You’ve just been tasked with propelling your organization to new heights with a “data-driven,” “omnichannel” and “digitally-transformed” B2B marketing plan that reels in leads and closes deals like never before. Be it a self-imposed mission or a direct request from the Executive Team, building the next-best marketing plan that also delivers bottom-line results is a common pressure—and challenge—for B2B marketing leaders.
So, where should you start? And how can you ensure that your plan is built for success? Understanding the importance and purpose of a marketing plan is the first step in applying best practices and building your own successful B2B marketing plan.
The “Why” Behind the “How”
A well-articulated plan will do more than simply list goals and objectives for the coming year, quarter or month. Instead, a marketing plan should outline the company’s marketing strategy, identify the objective target market and highlight specific activities and deliverables within the plan. This comprehensive approach forces you to think holistically, from high-level company goals all the way down to the individual marketing activities that will support them.
A dependable marketing plan should also assign boundaries—to your budget, your resources and your timeline. Without these constraints, it’s easy to stray on individual activities that may not be worth your time and resources. This feature also provides an objective assessment of which activities are realistic for your team and best ways to leverage their strengths. Lacking a designated content marketing team, for instance? Look for ways to repurpose content or consider turning to outside expertise to fill in the gaps. Establishing your goals proactively affords you the time to strategize which ways to go about achieving them.
Finally, a marketing plan sets expectations. Take the time to ensure that your team is fully versed on key goals, objectives and initiatives so they know what’s expected of them. This step will cultivate an aligned and accountable team culture that is critical for marketing success.
Best Practices When Creating a Marketing Plan
An effective marketing plan balances internal marketing goals with overarching corporate initiatives. Consider company goals such as growth, sales performance and lead generation, market penetration and target audiences. Dig deep into the ROI of past marketing activities and factor in recommendations from Sales around what marketing tactics were most beneficial for generating quality leads and closing deals. This comprehensive approach will inform the strategy’s direction and ensure it’s poised to support corporate revenue goals.
When executing specific pieces of your plan, there are several strategies and considerations we always recommend—both with clients and when building our internal marketing efforts. This framework can also be easily modified to align with your unique offering, marketing budget and the specific activities you have in mind.
Sharpen your buyer personas
If you’ve never developed buyer personas for your organization, now is the perfect time to start. Knowing who you are targeting (i.e., their preferences, dislikes, key messages, etc.) and how to prioritize those audience segments (i.e., equal, weighted, etc.) is critical for engaging your company’s ideal buyers in today’s competitive, hyper-personalized B2B marketing landscape.
If you have already developed personas for your organization, dedicate some time to polishing any outdated information or honing profiles based on new feedback from Sales. It’s not essential to update your personas every quarter or year but keeping a steady pulse on the accuracy of your target buyers is a best practice for maintaining relevant and profitable marketing strategies.
Calendar out key activities
Without a prioritized blueprint for how and when you will accomplish specific marketing activities, it’s easy to lose focus on the broader marketing strategy, as well as your organization’s strategic priorities. Spending time with your team to develop a reliable calendar of deadlines and responsibilities fosters accountability and aligns individual members around the common goals you’ve set forth.
When it comes to formulating your plan of attack, think of the timing of each activity and how it correlates to others on the calendar. Factor in upcoming milestones for your organization, such as events, launches, etcetera. Evaluate your team’s bandwidths and unique strengths to ensure activities are attainable. Reconciling macro corporate objectives with an honest assessment of internal capabilities will produce a plan that is realistic and built for success.
Develop a comprehensive budget
Avoid the urge to simply add an incremental amount to your most recent marketing budget and call it a day. Instead, outline the cost for each individual activity on your new plan and evaluate the total against your proposed budget. If you come out over-budget, look for ways you can prioritize initiatives as essentials or nice-to-haves. Keep an eye out for opportunities to repurpose past work. For example, when fulfilling lofty content wishes, find old videos or past blogs that you can repackage to save your team time (and money) at the drawing board.
A similar ranking approach should follow if you fall under budget as well. Rather than spreading extra marketing dollars across disparate activities, stick to your initial plan with clear, segmented objectives for items that must be accomplished, and activities that will ideally be accomplished. This initial assessment will keep your team on track and protect your marketing plan against unanticipated budget cuts.
Identify key performance metrics
Finally, don’t neglect to include key performance metrics that can be used to benchmark success. After your plan is underway, maintaining a single source of truth for measuring performance is critical for identifying areas of improvement, multiplying successful activities and having a benchmark to reference when developing next year’s marketing plan. The power to instantly assess your strategy’s success gives you and your team the freedom to pivot, adjust and improve as needed for consistent success.
In order to design these goals and metrics accurately, you’ll need to evaluate previously used KPIs as well as look for new metrics to measure success and pulse progress even more accurately. Be sure to keep some metrics consistent so you can measure marketing success over the long term. When evaluating which measurement additions to propose, poll key team members as well as leaders from other departments to ensure your performance is tracked against a holistic view of your organization.
Insider Tips to Future-Proof Your Plan
Even with the preceding best practices at the forefront of your marketing plan, unexpected (or even expected) organizational shifts, turnovers and changes can happen at any time. Rather than throwing a wrench in your carefully crafted marketing program, these insider tips represent our tried-and-true methods for future-proofing your strategy.
Have a strategy behind every activity
Ultimately, you should be prepared to justify every activity and dollar spent on your plan, such as why produce a 4-page brochure, why one event over another, why allocate $X per month on remarketing, etcetera. Dissect every activity and only add it to your plan if it makes sense. As discussed above, build your plan with a tiered approach in mind. Budgets often get cut and having the foresight to advocate for specific items over others helps ensure the essential components of your plan are protected.
Ensure budget accuracy with a holistic approach to each activity
Many activities on your plan will likely have associated costs beyond the time it takes to deliver them. For example, items like events incur a slew of additional costs such as booth design, collateral printing, shipping charges and more. Be proactive in accounting for additional and unexpected costs early so you don’t run over budget during execution.
In order to champion your new marketing plan effectively, get granular on all relevant details so your proposal can be properly absorbed and considered. There is no need to walk fellow executives and budget controllers in your organization through each and every detail of your plan, but coming prepared with such insights at the ready shows that you’ve “done your homework” and considered each and every aspect behind your strategy.
Set goals you can be confident hitting
When building out KPIs and communicating goals across the organization, keep you and your team’s feet securely planted on the ground with relevant and accurate metrics you can all be confident hitting. Pushing yourselves appropriately by striking a balance between achievable and ambitious is essential for propelling a committed and inspired task force towards long-term marketing success.
Looking for more ways to elevate your B2B marketing success? Check out our eBook, How B2B Leaders Can Gain (or Regain) Marketing Momentum, for expert tips on assessing your company’s marketing efforts for long-term impact.