B2B companies are getting the message: Digital experience is a key to survival.

But like all great experiences, someone has to plan it — and own it. Perhaps that lucky person is you.

The good news is that part of your battle is already won. Someone in a leadership role was smart enough to recognize the mandate of digital transformation.

So what's next?

It Takes a Village

The first order of business is to ditch your digital strategy.

If you’re doing things right, digital is just a part of your overall business strategy. It’s not separate. It doesn’t belong in its own department. It doesn’t belong to just one team.

You need to integrate digital with every other aspect of the business. Ask yourself,

  • What is the current state of the business?
  • Where does the business want to be?
  • What has worked and not worked?
  • What are the desired outcomes?
  • How does digital help achieve the overall business goals?

Answer these questions first, then establish goals and performance metrics to support the framework.

When you start building that framework, build it on a solid foundation that begins with your company’s brand promise. Let the brand promise and commitments to your customers serve as the beacon to your strategy.

Once you have the fundamentals in place, you can start building the framework. Here are 5 tips to get you started:

Understand Your Digital Customer

There are differences between online and offline customers, and your strategy should address them.

What's more, the way people shop online changes constantly. According to a recent Google study, 46 percent of potential buyers researching B2B products are millennials, up from 27 percent in 2012.

Not only is the age of your buyer changing, but the way they buy is changing, too.

Of those surveyed, 34 percent of people involved in B2B buying decisions in 2014 used their mobile devices across each stage of the purchase compared to 18 percent in 2012. You can’t assume you know your customers and their purchase journeys until you do a deeper analysis with concrete data.

Only then can you validate your assumptions and act on the facts.

Map the Customer Journey

In a study developed by Econsultancy, nearly 80 percent of consumers claimed they feel misunderstood by the average brand. Customer journey mapping will help solve this problem.

The exercise not only maps out the purchase path, but it goes deeper into customer personas. Journey mapping weaves in the emotional state of your customers.

What motivates a person to come seek you out? Are they a decision-maker or were they told to go to do research by someone else?

Journey mapping will also uncover hidden gems like what devices your customers are using to buy or access your site along with roadblocks disrupting their path.

These insights will help you shape your strategy for content organization and delivery. In addition, journey mapping will provide the hard data you need to validate the purchase path and solutions needed to shape a great experience.

Make DX a Top-Down Priority

Digital experience goes across the entire company touching call center capabilities, social, in-store purchasing, sales, IT and mobile to name a few.

Leaders must walk the talk if they are truly making DX a priority. DX can’t be put in its own silo.

Rather, successful experiences derive from integrated teams working together across disciplines, business units and silos to serve the customer.

Harvard Business Review noted in a recent story that executives from three companies focused on different problems along the customer journey path.

Leaders from one company tackled 40 percent churn among customers. Another targeted an issue where more than one third of new fiber-optic customers canceled before installation or within 90 days while another wanted to address the 50 percent dissatisfaction rate with the installation process.

The article explains that, “Executive attention led to a concerted effort to fix the targeted journey, while leadership’s ‘walking the talk’ generated support for improvement programs and broader organizational changes.” As the article notes, the actions and successes set the tone for further transformation.

Develop a Customer Experience Strategy

Experience is the single most important thing when it comes to creating loyal customers. They will spend more and be your brand champions if their experience is a good one.

Bain & Company analysis shows that companies that excel in customer experience grow revenues 4 percent to 8 percent above their market. "That’s because a superior experience helps to earn stronger loyalty among customers, turning them into promoters who tend to buy more, stay longer and make recommendations to their friends. As a result, promoters have a lifetime value that can reach 6 to 14 times that of detractors, depending on the industry," the report notes.

The end-to-end experience you create through every point of contact you have with your customers will determine if they stay or leave.

Ask yourself, “How can you use experiences as a differentiator and driver of your value proposition?”

Your strategy should focus on what your customers want and adapt your offering to deliver on those needs. Start small and take the low hanging fruit from journey mapping opportunities that will have the most impact.

Then, constantly iterate because your customer constantly changes. Along the way, make even small wins visible to top management so you can gain buy-in for large initiatives.

Share Across the Organization

Chip Bell and John R Patterson, both of whom have co-authored several best-selling books on customer service and customer experience, insist developing the right digital experience requires change management.

They suggest contemplating, “How do you change hearts and minds of the people who enable these experiences? How do you ensure the standards, the norms and the metrics to bring discipline to the strategy you create?”

The answer is simple: you have to align the entire organization to your plan. Everyone — sales, IT, customer service, help desk — needs to understand the strategy so they can help deliver a great digital experience.

In a recent article published on HBR.com, Adam Richardson said, “You must instill a mindset that takes a systemic view over time of the customer needs and your organization, and match it with the capabilities to deliver the integrated touchpoints.”

The sooner you take repeated (and consistent) steps to develop that mindset, the easier your job will be and the more DX will improve the bottom line.

If you'd like to learn more about digital customer experience, CMSWire will delve into strategies, technologies and thought-leadership at the DX Summit in Chicago on November 3 and 4. Find out more here.

Title image by Kien Nguyen.