Loredana Niculae is the CEO of NNC Servicesthe leading marketing automation consulting firm for B2B technology companies.
In my team’s quest to find a business-to-business marketing strategy that generates a high return on investment, we went through many technologies and frameworks. Some of the frameworks were quite common, while others were not as well-known but were effective. We went through enterprise B2B marketing frameworks all the way to marketing frameworks used by small IT startups. We made sure to review each framework thoroughly and put it to the test.
When we explored a digital marketing strategy framework for ourselves, our clients and our customers, we realized the existing strategies work on a macro level, but, as I mentioned in a previous article, nowadays, yearly plans are often outdated. As such, my team and I combined the best-of-breed methodologies and developed a step-by-step framework that can help you plan and implement your B2B marketing strategy.
Analyze your market.
One of the first steps of applying any B2B marketing framework, a step that is often disregarded, is conducting a market analysis with a high emphasis on competitive assessment and benchmark positioning. I have found that only through focusing and understanding your market, major players and niche opportunities for positioning and dominating key market segments can you ensure success and a high return on marketing programs, even if the other components are modestly executed.
A few strategic considerations that can help you get started and win against the competition include:
• Identifying your market potential, competition and alternative offerings in the market.
• Assessing your competitors’ strengths and weaknesses.
• Reviewing your competitors’ channels to go to market, digital assets, traction, partner channels and current market segments.
• Asking yourself who is your direct and indirect competition, and what are they doing well or what could they improve?
• Identifying good benchmarks for your marketing strategies, tactics and activities.
Align and motivate your B2B sales and marketing team.
Ground zero in your marketing program should always be to set up strong goals. Setting goals is, yet again, a step that is often disregarded or not treated properly in marketing planning. Your goal is like a moving target in the new agile B2B marketing world we live in. When setting marketing goals, you might find using a “SMART” framework helpful. You can also use reverse funnel analysis to establish your marketing roadmap. This will help you visualize your goals.
To get started, first identify what your company’s top priorities are and drip them down to responsibilities. A SWOT analysis is a great tool for determining which strategic needs of the company should be addressed first. This analysis evaluates your company’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. I’ve found SWOT analyzes work best as a group exercise, as this allows both sales and marketing teams to cooperate, assess and come up with realistic goals. It can be beneficial to work with other departments (particularly sales) to acquire new insights into what is strategically important.
Once your marketing goals are established, conduct a reverse funnel analysis, and identify key performance indicators and objectives and key results. Tracking and measuring progress against goals is another important aspect of setting up goals.
You can then motivate your team by redefining the future vision for your service or product five to 10 years from now, the desired future outcome and what the driving force is toward this outcome. Furthermore, you can get excited about the market potential and trends if you understand where your market is going.
Identify your target market.
As a B2B marketer, this should be another one of your first priorities when applying a marketing framework. To identify your target market, create a profile of your ideal customer—the buyer persona that will be the focus of your marketing activities.
Understand your buyer’s journey to know how to best leverage specific tactics, such as email marketing or content marketing, on the optimum marketing channel. This will ensure your pipeline uses effective marketing from the prospecting stage all the way to turning existing customers into repeat buyers.
Leverage inbound and outbound strategies.
Develop your B2B marketing strategy framework further into tactics and actions that will effectively reach your target audience with a targeted marketing campaign.
Most marketing frameworks focus on either inbound or outbound marketing. Inbound marketing means building awareness through relevant content and triggers that will attract ideal customers to your door. It might seem that producing quality content and assets for digital presence should be your marketing focus zones. In fact, I’ve found that inbound marketing efforts only pay a good return if you leverage content through search engine optimization, social media marketing and other channels to achieve brand awareness.
Outbound lead-generation methodologies will focus on identifying and going after high-ticket customers on their own territory. Usually more time-effective but more costly, accounts-based and outbound marketing work best when supported by inbound and vice versa. For example, in ABM, if you track data on your key account influencers through a social network such as LinkedIn, you can add a paid remarketing campaign so that those contacts are exposed to your brand more than once and you stay top of mind when it comes to the category of solutions your company provides. This helps build brand awareness on top of outreach efforts. Similarly, you might use lookalike audiences to broaden your target account lists with comparable profiles that are equally as valuable as those in your list you might not have known about.
Gartner predicts that by 2025, “80% of B2B sales interactions between suppliers and buyers will occur in digital channels.” This tells me that the effective marketing strategy will combine SEO, search engine optimization and pay-per-click through not only Google but also social media channels.
Remember, the best marketing framework is the one that meets the needs of your business. Different businesses will have different requirements, so it’s important to select a framework that will work well for the particular business opportunity or challenge. Combine your efforts with applied case studies, proper KPIs and benchmarks.
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