A Novel Decision Journey (Part 1)

Futurist and innovator Brian Solis recently introduced the concept of the “novel economy.”  In an interview with fellow innovator Vala Afshar, Solis explained, “We are entering what I call a Novel Economy. Novel means new and unusual and that accurately describes these times. Novel represents a new strain of market conditions that are not fully identified or understood. We were all simultaneously thrust into a melee of panic, fear, confusion, and disorder. There’s really no widespread expertise, playbooks, or best practices to guide us.”

In an effort to understand new content best practices, our team conducted a special journey mapping exercise to see how the pandemic may be impacting technology related decision-making in B2B. 

We chose an ecommerce platform decision in manufacturing for our scenario, but the learnings for content strategy can be applied across different sectors, technologies, and other product and service categories.

Why manufacturing?

It’s been especially tough for manufacturing as the coronavirus continues to wreak havoc on the supply chain. If you work in the sector, or serve customers that do, you know how difficult uncertainty and inconsistency can be for an operation that relies on precision, timing, flow and process.

For the most part, global production is running at significantly reduced rates. Even if a product can be produced overseas, there is no guarantee it can ship. Much of the food produced locally is going to waste, despite the emptiness of the grocery store shelves. In B2B, the problems are unique to each business and different types of manufacturers are experiencing log jams unique to them. For example, health and safety equipment manufacturers are struggling to keep up with demand. Lead times are increasing while their workforce is decreasing. By contrast, some food service manufacturers are temporarily shut down because they can’t change their packaging on the fly. According to the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), these issues will continue for the foreseeable future and experts agree the supply chain will fundamentally change.

Ecommerce is a safety net

“We’ve accelerated our investment in digital commerce because the COVID-19 pandemic has increased demand for several of the products we distribute. Many American manufacturers have re-tooled their factory floors to rapidly produce personal protective equipment (PPE) for the front-line heroes. A strong ecommerce channel will help us get those PPE products in the hands of the people who need them most.” Julie Copeland, CEO at Arbill

A lifeline for many industries has been their digital sales engine. Brick and mortar retailers with ecommerce capabilities and a solid experience tend to be faring better than those without. Not an early adopter, manufacturing has traditionally lagged with this technology. Despite being on the forefront of innovation in many other areas like robotics, IoT, and 3D printing, ecommerce functionality has often been an afterthought. And with it, so has the digital experience. In fact, some manufacturers lack a dedicated digital marketing or ecommerce function, assigning responsibility for related tasks to Sales or IT. Those companies with inadequate or outdated software and an old-fashioned catalogue system are not in the best position to scale.

An IT-led decision

Most B2B software evaluations – especially in manufacturing – lie securely under the watchful direction of IT Decision Makers (ITDMs). They consider the requirements against systems integration, data security, implementation time, cost, resources and ROI and have total veto power in the decision.

Every significant purchase scenario has a buying center behind it. Reporting into the COO or CTO, IT Directors and their Senior Architects usually drive the process and do the heavy lifting on the research. Manufacturing typically contracts with consultants like software specialists, engineers, and project managers to assist in the implementations. They may influence vendor selection as well. Sales will likely own the budget and will have say. Then there is buy-in needed at the top, typically from the CFO and/or CEO, depending on the size of the company.

A purposeful journey

We designed and executed an ecommerce journey in manufacturing with two objectives in mind; to determine:

  1. How on-target is vendor content and messaging for an IT Director?
  2. How on-target is that content in the era of COVID-19?

Part 2 of this blog summarizes the findings of our journey. In addition to the key takeaways and recommendations, it includes some journey mapping fundamentals you can apply. Be sure to follow along with the more detailed journey mapping report.

Jennifer Voisard

Senior Consultant

Jenny is a digital content strategist, who leads customer-centric engagements that focus on understanding B2B buying behaviors and developing custom roadmaps.

Her expertise is creating buyer personas and mapping digital content journeys to assess the multi-channel user experience. She helps clients operationalize plans across workstreams and identifies processes to create efficiencies in marketing operations. Jenny also has extensive time under her belt developing and managing customer advocacy programs and community building.

She has helped a diverse group of organizations including Cisco, VMware, Verizon, Microsoft, Dell, BMO Harris, Capital One and many others become more customer-centric.

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