Digital Ecosystem

The Digital Ecosystem for Small Business Growth

Ben Wordell
·
February 15, 2021

A Digital Ecosystem is a modern collaboration between tools, a marketing stack of sorts, to prime your business to grow and scale.

I’ve talked to many business owners that, through a variety of phrases, echo the same sentiment: “An inability to reverse declining revenue”.

Revenue is one of the symptoms but never the cause of this frustration. It comes down to acquiring customers. The first step is taking a look under the hood to see where the smoke is coming from.

A digital ecosystem is like that engine. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts. The following four components are the foundation for what it is going to take to acquire customers in 2021.

How Did We Get Here?

As the world shrinks, complexity in business expands.

Your great-great-great grandfather heard a knock on his shop door from a local in town. Your great-great grandfather brought in some customers from his stake in the morning paper. Your great grandfather got an inquiring telephone call from an individual across the city.

After telephone we had television. Then email. Then internet. Then websites, smartphones, and social media. It’s a small world. Your customers are now everywhere, but to get in front of them now requires more technology and know-how.

Buyers can be as much as 80% of the way through buyer journey before engaging with a sales rep

You’ve heard the statistics about the buyer being as much as 80% of the way through the buyer journey before engaging with a sales representative. You may well be wondering where that time spent, on what, and how you can influence a buyer that is more empowered than ever before.

You can do more than influence, you can still control the process. That 80% is where your digital ecosystem lives.

The Four Components

One more thing to put this model in perspective and then we will dive in: each one of these components can be further broken down systems and tactics.

This is not a software analysis or a how-to for tactics. While these things are important components, they are a commodity. The real value comes from the system you build and how the components fit into place.

Consider your business, your customer, and your mission. This is about doing the best possible thing for all three.

1. Traffic

It starts with getting in front of people. Traffic is a game of attention. If your prospects do not know you exist, they are going to have a hard time buying from you. Your entire business would not exist if not for the single moments when individuals first become aware of you.

The first component: Traffic

There are four types of traffic and within each category there are tactics. You may hear buzzwords and hype surrounding tactics “___ is the single best way to get traffic” but these are based on the misguided assumption that all customers are the same.

The most important factor in generating traffic today is relevance. This requires a deep understanding of your customer and product market fit. Start with the customer’s problem and align yourself with the solution.

Think about it like finding a community and then positioning yourself to serve them over time. How can you add value to their search for a solution?

Organic — To use the community example again, organic traffic is the most natural way to interact with those who may not even be aware of you. We’ll call this earned traffic because by producing valuable content you’re helping them solve their problems. In doing so they have become aware of you.

Paid — Any platform that is free for its’ user base will gladly sell you the attention of their nicely segmented individuals. LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, Youtube, and Google are all possibilities but you don’t have to be on all of them. Test the message, offer, and audience on different platforms.

Referral —Give people an excellent experience and they will not keep it a secret. Provide someone with a valuable resource and they will be eager to send other people. A few ways to get traffic from referrals include making it frictionless to share your content, being linked to from industry forums and credible sources, asking for client referrals, and creating feedback loops.

Social Media — Content campaigns, images, graphics, and video can all be used effectively to generate traffic. The first step is to make sure your messaging is cohesive across platforms. Next create a content calendar and campaign objectives based on your customer’s problem and your solution.

2. Website

When you have a prospect’s attention and have built awareness, you want them on your website. If you’re doing traffic right, they should want to be on your website.

“Millennial B2B buyers cited Internet search and vendors’ websites as their top two means of researching products and services.” (Merit) It gets even better than that because the data you collect during their sessions provide even deeper insight into your customers.

The second component: Website

B2B buyers are consumers. Everyone is now conditioned to expect an intuitive user experience on desktop and mobile websites. They’ll likely be gone after the first signs on turbulence.

The best way to keep visitors on your site is to be extremely intentional. This includes making the site easy to navigate, clear and compelling call-to-action sections, and answering all of the right questions.

Your website is not about you, it is about the customer and the problem. Speak the language of the customer. They want to hear about benefits and not features. Specifications and educational content will be one level deeper.

Here are the most important functions of your website.

Valuable Content — You are sending traffic to your website so the website needs to deliver. Why did the person take the step to view your website? Satisfy that initial need with valuable content, answers, and messaging.

Capture Leads— The percentage of website visitors that become leads is an important number. The ability to capture leads and segment customers based on behavior unlocks personalized opportunities in the CRM and email marketing.

Metrics — Setting up analytics and tracking key metrics is one of the best ways to improve your website. AB testing and heat-maps will create the insights into making changes that positively affect conversions. Google analytics gives you superpowers, select 10–15 metrics and make a custom dashboard.

3. Buyer Journey

Now that they’re on the website and we’ve likely collected their information it’s time to consider what we know about buyer journey.

The best way to think about buyer journey today is job completion with a series of tasks that must be satisfied for a purchase to happen. Customers don’t buy in a linear fashion and there is no longer a clear handoff from marketing to sales or a handoff from digital to in-person.

This shift in behavior should encourage companies to shift their mindset. The customer needs to the at the center of marketing and sales efforts. One way to ensure this happens is to map buyer jobs based on the actions and information they need to get the job done.

The third component: Buyer Journey

Pre-awareness — They have a problem you can address but also has no idea who you are or what you do.

Awareness — They know about you.

Education — They become aware of what you can do and how it is relevant to their problem.

Consideration — They become aware of the benefits and promised results.

Evaluation — They weigh in their mind your ability to deliver, your credibility, and their belief in your solution.

Rationalization — They consider the timing, resources, and your interests in what may soon become a purchase.

And finally Decision. When all of these jobs are satisfied and the timing is right, then congratulations, you’ve won a customer.

These steps are non-linear for a number of reasons. The first reason is that there will be many loops created between stages. Consider what we have established so far: A prospect searches for something in a web browser, lands on your website, and gets the answer they are looking for and leaves. They may still be unaware of who you are.

The seconds reason is that individuals are not locked into a single path towards purchase. They will enter and leave at different stages. This is a byproduct of digital and having information, options, and time readily available.

Ultimately, those who understand how the buyer thinks will succeed. The next step is taking this knowledge and building a system to address all the jobs that need to be completed.

4. Technology Stack

Your digital tools sit right below the buyer journey in the graphic because the technology you use needs to be informed by the buyer journey. Some tools span and satisfy multiple stages.

The number of tools at your disposal is near infinite, there are more being created daily than you have the capacity to try out and use. They range from the CRM giants to the niche Saas startups.

The fourth component: Technology Stack

The worst thing you could do would be research these options for months and months and waste time that you could use being actionable.

Everything looks like a nail if you are holding a hammer. Don’t pick the tool first. Determine the strategy and process, map the buyer journey, and then fit the tool to the problem.

Every marketing technology stack will look different, but there are a few components that you shouldn’t be without.

CRM — The Customer Relationship Manager does just that, helps you manage and track interactions. Depending on the size of your market and length of buying cycle these can be extremely simple or complex. They are a blank canvas for leads you have collected.

Website + CMS — The website spans the entire buyer journey. At every stage you can create valuable website experiences to delight and inform potential customers. A CMS is a dynamic way to create and publish content. It helps you keep your website relevant and up to date.

Database — Again, a blank canvas to help store information for the backend of your digital ecosystem. This is essential for automation and running multiple software on top of the same data.

Social Platforms — Social platforms are important in the awareness and education stages. Content strategy, groups, pages, and direct connections can all be leveraged to stay in front of the right audience.

Those are the four cornerstones. It’s important to add to it based on customer needs and remembering that you are not building a linear path but instead a valuable ecosystem to make the journey to becoming a customer as frictionless as possible.

Additional pieces you may want to add first include: live chat on website, marketi

Entire Digital Ecosystem

Until you have a system for generating repeatable sales you don’t fully realize the brick wall you are up against. If you can find clarity in these four areas: Traffic, Website, Buyer Journey, and aligning Technology then the other pieces fall into place.

This digital ecosystem bridges the gap between business strategy and customer acquisition. Before putting this system together you should develop a strong understanding of product-market-fit.

Chasing after one-and-done solutions will not get you far in most endeavors. And that’s not what this is. Building this alone does not get you customers, it puts you in the position to get customers. The campaigns, content, and relationships built on top are going to do that.

What Are The Benefits To Building And Running A Digital Ecosystem

Business Growth

Statistically one of the biggest challenges facing business owners is consistent growth. This system allows you to attack the causes and not simply alleviate the symptoms. The relationships have moved online and building a minimal working version of this system is enough to see the patterns emerge for long term growth.

Automation

Automation can saves hours each day as well as help align sales and marketing departments. Connect everything. There are a few methods including a few lines of Javascript + API, direct integrations, or Saas solutions like Zapier or Parabola.

Repeatability

Systems not goals. Systems not tactics. Repeatability happens when you are able to remove all randomness and the chaos. The Digital Ecosystem is based on the buyer journey and your customers. While tactics may change, the systems surrounding them will not.

Some Good News For Your Business

It is always the right time to sell to customers in the way that customers want to buy. Customers don’t want to accept another day of difficulties and you shouldn’t accept another day of declining revenue.

What does the system for your desired revenue look like?

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