Get a Plan! Don’t Spend B2B Marketing Dollars Without One

by Debra Andrews | April 5, 2011

I’ve been asked by a wonderful client in the civil engineering and landscape architecture industry to share my views on the value of B2B marketing plans. Specifically, the two shareholders want to know – Why do you need one? Shouldn’t your instincts be the guide? Don’t they prevent you from seizing opportunities as they present themselves? 

Most B2B companies, especially sophisticated professional services firms, typically put together annual financial plans and budgets. They don’t question this yearly exercise as being something optional. After all, how else can resources be allocated to the right departments and costs be controlled? We believe that the same priority and discipline needs to be applied to developing annual marketing plans so that valuable firm resources are strategically channeled into the campaigns and tactics that will produce the greatest return on investment. If I know these Shareholders, they aren’t convinced. I’m stepping up onto my soapbox now…

Without a solid marketing plan, B2B companies, especially professional services firms, tend to practice shotgun marketing. Sound horrible? It is! In professional services firms, there tend to be a large number of decision makers (Partners /Shareholders) each with their own ideas about marketing and business development. Without a marketing plan, marketing choices are typically made reactively as opposed to in a proactive manner. Each decision is more or less disconnected from the other and typically none of them, collectively or individually, moves the B2B firm towards its goals.

For example, an advertising salesman might call a Shareholder and be really persuasive about why a $2,500 one-time ad is a “real deal.” A business colleague of another Shareholder may sing the praises of a local Chamber of Commerce and convince him why a corporate membership is a necessity.

With shotgun-style marketing, resources tend to be scattered about without building brand awareness, market penetration or revenue generation. The natural conclusion drawn by many B2B firms practicing shotgun marketing is, “It doesn’t work.” Finally – we agree! It doesn’t. Effective marketing planning, however, does have the potential for moving enterprises forward and generating measurable results.

This first thing that we ask our B2B clients about is how their companies have performed for the past few years and what their expectations are for the upcoming year. If a client is planning for growth, it is our role as their B2B outsourced marketing company to:

  • Assess how realistic the objectives are given market conditions and the marketing resources available;
  • Strategically evaluate and choose target markets; and
  • Develop an integrated annual marketing plan.

This annual marketing plan will detail everyone’s roles and responsibilities, the marketing collateral needed, and the tactics and programs to be implemented. All the plan pieces must fit together so that the revenues generated from the efforts will exceed the investment. Smart marketing plans are focused, powerful, and propel firms forward toward their goals.

With a solid marketing plan in place, it becomes much easier to evaluate marketing opportunities that surface during the course of the year – do they fit within the plan or will they utilize valuable firm resources without a return on investment? Marketing plans also allow for tracking of progress on a quarterly and even monthly basis – is the plan being successfully implemented and getting the expected returns or are there some obstacles in the way? It’s certainly better to discover and overcome the barriers to progress in advance as opposed to waiting until a poor finish at year’s end.

So, if this blog post has not been fully convincing as to why B2B organizations need to have marketing plans, I dare to steal a wise quote from WWII, He who fails to plan is planning to fail.” Touché, Mr. Churchill! 

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