Entries Tagged as 'B2B marketing tools'

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.

 

A creative director’s take on marketing strategy and tactics

This is one of a series of occasional interviews with top practitioners on topics of interest to B2B marketing professionals. 

Lead generation is a top objective of B2B marketers. Yet when it comes to messaging, offers, and the tactics for generating those leads, marketers are not always as specific as their agencies need them to be.

Peter AltschulerPeter Altschuler is the Creative Director at AcquireB2B, an agency that specializes in generating, nurturing, and qualifying leads – transforming them from people who are “just looking” into prospects who are “ready to buy.” As creative director, Peter turns business and sales objectives into provocative, compelling, and highly focused lead generation campaigns.

Mac asked Peter about his approach to developing creative strategies and tactics for the agency’s clients, and what follows is taken from their discussion about the essential information that leads to creative brilliance.

Mac: Clients give us all sorts of input, right?

Peter: “All sorts” is a good way to describe it.

But it’s rarely in the form of a brief that you and I rely on to understand what a client expects from any given project.

But we can take their input to create a brief – which I think is vital – just so that we’re all working from a common set of parameters and expectations.

And we do that a lot. But from the creative end, which is your focus, what do you consider the bare essentials that clients have to provide to be sure they get what they want?

And what they need.

Right.

There are ten basic elements and, though they seem pretty straightforward, each one should be, as Einstein said, as simple as possible but not simpler. In other words, as the term “brief” implies, the information should be reduced to its most concise… and precise… form without leaving out anything that’s vital to know.

I want you to give me an example, but first tell me the ten basic elements.

O.K. Number one is the product and, in B2B, that may be the physical item or the core service, or it may include installation, upgrades, maintenance, consulting, training, and warranties. So the product has to be described very specifically.

Two is the objective, and the objective is never to sell more stuff.

I thought it kinda is.

Ultimately, sure, but getting to that point requires intermediate steps. Like increasing or establishing awareness in a particular industry vertical, generating qualified leads from companies of a certain size or location, attracting more visitors to a product offer page, persuading existing customers to purchase a complementary product or add-on, or using a discount to attract more prospects who are ready to buy.

Each of those seems to have two parts.

They do because, otherwise, they’re too generic. They’re simpler than possible, to go back to Einstein. Without the second part, there’s not enough focus. It would be like an ad for Coke that says, “It’s refreshing,” but doesn’t have an image that indicates who finds it refreshing – a family at the beach, for instance; describes how it’s refreshing, like poured over ice or drunk through a straw; or suggests when it’s refreshing by showing a guy wiping his brow as he takes a gulp.

Got it.

Number three is the audience, which makes the objective even more precise.

How so?

By clarifying exactly who you want to reach. If you’re selling office supplies in bulk, the office or purchasing manager is a better target than the head of finance, even if the message involves cost savings. That’s because the finance executive doesn’t buy supplies. He or she probably doesn’t even get them from the supply room. The executive’s assistant does that. But…

But?

But if you’re introducing a new product like, I don’t know… digital paper that transfers what you write into text in a software application, then you probably want to target the end user. If the user wants it, they’ll ask the office or purchasing manager to stock it – an item the manager would never consider buying if there wasn’t a demand from employees.

Makes sense. But how to do reach those users?

You’re a step ahead. That’s number four. The media. Once you know the audience, you have to pick the best way to reach it. That could be email, postal direct mail, digital or print ads in specific publications, video (which could be part of an email campaign), or billboards.

Billboards? For B2B?

Sure. Like between a convention venue and the main hotel to attract attendees to a tradeshow booth. Spot TV can do the same thing. Or maybe Apple wants to persuade public transit commuters to read the Times or the Post on iPads and uses busboards and subway posters.

But there are nuances.

Aren’t there always?

Yeah. If the medium is email, what other medium matters?

The device?

Yes! It’s essential to know where the email will be read – on a phone, tablet, laptop, desktop – so that the creative can be modified appropriately. There was an interesting study released in August of 2015 that showed that desktop views of email increased and mobile views decreased in B2B categories. But in fashion, a B2C category, the opposite happened.

So the media have secondary considerations just like objectives and audience.

What’s five?

The fifth essential is the primary message. What’s the one thing, more than anything else, that you want the audience to receive? Or let me rephrase that. What’s the one very specific thing that you want the audience to “get.”

I did a campaign years ago for a company that used a knowledge base, which is like a database on 3-D multi-media steroids. A database can hold alphanumeric data in tables. A knowledge base can incorporate audio, video, graphics, as well as text and numbers and store it in an unstructured repository. Don’t look so worried. That’s as technical as this gets.

Good.

To get across the point that databases were limited, the first ad showed a picture of Bo Diddley’s trademark cigar box guitar, and underneath it was the headline “Databases don’t know diddley.”

Clever. I like that.

And it worked great. The first two sentences of the very short body copy established the difference between data and knowledge bases, and the inquiries poured in.

The client, to be honest, thought the appeal was too narrow. They wanted to make a big, blue sky statement about the future of information management, but we pointed to examples from earlier campaigns that fell flat, and that I had nothing to do with, by the way…

Of course. I assumed that.

… and that helped us talk them out of it. What’s kind of interesting is that item six, a unique selling proposition or USP, was incorporated into that primary message.

Their USP was that their technology could store and retrieve any type of information – this was a few years before Google – and no one else could claim that at the time. But, even if someone could, it wouldn’t matter if my client claimed it first.

I’m not sure I follow.

There’s a classic story about a beer brand that gave a tour to its agency’s creative team, and the copywriter was fascinated by the process they used to sterilize bottles using steam. The writer wanted to focus on that as a differentiator, but the brewery said that everyone sterilized their bottles the same way. Didn’t matter, the copywriter said, because the brand’s customers didn’t know that bottles were sterilized or that it was a common practice. So the agency promoted the beer as cleaner and healthier because the bottles were sterilized, and sales went up.

But couldn’t every other brand make the same claim?

Yes, but if they were the second or third or fourth, they’d look guilty of me-too-ism and might be perceived as copying from the now higher profile brand, instead of coming up with something better of their own.

Understood.

From there, creatives need to know the benefits and then the corresponding features – items seven and eight. The benefits tend to be more important to the people who want a solution to a problem; the ones who want to know if it will be more efficient, cost-effective, durable, and so on.

Purchase initiators, short listers, recommenders, and decision makers would be in that group. For researchers, evaluators, and influencers – the people who want to know how it works, whether it will integrate with or replace other components, and so on – the features are probably more important.

For copy and art teams, though, both are important if they’re creating materials for all of those different individuals. The need to know what to say and what to show based on who’s expected to read, watch, or listen to the information.

The content?

Yeah, that’s the current catchall name for what used to be called collateral or sales aids or marketing literature, depending on your generation, and it’s all been used in B2B marketing and sales for more than a hundred years. It’s only since the Internet put buyers in charge of obtaining all that information, instead of having marketing and sales departments dole it out, that it’s now seen as something new. The media and formats are new, but the relevance and variety of the information – content – hasn’t changed much.

OK. Is there anything else? I think we’re only up to number eight.

Nine is competitive information. We need to know what other vendors are saying and doing to be sure that we don’t wind up with me-too-ism, that we don’t just do a better job of saying and doing the same thing as the other guys, and that we understand what the competition thinks is important to the market so that we can find an area they’re ignoring or aren’t tapping into very well. If we know all that, we can create something that stands apart and endures for as long as the market stays stable.

What do you mean by “stable”?

These days, new products and services appear much faster than they used to. They could be disruptive entrants that offer something entirely new or improvements to existing offerings or more aggressive pricing of those offerings. Or even new regulations from government that affect how a product can be used or if it can still be used at all. Government isn’t a competitor, but it can have a pretty big impact.

So the creative strategy should incorporate a plan B and, probably, C and D to anticipate potential what-if situations and be ready with an alternate approach that can be launched in close to real time.

Like real time marketing in B2C – the kind that responds to things like a blackout during the Super Bowl using Twitter.

That’s a great example, though B2B may not need to respond quite that fast. But B2B does use marketing automation to respond immediately in other ways like sending instant replies to website inquiries or email responses. And that kind of responsiveness itself can be a competitive advantage or part of a company’s brand USP.

And we’ve done that kind of thing for clients for years now. It’s a great way to motivate companies to create repositories of messages, offers, and content that can be distributed as soon as a response or inquiry is submitted.

Just as long as everything is coordinated in terms of style which, conveniently, is the tenth and final item on my list. If we don’t understand the look and sound and feel that conveys the brand’s or product’s character, we risk confusing the audience.

It’s hard to think of a B2B example that everyone’s familiar with, so I’ll cheat a little and use two B2C firms – T-Mobile and Apple. T-Mobile blares at you with bright magenta color schemes, attacks on competitors’ pricing and contracts, and outrageous and often profane statements from its CEO. Apple relies on visual minimalism using an abundance of white space, it acts as if it has no competition, and its public statements are either well-planned in advance or, under Tim Cook, very measured when the company has to respond to situations like the bending iPhone 6 Plus.

If we created an Apple campaign full of multi-colored backgrounds crammed with products and long blocks of text, the reactions from each Apple user on the planet would be massive. And if we did a T-Mobile campaign that veered toward Apple’s style, well… people might think that the CEO was sacked or that the company was sold to Cupertino.

Or the account was given to another agency.

That, too.

Peter, thanks so much for taking the time to elaborate on the ten essential elements of a productive marketing brief.

It was my pleasure.

Readers, join the conversation!

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