In this age of consumerism, we’ve been conditioned to believe we can have it all and do it all. That belief might be a great personal motivator, but when it comes to marketing it can be a big hindrance.
Strategic marketing requires the discipline to make choices, and that can be tough for companies with aggressive growth goals. After all, when you’re aiming for the stars, why limit your options?
The truth is, strategic marketing can only drive growth if it’s targeted and focused.
In Part 1 of this series, we explore the most important choices you need to make when setting your marketing strategy and developing a strategic marketing plan. These insights come directly from our two decades of experience delivering outsourced marketing strategy and execution that drives strong business results for B2B companies.
Insight #1: Decide Where You’re Most Relevant
Effective marketing starts with a strategy grounded in research and data, and that’s where some of the most critical choices come into play. Before you develop a marketing strategy, you need to home in on the target market you want to reach. Sounds simple enough, but many companies go astray at this stage.
Let’s say you’re currently selling a SaaS billing solution for the healthcare industry. You might be tempted to broaden your focus to other sectors that need similar software in an attempt to grow faster. But if you try to branch out to a different market without understanding if your offering is truly relevant there, or if your product is customized enough for that market, you’ll end up diverting your resources away from a market that may still have plenty of growth potential.
In fact, the fastest, most efficient way to accelerate growth is to keep focusing where you have demonstrated expertise and a high degree of relevance.
It takes discipline to narrow your focus to a specific market, but that’s the best way to allocate your marketing resources where they’ll deliver the strongest ROI. By segmenting your market into specific groups based on characteristics they have in common, then focusing on those segments where you have the greatest relevance, you’ll optimize your budget and boost your results.
When researching your market, be sure to go beyond basic demographic data (such as industry, location, and size) and answer equally important questions like the following:
- How large is the market—not just the total available market (TAM), but the serviceable obtainable market (SOM), which is the number of customers likely to buy your product or service based on how well it meets their needs and the competitive landscape. SOM is one of the greatest indicators of the revenue opportunity within a given market, helping you set aggressive but achievable revenue goals.
- Is this market segment growing or shrinking?
- Which geographic areas are you best suited to serve, based on their unique requirements?
- Who are the biggest competitors in this market, and what is their market share?
- Who are the decision makers vs who are influences in these organizations, and how does each group go about evaluating providers?
It goes without saying that your decisions at this point should be based on research, not gut instinct or assumptions. Talk to customers and prospects, do a deep dive into your competitors, and get reliable data on the market’s size and growth trajectory. The more you learn about your current or intended target market, the better you can focus your efforts where they’ll make the greatest impact.
Insight #2: Understand Your Target Buyer and Their Journey
Staying relevant also demands that you zero in on your ideal buyer and gain a deep understanding of their challenges and pain points. Once you’ve decided which market segment to target, it’s time to learn as much as you can about the ideal buyers in that market and the journey they’ll take when evaluating solutions like yours.
Rarely is a B2B product or service only purchased by a single type of buyer; in most cases, you’ll need to research multiple types of decision makers and influencers. By conducting extensive discovery, you can gain deep knowledge about your ideal buyers, gleaning the insights you need to develop messaging that is relevant to each buyer type, addresses their challenges, and gives them compelling reasons to choose your solution.
With so much of the buyer’s journey happening digitally, it’s equally important to understand the journey that buyer will take as they evaluate different offerings. Each buyer type is an individual with unique motivators and preferences, all making different decisions as they progress through the stages of investigating a solution.
By mapping each point in the journey, you can decide where to engage them and what they need from you at each step to keep progressing through your revenue funnel.
For example, if your research shows that the buyer first consumes online content about this type of service, then visits an industry-specific review platform to see how service providers are rated by their customers, you’ll need to take steps to boost your reviews on that platform.
Insight #3: Use the Research Findings to Direct Your Strategy and Plan
Once you’ve gained clarity on your target market and your ideal buyer, you can begin to create a marketing strategy and plan that touches them when, where, and how you need to in order to move them to action. The research you’ve done to this point will guide you in developing a strategy and a plan that targets the right buyer with the right message at the right time through the right channels.
By making informed decisions about each of these critical elements, you’ll allocate your marketing budget where it will generate the best results—and avoid engaging in activities that aren’t intentional and won’t move the needle on revenue growth.
For example, if you decide to position your technology product as having the broadest feature set in the industry, but your ideal buyer only cares about two key features, your messaging will miss the mark. Or if you choose not to allocate any of your marketing budget toward driving buyers to a demo, but those buyers won’t proceed with a sales call before seeing an online demo first, your lead conversion rates will suffer.
Everything you’ve learned to this point should guide your strategy and plan, directing what you choose to do and not do. The research you’ve conducted and the decisions you’ve made about your target market and ideal buyer become critical guideposts that keep your marketing strategic, intentional, and focused. It also keeps your entire marketing function—both in-house staff and outsourced partners—aligned with and supporting your strategy.
When you approach the strategy development and marketing planning process with discipline, and you’re prepared to make tough choices, you position yourself to optimize your marketing investment and achieve your revenue growth goals.