The 8 Stages of Industrial Websites, Part 1

Scott and I go into the details of how the transition from baby boomer founders of industrial companies to their millennial successors overlays onto the adoption and investment in digital sales tools.

We find that the first three stages are characterized by reluctance to invest in 'that pesky internet thing.' The next stages are the blooming of new value creation for the organization in the traditional sales pipeline.


Full Transcript

[Music] Welcome to the Solspace Podcast. Thanks for listening.

Mitchell: Hi, everybody. Welcome back to the Solspace podcast. In this episode and the next episode, Solspace's very own Scott Hutchison is going to be talking with me. We're going to be going through a guide that I recently wrote after attending a robotics conference in Santa Clara, which is just over the hill from where I live.

In this guide, we discuss the eight stages of an industrial marketer's website. In conversations with different salespeople, CEOs, and marketing heads from the different companies I've met at this robotics conference, it became clear that these businesses have digital adoption along a various range of stages.

So I wrote this guide to sort of explain that. Scott and I are going to talk it through today. We're going to get through I think we're going to get through about stage five, and then this next episode, we'll move into stage six, which is really quite a big leap technically and complexity and investment-wise and digital.

So we'll lay that stuff out and we'll talk about each stage and sort of explain where these manufacturers fit along a continuum. So Scott, welcome to the podcast.

Scott: Hey, thanks for having me.

Mitchell: Yep, absolutely. So of course we'll have the link to this guide in the show notes, but the very first stage that I encountered when I was talking to some of these businesses in Santa Clara and, by the way, this robotics trade show that I attended was a smaller version of one that I attended in Detroit earlier in the year called Automate.

That was a huge thing. All sorts of robotics-oriented businesses, all selling to one another, all part of the supply chain in the robotics and automation industry. And what I encountered when I talked to salespeople, marketing people, CEOs, all sorts of different representatives of these different types of industrial manufacturing robotics companies, robotics in this specific case, quite a few of those had nothing.

They had no digital presence. And that stage is worthy of discussion because that means that business drives sales and marketing the old-fashioned way with a sales team, with boots on the ground, with that type of activity. So, you know, it's worth talking about that a little bit because they represent that clear transition, that gap between baby boomer owners and founders of some of these smaller businesses.

By small, I mean, you know, less than a hundred million a year. That transition between the baby boomer founded and run businesses to the millennial, sometimes their kids, sometimes outside people who come in to take control and run the business when the boomer retires. So the have nothing stage is relevant, especially in that space. Scott, I wonder if you have any thoughts about this transition from boomer to millennial, generally maybe how it applies to the manufacturing sector that we've been looking at.

Scott: The first thing that comes to mind with that is that, obviously, you and I Mitchell are both Gen Xers, and how appropriate that we should completely gloss over our generation as being involved in this at all.

Mitchell: We're accustomed to being ignored.

Scott: It's the way we want it. And so we're going to continue on with this dichotomy between boomers and millennials, and we'll just sit in the background. But I think this is, it's pretty right, because if we went from that, you know, the adjacent generation, and we talked about Gen Xers, there's gonna be too much blending.

That similarity there is like some people of, around our age are gonna have a sensibility a little bit more like a, someone from a boomer generation, and then, you know, or some of us may have a sensibility a bit more like the millennial, but you really start seeing that contrast when you sort of, start looking at, that maybe, you know, 60 and up generation versus, someone who's maybe under the age of 40. I think it's something that I'm glad that the first stage you have nothing. I think it could be easy to say, "Oh, let's make stage two". You have a WordPress site for example.

But there really are companies who are still in this position and they're in this position like you said because they have been around for decades. They have done well in whatever sector they're serving within the industrial market and it's a sense of "Well things are working, why am I gonna mess that up"?

A millennial buyer and I think that's what we're really talking about here, in their mid to late thirties at the older part of that generation being part of the leadership and decision-makers at a company these are also the people who are at other companies that work with them and that are going to be their corporate customers and other ones that are going to be purchasing things.

And I think this is where it really gets into that dichotomy is that if you've got like some of our clients may fit this, someone who's in a millennial mindset and their customers are also in a millennial mindset and then you will notice that they're really eager to progress. If you've got customers that are in an older generation and less technologically advanced mindset and that matches up with what the business is doing, they probably don't see a problem.

But I think moving forward, and probably what you're seeing when you talk to people what we've seen with our own clients, is that more and more we're seeing this tension between the business having an older, less technologically forward way of doing things, and that is causing this tension with the millennial clients and customers who have an expectation. They're not wowed by the fact that a website might have some advanced capabilities to help them understand the products. They're really approaching this from that's table stakes for them.

Mitchell: One of the things that is not very well spelled out in this guide, it wasn't appropriate to do it, but it's appropriate to talk about now is the sales team. The idea of a sales force like actual people with sufficient technical knowledge to sell complex industrial manufactured goods, solutions, and things that are part of the supply chain in a given industry. They have been a fixture, necessarily for a long time. We have a client, who to this day, I'm not allowed to name because Solspace is part of their competitive advantage in the market.

But our client today is the millennial who took over from his father. Previously to hiring us, they fit into the you have nothing stage, and our client, the millennial said, "Look, I'll be honest. I can't stand sales guys. They drive me crazy. I hate them. I don't want them around". And he's referring to the old-school type of sales.

Now, we've made a lot of advancements in the business world with understanding the role of sales activity and salespeople, and I think things are improving quite a bit. Sales should be about conversations, not about trying to compel someone to buy a thing they don't need. It should be about uncovering problems and solving them.

We're getting better about that. But the millennial owner that we were talking to his father, it was just a necessary evil part of the business. There weren't alternatives, so they had to. Now what happens is these companies get beholden to sales teams. Those sales reps and that sort of structure owns the revenue like they are in charge of that money coming into the business in a sense.

They have power, and that's been frustrating for some of the owners who are making the transition from that boomer ownership to millennial because they know that there's alternatives. There's other ways to sell this stuff, namely online using digital tools. So it was interesting to see that tension with our own client.

I've been looking for that in other businesses we've been talking to whereas we move further down into the stages, we're going to see how this, the traditional salesperson's job is more and more under threat. Which means the sales activity needs to adapt, needs to adapt to the millennial world that we're occupying now.

Do you have any thoughts on that?

Scott: I had an experience like that from several years ago, previous to my work with Solspace, with a client that was a SaaS client. So they had software as a service. In fact, that was new. They had a software platform that was used in a very middleware sort of quality with the telecom industry, and they were really reliant on, of course, salespeople.

These were long sales cycles six months to a year of a sales cycle to actually close some business. All server-side stuff, and so very complicated, had to actually go to a customer site to build it out, and a lot of negotiation had to take place to make sure that could be done. And of course, they really relied on a fairly robust sales team. But once they came out with the SaaS product, which again, the sort of the connection here is that that software as a service product is, of course, a much more millennial-focused concept of how to deliver a particular technology service. You're not having to install it on a server that's sitting in a room somewhere on a location.

The fact that it's cloud-based really sort of brought to that particular product set, you know really into a modern space, but of course the salespeople knew how to sell that particular software platform in the way that they did and the idea that it could be offered in this different way with slightly different functionality, and those kinds of things made them pretty uncomfortable.

And I got to watch in real time people who were pretty talented salespeople but they were sustaining a particular way of working. It was really difficult for them to know how to adapt to selling essentially this new product. And they saw this new product essentially as competition to them.

Well, we had, just like you're mentioning two of the people in there who were not technically salespeople, but were working in a business development capacity, were right in that age or probably early, maybe mid-thirties. And they said, "Yeah, I'll give it a shot. Yeah, it sounds good to me".

And so they would get on calls with really major clients that these other salespeople had said, "I want to do it. I'm busy with these other clients we've already got over here. I'm trying to close this thing". And in the meantime, while they're trying to do this traditional work of still selling this old product and they're taking months to do it these two guys get on calls and they move through with the client and they close five times the amount of business that these other guys closed in the same time.

And at that point, that was the moment when they realized, "Oh, I can't resist this anymore because this, this new way of approaching a new product, I'm going to have to learn this or I'm going to be left behind". And I think that was a big wake-up call for them. And in the end, that particular sales team said, "Oh, I've got to learn a new way of doing things in order to continue to sell this product".

Mitchell: This is what I'm encountering when I'm talking to people at trade shows, because uniformly if I go to a booth and I start chatting it up with somebody there, they're a sales rep.

On rare occasions in my encountering someone from the C suite who wants to be in touch with the customers that does happen, but their sales reps and their apprehensive. And it reminds me of a conversation I had that made stage two, the WordPress stage. So stage two, you have WordPress. And the reason I made this stage two is some of the conversations I would have with these sales reps.

I'd come up, I'd say, "Hey, how's it going"? "Pretty good". "How are you doing? How do you sell this stuff"? "What stuff"? "How do you sell these servo motors that go into robotic arms that go into medical devices"? So on and so forth. "How do you sell the servo thing that is part of the supply chain? Do you do it on the web? Like, do you have a website"? "Yeah, we got a website, sure". "Okay, what is that"? "So it's, I guess it's a WordPress site. One of the other sales guys did it on the weekend. So yeah, we're covered. We're good". The attitude was like, "Yeah, we're all set. We got digital. Thanks, web developer, for coming and talking to us. We don't need your help. We got WordPress. We're good".

What he meant was we had a brochure. We had a digital shingle that we hung outside the store on the sidewalk. So you're walking past. So there's the shoes, there's a pizza place. And there's the servo for robotics place. And here's the place you can grab some medicine for your dog, you know, like just hang the shingle out and be done.

And they were satisfied. They thought, "Yeah, we're good. Now, now, go away. Don't take any more of my job away". Just because you have a brochure, it doesn't mean you're anywhere near doing what you can do with the web to support the sales team. Not kidding. I'm not firing any salespeople yet. I'm saying you just need to do more to support those people as a brochure site is not sufficient.

Scott: The fact that you were able to go to these conferences and talk to people who were legitimately at stage one. "Oh, we don't, we don't need a website. We've got human beings who are going to take care of this". And they've got these good connections, et cetera, et cetera.

And to be in this stage two of saying, "Yes, we've sort of unlocked the achievement of having a website which is essentially now just like saying, yeah, we're, we're in business. We put our we've got a little blurb, a little feature blurb in the yellow pages, phone numbers on there. People know how to get to us. It's not, it's not a problem". That's kind of what it feels like to me when someone only has a WordPress site that merely says, "Hey, we're in business". They've done sort of the bare minimum of listing themselves in the yellow pages and think that sort of that's all that they need to do.

And it may be that no one has either revealed to them, or they haven't seen any examples of how could having a web presence and what could it do for you make your job easier as a salesperson rather than get in the way.

Mitchell: That's right. We're with stages one, two, and three websites are a nuisance. They're, they're seen as, "Oh, this is inconvenient. I got to deal with this thing. I thought we had that brochure, and we printed it, and we put it on the internet. Now, now we're done. We can move on to the selling. We can go back to the thing we're supposed to be doing that really drives revenue". They see it as a nuisance.

Further down in the stages, you see much more dedicated activity to developing digital assets that do a lot of work, that create a lot of value, that move a lot of product. The hallmark of these first three stages is that the web is a nuisance, the internet's a nuisance, everybody's using it, I don't want to but I have to, I'll use it and pay attention to it as infrequently as I can.

Our clients at Solspace in the manufacturing space are working with us daily. They're on retainer. Every week, there's a plan. Every month, there's a big picture. Every quarter, there's something that we have as a target, and we're constantly developing the value of those digital assets, and every time they invest, they get value out of it, but only after a certain critical threshold, which is the beginning. You start to have a view of it in stage three, where maybe you're still on WordPress, but at least you have detailed product pages with specifications, constraints, use cases, and PDF specifications sheets. So you have a PDF that you can download, walk around, take to other sales reps or other engineers in the company, and say, look at this, check these servos out. This might actually solve some of the problems we've had in this particular market over in the medical space. So you have takeaways where the website's beginning to do some work. It's beginning to be part of the sales team and part of supporting the narrative. But you're still seeing it as a nuisance. "I did it. It went away. I don't have to think about it for a while".

Scott: Yeah, I think that's a critical thing to call out to, even though we don't necessarily say that in the guide, the idea that when you're adopting a new practice, you know, whether that be something like this, from a business standpoint or, saying I should be more active and learning to jog or, you know, take a swim in the morning, something like that.

I think when you first start you do it because you know you're supposed to but there's, there's sort of no real, there's no joy in it. There's no sense of satisfaction from it. You're certainly not seeing any benefits from it yet. You just know you're getting up early and you're tired. And so it's kind of hard to move through that.

One of the things I like about, even though there's eight stages, is that each of these stages, some of them clustered together, fit into a pretty natural adoption curve. I use a five-stage one when I think about it.

But these are about any kind of practice that you want to institute in an organization. Or even a person for that matter. You'll probably go through something that looks like these five stages. And the first stage would be ignorance. And that is, "I don't have a website". You're unaware that this is a thing or you're, or at least you're skeptical of it and you don't value it. Once you get into stage two it's sort of the investigation stage. So you're saying, "Okay, maybe this is something we have to do". And you're kind of poking around and you say, "Hey, you over there, let's go check out, I need a website and let's go check or we need to do a little bit more. We'll get PDFs on the website. Competitors are doing that, like figuring out how to do that". And they go, "Yes, sir". And they try to figure out how to do it even though it's not really their job. Now still in that investigation stage, so I think like this stage two and three fit well into the investigation and I think during that, regardless of what type of practice someone is trying to institute into their organization, it tends to be annoying because during those stages, especially that stage two or level two in the adoption curve, which would be in our case, a stage three for, detailed product pages with PDF spec sheets is how we would sort of give it a quick summary of what a stage three website would look like.

You're right. It's probably pretty annoying. Now you've got things that weren't your job, which is making sure you're updating these PDF spec sheets on the website so that users can get to them. And you're not really measuring it well. "Are they downloading them"? "I don't know. I'm not even sure how to know if users are downloading it. I just know that this is a thing we're supposed to do". So it's probably difficult at these stages to start really recognizing, is this valuable? Is it worth it for us to go through the hassle of moving through these stages, and I think that's why a lot of companies and organizations can stall out, especially at like stage three because they can start seeing how much work it feels like.

It changes what they do and how much work's involved with doing this. And at that point, they're probably not savvy enough or putting the right metrics in place and the right measurements in place to understand how it's really helping them yet.

Mitchell: Yeah, these early stages, there is a lack of sophistication, certainly with measurement, as you're touching on.

If you're not even bothering to check traffic patterns and bothering to see what pages on the site get attention, what parts of the pages matter, if you're not doing any of that, then you're not even, you're not even seeing some of the potential. You're not seeing some of the early signals of, oh, wait, this is a place that we should invest.

There's some opportunity here. That's invisible to you because you're not even looking. And I mean, we're really dishing on these people as if there's something wrong with them. I'm just indicating that the stage of digital maturity in a company sort of follows this sequence. And, you know, once you work your way past it, congratulations, you're in for some interesting value creation.

But until you see the ROI, yeah I'm not surprised people aren't investing. It's a leap.

Scott: This goes back to like when I talk about my concepts of originating and sustaining behavior. A lot of these early stages, you're still in that originating space, you know, and as we've talked about, you know, originating tends to be primarily inefficient.

And because it's inefficient, because you're learning a new thing and you're instituting new practices, and some methods will work and some won't, and you're not sure what's going to be yet, it feels like you're spinning your wheels too much. But there's really no way to move through that messy process, that inefficient process, to get to a space where you go, oh, now we can iteratively add to things.

Now we've kind of got a rhythm. We're starting to be able to recognize some patterns. And then it starts to feel better. You start seeing real results and you start being able to attach the work that's happening on the web to how it affects your actual revenue. And I think in these early stages, it's difficult to start connecting that to revenue.

You start seeing, "Hey, are the PDFs being looked at by customers? Okay, now I put some measurements in place and I can see that people are looking at these PDFs in there and they're doing it through these mechanisms". That's good information, but it might be hard for them to connect that to "Hey, is this actually helping to drive increased revenue"? As those stages, I think, progress, it becomes much easier to start revealing that it's connecting to revenue, even though I think of these earlier stages, it is addressing revenue and it is benefiting it, but I think it can be more difficult to see if these early stages.

Mitchell: These stages as I've mapped them out, I just tried to capture some of the organic progression I've seen in the marketplace.

It's not necessary for you to follow these stages. You don't have to go through these stages. It's not a, it's not a mandated sequence. It's just sort of a pattern that I saw. If you want to leap to stage four with the new website you're going to build, or the first website you're going to build, yeah, skip over some of these dumb stages.

You don't have to do these things. That brings us to stage four, which is where we’re still in a place where, and this is a really interesting point that we'll come to in a minute, but this client I was talking about, the millennial who took over from a boomer founder, one insight that he passed on to us was when we started to move into selling on the web and leaning more heavily into digital as one of our sales tools or one of our sales team members, we saw that the demands of the web compelled us to change our product offering. He had to change the product offering so that it was more compatible with what could be understood and configured and sold on the web. And that's a really interesting thing to get into. Now, talk about scary. If the web is going to make you change your business and your product line.

I can see a lot of hesitancy about that, but you're only scared of it if you can't see the future beyond it. So we'll get into that in a minute. The stage four is you've got a product catalog that's available for searching and browsing. You're beyond a brochure site, you're beyond a site that has product spec pages with downloadable PDFs.

Now you're letting your customers interact with your product catalog a little bit. The implication here is a little bit of a gray area here, some of these manufacturers have a lot of SKUs. Some don't. Some build custom. They say, "Well we do servos, we're going to build the exact kind of servo that you need for your application, come talk to us".

Some of these manufacturers have a pretty comprehensive set of SKUs that they make available to their customers. So there's a little bit of like a fork in the road here with types of manufacturing businesses. But the idea is that you're willing to let your website be a bit more complicated and your web developers are a bit more capable at this point because they can set up systems that are searchable and somewhat performant and browsable.

What I'm implying here is that not only can you do a keyword search, but you can do some version of like a first pass at a faceted search, which is one of the first stages before you get to a configurator CPQ type of capability. So these are not integrated with any set outside systems, no ERP, CRM, PIM, none of that is integrated yet, but you can search and browse the product line and start to narrow down that set of SKUs for your particular application. So we're advancing down the complexity sort of chain here.

Scott: I think a lot of times with this stage four, the nature of what it is because it's online, this may be even for the salespeople and others that work within that particular industrial business. They may find that the presence of the product catalog available online helps them because previously, you know, this catalog may have been maybe only in print. You know, maybe in a big, giant Bible of a binder that gets produced somewhere, or maybe if it wasn't digital, it was what I would say is electronic. It's in a spreadsheet, but it's not digital in that you can manipulate the data very easily.

It's still fairly cumbersome to have to work through. The product catalog in an electronic form is not the same as it being a digitally manipulated set of data. And I think once you get it to this point, you've just crossed over into that, that sort of this stage four would be your first stage where you're actually starting to be able to manipulate data that's associated with your product.

And that can, that can be a pretty big change for everyone at the company. And I think this is a stage where I think it's likely that businesses will start understanding how the website now becomes not merely a promotional tool. "Hey, we're in business and this is what we do", but it becomes a business activity tool. It becomes a production tool. "Oh, I can now use this online catalog, even if it's just a simple faceted search for myself and inside the business to understand", especially if you have, you know, an offering that is, you know, hundreds to maybe thousands of SKUs pretty cumbersome. And just having a faceted search on something like this can be pretty helpful, even on the front end of the website.

Mitchell: Some of the subtext we haven't touched on yet, I mean, Solspace is still Solspace and we still care about web reliability. We still care about friction. We still care about reducing friction in the sales pipeline and the revenue pipeline. And this is what we're touching on here. We're starting to get to a place where you're removing real friction.

You don't have anything, that's a brick wall. Not only is it friction, but you just have a brick wall. You are not going to route any sort of sales opportunities through digital channels. WordPress, got a brochure, still a bit of a brick wall. Okay, you exist, and I see who I can call. I see the picture of the sales rep I might be talking to in five minutes when I've dialed his phone number.

But there's still a lot of friction. Once you move into making the product line available for searching and browsing, you're starting to loosen things up a little bit. You're letting customers discover and understand you and start to self-diagnose and self-prescribe solutions for their problems.

You're getting a glimmer of what can happen when you focus on reducing friction in the sales process and using the web to do it. So this takes us to stage five, where especially when you introduce system integrations. You start to unlock a lot of potential. So this stage is, you have parts available for online purchase with system integrations.

Now, I paired these two together. They don't always go together necessarily, but I think they're going to be overlapping pretty often. So the idea here is, you know, maybe you have a sufficient amount of information about your product line that someone can educate themselves. Say, hmm, I do want to inquire more about these three types of servos that you offer. Let me submit your form. When that contact form is submitted, that lead goes into a CRM. It doesn't just go into somebody's email inbox, it goes into a CRM, gets scored, it's part of a system that is dedicated to that activity. You've integrated those two things and you've reduced friction in the sales pipeline by doing so.

The other component of this stage is, can I buy stuff? Some of the businesses I spoke to at this robotics conference in Santa Clara, they spoke to me a lot like the Wordpress people did. "Yeah, we're good, we got stuff, we got stuff online". "Oh, what do you do online"? "Oh, we sell stuff online". "Oh, excellent. That's really great. Tell me more". "Oh, yeah. Spare parts. You can buy spare parts for our systems online". "I can't buy the whole system"? "No, no, that's ridiculous. It's too complicated. But you can buy some ball bearings. You can buy some wire. You can replace that stuff once it wears out. No problem". "Well, congratulations". That's really useful and there's a lot of friction reduced because you're not bugging the sales team with parts.

You can sell that online and you're now even your accounting team is accustomed to dealing with online sales. That's a pretty big leap. You still got a long way to go. But somehow these two things get paired together in my mind because there's a level of sophistication from your web developer that's required.

They need to understand security with e-commerce. They need to be able to build integrations between systems that are reliable. So stage five, you're starting to, you're starting to move into a space where you can see return on your investment. You see some value creation in the digital space.

Scott: I think this stage five is the fact that you've paired those two things together. The fact that you know, you have what I would call real time. I think in the guide you say it's current within a three to seven-day range. And so now we're talking not merely what you sell, but we're actually talking inventory, there's a high reliability that, this particular part, even if they were just doing spare parts and replacement parts, that this part is available for me, not merely offered by your business, because, now we're talking about inventory. I think CRMs, are common enough now that you may have clients, "Oh, we got a CRM. We have, we have people in CRM, the sales team uses CRM. Yeah, we must be at a stage five". And the mere fact of having that type of platform be connected into your sales process, if it's not really integrated in a way that it is somehow connected to these two things, okay, you've got whatever parts are offered online.

There are current from an inventory management standpoint online and people's meaning users behavior with that is now feeding data into the CRM, which is not the same as merely having sort of the Rolodex CRM of yes, we've got sales leads and we've, we're documenting who those businesses are in a CRM.

This is really about how are you connecting the activity with your product, with the CRM, not merely the sort of individual businesses in the CRM.

Mitchell: So in this stage, you're beginning to streamline. And in this stage, you're beginning to take some of those cumbersome, repetitive things that humans should no longer be doing in 2023.

And you're moving those into the digital space. You're saying thank you for submitting the form. Nobody has to cut and paste this information and walk it down the hall to the sales team. That's going into a system. Everybody knows to check and they log in, they check their territory and they get into and obey the rules that have been set in the CRM and now you're a lot more efficient.

These purchases of parts, sometimes the sales reps like to be contacted for that sort of activity because it's a touch point. It's a way to maintain the relationship, that's not gone. You can continue to do that. It's just that you're not going to burden your customer with that unnecessarily.

So you're streamlining the sales process and you're actually serving the needs of the customer better because they're doing this everywhere else. They, they, they get half of their stuff for their household on Amazon. Why are you bothering them with having to contact a sales team to get spare parts?

You've moved that online. So this is a nice advancement. Note that you might have had a WordPress site. You could bolt some of this stuff onto a WordPress site. Probably not happening. You're probably moving beyond that to a more sophisticated platform. I didn't say expensive. I just said more sophisticated, more capable, more customizable, more adaptable platform.

In our case, we love Craft CMS. There's a lot of composable tools we're getting into that fit this bill. But the platform itself is probably changing. You don't need to spin six figures at this stage. You just need to know how to have a developer who can get you to sort of gradually move you to the next stage from where you are using the technology that's available at the time.

There's a lot of inexpensive solutions out there.

Scott: Oh I think that's a key thing to mention is that as you move up, there can be a fear of, "Oh, now we're exponentially increasing the cost every single time we move from one stage to the next stage".

Mitchell: No, not the case at all.

Scott: I think this is a, it's some behavior change, so there's some changes I think in these first five stages, we're really noticing more of a behavior change with the people and how they relate themselves professionally to the website and consider what kind of tool it could be.

So a lot of the change that's happening here, or if we're going to say cost in the most broad sense of the word of there is a cost involved to helping people learn how to change, you know, their activities and business from one thing to another as you sort of progress through this. Until through stage five, those capital expenditures are not overwhelming. I think you're probably spending more time helping people understand, both customers, and salespeople or marketing people how they can better utilize the website and understand it and measure it and, connect to how it's working with revenue than thinking, I've got to have some big giant platform and I think, that's something that I think you've run into and we've heard from other advisors that we've, we've spoken to is that there's kind of this dichotomy out there in the marketplace of, well, you've either got the $15,000 WordPress site that you haven't really touched much in the last five to six years, or someone's come along and said, "Hey, I've got this platform that does everything. You cannot believe all the things that it does. It's a, I can get you on board for a cool three-quarter of a million dollars, but oh, you'll make it up in the next five to seven years". You know, and they think, "Oh, there's only two ways to go. I can either go all in big heavy expenditure, or I'm just going to stay where I am and just do, keep it really simple".

And I think there's this myth that there's not these stages in the middle that'll allow you to progress into it.

Mitchell: Yeah, this is one of the frailties of this vertical market, is that manufacturers are accustomed to large capital investments. I mean, we're talking about you know, assembly centers and warehouses and manufacturing facilities in order to create value in the business.

These guys are accustomed to investing big. Bring in some new technology for the assembly floor, apply some new computer system to optimize how the factory operates. All, all these things are large expenses. They're accustomed to that. And the salespeople who sell these big, complicated, expensive systems know that, and they tap into that.

And they, they feed on that psychology and I'm over here screaming it, yelling and jumping up and down and saying, go in stages, move at a steady pace, build something, test it, get the data, see if it was worthwhile, throw it out if it's bad, try something new and different. If you come up with a better idea, go in stages, that's why this whole guide is about stages.

I think you can move progressively. As you advance your adoption of digital, the key is that you have a relationship with some people at the technical level, at the digital level, who can move you through these stages in a sequence that makes sense for your business and lets you validate as you go.

That's my big pitch, and it means you spend less money over time, as far as I'm concerned.

Scott: And I think when you get to the point where technology becomes advanced enough that there is some expenditure you're more easily able to understand how it possibly benefits your revenue. And so then making that expenditure, especially if you can do it you know, progressively over time, not maybe a big thing, but just have a spend each month or each quarter that you know you're going to put into it.

And, and if you're able to see how it affects your revenue. Then that's an easier sort of sell if you're talking to C-level leadership and easier just to digest on your own to think, Yeah, this makes sense to do this a little bit more expenditure over here. Maybe we're taking a leap, but we can really see if we go to this next stage, we can see the potential of revenue gain from that. So we know it's the right move.

Mitchell: In stage five, you're starting to create the conditions where you can track ROI, digital ROI. You can see how this thing you did here, this investment you made in the site increased the number of leads coming into the CRM. How do you know? Because there's reports.

It's a digital tool. It's a computer. Its job is to capture data and crunch it and it's available to you. Those previous stages, the data is invisible and you're not tracking it. You don't have clarity on your return on investment. And so now you're really going to build some momentum because you can see where your dollars made sense.

But let's wrap here. Let's wrap this episode. Come back in a couple of weeks and talk about the next stages in the progression in this guide. And we can talk a little bit about how you get from one stage to the next and what kind of leaps you have to make and how you can take baby steps.

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