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digital body language (DBL)

Digital body language (DBL) is the aggregate of an individual’s passive and active online activity. Just as a person's physical body language communicates intentions through subconcious and concious actions such as scratching one's nose or crossing one's arms, a person's digital body language communicates intentions nonverbally through passive and active actions such as spending time on a particular web page or chatting with a website's virtual assistant

Online tracking and business intelligence (BI) technologies can help an organization analyze a potential buyers’ DBL by analyzing which emails have been opened, how many times a prospect has completed forms on a company's website, how often they visited the site, how recent the visits were, how many pages they visited on the sites, what content they viewed and how they interact with the companies’ social media. Based on their digital footprint that prospective buyers leave, marketers can follow up and nurture the lead by providing the prospective customer with relevant online content.

The growing importance of DBL reflects how digital technology has changed how B2B sales and marketing people interact with prospective customers as they move through the sales funnel. Before the mid-1990s, marketing professionals passed leads on to a sales representative and then waited to find out if the lead turned out to be good. Potential buyers generally engaged with a salesperson in person at some point, perhaps over lunch or dinner, and the sales rep might include mention of the prospect's physical body language in his or her lead generation documentation.

As buyers have moved online, however, face-to-face meetings where marketers had the opportunity to read a potential customer's physical body language have become far less frequent. According to the 2010 book "Digital Body Language" by Steven Woods, looking at a prospect's DBL can help marketers determine not only what to communicate to prospective buyers, but also when to communicate, what communication channels to use and when to bring salespeople into the picture. 

Industry experts recommend that to adjust to a strictly online environment, organizations should do the following: integrate marketing channels into a single system of record to build comprehensive prospect profiles, communicate DBL data to the sales organization and other business stakeholders by integrating the marketing system of record with customer relationship management (CRM) systems, and automate sales alerts, notifications about web activity and marketing responses.

This was last updated in October 2017

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