Ten “Under the Table” Tips for Creating Your Best Ever B2B Marketing Plan

by Debra Andrews | January 19, 2016

Part 3 of 5: 50 Bookmark-Worthy Tips for the Ambitious B2B Marketer

Hey business executives and marketers…  Can you keep a few top tricks of the trade just between us?  Strategic marketing bloggers like me have to be careful not to give away all of the ingredients to our secret sauces. But as loyal readers of my posts and subscribers to the UnMuted Marketer, I view you as part of a special group entitled to a little VIP treatment. Are you ready for the hand-off?  I’m going to discreetly slide you ten B2B marketing planning tips “under the table.”  Whoops — Did you drop them?  Quick – pick them up! They’re well worth it! These are proven, first-rate tips — and they’re just for you.

When creating your B2B marketing plan, move through the following steps in sequence:

  1. Understand the goals: The first question that needs to be answered during the B2B marketing planning process is:  Where does this company want to go?  Your company goals could include:
  • Finding new customers
  • Securing new business from existing customers
  • Top-line revenue growth
  • Product / service growth
  • Industry segment penetration / growth

Never, ever start a marketing plan with tactics.  You’ll just be stabbing around in the dark without understanding strategic goals first.

  1. Assess your resources: Two types of resources are most relevant – people and dollars.  In today’s world of modern marketing, B2B companies may need more talent to help create content and grow social networks and fewer dollars to spend on direct mail, sponsorships, advertising, and the like.  Who will be contributing to your marketing efforts?  What has your firm budgeted for marketing? Do not begin planning until you have a clear picture of resources!
  1. Establish the baseline: Once your company’s goals are identified, evaluate how long the journey will be to the top. Where is your company today? How high does it need to climb? In general, a lengthy trek will necessitate a larger marketing budget. 
  2. Re-evaluate goals and set Key Performance Indicators (KPIs): Now that you have a clear understanding of resources, determine if those resources are adequate to accomplish established goals.  Unfortunately, company goals are often set without considering the resources needed to reach them.  Ensure goals and resources are aligned before continuing with the marketing planning process.  Then identify KPIs such as subscribers, conversions, web traffic, open rates, click-through rates, and press mentions that will collectively signal if you are moving quickly enough in the right direction.
  3.  Map your marketing infrastructure: Just like travelers need roads, bridges, and cars to get to their destinations, marketers need a solid infrastructure in place in order to do effective work.  More specifically, you’ll need to have a:
  • Clean email database
  • Responsive website that offers an engaging user experience
  • Blog (or multiple blogs)
  • Growing social media network
  • Brand that dynamically reflects your company
  • Block of messaging that clearly differentiates you from your competitors

A marketing program that is missing any of these elements will be less effective and lower the potential for a high return on investment (ROI).

  1. Identify Your Segments: In the mid-market – where resources are limited and competition is usually steep – it is critical to practice target marketing. Trying to be everything to everyone just won’t work.  Savvy B2B buyers want to purchase from firms they view as specialists.  Channel your resources into one (or more) of your most promising market segments.  Selecting these segments can be difficult, with many factors to consider.  One of the most important roles that Chief Marketing Officers (or Strategic Marketing Consultants and Fractional CMOs) can play is to assist with this selection.
  2.  Define the ideal customer: Within each target segment, you will need to identify your company’s favorite customer.  Attributes of an ideal customer might include:
  • Size of firm
  • Management / organizational structure
  • Desire to sustain long-term relationships
  • Purchase habits
  • Payment terms
  • Geographic location
  • Ability to make quick decisions
  1.  Define your buyer persona: Now that you have your ideal customer identified, narrow your lens even more and look at the B2B buyer. The process of doing this is called creating a buyer persona. Some of the areas you will want to cover include:
  • Title
  • Demographics
  • Challenges and opportunities
  • Reporting relationships
  • Communication preferences
  1. Design your marketing communications: Finally! You now have all the pieces needed to create effective marketing communications.  Smart B2B companies are increasingly favoring Inbound Marketing methods as opposed to Outbound strategies which can be cost-prohibitive and limited to primarily “once and done” tactics.

Too many B2B companies haphazardly skip right over Steps 1 – 8 and jump straight into the design of their marketing communications.  No wonder their marketing plans are not effective!

  1.  Develop a timeline: In order to make your B2B marketing plan actionable, you will want to create a timeline that specifies who is going to do what and by when.  I typically do this on a rolling three-month basis and update it as progress is made.

Phew! Are you surprised by the complexity of the process? A solid B2B marketing plan often takes months to complete! Without this well thought out and researched roadmap, however, it will be very challenging to reach your destination.  So don’t leave these “under the table” tips laying on the dirty floor with the crumbs and the forgotten umbrellas.  Take them and use them to create your best ever B2B marketing plan.  And remember, not a word to anyone… my shoe budget is really small — I swear — but I can certainly put a few dollars to good use every now and then. 

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