Developing the plan to support your B2B marketing strategy for the coming year doesn’t have to be met with the anxiety of dental surgery nor does it require the endurance of scaling Everest. Crafting a well-thought-out marketing strategy and supporting plan must though allow ample time for deliberate, disciplined and open-minded review as well as a commitment to meet milestones.
The process of reaffirming or renewing your marketing strategy should become a familiar one with a distinct cadence and common characteristics. And developing the marketing plan to execute on your strategy should not simply be an annual exercise of “rinse-and-repeat” or “let’s just add 15% to what we did last year.”
If you’re currently in the process of planning your B2B marketing strategy for 2017, or are just getting started, consider the following tips and recommendations to steer you in the right direction:
Start at the Top – with Strategy
This is perhaps an obvious step, but one that leaders surprisingly often ignore or rationalize skipping. Before determining your B2B marketing strategy, you first must be clear, up-to-date and fully aligned on your organization’s broader strategy. Is the organization focused on differentiation and positioning itself as a premium provider or more as a value-oriented offering or…?
While marketing strategies typically do not shift 180° in each year, there are normally significant nuances that move which should affect the direction of your strategy. Challenge yourself and your team to identify, articulate and incorporate them.
Know Thy Personas
Buyer Personas are composite sketches of your respective client and prospect segments, complete with descriptions of their demographic and behavioral attributes, the challenges they face and what they want to achieve.
If you’ve developed buyer personas for your organization already, take a moment to follow our strategy advice above to ensure they remain solid or whether they need adjustment. If you haven’t taken time to build out your buyer personas and your ideal client profile, do so first before you move on.
(Note: Let us know if you need help with this. Also check out this blog post on persona development from our friends at HubSpot.)
Reach Consensus on Priorities, Goals and Objectives
At first, I used the word “agreement” instead of “consensus” here, but in practice it’s difficult and unrealistic to fully agree on every priority, goal and objective across different groups and individuals.
What you need to drive towards is common ground on what the organization seeks to achieve in the coming year (and beyond) and adopt a generally shared view of what it will take to get there. This is an important step that helps to frame budgeting, planning, and campaign component questions for marketing. It also serves as a helpful “sanity check” to ensure that expectations are in line with reality and what’s possible.
At this point you now have a clear and confirmed organizational strategy, a deep understanding of your prospects and customers and a shared view of priorities, goals and objectives. Nice! Now let’s get on with the task of answering an all-important question, “What must we do as a marketing function to enable achievement of these goals?”
Develop and Iterate your Plan
Armed with the information assembled in the steps outlined above, begin now to map out the various (and ideally integrated) components of your marketing plan for the coming year. Virtually all plan components should be accompanied by measurable outcomes that you can map against the priorities, objectives and goals previously established.
For example, if it was agreed that a specific number of qualified leads per month is needed to fuel the sales pipeline, then how you propose to get there should be reflected in your plan. Other objectives may be more oriented around yes/no achievement before a date (e.g. go live with website upgrade by end of Q2).
Additionally, plan components should be “integrated,” or to put it another way, they should work in service of one another. In basic terms, this may be a blog post that tees up a webinar where select participants will then be invited to an event. Or perhaps it’s pay-per-click advertising that drives visitors to download a white paper that leads to a product demo.
Devote yourself and your team to map out the plan for the full year and do not expect perfection the first time around. Step back. Iterate. Question whether you are low-balling the numbers, expecting too much, or if you’ve put together a fair and achievable plan. Iterate again so long as it’s productive and then press on.
Manage your Bias with External Eyes
I’ve sometimes stared at the same plan documents so hard and for so long that a purple T-Rex ready to devour everything could be hiding right there in plain sight and I’d miss it. I’ve also learned that no matter what, I (and all of us) operate with certain biases when we go about developing our view of how our marketing world should be and what we need to do to move forward.
To combat this bias and identify the threat of the ready-for-a-ruckus T-Rex, I’ve found that getting trusted, objective and external eyes on the plans I’ve developed is not only comforting but typically results in several “aha” moments that strengthen the plan considerably. It’s also an opportunity for that trusted counsel to point out areas where temporary insanity may have taken hold and what some alternatives might be.
Guess what? You’ve done it. You’ve got a comprehensive marketing plan in place that directly supports your strategy.
Do. Check. Act.
You’ve already got the “Plan” part out of the way now in the ol’ PDCA (Plan-Do-Check-Act) cycle. So, let’s Do it. Once you’ve readied the required resources and your team, carry out your plan with confidence and conviction. Check it out. As you progress, assess your progress and whether you’re delivering at or above expected levels. Leverage data and dashboards to help you in this process. Now it’s time for Action. Analyze your data and business results to identify all actions needed to correct your course if you’ve gone astray somewhere and to amplify opportunities that surface.
Exhale and Take a Bow
We never said developing your B2B marketing strategy was going to be easy. We did say though that it shouldn’t be an anxiety-inducing and fear-laden endeavor. Devote the time your B2B marketing strategy and planning deserves, don’t take shortcuts and get help where it’s valued. Your results and your peace of mind will thank you for it.