So the annual marketing offsite has drawn to a close and the newly minted 2013 marketing strategy is being given its final polish before being released to an expectant management team back at HQ.
...and yet you have a growing sense of deja vu; you have been here before. You have a nasty feeling that when the team get back to the office after the holidays to the tsunami of emails, meetings and deadlines, that despite your best intentions, the alignment of your tactics to your strategy seems sadly absent. It's just more of the same tactics executed the same way as last quarter.
How do you break the cycle?
Don't be too hard on yourself, translating strategy to action is hard and a frequent point of failure for B2B marketers.
Simply put translating strategy to action means joining four specific elements together like links in a chain. Each is inextricably linked to the other, change one and it has implications for the other links in the chain.
Clearly good marketing strategy should be intimately related to the objectives of the business. Is the business seeking to enter new markets? Protect an existing installed base? Drive up margins by fiercely controlling costs? Heavily investing to drive top line growth? Marketing strategy decisions must be born to support the business goals of the organisation.
In its elemental form marketing strategy comprises four elements:
- To whom do you sell
- What do you sell
- Through whom do you sell (channel)
- Against whom do you sell
But we suggest thinking a little differently. Think about the buyer (or buyers) you are targeting and the specific problems those buyers are experiencing. What is the most severe of those problems? Perhaps take some colleagues from the sales team or a friendly partner (or better still conduct a short customer and prospect survey). Brainstorm these problems and decide which problem is worst. Pick just one.
Then think about how well you solve those problems, be honest! Which single problem do you solve better than anyone else? What are you genuinely "world class" at?
Now ask yourself:
- Who most has that problem?
- What product or service fully solves that problem?
- Who best uncovers that problem?
- Who else solves that problem?
By redefining your strategy through the eyes of the buyer; by focusing tightly on the single most severe problem that you are best at solving, allows you to take a massive step forward. Your marketing becomes buyer centric in everything you subsequently do, in the tactics you select and the plan you build.
It is hard to let go of product-centricity in favour of buyer-centricity. But this has never been more important, as the rapid rise of the internet and social channels are enabling buyers to research their options freely and have put the buyer firmly back in the driving seat.
Adapting Marketing tactics and plans to the buyer centric era.
Content Marketing Redefined
Content marketing is a great example of an excellent tactic that B2B marketers have used for many years to engage with buyers. With buyers now able to search for information online with almost zero "friction" they can find information about anything, by anyone. Your content strategy, tactics and plan must adapt. Buyers continually graze on information morsels, until they are ready to commence their buying journey. Your content marketing strategy must evolve to provide suitably tasty content to consume at each stage of their buying journey.
What works well at the top of the funnel won't satisfy a buyer in the middle of the funnel. Buyers in the final decision stages have quite separate content needs than those in earlier stages. You must be able to service all these requirements.
In this brave new world the need for a tactic that you can repeat over and over again affordably and without killing yourself has never been greater. You need a tactic that allows you to stay in touch with buyers as they move along their purchasing journey. The reality is that the classic "sales funnel" doesn't really work in a linear fashion. Buyers falter, regress, have budgets cut, leave their jobs. Sellers need to have a way of staying in touch with them. We love blogging. It's a wonderful recycling tactic.
Kill The Quarterly Plan
Think of the duration of your buyer's decision cycle. In many B2B markets decision cycles are many months, even years. If your marketing tactics are executed monthly or quarterly how do you service the full decision cycle? You are in danger of losing touch with your buyer at crucial decision stages. Faced with this reality, many marketers end up servicing end of month or end of quarter promotional deals, rather than working on systematically planning for a way to:
- Pull unqualified leads/visitors into the top of your funnel (think SEO, search, social media, blogging and PR)
- Engage and convert visitors into leads (think delivering compelling valuable content tailored to their needs, via landing pages or similar)
- Nurture leads to a point where we identify them as sales ready, by serving them information (typically via email) that moves them through their decision stages.
- Continually measure what is and isn't working and carefully and deliberately improve our tactics over time. (Robust analytics)
The need for marketing automation to execute this complexity is clear. Manually managing such a complex environment is simply unsustainable.
Please download our complimentary B2B Marketing Healthcheck Tool. It's a simple excel based tool that systematically leads you through a series of ratings to evaluate your current approach to B2B marketing. It requires about a 5 minute investment of time and has links to some valuable content for you to download for free.
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