We recently launched a new podcast series – Modern Perspectives – where we share insights from B2B leaders and explore how they deal with transformation, change and technology in a marketing context.
In the third episode, hosted by Lewis Webb, we spoke with two senior leaders to get their thoughts on how tech has enabled new business models to come to the forefront, and how organisations are dealing with the necessary change.
You can also listen to the Modern Perspectives podcast here.
Introducing Brandee and Andrew
In B2B, we’ve seen a move away from transactional purchases to XaaS (Anything as a Service). As a result, organisations have had to deal with huge changes to how they create, market and sell to customers. The COVID-19 pandemic has only accelerated these changes.
This episode’s guests are senior leaders with strong opinions on these emerging business models:
- Brandee Sanders – VP of Marketing, Motive Retail – Brandee is an award-winning marketer, woman in tech and polymath. Brande will educate you on best practices, scaling and digital transformation for your businesses
- Andrew Grill – Actionable Futurist – Andrew is a former Global Managing Partner at IBM. He is now a sought-after keynote speaker and host of the podcast The Actionable Futurist
Digital transformation philosophy
How do you characterise your approach to the topic of business transformation?
Brandee – It’s like an onion or a spiderweb. The entire organisation is connected, so if you change one element, if you pull on one side of the web, the other side moves with it. Many people have been wildly successful with it, while others have not. It’s all about adaptability.
It’s easy for us to be conceptual about digital transformation, but progress requires change and change is difficult. There’s a psychological element to change management.
Andrew – Disrupt yourself before you are disrupted. As a futurist, I do a lot of public speaking. I did a talk a couple of years ago for DHL logistics in front of 140 European managers. My instructions were to scare them, to let them know it’s a scary world out there. So that’s what I told them – unless we change ourselves, someone will come along and do it for us.
New ways of doing things can be difficult. It’s more than just products and services; it’s mindset. It’s hard to look inward, but you have to be open to new ways of thinking.
Subscription business models
With the subscription model, we’ve moved away from the concept of ownership towards creating access. Have we reached peak ‘Everything as a Service’?
Brandee – Not yet. I still have to use real estate agents! There are still quite a few places where there are legacy issues that could very easily be disrupted. There are lots of things like product design that could still be touched by this. Automotive was very slow to change, but COVID brought radical change in a matter of 6-8 months.
The consumer mindset has adapted. They don’t want long-term commitments anymore. But I don’t necessarily think we’re at the peak. I think we’re maybe going into freshman year.
Andrew – When I talk about subscription models, I go back to the most obvious one: Amazon Web Services. Jeff Bezos had all these servers for selling books, and he thought, ‘What else can I do with them?’ So he rented time on those servers and created a business where people subscribe. I challenge people to think about what else is in their business that they can rent access to.
With AI, telcos can use your usage data to create a bespoke cell phone contract for you. We’ve seen customisation with Nike’s shoes. But we’re not yet at the point where my BWM is completely bespoke to me.
How do new business models affect research and innovation cycles? Are more businesses going for ‘good enough’? If so, how do leaders stand out in a market that’s just full of ‘good enough’ things?
Andrew – I think you can be ‘good enough’ because you’re actually seeking feedback from your users. If you have active users out there testing in anger and telling you what’s not working on a beta programme, you can get the release perfect. It’s important to say to the world that you have your greatest fans testing it, telling you things you should do differently. If it’s good enough for those who are prepared to take the risk, it’s going to be great enough for everyone else.
Brandee – Non-stop communication with your community is so important. I’ve seen many organisations suffer with this because they’re afraid to ask the questions. I would say, ‘Why did you create this product?’ and I’d get blank stares.
Feedback has to be integrated. If it means hitting the brake and saying the solution you were previously going to market with is just not there, you’ve got to be willing to do it. Active listening is essential.
Innovation in the new normal
In the last 12 months, we’ve seen a massive shift to digital. Do you think people will go back to the old way of doing things?
Brandee – I don’t think so. Convenience is king. I can’t imagine going back to a world pre-Amazon. It would take an extraordinary paradigm shift. I have a rather busy life in the current world. I can’t imagine going, ‘Yeah. I’d really love to spend eight hours in a car dealership with my kid trying to figure out paperwork instead of hitting it on my phone.’
Change is uncomfortable, really uncomfortable. But the only way to truly innovate is to be uncomfortable all the time.
Andrew – If there’s been a positive to come out of the pandemic, it’s that businesses were forced to think about their digital offering. There’s a great quote from the CEO of the National Australia Bank that online banking was sped up in five weeks, not ten years. Now companies have a digital offering that they can turn on or off when they want to.
Why did we have to wait for a pandemic to realise we needed a digital offering?
Data shows that a company’s purpose and commitment to societal change can be factors in a purchasing decision. Do you see businesses transforming in line with wider societal change?
Brandee – People’s shopping is aligning with their political, personal and socio-economic views like never before. They’re asking, ‘Who do I want to give my money to? What do I want to be affiliated with?’
It’s so easy to do a Google search and find out who someone contributes to, whether they’re a good guy or a bad guy in their personal world. Sometimes, they’ll reveal it themselves on Twitter. Then, the market will answer with its wallet.
Andrew – For me, it’s about the three P’s – people, place and purpose. For example, consumers want to buy from companies that treat their people well. If I read bad things about you in the news, you go down massively, in my estimation.
Your digital first impression is more important than ever. People will not fall for your marketing BS anymore. Instead, they’ll see what someone else thinks. Your purpose isn’t just what you say; it’s what other people say about you.
Thanks to Brandee and Andrew for their excellent and thoughtful answers. Here are the five key takeaways from the conversation:
- Disrupt yourself before you are disrupted. Change is difficult, but if you don’t do it, someone will come along and do it for you
- The consumer mindset has adapted to regard subscription models as the norm
- When it comes to innovation, your best users will point you in the right direction. Ask for their feedback, listen and take it on board
- The genie is out of the bottle with the move to digital. We’re not going back to how it used to be
- Your digital first impression is all-important. You’re not just what you say you are; you’re what other people say about you
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