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How Digital Is Disrupting Business As Usual for Commercial Contractors

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When was the last time you went to a Blockbuster?

At this point, you probably can’t remember because it’s gone—replaced by Netflix, Amazon Video, Hulu, YouTube, and others. The kicker? Blockbuster knew digital was coming and that it would be disruptive, but did nothing.

In 2000, the CEO of Netflix even flew to Dallas to propose a partnership to Blockbuster CEO John Antioco—Blockbuster refused and went bankrupt. Netflix is now a $70 billion company.

I bring this case up because of an interesting conversation I had with a commercial HVAC contractor on the train home from Google’s recent Partner Summit in New York. Blockbuster’s failure is the perfect example to illustrate the main themes of the conference—the importance of the web, the educated digital consumer, and the age of assistance.

When I said as much to my new friend, he interrupted me with a wave of his hand. “That’s all very interesting,” he said, “but those companies are in a completely different industry. In my line of work, digital marketing doesn’t really apply.”

I say BS.

And I would have called him on it, too, if he hadn’t gotten off at the next stop. I bring this story up because that viewpoint is how companies get left in the dust—they think the transformation going on around them somehow doesn’t apply to their specific business.

On one hand, I understand where my train acquaintance is coming from. Historically, most commercial contracting sales are initiated via relationships developed by sales professionals in the real world versus an email received from a website contact form. But, in the immortal words of Bob Dylan, “the times they are a changin’.”

The web is transforming and disrupting every industry. Yes, it started in one place—with B2C companies like Blockbuster—but the expectations of the digital consumer have cascaded their way into B2B and commercial industries too.

Take the global shipping and logistics corporation Maersk. To get ahead of its competitors, Maersk has gone all-in on digital marketing, including hiring its first ever Chief Digital Officer. His point of view—and the one every single commercial business owner should have—is that digitization of all aspects of the business is a clear competitive advantage, “and ultimately a path to survival.”

Maersk isn’t the only industrial company to double down on digital marketing.

In 2014 – 2015, Caterpillar, the industrial equipment behemoth, invested heavily in digital marketing. It released a series of bold video marketing campaigns in order to meet prospective customers where they spent their time—the web. In a Fast Company interview, Caterpillar’s global brand marketing head said their customers were impressed by the move.

If you visit Maersk’s or Caterpillar’s website, you’ll see that both are expertly designed, load quickly, and are full of rich content. You’ll also find tracking and analytical tools to capture information about on site visitors.

Then, take a look at Trane’s website. Or Carrier’s. Or Bryant’s. Each one is integrated, design-rich, and tailored for both residential and commercial client. I guarantee that’s not accidental.

If these industrial companies are betting on digital, what does that say to you?

What I recommend—and what I would have recommended to my friend on the train—is that you bet on the fact that digital is already transforming the commercial industry, and the cost of getting ahead is far lower than the cost of falling behind.

If your company wants to really dominate your competitors:

  1. Your website needs to be fast and frictionless
  2. Your content needs to both resonate with your target audience and contribute to your company’s authority on the web
  3. Your tracking and analytics need to be tailored to your company’s goals and buyer’s cycle

Your Website Needs to Be Fast—And Frictionless

The modern consumer—whether that’s residential or commercial—starts their journey on the web. Your site has to load in 3 seconds flat. Think about it—how many times have you hit the “back” button because a website took too long to load? Your customers aren’t any different.

To start, test your website page speed. Go to Google’s PageSpeed Insights and test it right now. You’re looking for two things: to see if your site is mobile-friendly and to see how fast it loads. After you’ve done that, go and test some of your competitors’ sites. Then go and test some of your manufacturers’.

What if your site IS faster than your direct competitors’? That’s not enough.

With the modern generation of buyers, the lines between B2B and B2C have become blurred. You’re not only being compared to your direct competitors—you’re being compared to the best experience your prospective buyer has ever had on the web. It doesn’t matter if that experience is with Netflix, or Amazon, or Maersk.

If big-name manufacturers can do it simply and quickly, you should be able to do it too. That’s why you need to make sure your site is faster than you competitors’ and optimized for mobile experience. Our office is inundated with calls just to do those two things.

Your Content Needs to Be Cohesive Compelling, and Optimized

When was the last time you evaluated the content on your website? The text, the images–everything. Too many times I’ve met with CEOs who have never viewed their site from a mobile phone, read their blog, or submitted a web form to actually see the site through the eyes of the consumer. Historically, commercial buyers spend more time researching potential vendors and expect an extremely high level of educational content and resources.

As soon as you’re done reading this, go to your website and look at it through the eyes of a prospect. Are you answering the right questions? Is your content informative and easy to digest? Is your site easily navigable and well-designed? Is it clear how to contact you?  Then, go through and look through your site from the perspective of a recruitment candidate, and then an investor. If you find gaps, you know where to start.

Your Tracking and Analytics Needs to Be Customized for Commercial Buyers

You can’t do anything on the web without the right tracking and analytics tools. Well, you can, but it would be like the blind leading the blind.

Lead attribution, tracking, and data analytics enable you to paint a bigger picture of what’s happening on your website. How are visitors getting to your site? Which marketing channels are producing the best results?

It took me about five minutes to pull up Maersk’s and Caterpillar’s tracking tools—if you know what to look for, it’s public information. They’re both using at least three different types of analytics, which means they most likely have a huge storage vault of actionable data that’s driving their digital marketing decisions.

Let’s Wrap This Up—As the CEO, It’s Your Responsibility to Stay on Top of Your Digital Presence in 2018

When you’re the CEO, it’s easy to delegate tasks related to your website to the IT and marketing departments.

In 2018, that’s not how you should be thinking about things—site speed and tracking are not IT issues. Content is not a marketing issue. Frictionless sites and digitally optimized content equate to more revenue, which means it’s a business initiative.

As the CEO, it’s your job to have a set strategy for diving into the competitive landscape and to cast the expectation of what you want to actually happen.  You can sit there and say, “This doesn’t apply to me,” and, “Ben, you’re wrong,” like that guy who got off the train. But I encourage you to think about it this way: if your manufacturers, your competitors, and the leaders in the industrial field are investing this heavily in digital, what are you losing out on by ignoring it?

Ben Landers

Posted In: Sales & Marketing

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