One of the biggest complaints that I hear from b2b marketers is that they often feel like ‘order takers’. Whether your CEO is constantly coming up with new ideas to execute, or the sales team needs help to create personalized customer-facing content, it’s easy to get sucked into the execution trap when you don’t have a comprehensive strategy in place. Does any of this sound familiar?
An ever-growing to-do list
Saying “yes” to every new marketing idea from your CEO, Sales or Product team
Project managing multiple campaigns
Educating everyone on what marketing is and why it’s important to be consistent
Using limited data to make recommendations that don't ever seem to go anywhere
Pitching the CEO or CFO on every - literally every - single marketing expense
Being surprised by new organization-wide campaigns your department is launching
It's frustrating, to say the least. And at the heart of that frustration, is that you don't really know if your marketing efforts are moving the needle. Many sales come from long-time sales relationships with clients who seem to pay no mind to any of your marketing efforts.Others are coming in organically. But no one is evaluating what's drawing them in, and your co-workers are all making different assumptions about why. At the same time, your CEO is getting pitched multiple tactics, channels, and platforms. Ultimately, you fear your marketing is growing less and less effective by the day.
What's Really Driving Your Frustration
Whatever you have in writing that's being touted as a plan may be woefully deficient in one or more areas. Perhaps it's grounded in whatever buzzword is the CEO’s favorite, whether or not that marketing concept holds any real-world value for your business.Or maybe it's based on the same research - or assumptions - that were made years ago when the plan was first drafted. It may be because you're trying to be everything to everyone and failing to be anything to anyone. Or your plan may be disconnected from what your clients actually think about your business and the value they derive from your products or services.
Are you invited to strategic discussions?
One misconception about marketing is that it’s a ‘communications’ function only. As a result, marketing is left out of critical business discussions where strategy is being set and suddenly your co-workers are executing different tactics without a plan, clear goals, or business alignment. And in the absence of a cohesive plan, your work consists of a series of one-offs that produce more stress than tangible results. Your stress doesn't just stem from organizational underperformance or dysfunction. It could also come from your own lack of confidence that you can fully diagnose problems, identify solutions and get buy-in.The first step towards fixing this is understanding how to craft an effective marketing plan, one that can position your company for exponential growth.
Building an Effective Marketing Strategy, Step-by-Step
No matter your industry or region, you're going to follow the same basic steps to build an effective b2b marketing strategy. You've got to get your team on the same page. That most likely means navigating your organization's internal politics. Having a framework to follow, like our Confident Marketer Playbook™ is a great way to make sure your stakeholders understand the elements of building an effective marketing strategy.
Step 1: Becoming a Confident Marketer
Marketing is an ever-evolving function and it’s worth taking an assessment of you (and your team’s) skills to identify gaps. Start with gaining a better understanding of how your role is perceived in the organization. Talk to your colleagues and stakeholders across Sales, Product and the C-suite to get an idea of how they think your department is performing. As they say, ‘perception is reality’ and you want to know how well your vision aligns to theirs. Next, assess your strengths and opportunities for improvement against the top 5 competencies for modern marketers (as uncovered in our book, Stand Out Marketing). This will give you a good idea if additional training is needed and where you may need to bring on additional talent to fill any gaps.
Step 2: Finding unique market opportunities
You can't know where you need to go without understanding where you've been. Conducting a marketing audit helps you thoroughly review your past campaigns and their performance. Did they help you acquire new customers, retain existing customers, or underperform on either count? But don't stop there. Review all your brand messaging. Be sure to pay close attention to where multiple data points show your brand's strengths and weaknesses. You need to fully understand - not assume - how your brand is perceived.
Step 3: Gaining new insights
It's not enough to audit what you've done. You need an evidence-based perspective about the market and your place in it. That starts with examining your customer data. This includes 1:1 customer interviews and survey results, to understand better who they are and who they are likely to be. It also means examining the market landscape, including your competition and emerging trends representing opportunities and threats.
Step 4: Ideating your Best Customers
One of the areas many businesses get wrong when building an effective marketing strategy is in their targeting. Targeting can't be rooted in assumptions without the data to back it up. And even when you're doing database targeting, you can't just expect your prospective client universe to remain the same year after year. Nor can you expect their decision-making processes to remain the same. You need to take a fresh look at your prospective clients by leaning into current client and lead data. Use this and other information to develop buyer personas and map out the buyer journey from start to finish. Ensure your targeting is sufficiently narrow. This will allow you to drive a clear and compelling message to your most profitable target audiences.
Step 5: Aligning to your brand mission
Set strategic goals for your marketing plan - goals that should be closely aligned with your broader business and financial goals. Next, leverage the insights you've gained in crafting your buyer personas about how your target audiences make decisions, what messages move them, and what media they consume. You also should have some sense of their pain points and preferences. For example, are they receiving too many email solicitations? Use these insights to help choose the tactics that will most likely move them toward your brand and keep them away from your competition. Make sure to develop short-term tactical goals and identify the appropriate measures for success and a plan for assessment. Otherwise, even if your campaign is effective, you'll be left struggling to justify your work - and your job - when it concludes.
Step 6: Designing a unique message
An effective marketing strategy must also be clear about what your value proposition is. And contrary to popular practice, your value proposition is not something you throw up on a whiteboard. That's what you want to say your value is. But do your customers agree? When the public thinks of your brand, do they think of the same value you've scribbled on the board? They may think something else entirely, and that's not always a bad thing. However, your marketing won't resonate with your audiences unless the value you convey and what they perceive are aligned. You need to know the difference and take the necessary steps to remove all daylight between them.
Step 7: Making content king
Your marketing strategy should help guide buyers to you through the decision-making process and to the close of the sale. And this is where your content plan comes in. At every step, buyers should receive relevant and compelling content that helps keep them engaged and moving towards a purchase. Like your targeting, your content plan should be narrowly crafted. It's easy to miss the balance between just enough and too much marketing. Keep your focus on just enough content to gently guide them, and pour your energy into making each piece as persuasive as possible.
Step 8: Building an army of marketers
Now that you've got this wonderfully written plan, you'll need to implement it. But first, clearly delineate each team member's roles and responsibilities, as well as identify and get buy-in from other departments whose involvement may be required.You'll also need to identify the resources you need upfront and obtain them, so you're not stuck doing so midway through a campaign. Additionally, as you begin your work, keep an eye on your metrics and be prepared to course-correct as necessary to ensure you can achieve your goals.
Step 9: Becoming the authority for your brand
When your plan is rolled out and working, make sure others know about it. Don't do so in an ad hoc way, and don't fill your updates with marketing jargon. But do make sure that everyone, from the CEO on down, knows that last month's bump in sales is a result of the new marketing initiatives your team is working on. Give them numbers and a concise, data-driven explanation of how and why your work is making a difference.
Taking the First Steps Toward Building an Effective B2B Marketing Strategy
While it's easy to boil an effective marketing strategy down into nine steps, it's much harder to do in practice. And it can be extraordinarily hard to do when you have to manage up and sideways to do it. But it's necessary not only for your business but also for your job security and peace of mind. The longer you're pirouetting from crises to stressful (but ultimately meaningless) tasks, the quicker you'll burn out.
We work with B2B marketers just like you in The Confident Marketer Playbook program to provide the tools, training and 1:1 guidance to lead your organizations in marketing strategic design and execution. No matter your prior experience, we can help you take your company and your career to the next level.
We also run a free online community, Soar Marketing Society where you'll learn to think, work, and act like a strategist, boost your confidence, and gain the credibility you deserve.