Building an effective B2B marketing program can be a long, tough road. But, when investments are made, you do the right things, and you stick with it – the returns on your effort and patience will be generously rewarded. How much thought do you put into your marketing plan – is it enough? Do you have clear, realistic goals? Do you have everything you need to execute properly?
My experience has been that many companies miss on one or more of these essential elements and end up being underwhelmed by the outcome. Getting great results from marketing is not an accident, and although there are many success factors, I believe six are most critical.
6 Key Ingredients of Effective B2B Marketing
#1 Strategic Planning
This is one of the most crucial components and the starting point of effective B2B marketing. When not enough time, focus or thought are invested in creating the plan, the rest won’t matter. The main aspects of good planning include:
- A reliable process and a standard framework for mapping out your plan.
- Research and analysis of the key inputs that should be used.
- Internally-focused information including the value proposition; business objectives; budget; available resources; and historical results.
- Externally-focused information including marketing segmentation and competitive analysis.
- In-house planning expertise and skills – if you don’t have these, consider getting help.
#2 Realistic Goals
The budget has to be substantial enough to align with your goals. Determining this number can be difficult, but you have to do it. Looking at past results can help. Also, the objectives themselves need to be achievable in the timeframe you’re working with. Important considerations are:
- The time-to-impact must be understood. What you do now will not bear fruit until some point in the future. This is particularly the case when sales cycles are long and/or complex.
- Don’t underestimate the time it takes to develop ideas and execute. It takes longer than people think. When you’re involved in the more creative parts of marketing, inspiration isn’t something you can turn on like a switch.
- Don’t forget about “foundational” work that still needs to get done such as administration, training, implementing tools, managerial duties, and sales support. These activities need to be accounted for.
- Build at least a small buffer into your plan for unexpected requests and opportunities that may arise during a given period.
#3 Effective Prioritization
It all comes down to choice. Knowing what to focus on is a constant battle, but when research, data, and past results are used as guides, you increase the odds of better decision-making. Here are some other ideas that may help:
- Determine what percentages of effort, time, and money you want to allocate to each major initiative. For most organizations, between 3-5 large-scale activities in a quarter makes sense.
- Don’t focus on activities for the wrong reasons. Just because everyone else is doing it, doesn’t mean you should. Develop sound rationale when picking your mix. Know exactly why you should do what you’re planning.
- Rank your top priorities and weight them accordingly. For example, in a given quarter you may decide to invest 40% of your marketing resources into building a new website because yours is outdated or your bounce rate is too high.
- Don’t succumb to knee-jerk reactions and change your plan mid-stream. it’s easy to get side-tracked by “shiny objects,” but you must resist. Unless something new comes along that’s a sure winner – stick with the plan!
#4 Execution Excellence
As with most things, performance is only as strong as the weakest link. If you have done a good job on the first three points, your execution may still fall short if you don’t do the following:
- Pay attention to detail in everything you do. Missed steps and sloppiness lead to poor results.
- Don’t spread your team too thin – this approach usually leads to mistakes and frustration.
- Build room in your campaigns for experimentation. Today’s technologies help us explore options before making larger investments. Pay attention to the data – if the first wave of a campaign fails but you believe you’re on the right track, you can still adjust.
- Capture and nurture sales leads and be sure your follow-up process is iron-clad. Don’t waste potential opportunities you worked so hard to create!
- Leverage everything as much as possible – this includes automation technology, your CRM, content re-use, etc.
#5 Continuous Improvement
Well-run marketing departments pay attention to the numbers. They use data to refine their approach, messaging, promotions and other tactics. Be sure to track, measure and analyze everything relevant to your program and focus the following:
- Don’t waste time tracking metrics that don’t matter – this is a common trap for some.
- Stop doing things that don’t work. I’ve seen marketers do things year after year that add no discernible value. Sure, you need to give things time. But, know when to cut your losses.
- On the flip side, press the gas pedal harder when you find things that work. Keep track of your trending, though – with some activities, you reach a point of diminishing returns and may decide it’s time to re-adjust.
- Keep learning and growing. It’s a fast-paced, competitive world. You need to keep up with the trends and technologies that impact your marketing. Always look for better ways to do things.
- Understand that what really counts is how your marketing program helps create leads and opportunities. Marketing KPIs showing progress are important, but always remember that the ultimate goal of marketing is to help increase sales.
#6 Determination and Consistency
Finally, creating an effective B2B marketing program is not a one-shot deal. It’s cumulative and must be sustained over time to work. This is particularly the case with social media. If you are not looking at marketing as a long-term investment, save the money and do something else because you will be disappointed otherwise. The good news is that with solid planning, execution, and continuous improvement – marketing will pay for itself many times over once you create the momentum.