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How to Develop a B2B Marketing Strategy

How to Develop a B2B Marketing Strategy

This is Part 2 of our B2B marketing series. Start with our first post, What makes B2B marketing different to B2C? to take a look at what sets B2B marketing apart.

This is Part 2 of our B2B marketing series. Start with our first post, “What are the Differences Between B2C and B2B Marketing?” to take a look at what sets B2B marketing apart.

Now that you’ve identified what makes your business customers tick in Part 1, it’s time to develop a strategy for contacting them. Here are five principles that will help to make sure you’re on the right track.

1. Define clear objectives

Your marketing objectives should follow directly from your company’s strategic goals, and should inform the tactics you use.

Every marketing objective in your strategy should be:

  • Specific and measurable – for example, to capture 5% of a market or generate a 15% increase in a certain type of qualified lead
  • Achievable – try not to estimate what’s possible based on the best-case scenario, but also make use of stretch targets and other tactics for setting effective KPIs
  • Time-bound – do you want to achieve the goal within a month, a quarter or a year?

For example:

Strategic goal: Generate more sales to financial services companies

Marketing objective: Increase the number of leads in financial services sector by 15% in the next quarter

Make sure that your objectives are actually within your power to deliver. “Convert a higher proportion of leads into closed sales” is obviously a sensible goal – but is it actually one the marketing team can influence, or is it a goal for the sales team? Similarly, “Make the company #1 in its sector” is clearly too high-level a goal to be really useful for a B2B marketing plan.

2. Use objectives to choose actions and set KPIs

For each objective, your next task is to decide which actions will best help you achieve it. As always, your starting point should be a detailed understanding of the audience you are trying to reach.

Use buyer personas and character sketches to get a clear idea of the decision-makers you’re trying to reach with each tactic, whether it’s an outbound campaign or online content aimed at boosting inbound sales leads.

When choosing your channels, it’s again important to go to where your audience is, rather than simply picking the channel that best suits your message. For online communications, you have a wealth of data available to inform this decision, from email and web analytics through to social listening tools that can track specific discussion topics and use analytics to trigger campaigns or deliver dynamic content.

Returning to our example objectives, we can now define tactics and KPIs for each:

  • Marketing objective: Increase the number of leads in financial services sector by 15% in the next quarter
  • Tactics: Create targeted online content, supported by SEO and social media activity; outbound campaign promoting content; industry events in relevant sector
  • KPIs: Increase in traffic to industry-specific area of website with conversion opportunities; 10% quarter-on-quarter increase in qualified inbound leads from this sector

Each specific objective will of course also have certain tactics that are more effective at supporting it. For example, to raise awareness you might choose a display advertising campaign, while lead nurturing would be better served by email contact.

The actions you choose will also be decided by the available budget and resources. If you forecast accurately at this stage it will be easier to measure ROI, to prioritise your actions – and to get your strategy signed off in the first place. Ideally, the budget should follow from knowing the tasks you need to carry out – not the other way around.

3. Develop integrated campaigns

Integrated marketing across channels is now the norm, rather than the exception. Your B2B marketing plan should coordinate across channels, both online and offline, but don’t just use a scattergun approach: instead choose your channels carefully. Consider:

  • Which channels will your customers actually see? A consumer-focused social networking service might deliver great reach, but will your message actually get to B2B decision makers? And will the context be appropriate to their taking the message on board?
  • What are the strengths and weaknesses of each channel, and how do they suit your business needs? If your product is a complicated “technical sell”, would video explainers or slideshows be effective?
  • How well will the channels work together? A display ad campaign will drive up search volumes for brand terms, so make sure your paid search strategy includes bidding on those terms.

To keep your branding consistent, set clear rules for visual identity and tone of voice that will work across both online and offline channels. Make sure that in-house and agency teams all have access to the same guidance, and that it’s easy to understand and use.

Messaging should also be coordinated, with a clear shared goal for all communications. Repurposing the same content for use in multiple channels helps to keep the message consistent, and can also give you big efficiency savings in production.

Make sure that you have accurate tracking and metrics in place that can be used and interpreted across channels. If you don’t know where your leads have come from, you can’t assess your ROI.

4. Make sure sales and marketing are aligned

When you develop your customer personas and segmentation, make sure that sales and marketing teams are using the same model. It’s surprisingly common for this not to be the case, meaning that marketing goals don’t line up with the aims of the sales team. Your plan could deliver on all its KPIs and produce a steady flow of qualified leads – for a segment the sales team doesn’t recognise or need.

This is another area where a CRM can help. By building everything around the customer, from the first contact to a closed sale and beyond, you get a single source of authoritative, detailed information with a full customer history.

5. Make smart use of CRM and marketing automation

Managing all your inbound, outbound, online and offline B2B marketing activities together in a coherent way is only possible with a centralised CRM system that keeps customer data up-to-date and accessible wherever it’s needed.

Lead tracking and analysis

Detailed analytics give you better information about ROI, reach and effectiveness, and because you’re tracking customers throughout their journey you can easily see which campaigns and activities are generating the most bang for your buck.

Sales enablement

The right CRM can help you with sales enablement activities too – the things that help your sales team do their jobs better.

Marketing automation

Much of the heavy lifting of B2B marketing can now be taken care of with marketing automation software. This handles the automation or simplification of tasks that previously required valuable time from the marketing team themselves: it can include lead qualification and nurturing, building landing pages and forms to support email campaigns, and dynamically personalising the content displayed on a website to match an individual’s interests and past browsing history.

Marketing automation also makes it much faster to create targeted campaigns, track results and calculate marketing ROI.

When you’re managing marketing activity across multiple channels, touchpoints and audiences, you need all your data in one place and accessible in simple dashboards.

Now that you have a good sense of how to get started with your B2B marketing strategy, get some inspiration from 3,500 global marketing leaders in our fourth annual State of Marketing Report.

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