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Digitalization for Manufacturers & Wholesalers, Part III: Must Have Tools and Resources for the Digital Age

The first part of this series started with looking at how digitalization and the internet changed the B2B marketplace and the buyer. The second installment shared a few strategies that can be used to adapt to those changes. Since strategies need tools for implementation, we conclude this series with the third part overviewing the tools and resources needed for digitization.

The Digital Buffet

Looking at digital solutions is like gazing on a buffet that stretches the entire length of the ballroom. Making intelligent choices is difficult. It’s tempting to try everything, but you know that it will only end in disaster. The smart strategy is to select one item from each category and pick items that complement each other. The result is an incredible feast that satisfies both wants and needs. Picking your digital tools should be the same.

Digital Business Tools

Financial Management

The core of your business activity is captured by your accounting software. Financial information is crucial to assess the health of the business and detect trends. Digitizing financial workflows boosts efficiency, eases the burden of financial reporting and lends consistency to business operations. Select an accounting software that easily integrates with other business applications.

Key functions to look for are:

  • Accounts payable
  • Accounts receivable
  • Payroll
  • Invoicing
  • Financial reports
  • Bank account reconciliation
  • Asset management

Quickbooks and Sage are one of the most commonly used financial software packages for wholesalers and manufacturers.

ERP and Product Information Management

Manufacturing has special needs. By digitizing planning, production and control, you gain efficiency and the ability to identify bottlenecks before they occur. Avoid out-of-stock catastrophes that prolong order fulfillments. A quality Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) program harnesses the power of digitization to control workflows and information to better manage your company.

Look for the software that enables you to:

  • Plan stock requirements
  • Schedule production
  • Manage multiple warehouses
  • Track and manage returns
  • Manage finished goods inventory

Marello is a great example of an innovative and flexible solution for ERP needs.  Fishbowl Manufacturing is another popular ERP for manufacturers with robust functionality.

All B2B businesses need to manage their product information. Delivering a successful omnichannel experience requires a system to centralize and harmonize your product information. When your marketing and e-commerce professionals work from the same playbook, your customers get consistency across all channels.

Select a product information management (PIM) system that includes functions for:

  • Easy import/export or product data
  • Hierarchical prioritization by source
  • Data lifecycle management
  • Easy editing and organizing of product data

Akeneo is an open-source solution that integrates with most common data sources as well as information distribution channels.

E-Commerce Platform

As we’ve covered in the first part of the series, today’s B2B buyer demands an e-commerce presence, a proper online catalogue they can browse and order from. It’s also clear that most e-commerce offerings were developed for B2C and doesn’t work well with B2B requirements. Make sure you select a platform that meets your needs and can scale with you as your organization grows. Look for:

  • Customer and employee friendly web store interface
  • Ability to create multiple access levels and manage user access permissions
  • Ability to manage multiple web sites
  • Multiple price list and catalog functionality
  • Configurable checkout and RFQ workflows
  • Customizable catalog features
  • Ability to work with complex corporate account structures
  • Integration with other digital tools

OroCommerce was built from the ground up for B2B, so it can easily manage multiple stores, price levels, product catalogs by customer segments and much more.

Customer Relationship Management

With buyers putting more emphasis on customer experience and less focus on product price or quality, managing customer relationships is key.  Fortunately, digitalization makes this easy.  The right software arms you with the right information each time you are in front of your customer.  This is the omnichannel experience B2B buyer want today. Choose your customer relationship management software carefully as there are many options in the market.  You’ll want to:

  • Track all customer interactions including offline
  • Manage leads, opportunities and sales
  • Track key sales and marketing performance indicators
  • Set and configure workflows to improve staff productivity

OroCRM gives you a 360 degree view of your customer whether you interact on the phone, in-person, by email or physical mail. This enables you to be more efficient in both marketing and sales.

Digital Marketing Tools

Once you’re using the right digital tools, your digital marketing efforts will be much easier and more effective. By deploying your products using the right ecommerce platform, your store increase in visibility because now your buyers can find you when researching products on Google and other search engines. The right ERP and PIM keeps you abreast of stock status, so you can easily launch targeted campaigns to promote excess inventory. The right CRM will consolidate your information and produce detailed client profiles that can be used to develop marketing campaigns with higher ROI.  

Email Marketing

Stay in front of your customers and leads with targeted newsletters and email offers. Look for email marketing platforms that:

  • Integrate with your CRM
  • Integrate with your e-commerce platform
  • Comply with anti-Spam regulations
  • Capture open and conversion rates and other key analytics
  • Offer email marketing automation essentials

MailChimp and dotmailer allow you to build and send emails and track results.

Pay per Click and Display Advertising

Effective digital marketing gets your message in front of buyers while they are researching products and suppliers.  Make sure you don’t get lost in the crowd. Deliver your ad based on the results of:

  • very narrow or broad search terms
  • target demographics
  • geographic locations

Google AdWords, AdRoll and BuySellAds  can manage your pay per click, retargeting and display advertising campaigns.

Social Media and Content Marketing

In the digital age, search engine ranking can make or break a business. Increase your website’s ranking organically using content marketing. Publishing regular content to a company blog or through other channels, like LinkedIn or Medium, increases searchable content. Leverage social media to build brand awareness and following while also supporting your content efforts. Buffer and HootSuite allow you to schedule social media posts when your followers are most likely to be looking.  

Intelligent Adaptation

The future of B2B is bright for those willing to adapt to the changing environment. Agility is the key. By using the digital business and marketing tools available, you can provide the omnichannel experience that B2B buyers demand. Oro is here to help.

“Today, companies have to radically revolutionize themselves every few years just to stay relevant. That’s because technology and the Internet have transformed the business landscape forever. The fast-paced digital age has accelerated the need for companies to become agile.” – Nolan Bushnell, technology pioneer, entrepreneur and engineer.