Maybe it was a little bit different like you said it was all you know word of mouth whether or not you were having success but now it’s all about having that information in the results. You had mentioned that you know your target market is private equity backed B2B companies. What led you to the decision to build Brave New Markets around this market?
05:25.74 Marc Waldeck
You know, actuality our customers and our capabilities led us in that direction ultimately in 1 cavea. I was fortunate early enough in my career to learn that there is no better organization to be involved in than a rapidly growing business. Dynamic growth is such a powerful influence for creativity positivity that you know building that can do attitude throughout an organization I find it addictive in a good way. Of being associated with that and being challenged every day to to keep up with growth that you personally play a role in with that said about 3 years ago we actually did a very deep six month review of Brave New Markets growth.
06:19.26 Marc Waldeck
Ah, capabilities and what we wanted to do kind of a look back at at everything we had done and where we were and where we were going that involved our capabilities and we had already shed a tremendous number of traditional marketing services that we were no longer doing with the focus on Digital. We looked at all of our client profiles throughout the years of of where we had worked and where we had gained success and looked at Market trajectories and that exercise was that internal exercise was great at illuminating where our sweet spot is and firstly that’s private equity. And we have we found and we gained through experience that leadership of private equity back companies. Especially those with recent pe investments. They’re highly motivated and they have the resources to invest and focus on growth and value creation. Today ah value creation is needed beyond traditional financial tactics and in private equity back companies and digital growth and transformations driving superior value creates top line revenue growth at lower cost and so it’s very interested. Both the private equity companies and their portfolio companies both and so that motivation keeps things moving keeps you know making the correct decisions ah staying committed to decisions because what we do is pretty transformational. Secondly. Ah, we we like b two b companies. Ah, they’re traditionally kind of underserved in customer facing Digital. They’ve been involved in digital for years. Robotics logistics warehouse management etc. But not on the customer facing side and so there’s great opportunity there in most organizations for for the face-to-face for the real customer experience to be digital and so we focus on customer facing digital and then usually integrate with the systems that they have. Existing for for customer information and exchange and and things like that you know I add that every company’s proud of its capabilities and and swears it’s different than everything else, but most companies to clients and customers appear to do the same thing in the same way in most industries. We’re all human and we think of the average if you think of the average B2B buyer though the average B2B buyers faced with a checklist every day so of things they have to accomplish what happens if you easily attract them.
09:02.90 Marc Waldeck
Give them a path of lease resistance to checking off that line on a checklist. What happens they keep coming back because they want to keep checking off that item as easy as possible I’m oversimplifying but the path of least resistance includes capturing their attention. Enabling them to quickly and perfectly find the product or service they’re looking for easily place an order timely communications and then an easy way to tap or click to to repeat that experience and we find the areas for best growth, easy growth and most return on investment to be business. Business organizations.
09:40.19 Courtney Tyson
Interesting. That’s great. It’s funny I’ve worked with a handful of private equity firms and their portfolio companies in my career—obviously not to the extent that you have, but I’ve learned that too. They’re very motivated. They say they’re going to do something and they do it right? They get it done and so I can see you’re obviously someone who’s the same way. So it aligns perfectly. Your website and your mantra is very focused on B2B businesses and we kind of learned why of such a passion for working in that sector.
Now being that your mantra and your website talks a lot about digital growth versus marketing, I’m wondering if you can help us and our audience to better understand a little bit more about what that means, you know what is digital growth and what is marketing in your mind? How do they differ, how are they the same?
10:36.31 Marc Waldeck
It’s an attention getter isn’t it. We tell clients and groups, “stop marketing and start growing.” And I do realize that it’s ah, an attention getter. But if you look back where I started and I talked about you know other you know other companies being more focused on campaigns or just traditional marketing. Whatever and you do marketing for the sense of marketing where does it really add up. Quite frankly, most executives deep down inside. They feel like they’re throwing money down a hole and they never really know what tangible results they get and the other thing I witnessed for years is a lot of marketing decisions are are actually based on ego. You know they make my company and they make me look good. But they’re but again, they’re not tied to results and at the end it kind of leaves a yeah, it kind of leaves a bad taste in in Executives. You know for? Ah, you know for the money that they’ve invested in it. Today we feel especially in B2B I’m not talking about consumer now that’s completely different but in b to b traditional marketing activities can have little to no effect on the bottom line that includes that includes things for traditional branding not that there isn’t a role internally within a company for branding. But we find where things have gone are really I mean you’re judged on customer experience. You know you can note you’re no longer telling a customer. How to think about you, you’re showing them how to think about you and it means everything these days and digital. Quite frankly is the most efficient method for creating outstanding customer experience. It’s just the most efficient way to go about it now arguably there are some elements of digital that look like marketing I get that but leaders of companies. Especially B2B companies should really start. Stop thinking about marketing and be laser focused on all of those activities that contribute directly to growth and right now that’s digital customer experience.
12:48.13 Courtney Tyson
So it all comes down to kind of like ah the digital footprint everything from website presence to maybe other types of digital activities such as maybe like digital advertising or you know your your business profile on Google so how all of that pieces together ad there could. And how that contributes to you know money right? and revenue and so that all all kind of like encompasses digital growth right.
13:13.38 Marc Waldeck
Exactly if you look at every demographic these days in in B2B and I’m a boomer myself and and but but I look across you know down through you know, millennial demographics that that. Are into the into buying situations purchasing situations and B2B now. Hey, no one really wants to talk to you anymore. I mean, yeah, and when you really think about it your customers don’t want to talk to you, they at least don’t want to initiate things that way. There’s a great place for that and there’s a great way to handle that. But at first you’ve got an opportunity to capture their attention digitally to grab them get them involved in your organization. And then after that there’s a great way to build up a conversation with the client, they are more likely to spend time on the phone with you and such.
14:15.50 Courtney Tyson
So we talk about digital growth as a strategy. What are the components of a digital growth strategy? I think we talked about a couple of them, like the website right? But I know there’s a lot more beyond that.
14:23.66 Marc Waldeck
There is. And they’re not all digital. This is a you know digital growth strategy having that digital customer facing capability.
Ah, is really about the entire customer experience and so like I say it’s very transformational and quite frankly, that’s why we report directly to the c-suite because as time goes on digital growth involves every person and department in an organization. Ah, you’d see us involved in everything from long-term business strategy ah strategic value creation, price strategies, sales transformation, finance, logistics, customer insights and everything else because if I do want to have a digital relationship with your company. I should be able to do everything relative to that relationship. Look up an order, see what I’ve been buying, see where my order is, those sorts of things. These are gonna involve every part of an organization so you tend to when we talk about Digital Growth. We tend to think about attracting maybe through search marketing having a very good digital presence being able to answer emails and respond quickly to inquiries and that’s all part of it. But don’t lose. Don’t lose track of that. Ah, the entire experience will involve everything that an organization does.
16:01.90 Courtney Tyson
I love the term you use digital relationship. I think that’s great. Having a strong neutral relationship leads to more revenue right? So having kind of having ah a familiar more familiar relationship with that customer. It’s interesting. I really like that term.
16:09.93 Marc Waldeck
16:20.52 Courtney Tyson
So let’s talk about I think you talked about how all businesses obviously would benefit from having a digital growth strategy, but are there types of businesses you think that would benefit more than others?
16:34.71 Marc Waldeck
As far as realizing the benefits to the bottom line if you will you know which customer experience and customer relationships should go directly to the bottom line in the B2B Realm the more your business relies on. Transactions and repeatable transactions 1 that people can accomplish digitally as opposed to professional services like you know, medical architects and things like that.
The more repeatable the transaction, the more your business relies on a high level of transactions and repeatable transactions, the more digital is going to deliver to the bottom line because it gives you the ability to do far more transactions to a greater audience at the same time. It provides a lower cost to serve and so you’re doing more business. Less cost and able to expand your reach and your share of wallet much easier.
17:37.47 Courtney Tyson
So any business in which a transaction could be completed easily and not need a whole lot of like you said professional services, so a lot of folks from that organization being involved and having to kind of tailor an order to the customer.
17:54.82 Marc Waldeck
Right? Let’s submit it if you’re an architect. You need to spend a long time for one transaction to deliver a very complex product actually the less complicated, more repeatable that transaction it could be anything from rental to you know selling a business product and or a business service or something that needs to be repeated on an that type of business is going to realize more to the bottom line faster.
18:27.73 Courtney Tyson
You had talked about customer acquisition and retention and how that all kind of plays into a digital growth strategy. Can you talk us through how B2B companies can get started with these two things digitally?
18:43.52 Marc Waldeck
Absolutely. First off, start at the top of the organization. This takes a senior level at the very top of the organization commitment for this to succeed because as I said earlier, you’re going to touch every part of the business ultimately in your quest to provide a very good digital relationship with a customer and so it takes that top of the organization commitment.
Also don’t try to do everything at once that is right for failure. This is a process. And you’re going to pick as in any priority making you’re going to do the things that make the best impact the fastest and you’re going to prioritize other things down the road that you need to get at. You need to be agile. Plan small incremental steps for digital growth and that is customer acquisition and retention. What small things can you do from your first steps into really search marketing to having a quick. Correct digital presence to the services that you in capabilities that you offer online and those types of things I mean many times we have a digital growth plan that stretches out 3 years for a client and we know from experience that that’s about the right amount of time to get it right. Otherwise because along the way you’re going to learn things that you hadn’t anticipated about your customer and prospect base and you need to integrate those into your plan to make the most of it. But so that’s initially what you have to do for customer acquisition.
The number one thing I tell clients in groups is stop being satisfied with your B2B company website. And if you call it a website, I challenge you to stop calling it that. It’s probably nothing more than an electronic brochure. You know earlier I talked about the B2B customer and how you may be just a line on their checklist they need to accomplish and so a B2B website should really be focused on customers doing business. Think of it as a web application. As opposed to just trying to have an electronic brochure, something that allows my customers to accomplish their business.
Can I give you an example? Southwest Airlines. Love those folks, I mean they’re legendary. They’ve got a great business model.
21:20.30 Marc Waldeck
You know they’ve got a wonderful story. They have 7 hundred planes. They fly to so many destinations. Their employees are legendary, their founder, they have stories all around and you know if you go to their website (or their web application that is) you can find out about those things if you dig far enough. But what’s the first thing that hits you in the face? This big yellow form that says “where do you want to go?” They don’t need to talk you into going somewhere. They don’t need to tell you about the destination or their beautiful gates at that airport. No, where do you want to go.
21:59.66 Marc Waldeck
And I challenge business leaders to think about that for their business. Where are they investing time and where are they giving their customers that ease of accessibility to their products and services. Once you got them there, help them get what they need.
22:11.33 Courtney Tyson
Yeah. there’s no I think greater frustration as being a buyer and not being able to access your account and your orders right? And what do I do? If I have to talk to someone about an order I place, put all of those things in front of me. It shouldn’t be this maze that I have to go through.
22:27.32 Marc Waldeck
22:34.58 Courtney Tyson
Such a great analogy using Southwest. I’m a big follower of Southwest I use them all the time. But yeah I think everything you said makes so much sense. So just to recap, you said start at the top. Make sure you get all the C-suite on board with the strategy. It’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon. Do it slowly, start with the components that you know are going to have the biggest impact. Get those done and it will all come together and you’ll see the success of it.
23:01.13 Marc Waldeck
Right? And you know lastly, for retention we have to continually improving the customer experience and enhancing it and adding more and more to it. So you know that’ll touch areas like making sure you get your fulfillment correctly.
23:20.44 Marc Waldeck
Communications personalization possibly subscriptions. So I don’t have to come back and check that off every time I need something done and then curated offerings. Also I mean so much more in today’s market plan and that’s a great way to put your with all this you’re gonna be building a nice data warehouse. And in the future you’re going to be able to anticipate customer needs before they know they need it just by having the right people looking at that information.
23:46.52 Courtney Tyson
You had talked a lot about all the different things that you do for your clients specifically I wanted to ask, what tools are you and your team using to help your customers grow?
23:59.66 Marc Waldeck
Well, we use a wide variety of tools. Most of them cloud based and we to put to plug in and and serve our customer needs. First off. Ah we always set up a digital platform. That serves as a hub for bringing everything together because we’re usually dealing with legacy enterprise systems of some type that need to be integrated and brought forward customer facing that information obviously comprehensive analytics packages data warehousing. To make sure that everything that’s done is captured. Saving data is cheap these days, so there’s no reason not to do it and have that data available for analytics in the future.
We have multiple monitoring systems to monitor every part of a digital engagement and a digital experience. And then other tools to help people do things like CallTrackingMetrics I mean you know that’s ah that’s a great example of attribution for tracking and being able to see what efforts are bringing people in what are making them contact and then finally what’s ending up on the bottom line.
So any applications that we bring in have to aid tracking all these activities to the bottom line of a business so we can either prove it works or prove it doesn’t work. And also I’ll say you know that’s a lot of digital things and one of the interesting things on CallTrackingMetrics that we learned early on in working with the platform is that our customers also get a tremendous training advantage out of call recording. It’s enormous what you can learn about 1 how your people deal with phone interaction and are they getting the job done and then 2 the customer insights that come out of it. Customers will tell you exactly what they want and how they want to buy it and. And ah, how easy it is to sell them if you really listen to it and so we’ve gained tremendous insights out of that and it’s those types of tools that come together to build that digital customer relationship and that experience. That is so important today.
26:21.24 Courtney Tyson
Well, thanks Marc I’m glad you see that underlying value in call tracking metrics and in the call recordings think that’s a wonderful point.
I think something important too you said is that you have to make sure all the tools you’re using are contributing to the data analytics that you’re using to share with your customers and how to kind of prove hey we are helping you to grow and this is how. I think that’s really important because we can all get really excited about all the fun tools out there nowadays. So this was great. Marc, was there anything that you wanted to plug before we end to today’s conversation?
26:57.88 Marc Waldeck
Oh I don’t know if it’s a plug, it’s just that there is I so I still get energized coming in every day because there’s so many exciting things happening and I love the pace of change in industry these days technology has always been a fun thing with me since I was a kid and get it. Yeah, so, every day it feels like I’m a kid in a candy store as far as the tools that we get to use but also it’s just exciting what’s going on in the marketplace these days and as I mentioned earlier being able to be involved with fast-growing companies, rapidly growing companies, and companies that are energized and empowered by growth is just a tremendous place to be and I’m having a great time and I encourage others to explore it. Also there’s nothing more drab than going into a business. Treading water. You know that’s where you see attitude slip and things like that. The energy of growth is contagious and everyone should find a way to make that growth happen.
28:03.59 Courtney Tyson
And what’s so cool about what you do is that you’re a part of so many different companies growth right? I mean that’s just awesome to think you’re not just contributing to you know one company on a daily basis. It’s multiple and that’s really cool too.
28:19.80 Marc Waldeck
Right? According to you hit on it at the end of the day you know companies are made up of people and 1 having a fun place to go work. You know if it’s fun. It’s not really work that’s ah, that’s a great thing.
28:20.78 Courtney Tyson
Just exciting in general.
28:36.61 Marc Waldeck
And then you know everyone you’re helping growth helps everyone’s lives that is involved with these companies and there can’t be a better feeling in the world and see that success. You know spread around an organization. I love it.
28:48.25 Courtney Tyson
I love that too and that must be why you love CallTrackingMetrics so much because we’re just so rapidly growing as well.
28:54.65 Marc Waldeck
Right I have a hard time keeping up with all the capabilities you keep adding but we’re trying.
28:59.11 Courtney Tyson
Yes, yes, we got a lot going on. So thank you Marc! We appreciate that. And thanks for taking time out of your busy schedule to teach us more about digital growth and the B2B space and what that means and what a strategy looks like. I know I certainly learned a lot and I know our listeners will too. So thank you very much Marc and thanks too for being a great partner of ours. We always have fun when our clients get to be our guests. So thanks and thank you to our listeners as well.
29:19.14 Marc Waldeck
My pleasure Courtney.
29:32.43 Courtney Tyson
Always appreciate your time. Stay in touch with us on social media. You can find us at @smartroutepod on Twitter. We will talk to you soon.