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B2B Marketing, B2B PR, Content we like, PR services, Sector knowledge

Q&A on digital calculators with Josh Cole Bolland, Founder at J B Cole

There is no denying that Josh Cole Bolland is an early starter. He started working as a freelance photographer and graphic designer aged just 16 and lived the dream, working with bands and musicians. He opened his own photographic studio just two years later and gradually integrated graphic design and video into the mix before he was joined in the business by his brother, who introduced his technical and development skills into the mix.

This helped their company diversify and helped Josh hone his skills in user and customer experience and system architecture. More than 550 web and digital projects later, J B Cole now creates digital calculators for websites. We spoke to Josh about this area of his company’s work.

Q: Before we talk about digital calculators, in your opinion, how crucial is the infusion of technology and measurement when it comes to marketing strategy? 

A: We do a lot of work in this area and we see it as the bedrock; the real foundation of a marketing strategy and our reason for being. As an organisation, we look at technology and integration and development, but when we look at digital strategy, we’re looking at the cohesive data flow of information.

We’re a data-led business, so for us it’s critical to get that infusion of measurement strategy in place initially, before we begin.

We do a lot of work with large organisations with siloed data in isolation that doesn’t mean much, but when it is combined it’s really powerful. For us, it’s about making sure that foundation is in place and setting up a single version of the truth that is cohesive at all touch points.  

Q: In a nutshell, can you explain what a digital calculator is and what inspired you to create this type of tool?

A: It’s an online digital tool that takes reasonably complex processes, data and information, and distils them down into a really simple-to-use interface. They’re usually very visual.

These allow users and customers to gather information about something in the sales or marketing process that helps them get to a point of critical information really quickly. For example, a financial calculator which allows a user to enter earnings and other information, can produce insights about income and expenditure and what that means against a finance product in the market.

As another example, we’ve also implemented a calculator showing what solar panels on roofs cost versus their output and the savings a homeowner can make. It’s all about the consolidation of the user experience to get quite complex information out in a simple way.

Q: Have you noticed an increase in demand for this type of tool? If so, why?

A: We have, over the last couple of years. Businesses are trying to put services and products in front of people that are easy to purchase and a calculator enables that.

The customer takes themselves through a journey and the calculator helps them do it in a quick, interactive way. It gives them a much better customer experience and gives valuable, hugely qualified data back to your organisation. It’s a good hook to get people in as the data is more qualified than any other type. You know exactly what the customer wants by the end of the process. The data is rich and meaningful.

Q: In a world where data and analytics is everything, how can this tool support B2B marketers with their decision making?

A: It gives a refined view of what customers want and need. If they are using it, they have an intention already and are trying to find out some information. It also allows you to define and track a really clear point of conversion. It’s easy to see success metrics and measure their output.

It’s also easy to track sales conversions, so the qualifications process is significantly sped up, bringing clarity to the journey from inbound lead to qualification. They build trust and credibility, so we’re also creating a more realistic brand experience. There’s a wider reaching impact on the business as well as collecting key information.

Q: When a business is considering implementing a digital calculator, what are the common things they want to know or achieve?

A: It’s really about the information they want to collect. They’re trying to get a conversion and a heavily qualified lead, but what they want to get off the back of that is a purchase or a sale. We’re also trying to understand what the customer really wants, so we’re building up data around what they want, need and where they are taking data from.

It’s really good research. Out of 100 form fields, 90% are focused on a specific bracket, so you have a solid understanding of rich data that is collected from the calculator that can be used in other marketing strategies. What we don’t want to do is just build a calculator for the sake of it. We want it to be meaningful and work backwards from there.

Q: How important is it to get the balance right between creativity and technology when building this tool for your clients?

A: The most important part of this by a long stretch is looking at how you are going to convert data into something that’s incredibly simple to use, whether that’s through infographics or succinct numbers or metrics that are crystal clear on the screen.

You don’t want to create barriers where people bounce because that defeats the object. You need to take time to create a meaningful outcome. User experience is at the core, so it also has to be incredibly intuitive. As soon as it becomes complicated, people bounce and they won’t come back.


Q: Where will a digital calculator be typically used and how can it be integrated across different channels?

A: It’s not necessarily just a website where they can be used. We build them so they can be seamlessly integrated. You can put it into an article, on a landing page with a clear call to action or they can be embedded right into the core of a homepage because it grabs people straightaway.

Q: In your experience, do you think that tools similar to this will grow in importance as B2B marketers look to have more meaningful conversations with their customers?

A: I think so, yes. I think there’s an expectation from customers and the use of technology on websites which allow you to access information without having to speak to people at length on the phone. Calculators get leads further along the funnel than they may have originally been able to without such conversations.

The value is twofold. It’s incredibly creative but from a customer perspective it’s useful to mitigate some of the pain points people face when interfacing with an organisation. There’s an instant gratification part to it which is critical to the marketing stack, to get people in. You can make it a key part of the sales process.

Q: If businesses don’t integrate this type of technology into their strategies, what challenges might they experience in the years to come?

A: The changing expectation of users and customers is a key consideration. The reason why successful companies are successful is because they allow customers to self-serve their data in a slick experience, not waiting for someone to get back to them.

There are ever-changing expectations from the customer and in future the focus will be on self-serve technologies. That goes for back-end portals and systems as well. Businesses want to access information very quickly, especially the valuable data from conduction screens and interfaces.

88% of customers expect a brand to have a self-service portal and 67% prefer self-service to speaking to a real person. If that’s not a critical reason to invest in these technologies, I don’t know what is.

Q: What advice would you give to businesses who are thinking about adding a digital calculator to their marketing toolkit?

A: Just do it, because it’s incredibly valuable. The numbers speak for themselves. It’s really important to be able to provide that bridge between customer and sales or marketing in an intuitive way and by introducing a platform like this, you’ll significantly improve your chances of converting.

They’re very easy to interact with and they give people the control to do things themselves. The key advice is to work on the strategy and think about what you’re trying to achieve and what a digital calculator could do with the data you’ve got. Bringing that together in a front-end interface can result in a clever and intuitive way of collecting data in marketing-led campaigns.

About this article

Read time:

4 minutes

Category:

B2B Marketing, B2B PR, Content we like, PR services, Sector knowledge

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