Business-to-business marketing is a complex beast. We know this, not only because we do it every day, but because it’s clear to everyone by now that the rules of engagement are changing all the time. While we know certain methods and principles will always apply to a marketing campaign (like good common sense), we like to balance this knowledge with following the latest research and reviewing new technologies for optimizing our clients’ assets.
Why do B2B companies need a marketing plan? Simply put, a good plan not only helps define goals for your business, it will help analyze your particular position in the marketplace and set performance criteria for you to reach your revenue goals. And by designing an intelligent plan, you avoid random, reactive spending on marketing that doesn’t produce a good return on investment.
There are many elements that go into a building a long-term marketing success; today, we want to focus on what we consider one of our essential strategies for creating a solid B2B marketing plan.
The Importance of Annual Planning
In the midst of our quickly changing economic landscape, it’s more important than ever to get your marketing plan in order. Ad budgets are coming under increasing scrutiny, and for good reason: There is no room for expensive mistakes in marketing, or any plan that doesn’t have a substantial chance for short- or long-term benefit. A long-term gain strategy with an annual plan is the best way to get started right, setting the base metrics for everyone on your team to follow.
Annual planning usually revolves around one of three approaches: A percentage increase of sales, a percentage increase (or decrease) over the previous year’s budget, or budgeting by objective. You may decide which approach to take based on your existing plan, or by reviewing your historical gains or deficits. A basic budget can be based on industry benchmarking or competitive research. Most often, budgets are decided upon using a combination of these strategies.
For now, let’s assume you are taking a fresh look at your annual plan, if not starting from scratch. What is your basic strategy? What should be your first steps?
Prioritize Your Objectives. As simple as it sounds, start by writing your objectives down on paper. You already “know” what your business is about, and you have a very good idea of how it has succeeded in the past. But have you objectively set your objectives down and thought about them lately? Does your entire team understand them as well as you do? In the evolving budgeting and planning landscape, there are ways to re-envision moving forward that don’t involve simply rubber-stamping a budget or plan that worked in the past. By prioritizing your objectives, you set down a template that makes marketing efforts clear to you and everyone on your team.
Assess Your Target Market. Have you gathered together all your sales data in a database, so everyone on the marketing team can use it? You probably have an extensive record of marketing activity in your CRM system, containing historical purchase data. This is where your team can analyze target buyers and influencers, and you can align budget to these segments. Use sales and marketing automation tools to identify everyone in the buying process, the length of the buying cycle and average spend. This will help you schedule the marketing activity needed to reach existing and future customers.
Create a Framework for Reaching Your Targets. Once you have your targeted customers identified, this prospect database needs to be reviewed to get a precise view of the volume of these buyers. You can use a marketing funnel calculator to figure out next steps for using and growing this database. During this process, you can add any important missing data: Contact information and job titles, demographic and behavioral information.
Identify Leads and Opportunities. Now that you have a detailed picture of your market, you can make intelligent decisions about where to allocate time and budget. You may also take advantage of automated marketing tools to help you assess and manage your marketing plan. At this stage, you can look for any gaps in your lead-generating plan, and identify customer needs and pain points as well.
Schedule Tasks. Your CRM system is now fully optimized for moving forward with your plan. By now, you have a solid idea of what needs to happen when, and how budget is allocated. Here again you may use automated tools to streamline efforts and gauge success, enabling you to be nimble and make changes as needed. In an upcoming post we will examine some of these tools and how they can help you create and maintain a successful annual plan.
Coming next in our B2B marketing series: Consistency in Branding and Messaging.