JUMPSTART STEP 7: STRATEGIC B2B MARKETING PLAN
How to Bring It All Together In A Realistic 12-Month Strategic B2B Marketing Plan
If you’ve been following our JumpStart plan from the beginning, you now have a ton of valuable information at your fingertips. (Just joining us? Read through our first six blogs to learn what you need to do to get your building blocks in place!) But what do you do with all of this information? Put it into an actionable, functional plan. By developing a 12-month strategic B2B marketing plan, you will have a clear path forward for the year, making your marketing much more effective and purposeful.
It can seem daunting to get started, but lucky for you, you’ve already gathered most of the information you need to build a strong marketing plan. Now you just need to write it down and translate it into actual strategy and tasks.
Personally, the Pom team likes to build marketing plans in PowerPoint rather than a dense all-text document. Breaking your plan up into slides makes it easier to see the big picture while still being able to drill down into the details – it helps you simplify and focus your plan. Here’s an outline we use to build such a document:
- Target Audiences
- Current Efforts
- Sales Team Insights
- Value Proposition
- Marketing Engine
- Plan for Each Piece of the Marketing Engine
- Measurement Methods
As you can see, the first 6 sections are basically already done! You don’t want to repeat everything you’ve learned from your research into these areas – you just need to pull out the highlights and key takeaways. Try to keep it at one slide per item. The idea is to have all the work you’ve done easily accessible and readable to share with others in your company and for you and your marketing team to reference throughout the year.
The marketing engine is where you really start to get strategic. Break up your marketing efforts into pieces like:
- Content Marketing
- Social Media
- Email Marketing
- Marketing Tools (presentations, brochures, etc.)
What marketing areas have you worked on in the past, and are there any new ones to add?
Next, create a slide for each section of the marketing engine – here, you may want more than one for each area. This is the meat of your marketing plan. Write down specifics for each one. Think about what the research from the first six parts have told you. Is it time for a website overhaul? Do you need to focus on SEO? Do you want to send more email to your target audiences to better communicate your value proposition? This part will take a good amount of time and brainstorming, but remember, you have the building blocks in place.
We like to develop a simple visual that captures the marketing machine to make sure we (or our clients) stick to our marketing plan. This is really helpful to refer back to throughout the year while following your plan. Print it out and put it up front and center in your office. You’ll be able to see at a glance if you’re staying on top of all parts of your mix and maintain focus.
The last two steps are how you’ll stay on track and prove the value of your marketing plan. You want to be sure you have measurement tools set up to capture your ROI for all of these efforts. Continuous tracking, measuring and reporting should be a key part of your plan.
Finally, set your budget. Maybe you know your budget and need to fit the puzzle pieces into it, or maybe you need to present and get a budget approved based on what you’ve outlined in your plan. Either way, it’s good to have it as part of this ultimate marketing plan document.
Whew, you’ve made it! After following all of the JumpStart steps, you’ll have a really solid grasp on your marketing for the year. With the research and discovery to back up your plans, plus the tools in place to keep you on track, your 2018 marketing should be your best yet.
We know building a marketing plan from scratch may sound like a huge undertaking, but it’s totally doable.
If you don’t have the time or resources to do it yourself, though, the experts at Pom are ready to take over for you. Reach out to us now! Put POM On It >
JUMPSTART STEP 6: VALUE PROPOSITION & BRAND POSITIONING
How to Create a B2B Value Proposition that Rocks
Up until now, every step of the JumpStart plan has been all about discovery. Discovery of what you want to accomplish, who you should be talking to, how your past efforts are working, what your competition is up to and how your internal teams think you’re doing. Now we start to bring all of that together with your value proposition. So let’s talk about how to create a B2B value proposition and what exactly that is.
A value proposition tells your prospective customers why they should choose your business over your competitors, and what makes your services unique and better than other options.
By thinking about all of the factors you’ve been evaluating, your value proposition should start to become obvious. Take everything you’ve discovered, and think about what stands out about your business.
- What did your sales people tell you about the competition?
- What areas of differentiation did the competitive review highlight?
- What does your target audience want to hear?
- What has resonated and worked in the past?
Now, align that with what you know you do well, and it all starts to come together.
We’re not talking about creating one perfect statement that does it all. You’re going to want to edit and tweak it to different audiences, channels, etc. A value proposition can include a few pieces that you put together in multiple ways for different purposes. It can help to break those pieces down into core values and the brand promise.
Core values are the building blocks of your brand. Why do you do what you do? How do you do it? These are what you believe in as a company. By connecting them to each other (via everything you’ve already discovered about your business), you can come up with your brand promise. This simple statement should encompass your core values and easily say what makes you special.
Often, the trickiest part of defining core values and brand promise is getting consensus from the decision makers of your business. After all, your company can be something pretty different to all of the members of your C-suite, board or even marketing team. But by going back to the research and all you’ve discovered by following the JumpStart steps, you should be able to distill it into words and statements that make sense on a broader scale for your business.
By combining those pieces with great marketing writing, creativity and strategy, you will be able to communicate your value proposition in any situation and bring it to life. Whether it’s on your website, a trade show display, print materials, digital advertisements, social media or in a presentation to a prospect, your value proposition should be front and center, leading the way.
Want someone else to pull it all together for you? Our team of experts is happy to help! Put POM On It >
JUMPSTART STEP 5: SALES TEAM MARKET INSIGHTS
Tap Your Most Valuable Resource for Insights…Your Sales Team!
Sales and marketing obviously go hand in hand, so you don’t want to develop your marketing plan without involving the sales side of your organization. One of the best ways to do that is by digging into your sales team’s market insights. You can find out a lot about how your marketing efforts are (and aren’t) working by talking to the sales team. They’ll also provide valuable insight into your current and prospective clients as well as your competitors.
How do you go about organizing all of these opinions? We’ve found the most efficient method is via individual interviews with sales team members. It can be helpful to have an outsider perform these so everyone can speak freely and honestly. We have done countless interviews with our clients’ employees and sales teams, and we’d be happy to do the same for you! Just reach out to us via the form here.
Want to give it a shot yourself? Here are some examples of the types of questions we typically ask. You should spend some time ahead of the interviews thinking about what areas you really want to cover, and then customize this question list to match your needs. Some of the answers to these questions probably seem obvious to you – if you know the sales team is on the same page as you and your marketing team, you can skip those. But it may be helpful to get their perspective to be sure! And make sure to note who you’re speaking with and what their specific role in sales is when you’re documenting these interviews.
Click the image below to get your own copy of this question checklist!
Questions to Help You Get Started on Gathering Sales Team Market Insights
- Background Info
- What is your elevator speech?
- Who are your top competitors?
- What do you feel is the current perception of your company in the marketplace?
- Sales & Marketing Challenges
- What are your top sales and marketing challenges?
- How do you think these challenges need to be addressed?
- Current Clients & Prospective Clients
- Who are your current clients?
- What are their typical pain points?
- How were most acquired?
- Who are you typically communicating with within an organization?
- Who are your ideal prospective clients?
- Sales Process
- What is your typical sales process?
- What tools are you using to sell?
- Do you feel you have the sales tools you need?
- How do you nurture sales that are in the pipeline?
- What is your most difficult weakness or obstacle(s) to overcome in closing the sale?
- Website Objectives & Requirements
- Do you feel the website effectively communicates your company’s brand and offerings?
- What actions do we want people to take when they go to your website?
Once you’ve completed interviews from enough team members (that could just be a representative group if you’re a large company, or it could be every salesperson if you’re smaller), pull out the highlights and comments that really stood out to you. It can be helpful to compile a master list of the questions with the notable takeaways from multiple contributors. You should come away with clear direction on where you need to make some changes to your marketing plan or where you may need to re-focus your energy.
Want some outside help interviewing your sales team? Don’t want to spend all that time wading through their answers for the helpful insights? Pomerantz Marketing has the expertise you need. >Put Pom On It
JUMPSTART STEP 4: B2B ONLINE COMPETITIVE ANALYSIS
How Well is Your Competition Getting Their Message Out There?
When you’re trying to get your own marketing in order, performing an audit of your competitors’ online presence can be really helpful. Especially if you’re still trying to fine tune your own voice and place in the market, knowing what others are doing and saying is key. So let’s talk about what goes into a B2B online competitive analysis and outline the important areas to cover.
The first step in performing a competitor audit is to identify your major competitors. You want to choose enough to get a broad view of your market, but not too many that the task will overwhelm you. We’ve found 5-7 to be the sweet spot. Make sure to pick a few companies that you actually compete with who are similar in size and geography to you. It’s also helpful to include a few “reach” competitors – the leaders of your industry or those performing at the top of the game.
Once you have your list (it’s a good idea to get input on that list from multiple people, by the way, so reach out to your business leaders, sales and even operations for their ideas), it’s time to start auditing! I know, that sounds kind of boring. But it really can be fun and absolutely will be helpful to developing your own marketing plan.
Where to begin? Here are the main areas to include in your review and analysis of your competitors plus a template to help you organize your thoughts.
1. Communication and Messaging Strategy
In order to ensure your own messaging is authentic and relevant, you need to know what others are saying. The best way to get a good grasp on your competitors’ communication strategy is to dig into their websites. Read their home pages especially closely, and note what they’re emphasizing there.
After that, click through their site menus. Note what gets the most real estate and what doesn’t. If they have callouts, headers or other areas that are highlighted, pay attention to what they’re saying and how they say it. Take note of any customer promises and claims. Are they really speaking to their audience and their pain points, or are they only talking about how great they are? Put on your critic’s hat and really think about what they’re trying to say and if it’s successful.
Also spend some time checking out their social media profiles. What is the intensity of their activity in each channel? Does the messaging and tone of voice align with what’s on their website? Are there areas they’re missing or things they’re doing particularly well? By focusing on the specifics here, you may find new opportunities for your own business to stand out.
2. Target Audiences and Segments
When you’re reading through the site, see if it’s easy to identify who they’re targeting. Are there industries or verticals that they call out specifically? Do they appear to have especially good credibility or business with one segment more than others?
If you’ve already spent some time honing your target audiences and personas, you have some good background knowledge in this area. Figure out if your competitors are doing the same thing by reading their content closely and looking for signs of who they may be targeting.
3. Service Offerings
While you and your sales team probably already know a fair amount about your competitors’ service offerings, it’s always interesting to see how they portray themselves. We’ve often found that companies portray their expertise differently from reality. List the service offerings they give the most importance on their site and review them with the sales team – does it align with what they know about the competitor? If so, it’s good to know the basics of what they do; if not, those may be areas they’re hoping to expand.
Note their strengths, weaknesses and unique offerings. Do you think they’re doing everything well or spreading themselves too thin?
4. Areas for Differentiation
Identify areas for differentiation as you’re analyzing their online presence. Write up some notes on overall takeaways or generalities that have come through during your audit. Use all of this information to perform a SWOT analysis. Mapping all of the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats for each competitor will really highlight differentiation opportunities.
When you look at all of the competitor audits together, you should find some gaps that leave openings for your business to shine! What are they doing that you want to do in your own (better) way? What are they not doing that leaves space for differentiation? From there, it will be much easier to develop your own messaging and online presence that is unique, true to your business and tailored to your own strengths and audiences.
Looking for help performing your own competitive analysis? Rather have someone take your marketing planning off your plate? Put POM On It!
JUMPSTART 2018 STEP 3: Online Presence Assessment of Marketing Performance
Time for a Reality Check: Is Your Current Online Marketing Presence Doing Anything for You?
The easiest way to begin? Google. Google your company and key offerings and see what pops up. Hopefully, your website will be in the first couple of results for your name. If not, then we’d recommend you put your website at the top of your priority list for 2018. Even if your website does show up at the top, you should spend some time on it with a critical eye. After all, a website is never complete. It’s a living thing that constantly needs updating, improving and attention.
There are four main areas to think about when doing an online audit of your website and social media channels: design, content, performance and analysis.
First of all, how does you look online? Review your site design to make sure it’s engaging, customer-centric and modern. There’s nothing like out-of-date design to immediately turn a new visitor away. When you’re checking out a new-to-you site, don’t you immediately judge that book by its cover? If a site looks old-fashioned or just plain boring, visitors may think your company is unsophisticated or at the very least doesn’t care about the details.
Also, note how the design of your site looks on all devices – is it responsive to desktop, mobile and tablets? It needs to be; more and more visitors (up to 80%!) are now checking out websites from their mobile devices. Your site should look good on all platforms, and responsive design is the best way to make that happen.
Your social graphics, including your profile images and other pieces you post and share, should also be a unified, modern design. Everything you put out there is a reflection of your business. First impressions mean a lot online, and visitors often take what they see at face value. It’s just like dressing for success – make sure you’re presenting your business in the best way possible!
When you Google your company, make note of any other results you find, from social media to articles to outside reviews. It’s important to document what you find, since you’ll be working to make improvements and want to be able to show progress.
For your social media channels, look at what you’ve been posting. Are you consistent? Does your tone of voice reflect who you are and make sense for that channel? Do people engage with you? Like it or not, people judge your company based on your social media presence and website, so make sure you’re presenting a united front.
If you find outside articles and reviews, are you happy with what others are saying about you? Do you think it needs improvement? Maybe you’ll want to focus on building up your positive reviews as part of your 2018 marketing efforts.
When it comes time to develop new content for your site, be strategic. Make keyword research the cornerstone of your content development, and stick to it. Optimize your current pages and be prepared to do the same for any new blogs posts, content offers or pages you add to the site. Staying consistent with your keyword strategy will make Google happy, which means you’ll see better rankings!
It can be especially helpful to have someone who isn’t close to the development or management of your site audit it. Look at user experience, make sure everything works and really think about whether or not your site has all the information someone would hope to find there. Does your site represent all you do? Is it responsive?
Make sure the back end of your site is also buttoned up – you want to be sure its programmed and identified in a way that enables your site to be easily read by search engines. This is one area where hiring an outside expert can be really valuable, as the algorithms the search engines are programmed for are constantly changing.
The key to successful analysis is to get a full picture of your online presence. Having Google Analytics running on your website is the first step. You’ll be able see where your site traffic is coming from, what pages they’re visiting, where they exit from, links clicked, keywords used, demographics and more.
Analytics become really useful when you have a good baseline of data to compare. You want to compare information in an apples-to-apples way (be it period vs. period or year over year) so you can see gains or losses.
Make sure you’ve also identified conversion pages on your site and set goals in Google Analytics so you can track how any inbound marketing you’re doing is actually working. You can even assign a dollar amount to the conversion page for real insight into your ROI.
If you’ve been doing any digital advertising, document what you’ve spent and what your ads look like. Pull data on performance from your ad source (whether it’s Facebook, Google or something else), and give it a hard look. Is it worth your money? Are there areas for improvement?
Again, you want a good baseline to compare against once you’ve enacted your 2018 marketing plan. If you’ve set up your analytics and gathered all of the data you’ll need to judge your performance early this year, you’ll have that baseline by the end of 2018 to really see what’s working.
JUMPSTART 2018 STEP 2: B2B Target Market Personas
Step Back and Ask Yourself: Who Am I Really Trying to Reach?
In the B2B world, it can be tricky to nail down exactly who makes up your target audience. Sure, it’s easy enough to list off your dream client companies or the industries they’re in, but who specifically is going to make the decision to hire you? Defining your target audience is not just about a list of companies; instead, you need to be specific about who the decision-makers are. By creating detailed B2B target market personas, you’ll allow yourself to speak directly to the needs and wants of those in charge.
So, what exactly is a target market persona, and why is it especially important in B2B marketing?
Basically, a persona is a representation of a typical person within your target market or audience. It’s a detailed description of an example contact’s background, job responsibilities, likes, goals, challenges and more that makes them who they are and factors into how they make decisions.
Looking at these specifics can really help you understand your potential customers’ needs and enable you to speak to how you can solve their problems. For B2C companies, this is often pretty simple – you have a product that this specific person needs or wants. But as a B2B business, you’re not selling to one person – you’re selling to an entire company. Obviously, the entire company isn’t making the decision to hire you. Instead, one person or a small group of people within that larger company will be pulling the trigger. That’s who you need to tailor your messaging to, but it can be difficult to get started.
How do you begin to develop B2B target market personas, then?
We recently went through this exercise again (it’s important to constantly look at your personas to refine them and make edits as your business changes), and we found the best way to start is by using your current customers for the initial framework.
(By the way, it can really help to have someone outside your own business facilitate this process. If you’d like us to help guide you through, reach out!)
Think about your clients, and pick a few that are pretty different from each other. Maybe they differ based on size, structure or even who your main point of contact is. The key here is to develop a solid group of three to four individuals who are generally representative of your client base.
From there, it’s time to build your personas. Here’s an easy-to-use downloadable template you can use as a worksheet to develop your personas.
These are the main areas we covered and questions to answer about each persona:
1. Background: title, industry, experience level, team reports to
2. Sources for Info: favorite publications, social networks and associations, and how they like to receive info
3. Job role: responsibilities, tools/resources needed, sources of pain/frustration, and how their success is measured
It’s important to be very specific, but if you’re working from a real person, you should also think about additional characteristics to add that may apply to someone similar to them. Work with a few people on your team to develop these personas to make sure you’ve got a well-rounded picture. It can be helpful to give your personas catchy names that describe them, so you’ll have something easy to refer to when developing your marketing strategy and messaging.
Of course, it’s still important to look at the bigger picture, too. Don’t throw out that list of dream client companies – just dig into it a little deeper. You should still develop marketing messaging and content that speaks specifically to target markets – the type of companies you want to hire you or buy your product or service, whether based on industry, location, size, etc. The key here is to use that as a starting place and let the insights gained from developing your target personas help further define and hone your message.
If you do, you’ll be able to start marketing from a solid base – a great foundation to JumpStart your marketing!
Did you miss Part 1 of JumpStart 2018? Read now to get help developing your marketing goals. And keep an eye out for Part 3, all about analyzing your current marketing performance, coming soon.