I Am Afraid

July 24, 2020

The Motivation of Fear


I am afraid. Fear is a powerful emotion. One that we are being confronted with today because of the uncertainty associated with the pandemic. We are experiencing fear for our health, family, friends and our livelihoods. If you own or are leading a business your fear can be compounded by the pressures to make the right decisions to keep the business afloat. Fear can be paralyzing. Fear can also be motivating. The motivation of fear can be strong. Fear can bring change. The change we are talking about is the real digital transformation.

The Real Digital Transformation


Recently, a well-respected digital agency shared a webinar featuring an equally respected building products manufacturer in which they spoke about the digital transformation in response to the pandemic, working from home and the need to adapt. They spoke about the increased use of video conferencing, automated social media posting, lead generation platforms using email and related integrated marketing technologies (AKA martech) leading the digital transformation. This struck a chord with me as being underwhelming and dated thinking, particularly referencing integrated martech platforms as digital transformation. The real digital transformation is the move to e-commerce with online ordering, order tracking, order history and customer service.

Don’t Just Take Our Word: The McKinsey Report


National research firm McKinsey and Company recently published the paper titled, “The B2B digital inflection point: How sales have changed during COVID-19”. The first point they make is that savvy leaders are learning how to adapt to the next normal (AKA change). This report looks at three emergent findings: interactions, self-service and sales implications. Let’s look at what their research found.

First, to quote the report directly, “Similar to what we’ve seen in the B2C environment, the importance of digital channels for B2B companies has grown significantly in the past few years and has radically increased since the COVID-19 crisis began. Sales leaders on average rate digital channels approximately twice as important now as they were before (Exhibit 2).”

Digital transactions twice as important


Will building products manufacturers overcome their past fears of channel disruption and embrace this opportunity to add a meaningful e-commerce channel to meet the desires of their customers? Those that are afraid of change will settle for doing nothing. The manufacturers that are motivated to use this time to focus on the customers will likely grow and prosper.

Second, in making a purchase, buyers cited a strong preference for self-service online across every stage of the customer decision journey (Exhibit 3). In addition, buyers expect the same professional experience they receive from their personal experience as consumers. The research showed that those suppliers who provide outstanding digital experiences to their buyers are more than twice as likely to be chosen as a primary supplier than those who provide poor experiences, and about 70 percent more likely than those providing only fair ones. It appears the only thing to fear is success.

Exhibit 3


Third, findings of the report show the shift to remote selling has become a necessity due to quarantine. B2B sellers have reacted with astonishing speed: around 90 percent of them working via video conferencing or phone. The effectiveness of this transformation is up for debate. Adjusting the sales model seems paramount to success including the following:

  • Training on the use of video conferencing and presentation
  • Creating presentations that are suitable for video conferencing
  • Producing personalized content to share with customers throughout their buying journey
  • Offering digital transformation assistance to customers

Crisis historically accelerates change. The current pandemic appears to be no different for real digital transformation, so we should be able to learn to change from experience.

Transformation Experience


In 2002, everything changed for the Draper DNA team with the challenge to integrate an internet store into a national network of brick and mortar stores and a mail order catalog business with Woodcraft Supply. To make the challenge greater, the brick and mortar stores were owned by independent franchisees who saw e-commerce as direct competition. With the help of a few visionary owners and three corporate stores, we launched the e-commerce site selling directly to the consumer. We overcame the fear of the franchisees by offering each of them a percentage of sales in their dedicated zip codes defined by their franchise agreement and store sales history. We promoted in-store pick up to increase traffic to the stores which was a key to the store’s success. We tracked online purchasing habits and compared them to in-store purchases to help the stores better understand their customers. The improved understanding helped the stores improve their inventory planning which increased their margins and profitability by double digits. The stores carried the top selling items in stock and used the online store for bigger and less in demand items. Within just six months of the one-year test program, all stores requested the addition of e-commerce to their businesses. This experience demonstrated the value of e-commerce to the customers, stores and this team. We have been committed, vocal proponents of e-commerce ever since.

2020 Forecast


For close to twenty years, Draper DNA has been forecasting the real digital transformation of integration of e-commerce. Check out our 2020 Forecast by clicking here. Most of the time our promotion of the real digital transformation has fallen on deaf ears. Until now.

We recently shared the interview with Marvin Ellison, CEO of Lowe’s Home Improvement with you in which he outlines their fast track efforts to implement real digital transformation that includes online ordering, order tracking, order history and customer service. Read the full article by clicking on Marvin’s name above.

Four years ago, we completed two different research projects seeking a better understanding of demand generation for several different building products categories and manufacturers. We also included Home Depot in one of these projects. We learned than that most multi-state distributors and dealers were developing their own e-commerce platforms in anticipation of the transformation. Many stated they could not afford to wait for building products manufacturers to provide this service to meet the expectations of the customers. Further, these same distributors understood the potential for improved margins and profitability of having the manufacturers sell direct to the customers, eliminating sales costs for the distributor and focusing on fulfilment and service. Just as we demonstrated with the digital transformation we completed with Woodcraft eighteen years ago.

No Fear


We have shared stories in the past about the underdog taking advantage of the fear of the leader to grow and ultimately take the lead for themselves. This is one of those times when businesses use fear as motivation to become leaders. They meet the expectations of the customers through real digital transformation. Does this sound like you? We have the experience to help you make it happen. We will help you to:

  • Establish your digital business
  • Improve the margin of your distribution partners
  • Get closer to your customers
  • Become more agile in this ever-changing world

Sitting and watching the world change before your eyes is frightening in part because you lack a sense of control. Listening, learning and then doing something to take advantage of the change that is occurring is a different kind of fear. It’s the kind that creates excitement that leads to the possibility of success. Real digital transformation is making it easier to find and buy your products. There should be no fear in doing this.


Draper DNA is a full service marketing agency and consultancy specializing in helping home and building products companies challenge the industry.

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