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Our New Digital Selling Reality Needs More Empathy

In September 2019, “A Brief History of Digital Transformation” published by ContentStack looked forward to a near future (2020) where “50% of The Global 2000 will see most of their business depend on their ability to created digitally transformed products, services, and experiences.”

I have no idea whether 50% digital transformation has been achieved as predicted, but I am confident that nobody foresaw that the process of selling any “products, services, and experiences” in 2020, digital or not, would come close to 100%. And persist at the high levels we still see.

So I was interested to read in a recent DemandGen report, The Rise Of The Front-Line Marketer In Our New Digital Selling Reality, that B2B marketers identify the top three challenges they are facing now as

Understanding buyers’ changing needs and business requirements 63%
Engaging buyers at the right time, in the right channel 57%
Creating the personalized campaign and content that will engage buyers 49%
The problem of digital selling to a hybrid workforce

The underlying assumption here seems to be that if B2B marketers can only figure out how to meet these challenges with digital content, they’ll be in pretty good shape, and won’t have much need for personal selling. The challenge of “arming the sales team with the right content to engage and accelerate target buyers” worried only 23% of the B2B marketers who participated in the report.

Personally, I think they should be more worried about B2B buyers and buying teams who are struggling to find their way in the new hybrid workplace. Forrester’s Andrew Hewitt told CNN that he expects that the new normal will have 60% of companies offering a hybrid work model, while 30% of companies will be back in the office, and 10% will be fully remote.

With a hybrid workforce, marketing and sales need to account for buyers:

  • Working in the office
  • Working full-time at home
  • Working sometimes at home, sometimes in in the office
  • Working in other remote locations (coffee shop, library)
  • Working in transit (airport, highway rest stop)

And working in the office certainly isn’t what it was. One manager quoted in the the Washington Post said that people in her office are communicating “prairie dog style,” occasionally popping up from their office cubicles to talk to each other across the room, but mostly using Zoom because team members are never all in the office at the same time.

“There’s this weird tension,” says Brian Kropp, chief of HR research at Gartner told the Post. “We want everyone back in the office, but we still want everyone to do work by video.”

Suitable office attire now includes noise cancelling headphones to avoid the “Zoom echo” heard when two people in different cubicles are in the same meeting. (Another way to avoid Zoom echo is to herd all the in-office meeting participants into one conference room. But that solution makes it hard for remote workers to see faces and pick up on social cues.)


In other words, understanding buyers’ changing needs and business requirements is really complicated these days. Campaigns that set out to address those requirements need to consider just how weird it is to work as a team in the new digital reality. If you can empathize with how your buyers are going about their jobs, you’ll find it much easier to come up with engaging content that is about the buyer, not about your product.

Bruce McKenzie

A writer with a background in public broadcasting and corporate marketing communications, Bruce McKenzie pioneered the “2-Minute Explainer®” brand video for technology businesses in 2004. Customers have included numerous enterprise technology companies (Cisco, IBM, BMC, Brocade/Broadcom, Software AG, CA Technologies, CompuCom) as well as B2B startups. Rebranded “Technology Business Video” in 2017, the company today produces a variety of “tactical” videos to reach buying team members throughout the sales cycle. We take everything marketers want to say and transform it into short videos that communicate stuff buyers want to know. It’s basically what good writers do, made visual. Visit to learn more or set up a chat about tactical videos with the Technology Business Video professionals.

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