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.

 

Get in your prospect’s comfort zone: The right offer at the right time

“Will you marry me?”

This offer will get you a chilly reception from someone you’ve just met. You’d sound half-crazy popping the question unless you nurture the relationship at the right pace and offer what the other person is looking for.

Same thing goes for B2B marketing. Sure, a salesperson can get lucky with an occasional prospect, but counting on the magic happening instantly isn’t the way to build a stream of sales-ready leads. Build trust by developing the relationship.

“Will you go out with me?”

Here’s the “first date” of the sales cycle. You’ve just identified a prospective customer and you need to provide background information and answer the questions that are important to that specific customer. Offer educational materials such as case studies, white papers, how-to articles and decision-maker kits until they’re ready to go to the next level.

“Here’s what we’re really like.”

In this “middle date” stage, the interest has been shown and you can move into more details. A self-assessment tool, technical white papers and webinars require more participation from potential customers, but they also target the solutions to each prospect’s situation. Show you’ll be there for them to help build a sales-winning relationship.

“So how about it?”

When the prospect gets comfortable with your company, start to make more serious advances: offers or calls-to-action. Although it’s not time to pop the question, smaller commitments move prospects toward choosing your company. For instance:

  • Invite them to all-day seminars delving into implementation details.
  • Offer demos or low-cost or free needs assessments.
  • Ask whether your salespeople can meet with their decision makers to present customized proposals or quotations.
  • Consider making “buy now” deals offering discounts or additional products or services bundled in for a lower cost.

What if you don’t know where prospects are in their buying cycles? In that case, make offers appropriate for every stage and let people find their own comfort zone.

How to propose

What makes a good offer or call-to-action?

  • They must be genuinely enticing.
  • They must move the buying process forward. Satisfy prospects’ key concerns.
  • They should be “self-qualifying.” Don’t offer something anyone would want. Provide what a qualified prospect is looking for.

How do you put them together?

  • Repackage or update the information you already have.
  • See if your suppliers have white papers, evaluation guides or other materials you may use.
  • Join forces with your suppliers to provide combination sales pieces or newsletters.

Prospects must clearly understand what they’ll gain from choosing your company and its products or services. They need to believe that what you’re marketing will help them achieve their goals, and they must trust your company to deliver on its promises.

Getting to that point requires making the right offers or calls-to-action for each stage of your prospect’s buying process, from awareness and inquiry to consideration to purchase. You’ll build strong, valuable relationships with your customers that will last for many years to come.

 

How long should you keep people in your marketing database?

Database marketing‘Tis the season to send out holiday cards to relatives, friends, and business contacts. Maybe you have some friends on your list that you haven’t spoken to or heard from in ages. How long do you keep sending them cards at holidays?

The practical folks would probably cut them off after a year or two of no contact or response. Some of us probably can’t bear to ever drop people off our list—just in case…

A similar thought occurs to us marketers when we think of doing a direct mail or other marketing campaign. One important difference, though, is that we’re spending money out of our precious marketing budget. We expect not only a response, but also sales and revenue far and above what we spent. So let’s cut these slackers off our list, shall we?

Hold on a minute. I’ve found that companies often remove people from their databases far too soon–especially considering the potential lifetime value of the prospect and her company.

Sure, if they can only buy your product once, take them out when they do. But for the rest, consider keeping contacts in your database forever, or until they opt-out, or at least as long as it’s still cost-effective to contact them. My clients frequently tell me they are closing sales from prospects that have been in their database for two, three, four or more years.

How about running some numbers? If it costs $250 to get a new inquiry and $25/year to keep in touch with a prospect, you can afford to keep a prospect for up to 10 years at the same cost.

If you do want to trim your lists, ask the contacts if they’re still interested in hearing from you. Keep the “yeses,” and I recommend keeping the rest in the database but flagging them so they are not included in campaigns. That way you can still find them later if you need to.

And how about those friends you don’t keep up with? You may get a warm response from a hand-written personal note instead of the cookie-cutter photo greeting card.  Or just keep doing the same thing…just in case.

 

 
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