Entries Tagged as 'B2B marketing'

Should blogging be on your to-do list?

Company blogs have a place in the B2B marketing arsenal, but only under the right circumstances.

Marketing benefits

Blogs are usually more effective for enhancing brand image and awareness than they are for driving leads and sales.

Blogs establish expertise by giving the company a venue for sharing what they know about subjects related to the products and services they provide.

Some of the most effective business blogs are written by management personnel for business decision makers–it’s not just for the techies anymore. Regardless of their editorial focus, the best-read corporate blogs avoid hype and self-congratulatory content. Instead, they focus on content useful to readers.

To create awareness about your company, products and services, keep in mind that blogs tend to be found in the Web’s Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs). That can go a long way toward helping your company be found by prospects who are actively searching for what you sell.

Your blog can also have a big impact on a potential customer moving through the awareness/inquiry/consideration/purchase cycle. When you find areas of confusion about the marketplace or can answer common questions prospects have, you are supplying the information needed to move to a purchase decision–anticipating the needs of those who haven’t contacted you directly.

Required commitment and resources

To gain and maintain readers, you need to keep your blog fresh. So you’ll need someone who has the expertise, writing skills and time to frequently post new blog content. How frequently?  Most bloggers are in the several-per-week to several-per-month range.  I recommend that you plan to post new content to your blog weekly to start. You can always turn up the frequency later, once you’re sure you have the ability to keep up the pace.

Are you ready for a conversation?

Blogs are inherently a two-way medium. Get ready for bluntly honest responses from delighted real customers as well as disgruntled naysayers. Yes, you can choose to disallow comments completely, but that removes the authenticity that you can build with a blog versus other ways of keeping in touch.

You can screen comments, which I recommend. But don’t immediately trash the comments that raise valid concerns and issues. These tough topics are key to showing that your company can handle doubts and respond to them, as well as listen to problems and resolve them. Skeptical prospects will watch and learn that you are listening, making you stand out from the crowd

I recommend that you consider blogging if you need a venue to demonstrate your expertise (branding) or are looking for additional ways to move up in the SERPs (for traffic). However, you should launch a blog only if you, someone on your staff, or an outsourcer can post regularly.

If you’re tasked with driving leads and sales, hand it off to someone else or put it on the back burner. There are plenty of marketing tactics that will have a more direct impact on the bottom line.

 

My shortcuts for writing a B2B Marketing Plan

  • Schedule appointments with yourself in your calendar in block out the time you need to work on your marketing plan.
  • Start planning with an outline.  Goals.  Strategies for meeting those goals.  Tactics for implementing those strategies.  Costs. Timing. Owner. Due date.
  • Write the executive summary last. It might be first in the table of contents, but it is intended to be a summary of the following, more detailed information rather than the starting point in your plan writing.
  • Keep the plan high level.  For example if your tactics include ads in trade magazines, it may not be necessary to identify the specific magazines or ad formats until it is time to implement.  However, you might need to have given that some thought for determining the budget required and in order to be able to answer specific questions that come up when discussing the plan.
  • Break the planning and writing into chunks.  Work on one specific goal, the strategies for accomplishing that goal, and the tactics for implementing those strategies.  Then start on the next goal.
  • Interview key stakeholders before finalizing your plan. Your boss. Your boss’ boss. The sales VP. The loudmouth top producer and the quiet but passive-agressive sales rep. This will help insure their buy in and allow you to add in things that they think are important.
  • Realize that nobody ever has enough money or staff needed to implement the perfect marketing plan and all the tactics in includes.  Instead, prioritize and focus your plan on the five or so most important tactics for implementing each of a handful of strategies designed specifically to help meet the company’s sales goals.
  • Consider a three-option plan:  The first option designed to meet the company’s minimum sales goal. The second option designed to help meet a target sales goal (the minimum plan + these additional tactics.)  The third designed to meet a “double the business” or stretch goal (the target plan + these additional tactics.)  Then, rather than cutting your proposed budget, your senior corporate and financial management can pick the plan and corresponding marketing budget that is tied to the right sales goal.
  • Add some “nice to have” tactics, in addition to your “need to have” tactics, into the marketing plan and budget. These become the sacrificial lambs if management decides it must cut the budget.
  • Add activity calendars and spreadsheets of budget numbers as attachments.  Later you can use these same documents to manage the implementation of the plan.
  • The audience determines the delivery format:  Lender or investor?  It must be polished.  Internal decision makers and implementers?   Depends on the company culture but a PowerPoint™ or spreadsheet might be all you need.
  • Bonus tip:  Consider renting a hotel room for a day or two and go there to work on pulling together the final written plan and its attachments without interruption.
 

How to write a Marketing Plan (with some tips)

The “Marketing-for-leads” approach

Let me show you how I walk through developing a marketing plan.

The primary goal of a “marketing for leads” marketing plan is to stimulate prospects or customers to declare themselves interested in your company’s products or services; to generate sales leads that are opportunities for new sales and/or additional sales to existing customers.

Branding and awareness building is important too, but has different metrics. Blend your branding plan with the marketing-for-leads program for a cohesive strategy. Or let your brand messages come along for the ride with your lead generation messages.

Is there a specific format for a marketing plan?

In general, the format of your marketing plan depends on which audience it needs to communicate to. A simple on-screen presentation may be good enough when it is only being used as an internal working document. However, if you’re presenting to potential investors who you need to impress and who want to see all the thinking that went into your plan, you may opt for something as advanced as a multi-faceted document with tables of contents and numerous graphics and attached spreadsheets.

What information needs to be in it?

A typical marketing plan is in this order:

  • Executive Summary
  • Mission Statement
  • Situation Analysis
  • Goals
  • Marketing Strategies
  • Marketing communications Tactics
  • Resource and Budget Requirements
  • Implementation Plan
  • Supplementary Information

Executive Summary

The Executive Summary distills the key points from the entire plan into a one-page overview. Keep it readable. Although it appears at the beginning of the plan, write this section last because your plan will go through changes as you write it.

Mission Statement

The mission statement expresses the overall objectives of the marketing plan. Make your objectives succinct and measurable, not just hot air about being “the best.”

For example: “The mission of this marketing plan is to identify the best marketing strategies and tactics to increase our company’s sales revenue 25 percent in the next 12 months.”

Situation Analysis

Describe the current market environment your company is facing, including competition, economic and regulatory. Describe how your company’s abilities (internal) fit into the broader market environment (external.)

A SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) analysis will illustrate the gap between your current strengths/weaknesses and where you need to be.

Strengths include:

  • expertise,
  • employees,
  • financial security and
  • reputation in the marketplace.

Weaknesses include:

  • what your company is not good at doing and
  • resources your company doesn’t have available.

Here’s your chance to review past marketing activities, define the range of products you are marketing, and address changes in the customer base (e.g., a major merger or acquisition.)

Goals

Describe your company’s goals. Consider including sales revenue goals at three levels: minimum, target and stretch.

  • Minimum goal: the sales revenue needed to stay in business without layoffs
  • Target goal: where senior management would like your company’s sales revenue to be
  • Stretch goal: matches your management’s most aggressive revenue targets

Key points to include…

  • The percentage of revenue that needs to come from new business;
  • The percentage of new business revenue that needs to come from marketing generated leads;
  • A definition of a qualified lead;
  • The number of qualified leads from marketing that you need to meet your goals;
  • The number of new inquiries you need so you can identify the required number of qualified leads; and
  • The number of marketing touches you need to generate enough inquiries.

Keep in mind, your objective is to answer the most important questions in this marketing plan. It takes effort to get these metrics, but when you have them, it shows you have a pulse on what’s really going on.

Marketing Strategies

Explain the strategies you developed to meet the sales goals listed in the previous section. Discuss the business problems your products and services address and your company’s solutions. Identify the companies, contacts, and vertical or horizontal markets which are the best targets.

Marketing Communications Tactics

These are the steps needed to implement the strategies and achieve the company’s goals. How will you communicate with your target audiences? Talk about:

  • your database sources
  • detailed communications media including direct marketing, online marketing, events, or print advertising
  • offers including how-to guides, buying guides, white papers, information kits, live demos, or invitations to events
  • relationship marketing techniques including newsletters, events, direct mail letters, phone calls, emails, or faxes
  • sales tools including items like PowerPoint presentations and proposal templates
  • online demonstrations or events
  • leave-behinds
  • templates
  • case studies
  • reference stories

Resource and Budget Requirements

What do you have to work with? What do you need to get the job done? Include in-house and third party resources such as

  • marketing communications experts,
  • graphic designers,
  • event coordinators,
  • telemarketing companies,
  • temporary or contract workers,
  • college interns.

Also describe any training you need, like technical or vertical-market training.

Don’t forget to tie the budget needed to how your marketing plan will help your company meet its sales revenue goal. It also helps to get budget approval if you explain how you will measure your marketing programs and communicate the results to management.

Implementation Plan

Explain the proposed schedule of marketing activities as well as who will be responsible for each. A simple spreadsheet that lists each activity and target due dates will suffice.

Supplementary Information to Include

Attach items that support your marketing plan and its objectives. Some examples:

  • spreadsheets of budget and calendar information
  • information on tradeshows mentioned in the plan
  • samples of competitors’ ads or other marketing materials
  • samples of marketing materials that need to be updates
  • a survey of the salespeople that shows what kinds of sales tools and/or marketing programs they need to be more effective in the field

Summary

If you follow the steps outlined here, you’ll find that your marketing plan almost writes itself. And next year it will be even easier, as you can simply update this year’s plan, making necessary changes or additions to bring it up to date.

 

Integrate sales and marketing to focus your efforts

Integrating marketing and sales is a valuable process for companies to keep lead generation and nurturing productive. Many organizations look for a quick fix such as sharing data sources or changing incentive plans without looking at the whole picture. Instead, create a plan to address a complex set of barriers. Here are some ideas to

Start with common ground

I suggest starting the integration process with common ground: leads. Begin by identifying who is charged with defining types of leads. Your company can form a task force to agree upon a definition of a lead, lead prioritization, information to be captured, and when the hand off to sales will happen. In doing so, both organizations must recognize they have a common goal — to facilitate the buying process.

Bring in qualified people from each part of the process, not just top-level executives. The sales representatives who are in direct contact with prospects and customers provide valuable insight into what works and what doesn’t. Plus their direct involvement encourages buy-in. Those in marketing who execute the plans have the experience with the overall marketplace and corporate strategy. Having them on-board also provides an opportunity to directly hear and respond to the results of their efforts.

Encourage cooperative team members

At times there is finger-pointing between marketing and sales, and the unspoken habit they each have of “looking down” on one another. Is it myth or fact that the two groups think differently, act differently and approach the customers with very different points of view?

True or not, you can integrate these cultures by having both marketing and sales both report to the same department head. Just by working side-by-side, with joint department meetings and problem-solving teams, helps break down barriers that no new technological fix could achieve. Managers should look out for the personalities who actively cooperate and encourage them by mentoring, increased responsibility and reward.

Develop prospect and customer messages together

Training on joint messaging development for both sales and marketing pays off. Independent messages cause chaos, internal conflict, bad service, and duplicate expenses. When departments come together to create a common approach to working with prospects, the company benefits directly with time savings, cost savings, and a better-informed customer base.

Set up incentives for actions that boost integration

To help change attitudes and actions, reward behavior that increases collaboration.

Set up incentives to marketing for:

  • interviewing prospects and customers consistently to produce better marketing messages
  • going on sales calls to keep up-to-date on what tools are needed for demonstrating, proposing and closing sales

Set up incentives to sales for:

  • reporting back on the results of sales leads from marketing to show what works and what doesn’t
  • following up with prospects with a longer buying cycle so previous leads are not abandoned prematurely

Take one step at a time

You know if you do nothing, there is little hope for improvement. By taking small steps to address the big picture of needed changes, you can be assured of making great strides. Sales and marketing integration needs an evolution, not a revolution. Take a long-term view. One step at a time will get you there.

 
Need help with B2B lead generation, marketing and sales?
For more information, please call Mac McIntosh at +1-401-294-7730, send him email at or visit www.sales-lead-experts.com