Frequently Asked Questions About B2B Marketing: Essential Basics
I opine regularly on the importance of basic (yet essential) marketing best practices and disciplines to achieve sales goals. As it relates to business-to-business (B2B) marketing, below are questions and conversation topics that often come up; along with my typical response and/or opinion. If you are a start-up or diving into B2B marketing planning for the first time, perhaps these will help.
Q: What’s the first thing I should do to develop a B2B marketing strategy?
Collect and organize key strategic business insights. For example:
- Business and sales goals
- Customer pain points, motivations, barriers and buying process
- Customer feedback on your product, offer or service
- Profile/persona of the ideal client
- Workflow and timeline of a typical sales scenario
- Success stories and barriers from the sales team and other front-line employees
- Competitive landscape and gap analysis
- Industry landscape; e.g. analyst reports, and third-party research and data
- SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats).
Helpful tip: Don’t think of your marketing and sales strategies as two different things; they should be one (particularly in B2B) if you want stellar results.
Why go through this exercise? We know our business, the marketplace, our story and our customers. Why not start implementing the things we want to do, and let our sales team do their thing?
You can. But If you step back to collect and organize strategic insights, and discuss them in aggregate (in the context of marketing and sales planning) — you may draw different or new conclusions, and get new ideas for attracting buyers and influencers to your brand. This exercise can help you look from the outside in and center your decisions on the customer and their problems. It can also help validate ideas or plans you already have.
Ok, so our strategic foundation is laid, now what?
Use the foundation to confirm your brand position and message.
- What do you stand for: What do your clients love about you? What can you hang your hat on? Do you have a great story?
- What’s the hook: How should you talk about your value proposition so that you stand out, and that people would want to know more and engage with your brand?
- Are you being consistent in your message across sales conversations, your digital footprint, analyst interviews, executive presentations, etc.?
Develop a point-of-view on marketing’s role to drive sales goals, as well as an estimated budget. Examples of what to think through:
- What are your marketing efforts supposed to do? Should they drive new leads, build general brand awareness, influence analysts and reporters, promote thought leadership, upsell existing customers, support the sales team’s communication efforts, and/or nurture existing leads?
- How should the marketing budget be allocated? For example, how much should be spent on inbound/online marketing infrastructure vs. sales support tools and training vs. collateral design vs. events vs. analytics/data management? And why? By going through a budget exercise that’s centered on strategy, you may find that you need to spend money on foundational areas before sexier, measurable tactics can be implemented. For example, you may need to invest in some great content and a baseline data/CRM infrastructure before launching a big campaign.
Other important areas to think through for B2B are buyer personas, segmentation and lead nurturing strategies.
Ok, we have a good idea of the role marketing will play and the areas we will invest in. Now what?
Integrate tactics and resources; be smart about managing the workload.
- Think through staffing needs and the resources you will need to implement well and in the timeframe needed.
- Get everyone on board and engaged — “socialize” your plan throughout the organization.
- Make sure there is integration between marketing, sales and service activities; break down silos so that everyone is working towards the same goal.
- Confirm milestones and success measures.
- Put someone in charge of analytics and reporting, as well as general project management; it helps to have a tough taskmaster that makes sure everything is getting done.
Make sure you invest well in execution of the areas you’ve decided to spend money on; for example, inbound marketing, sales events, speaking engagements and data/analytics. In order to see results, the devil will be in the details.
- Process — A “Four Letter” Word to Many. When is it Needed for the B2B Marketing Function?
- Overcoming the It’s “All About Me Syndrome” in Marketing
- Simple Idea to Improve B2B Marketing Effectiveness – Aggregate and Integrate, Early and Often
- Metrics Matter, Particularly with an Integrated B2B Marketing Plan
- Strategy is Important, But Effective Execution is Critical for B2B Marketing Results