During the early stages of the pandemic, many B2B companies considered remote interactions as a temporary patch, a way to stay in touch with customers while sales reps were confined to their home offices. Now, it’s becoming clear that omnichannel is here to stay, and many businesses aren’t prepared for this permanent change.
The latest B2B Pulse research from McKinsey shows that two thirds of U.S. buyers opt for remote human interactions or digital self-service at various stages of their decision journey, such as identifying, searching for, reviewing, and evaluating new suppliers, as well as for ordering and reordering. While this shift is partly driven by Covid-related lockdowns and distancing requirements, it is in tune with a larger trend that predates the pandemic. Over the course of the past five years, the number of channels B2B buyers use has doubled, from 5 in 2016 to 10 in 2021. And a staggering 94% of respondents say that the new omnichannel sales model is as effective as, or more effective than, the previous sales model.
Although B2B buyers are enthusiastic about omnichannel interactions, they are also very clear about what they want from suppliers — and very willing to switch if “must-haves” are not offered. For example, 82% of B2B decision makers will actively look for a new supplier if a performance guarantee is not offered. Players who get omnichannel right though can not only attract new customers but retain existing ones, leading to higher revenues, lower cost to serve, improved customer satisfaction scores, and reduced churn rates.
A comprehensive view of each customer is key
B2B buyers expect the same level of omnichannel service and flexibility as when they shop in their personal lives. They want to be able hop from channel to channel as they advance in their buying journey. They may start by researching their options at a supplier’s website or a social media platform. When questions come up, they want to be able to open a chat, call a sales representative, or receive a call back within a few hours, and they expect the sales rep to be up to speed on their history, provided they have agreed to data collection. They may want a specialist to meet them on site at their plant to select the perfect product or solution for their purposes.
Many B2B players struggle with the implementation of omnichannel interactions because they treat channels as silos (“multichannel”), rather than as a set of interconnected tools a customer may want to use at different stages of a decision journey, or at different points in the relationship with a supplier (“omnichannel”). To enable seamless end-to-end omnichannel journeys, B2B players must create a comprehensive view of each customer and deliver consistent messages across channels. Successful omnichannel sellers use CRM tools that provide visibility on the entire customer journey. Such tools enable them to combine leads from different sales departments and channels. Based on this kind of transparency, they can create a seamless experience for customers, and they can reward sales representatives regardless of where a customer makes the final purchase.
Five success factors for moving to omnichannel sales
We’ve observed five elements of successful transitions from a multichannel model, where multiple channels exist side by side, to a fully integrated omnichannel model. The common factors among successful businesses that make this shift are customer centricity, a holistic approach, pro-active channel conflict management, strong digital foundations, and agile collaboration across functions.
To create seamless and compelling customer journeys, pioneers put customers and their needs at the center of their omnichannel offering. Over half of B2B companies in the U.S. conduct extensive primary research to better understand customer decision journeys, with top performing companies more likely to do so than slower growing companies. They review transaction logs and conduct targeted research to come to a clear understanding of customer preferences at each touchpoint and stage of the decision journey. They build comprehensive, fully integrated customer profiles and manage relationships across channels. For example, a large technology company faced increasing pressure from smaller, highly customer-centric competitors. In response, the company reimagined its customer experience and put customers back at the center of its activities by designing, building, and operating a digital customer experience platform. A corresponding pilot was conducted with more than 450 customers to enable better identification of customer needs and more targeted solution recommendations. The program resulted in higher satisfaction, reduced churn, and an uplift in digital sales.
A holistic approach:
One in three B2B companies re-defined the role of each sales channel in their company’s overall go-to-market strategy within the past year. A specialty chemicals company developed a holistic B2B omnichannel strategy that was tailored to the specific needs and characteristics of the company’s business model and customer base. The process involved setting up three distinct sales channels (field sales, inside sales, distribution) and a clear channel allocation approach. To forge a truly holistic approach, the channels were complemented by three supporting functions across the customer journey, spanning all channels and enabling a seamless experience:
A lead generator role was set up to generate leads at scale across all channels through market scans and by leveraging business intelligence.
The online presence was upgraded to address customers’ needs across the digital buying journey via multiple digital platforms, including the company’s web site, social media profiles, and an e-commerce portal.
A dedicated customer service team supported customers with ordering and fulfillment.
Overall, this holistic approach enabled the company to increase the number and frequency of customer interactions with supporting digital information, to enhance the company’s reach and relevance through external platforms and lead generators, and to provide customers with more flexibility by offering online ordering to all customers.
Proactive channel conflict management:
Many companies say they have faced increased channel-competition challenges as a result of field sales roles working from home similar to an inside sales and they are very concerned about their relationships with distributors which has stifled e-commerce progress. Omnichannel outperformers do not avoid conflict. Rather, they address it proactively, using segmentation to find the perfect fit of channels, customers, and products or services. This is what one industrial tech company did when it increased direct online sales to generate higher revenue and increase margins, reduce reliance on third-party distributors, and improve customer relationships. The company needed to understand and mitigate the risk of channel conflict, particularly with dealers. It mapped the customer decision journey by segment with the help of quantitative research and interviews. The segments were defined by factors such as interaction preference, average order size, purchase frequency, and expected lifetime value. The company also modeled the economic impact of shifting products from one channel to another (e.g., from distributors to direct sales, or from traditional sales to e-commerce). It also applied war gaming to determine how stakeholders might respond to a new channel strategy. Based on these actions, the company’s omnichannel taskforce was able to recommend specific channels for different products and customer segments.
Digitally enabled sales and marketing:
Successful omnichannel transformations have a strong digital foundation. This requires investments in the right technology (hardware and software) and a strong connection between sales and IT, allowing organizations to make significant improvements in advanced analytics and the latest sales tools. Another important success factor is the implementation of marketing automation with digital analytics (e.g., for cross-/upselling and dynamic pricing). Leading players also apply digital marketing and sales to drive personalization at scale. An agricultural input distributor achieved significant revenue and performance gains through an omnichannel transformation focused on digitization and analytics. Specifically, the company implemented new data streams to give sales teams more accurate tools for lead generation. This goal was achieved by combining three initiatives:
Multiple data sources were used to create digital lists that were delivered directly to each salesperson.
Advanced data and analytics supported the creation of live dashboards to track performance and value capture.
Customized lead lists were used to support digital marketing and campaigns to increase conversion.
The new platform was backed by a flexible and scalable technology and data stack to ensure long-term success.
Agile cross-functional collaboration:
Successful businesses implement agile ways of working across commercial and growth functions. A crucial factor is attracting or developing the right talent and getting people from different backgrounds to work together. A travel company focused on agile collaboration to build a successful B2B platform in only four months. It involved creating cross-functional agile teams with developers, designers, and product and business managers. Weekly meetings with project sponsors supported a rapid decision-making process and enabled the company to quickly remove roadblocks. Demos were conducted to illustrate new processes and generate enthusiasm within the organization. In addition, close collaboration between marketing and commercial departments ensured the development of a state-of-the-art platform.
An omnichannel maturity assessment
To drive targeted omnichannel transformation efforts, companies should start by assessing their omnichannel maturity level. This kind of assessment enables companies to prioritize investments as they embark on an omnichannel transformation effort.
Level 1: Omnichannel launch.
Companies at this level aspire to offer customers a more integrated omnichannel experience. Multiple channels are in place, but these work largely in isolation, rather than as part of a seamless customer experience. Level 1 companies seeking to overcome silo thinking should focus on the customer-centric reimagination and implementation of end-to-end journeys. In addition, detailed role descriptions should be defined for key functions (such as field representatives, inside sales, and customer care). Also, a mechanism to manage channel conflicts should be put in place (e.g., using segmentation and cross-channel incentives).
Level 2: Omnichannel acceleration.
An omnichannel model is in place. Now the company is looking to differentiate its go-to-market approach and leverage analytics to reach the next level of growth. Level 2 companies aspiring to leverage analytics to reach the next level of growth must consider the benefits of marketing/sales automation. This can include the automation of standard parts of the sales process (for example, with AI-powered chatbots) or the implementation of website personalization. Data-driven insights can be leveraged across channels to generate leads and capture growth. The transfer of digital analytics to other sales channels (for example, territory planning) can be helpful.
Level 3: E-commerce launch/acceleration.
There are already multiple channels in place, and they work together seamlessly. The only thing missing is an effective e-commerce/digital channel. For level 3 companies seeking to build their own commerce portal or partner with an e-commerce marketplace, the link to other channels is crucial. Many B2B companies set up their websites as stand-alone solutions. While this may work well for new, online-only customers, it can lead to frustration among existing customers. Leading B2B companies use state-of-the-art, cloud-based platforms to integrate customer data across channels in real time. More importantly, they redefine the role of the sales rep and recognize that traditional sales roles have evolved and settled into an overall hybrid role. Hybrid and digital are the fastest-growing sales roles outpacing growth in more traditional roles like field sales.
Getting omnichannel right is far from trivial, but it’s worth the effort. A company-wide commitment to omnichannel excellence can be a real game changer for B2B companies. Early movers will not only be in a better position to fend off competition, but they can also capture cost savings, increase customer satisfaction, reduce churn, and grow their businesses.
The authors acknowledge the contributions of Jan-Christoph Köstring, David Sprengel, Candace Lun Plotkin, Yvonne Graf, Cornelius Grupen and Julia Katharina Schmidt.
Elon Musk said Sunday he “somewhat agonized” over the font designs for his companies Tesla and SpaceX.
The billionaire businessman added he “loves fonts” and has tweaked the logos over the years.
He revealed the SpaceX logo also holds a hidden meaning, representing a rocket’s arc to orbit.
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In a series of Sunday tweets, Elon Musk said he “somewhat agonized” over his choice of fonts for his businesses and revealed a hidden meaning behind the SpaceX logo.
Responding to a tweet about serif and sans-serif fonts, the billionaire businessman took a break from posting cryptic memes and discussing politics to say he loves fonts and put significant consideration into how his companies are presented to consumers.
“I somewhat agonized over the Tesla & SpaceX font design (love fonts tbh),” Musk tweeted. “There are some similarities, particularly use of negative space. We’ve made many little tweaks over the years.”
The Tesla logo — a T-shaped design with a custom, sans-serif font spelling out the brand name — is meant to resemble a cross-section of an electric motor. The SpaceX logo, written in a similar font with an extended X, references the reusable rockets made by the company.
“The swoop of the X is meant to represent the rocket’s arc to orbit,” Musk tweeted.
Other business logos have also held hidden messages: Baskin Robbins, a chain that sells 31 flavors of ice cream, has a secret ’31’ hidden in the letters of its logo. Likewise, Amazon’s arrow logo is meant to represent a smile, while the circular ‘B’ logo for Beats by Dre represents a person wearing the popular headphones.
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The internet has revolutionized the business world and changed how we conduct business. Any business that aims to increase its visibility and boost profit needs to pay much attention to top ranking factors, including local SEO — which introduces the topic of the local search algorithm.
Local SEO is one of the top practices that help boost a business’s visibility and generates more sales.
However, achieving better local SEO rankings is not a walk in the park, especially due to increased competition. To appear higher on local results, businesses and marketers need to understand how the local search algorithm works.
Knowing this helps guide the steps for improving rankings in the local pack.
The competition gets stiffer as more businesses open and optimize for local searching. Besides, Google is updating its algorithm consistently, meaning only businesses that can keep up with these updates can appear at the top of local search results.
Luckily, you have come to this post as this article looks at everything you need to know about Google’s local search algorithm and what you can do to get that top spot in the local pack.
Understanding the local search algorithm
Google aims to provide the best results that match a specific local search query. It constantly updates the local search algorithm to determine which business to rank on top of local search results.
Ideally, Google wants to provide local content that is relevant and valuable to users. As with search engine optimization, keyword stuffing cannot give you that top spot in local search results.
SEO specialists and marketers should consider Google’s local search algorithm updates and make the necessary changes to rank higher. Failure to consider these updates means losing your local search presence, resulting in fewer leads and conversions.
Local algorithms check the Google My Business (GMB) listings to determine where to rank a business in local search rankings.
Ideally, Google’s local algorithm ranks businesses with information that matches a searcher’s query. And the higher a business ranks in local search results, the more chances a potential customer will click on it.
This post looks at the three major pillars that determine local search results to better understand the local search algorithm: proximity, prominence and relevance.
Of course, other factors make up Google’s local search algorithm, but since we cannot identify all of them, we’ll focus on the most crucial ones in this post.
By understanding these pillars, marketers can better position themselves for local search success.
Proximity is one of the major ranking factors when it comes to local search. That means the distance between a business and a searcher is a ranking factor in local search.
When a searcher searches for something, Google considers how far the searcher is from the location of the term they use in the search. When a searcher doesn’t specify the location, Google calculates the distance based on the information they have regarding their location.
Ideally, Google aims to provide the most relevant results to a search query. For instance, why would Google provide a list of coffee shops in Los Angeles if the searcher is searching from Colombia?
That would be irrelevant local search results that won’t benefit the searcher.
Unfortunately, while proximity is a major local search pillar, it’s one of the factors that businesses have little control over. After all, you cannot change where your business is located, right?
You can only ensure your business location is as clear as possible, so that it appears for related nearby queries. Here are steps you can take to achieve this:
Claim and verify the Google My Business listing
Ensure local listings are accurate and optimized for local products or services
Get the Google Maps API Key and optimize for your location and routes
Set up your profile correctly (for Service Area Businesses) to avoid violating Google’s guidelines
Users can perform several types of local searches, including:
Users will perform geo-modified searches when they are planning to visit somewhere. For instance, a searcher in Los Angeles planning to visit Toronto, Canada, may search for a “coffee shop in Oakville.” The results will differ from if they searched for “coffee” while physically in Oakville.
To be specific, geo-modified searches are mainly based on relevance and prominence as opposed to proximity when a user searches for something when outside the city included in the search.
Searchers perform this type of search when looking for something around them. For instance, a user in Los Angeles performing a local search for “coffee.”
Ideally, the user only needs to search for something and is shown results based on proximity. They will get the results that are closest to them.
“Near me” searches
“Near me” searches have been so popular in recent years. Although their popularity has significantly declined, users still perform this type of search when looking for something locally.
For instance, some users could add “near me” when searching for a coffee shop, hoping to get the most relevant results near them. As we’ve stated, this trend has lost popularity because when you perform a local search, you are searching for something near you.
It is not necessary to add “near me” to what you’re searching.
Prominence refers to how important Google thinks your business is, which gets factored into the local search algorithm.
In other words, it refers to how well a business stands from the rest in various aspects, including directories, links, reviews, mentions, among other things.
If search engines view your business as trustworthy and credible, they will likely show it on top of related search query results.
The local search algorithm views businesses/brands with a stronger online prominence as credible and trustworthy. Some of the factors that determine prominence include:
A local citation is the mention of a business’s information online. The mention can include the partial or complete name, address, and phone number (NAP) of a local business.
Citations are an excellent way for people to learn about local businesses and impact local search results.
A business with high-quality citations can rank better in local search results, although businesses must continually manage citations to ensure data accuracy.
Backlinks play a crucial role in local business prominence. Gaining relevant backlinks from high-quality sites is an excellent way to build a business’ online reputation.
If you’re trying to outrank your competitors without much success, your backlink profile could be the reason.
In that case, you should check your competitor’s backlinks and compare them with yours. When doing this, pay attention to the number and quality of their backlinks.
As a rule of thumb, aim to have high-quality local backlinks pointing to your site to improve your page’s authority.
Next, you need to pay much attention to reviews to improve local prominence. Many customers look at a business’s online reviews before deciding whether to engage more with the business or not. Besides, many positive online reviews can increase a business’ ranking factors.
Consider this scenario. A potential customer is looking for a pub around Oakville. When they perform a search, they are presented with two results: one with over 100 reviews and another with less than 10 reviews.
Which business do you think the searcher would trust? The one with 100 reviews, obviously.
As with search engines, customers need to trust a business before they decide to do business with it. Similarly, search engines can view online reviews and analyze them to determine a business’s online prominence.
That said, here are strategies you can use to boost your online review signals:
Have a strategy
You won’t have a strong online prominence if your products or services are not of a high standard. So, the first step to having many great reviews is to develop great products and services.
After that, develop a strategy to encourage your happy customers to leave honest but valuable reviews of their experience doing business with you to help boost your online reputation.
Monitor and manage the reviews
Having many reviews is one thing; you need to develop a plan to engage with your customers for better results. Responding to reviews shows people that you care and are genuine about your products and services.
People will avoid businesses that don’t respond to customer reviews (whether positive or negative).
Search engines, too, can tell whether you engage with customer reviews or not and will use the information to determine where to rank on local search results.
When responding to online reviews, pay special attention to negative reviews and how you respond to them. While no business likes getting negative reviews, how you respond to them can positively impact your business — respond positively to turn the negative reviews around.
As earlier stated, Google wants to provide the most relevant results to a local search query. This key ranking factor will determine a business’s position in local search results — how well does a local business match a search query?
Even if your business ticks the above pillars (prominence and proximity), if the content on your page isn’t well structured and doesn’t cover the topics that a searcher is looking for, you won’t appear on top of local search results.
Here are factors that businesses should consider to create a relevant listing:
Local page signals
Local listing categories and attributes
Social posts and responses to online reviews
Local listing signals and categories
A business GMB listing and category can impact its relevance score for local searches. As such, complete your business profile carefully and continually add quality content to the web page to ensure it is relevant for proximity searches.
More specifically, ensure that all information on all listing pages, including Yelp, Bing, and Google, is complete and accurate. Aside from these factors, here are two crucial features you should pay attention to:
Selecting the right categories for your local business listing is among the crucial factors for ranking locally. With over 4000 GMB categories, you want to choose categories that best describe your business — ensure they are relevant and specific.
Here are guidelines to follow when selecting a category:
Describe your business as opposed to your services
Be specific to minimize competition
Reduce the number of GMB categories to describe your business better
Without a proper description, users won’t know what your business is about. This section is about adding an introduction to your business so that customers and search engines can know more about your business.
However, don’t use this section for marketing your business. Just give users and search engines descriptive info that can help determine whether your business matches their needs.
Local page signals
Another way a business can improve its standing in the local search algorithm is by optimizing web pages for specific keywords. For multi-location businesses, it’s essential to have separate, localized pages for each location, with relevant information and contact details for customers to reach you.
Performing competitor research is advisable to determine what terms or keywords to use for a specific query. Here are top on-page signals to consider when trying to gain relevance for a given topic:
Keyword research — Before creating local content, you need to find keywords that matter to your business. Perform keyword research to determine highly relevant keywords with high intent. When finding relevant terms to use in your content, base your research on the customer perspective; think about what they search for and the type of content they are looking for.
Create local content — After finding the right keywords, it’s time to create your content. Google values the quality of content more than the length of the content, so keep this in mind when creating content. Another crucial thing to pay attention to is localizing the content. For example, you can create content on local news and events or use your city’s name within your content.
The goal is to create a connection between what’s happening in your local area and your business. Also, use pictures with your specific geolocation to increase your content relevance.
Creating quality and relevant content is only the start. You need to optimize your content for on-page signals so local search algorithms can discover and rank them better. Here’s how you can optimize your local content for on-page signals:
Meta descriptions — Include keywords in your meta descriptions to encourage searchers to click through and increase visibility
Title tags — Title tags are some of the factors that search engines use to determine where to rank content. Incorporating keywords naturally in your title tags can help boost local rankings
Image tags — Another way to improve local rankings is by including relevant keywords in your image tags. Including geotags also comes with an added advantage
Headings — Users and Google value pages with clear structures. Consider creating headings within your content to capture readers’ attention and encourage them to read on. However, ensure your heading tags describe the content that comes after them well. Also, include keywords in your heading tags to help search engines understand them and their importance.
Off-page local signals
Gaining high-quality backlinks is a great way to boost credibility and trust. Backlinks refer to external links from another website to your site. Aim to have more high-quality backlinks to boost your website authority.
Ideally, having many quality backlinks shows search engines that your website or page is credible and trustworthy, which boosts the chances of ranking it higher in search engine results.
Guest posting is one of the best examples of link-building strategies you can use. Finding great guest posting opportunities provides an excellent opportunity to share your content to a new but relevant audience, which helps boost your website authority.
Another strategy you can use is to create longer and better content than what is already available on the web. When your content is high quality and relevant, it will be easier to get high-quality backlinks.
Review and social signals
Online reviews can also help boost relevance for your local business. Aim to get as many positive reviews from your happy customers as possible.
Remember, when customers perform a local search, they get not only the relevant businesses but also reviews related to the search. The more positive reviews a business has, the higher chances a potential customer will do business with them.
Closing thoughts on the local search algorithm
Ranking on top of local search results can seem daunting, but it shouldn’t when you know the vital things to focus on. As you have seen above, the local algorithm is based on three pillars: relevance, proximity, and prominence.
Of course, other factors determine local search rankings depending on your industry and competition.
Ah, email. Why did you send my friend’s birthday party invite to my spam folder? Why do you make it so easy to archive an email when I don’t even know what that means? Why are you … blue now … Gmail?
Email is a necessary evil. So whenever I hear about startups looking to innovate on the decades-old communication tech, I’m instantly intrigued considering the huge number of potential areas of improvement. Plus, talk about a large TAM!
Startups have taken note. Boomerang launched its email productivity software in 2010, and since its 2014 launch, Superhuman has raised $108 million to help users get through their inbox faster. Trying to build a better email mousetrap isn’t exactly a novel concept, but it could be big business.
I recently received pitches from two new upstarts, both of which launched their email innovations in the last year, that really piqued my interest. Let’s meet them.