Crafting a Successful B2B Marketing Strategy

For many B2B marketers, the traditional marketing funnel that motivates prospects to self-identify and then move to a sales funnel, is ingrained in our minds. However, in the Age of the Customer, Forrester Research’s phrase for a customer-driven marketing landscape, the funnel has evolved to reflect a new customer expectation requiring sales and marketing to work in tandem.

With this in mind, B2B marketers must evaluate how their current B2B marketing strategy is aligned with the psychology of their buyer journey. In other words, B2B marketers must know how to craft a marketing strategy based on the predominance of the customer.

So, we have outlined a series of steps to follow when crafting a customer-centric B2B marketing strategy. Ask yourself and your team, “have we checked the following boxes when crafting our B2B marketing strategy?”

IDENTIFY TARGET PERSONAS IN YOUR B2B MARKETING STRATEGY

Going through the exercise to develop personas based on market and customer research is fundamental to understanding not only who is your audience but how to engage them in the buyer journey. Incorporating marketing personas makes websites two to five times more effective and easier to use by targeted users. However, only 44% of B2B marketers use buyer personas. So, ensure your B2B marketing strategy includes persona-based experiences that moves buyers forward in their journey with your brand.

MAP A PERSONA-BASED CUSTOMER JOURNEY TO DRIVE YOUR B2B MARKETING STRATEGY

Building out your influencer and decision personas to understand your target audience is only part of the process of laying a customer-centric foundation for your strategy. Next is to map the touch points of your buyer journey through all buyer stages. In order to close the loop from awareness to revenue it’s critical to know the touch points along the journey that are motivators and detractors in order to influence all parts of the customer experience. When developing your B2B marketing strategy answer the following, “How do I craft a strategy with the framework that aligns with your customer’s journey to gain clarity and define priority?”

DEFINE AND MEASURE B2B MARKETING STRATEGY GOALS & METRICS

Perhaps a no-brainer for a data-driven B2B marketer is clearly-defined metrics for success. With a heightened emphasis on personalization and customer experience (CX), B2B marketing goals and metrics must be established to measure the success of the marketing efforts supporting a customer’s progression through the buyer journey. Your B2B marketing strategy must outline how it will create direct contribution to revenue with a return and fuel high growth.

A recent case study example from one of our technology platform and services clients is Viewpointe, a leading private cloud managed services provider. Viewpointe was challenged with continuing to engage customers over the course of a 6+ month sales cycle. After clearly defining their B2B marketing goals, they aligned their content marketing plan with their persona-based customer journey. As a result, Viewpointe stayed engaged with their customers throughout the buyer journey and closed more deals. One way Viewpointe measured customer engagement lift was a 52% increase in persona aligned website content and 164% increase in blog content engagement from organic search referrals.

YOUR B2B MARKETING STRATEGY INCORPORATES ACTIONABLE INSIGHTS WITH SALES

Referring back to our earlier customer funnel illustration, the traditional hand-off from marketing to sales, with no feedback loop when a lead is “flipped over the fence to sales”, causing misalignment between B2B marketing and sales teams. In fact, 25% of B2B marketers have no idea what is their customer conversion rate. In the Age of the Customer, your marketing strategy should outline how to rip out the proverbial fence and instead encourage inter-team collaboration. Ensuring this marketing and sales alignment is crucial to creating a consistent customer experience along a buyer’s journey. Being intentional about sharing insights between teams is one way to encourage broad acceptance of a successful B2B marketing strategy execution.

YOUR NEXT STEP

With only 45% of B2B marketers confident that they have decent, if not high, levels of customer centricity, the time to is now to author your new B2B marketing strategy that elevates you above your competition.

Internet Marketing Services Are Using These Same Techniques

With the multitude of internet marketing services and techniques that you hear about daily as you get bombarded with promotional material after promotional material in our emails you come to realize two things. The rationalization of these two main focal points are what lead many online marketers to their doom.

The first thing you come to terms with as you start to focus is how truly overwhelming all of this is! You can’t possibly learn all of these new internet marketing techniques fast enough, master them and implement them effectively all at one time so that you can begin to promote your products, services or affiliate programs.

This brings you to the second realization. You need help! So you decide to hire internet marketing services that are provided by outside experts and so called gurus that promise to help you bring in more traffic, help you build your email list and ultimately increase your monthly sales volume. Don’t worry we’ve all made this mistake, but there is light at the end of the tunnel.

Take One Day To Evaluate All Of Your Resources

I can’t stress how important this is. Internet marketing services FEED on your frustrations! They know that you are bombarded daily by emails that you get from other internet marketing veterans that want to sell you their own products and services. In fact they’re counting on the fact that you’ve actually bought and paid for several of these and that at this point you’re so way beyond frustrated that you’ll do anything, even PAY THEM MONEY to provide you their own internet marketing services that are using the same internet marketing techniques that you could be using yourself for free.

Cancel The Majority Of Your Subscriptions

This is hard for most of us to do. We’ve grown to depend on the advice of these so called internet marketing services, experts and gurus. There is a symbiotic co-dependent relationship formed that has gotten you in the rut you’re in. I’m sure that most of the people you get all these emails are nice, but their bottom line is NOT to be you’re friend. They want to make money online just like YOU want to make money online. The key thing to consider here is that you need to STOP giving them your money and STOP spending all that time reading the tons and tons of emails, so that you can focus on what works and take action.

Stop Paying Internet Marketing Service Providers

This is often the hardest link in your chain to break. What little success that you’ve achieved thus far is only there because of your internet marketing efforts. In that back of your mind you’re telling yourself that the internet marketing services that are provided by online providers are working, just not quite as well as you want them too. The truth is that their using the exact same internet marketing techniques that everyone else is and these techniques are NOT hard to learn! When you stop paying for all the internet marketing services and start focusing your time and money more directly on taking ACTION you’ll notice that you’re paying out less money and yet at the same time your monthly income and website page ranks are still increasing.

Now Is The Time To Take Action And Start Profiting

I realize that things are still very overwhelming, especially if you’re just getting started or if you’ve have a history of trial and error which has brought you in little or no success. Take a deep breath, relax, relate, release and let go of that past that has haunted you. Let go of the overwhelming frustration that comes from inexperience if that is the problem. Internet marketing services and all these so called new internet marketing techniques are NOT the answer. Here’s a clue to get you started;

Social Networking & Social Marketing Is Not New

From the early days of the internet there have been internet marketing services that provided advertising services on bulletin boards, which later lead people to going online using dial up connections and creating social networks of their own through their AOL or other ISP connections. This is how things were done in the early days. What has changed isn’t the concept of social networking & marketing or internet marketing services. The real change that people are talking so much about with the whole buzz of the Web 2.0 craze isn’t social networking & marketing at all, it’s the fact that it’s become so incredibly easy!

With WYSIWYG The Learning Curve Is No Longer Steep

Social Networking & Marketing is definitely getting more popular with the WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) interfaces that we see on MySpace, Squidoo, YouTube, Facebook and the “groups” that you can join through Yahoo, MSN and the almighty Google. The new advancements make things easy to customize, add video and in many cases create your own “squeeze page” that you can publish and then use to promote your products, services and affiliate programs.

This is the secret to the internet marketing services that many of you are already paying for. Using these same principals there are online blogs and forums that you can use as well and these are no secret either. The only thing that makes it harder for newbies and people who have failed in the past is that they either don’t know HOW, they don’t know WHERE or they don’t fully understand WHY certain things are done the way they are.

One last thing to give you something to think about before I go

Please bare in mind that this is solely based on my own biased opinion, which comes from years of experience as a web designer, web host and internet marketing promoter. My thoughts on all of this are simple if you would like to save an incredible amount of time, energy and money. Try by focusing on ONE THING at a time and learn everything you can. There are video, audio and pdf style tutorials readily available at reasonable prices. All you need to do is find ONE SOURCE that you can get as much material from as possible at a reasonable price and then begin your learning experience.

Go in to this with an open mind. Often you may think that YOU KNOW something, when in truth you are familiar with what it is and the basics of how it works, but you’re not yet proficient enough to be called an “expert”…..yet. I add that last little bit because I believe that with the right tutoring you can and will be one!

Marketing Strategy and Planning: The Road Map

Many small to medium sized businesses face a common struggle; a balancing act of plans, strategies, departments and decisions. All of the elements are present, all of the gears in working condition, but business isn’t exactly booming at the pace it had anticipated or forecasted for. What exactly does this growth and sustainability require? In a turbulent economy teeming with congested airwaves and aggressive business practices, it’s about standing out from the crowd. And surprisingly, your marketing strategy has a lot more to do with it than you might realize.

Conflicted business owners can overcome the masses and draw the customers that are right for their product by executing a stellar marketing strategy, not by yelling louder than their competitors or using neon banners on their storefront (or banner ads on your website). My point is, you don’t have to be throwing yourself out there with a bunch of noise all the time. What you need to do is paint a vision for your business, your employees, and your customers. Make promises that nobody but you can keep, and then blow them away with your admirable businesses practices and superhuman skills.

Take a moment to consider this: marketing strategy is the single most important factor in determining the prosperity or deterioration of a business. That’s a pretty substantial claim and I’m willing to prove its legitimacy. Marketing strategy distributes itself throughout all the facets of a business, whether intended by its creator or not. This is possible because the strategy is created and defined by the overall objectives of a specific business, and integrates these objectives with a company’s unique vision and mission. Put simply, every level of a business should be oozing marketing strategy. Really!

Marketing Strategy

Does it seem far-fetched? Let’s examine the relationship between marketing strategy and four key aspects of any business: market research, the marketing plan, corporate identity, and the economy. First, let’s get the formalities out of the way and set forth a definitive explanation of what marketing strategy actually is. After scouring several websites for the official definition, I settled on a less-official but more effective description of marketing strategy:

Marketing Strategy:
A strategy that integrates an organization’s marketing goals into a cohesive whole. Ideally drawn from market research, it focuses on the ideal product mix to achieve maximum profit potential. The marketing strategy is set out in a marketing plan.

While your marketing strategy is, essentially, a document; its purpose is far more load bearing. Included in the strategy should be your mission statement and business goals, an exhaustive list of your products and services, a characterization or description of your target clients, and a clear definition of how you integrate into the competitive landscape of your industry.

Marketing Strategy v. Market Research

This relationship establishes an order of operations: the first phase in any marketing or branding initiative is research. (See our white paper on this subject: Market Research for SMB’s). No matter the scope of your research, whether it is a broad canvassing of your current client list or unveiling specific, detailed findings about your target market, the outcome will have a direct effect on your marketing strategy. It’s imperative to find out everything about whom you are trying to reach. What generation are they in? How big are their families? Where do they live, eat, and hang out? How do they spend their free time and money? All of this information will influence and alter your marketing strategy.

Research alone will not benefit your business without a solid marketing strategy. Often, business owners narrowly define market research as the collection and organization of data for business purposes. And while that is technically an accurate definition, the emphasis lies not on the process of research itself, but the impact it commands on future decisions regarding all levels of a company. Every business decision presents different, unique needs for information, and this information then shapes a suitable and applicable marketing strategy.

Research can be a grueling, confusing, and tedious process. From establishing or cleaning out a database to creating surveys and conducting interviews, you can receive a lot of information about your clients and potential clients and wonder what to do next. Before beginning to formulate a strategy, the information and data collected must be organized, processed, analyzed, and stored. Rest assured, with a little creativity and a lot of effort, this will all be molded into a structured, effective, and easily adaptable marketing strategy. Furthermore, continuous and updated research will ensure your strategy is a current and relevant reflection of your target market, marketing goals, and future business endeavors.

Marketing Strategy v. Marketing Plan

In this relationship, the marketing strategy is essentially a guide to judge the performance and efficiency of a specific marketing plan. In simple terms, a marketing strategy is a summary of what you offer and how you are positioned in the market (in relation to competitors’ products and services), and your marketing plan is an organized list of actions that you will enforce to achieve the goals outlined in your strategy. The plan will encompass the steps to a real-life application of a marketing strategy, bringing life to your mission and vision. It’s your time to show and sell your products and services so that your target market can experience them in the presence that you truly imagined.

Often, businesses lack a balance of creative personality and logic personality. While a business owner might have the creativity to dream up a stellar product, business model, and brand, they may lack the entrepreneurship and discipline to bring it all to life through research, planning and execution.

Marketing Strategy v. Corporate Identity

It’s no surprise that some of the most successful and recognizable companies in the world are those who establish distinguished, one-of-a-kind cultures that permeate through every channel of a business and reach customers on a human level. The culture of a corporation, its psychology, attitude, approaches to business, values and beliefs, lays the groundwork for a unique and compelling corporate identity. There is a powerful and undeniable connection between the health of these companies and the identities that their culture has provided.

These companies have discovered the delicate balance between a brand and a strategy, and how this symbiotic connection encourages visibility and growth. The relationship is simple: the marketing strategy represents where a company wants to go, and the culture determines how (and sometimes if) it will get there. Think of a corporate identity – the style, words, images, and colors – as the personification of your marketing strategy. The corporate identity is extended and applied in every phase of the marketing strategy, and plays a stylistic role in its execution.

Let’s look at an example. Starbucks, until recently, didn’t really have a marketing or advertising budget, per se. Starbucks started advertising in the New York Times and on TV in 2009, and very gingerly at that. Once a week it would print full-page ads in the Times, and on select channels it would air brief, lighthearted commercials. Prior to, the company was able to very successfully promote itself and its products through word of mouth and slapping the 25-year-old logo on every cup its baristas cranked out, proving that even something as simple as a logo can deeply resonate with consumers. But it was the Starbucks’ identity that its millions of customers were happily waiting fifteen minutes in line for. The infamous Starbucks cup rapidly became associated with wealth, leisure, high standards, and urbanites. From college freshman to corporate CEO’s, people couldn’t get enough.

Starbucks enforced its marketing strategy through clever, catchy campaigns, a genuine and human “front line” at the store level, and for the most part, acknowledging any mistakes or shortfalls that it might’ve run into. All of these actions are traits, portraying a deeply rooted culture that is exuded from top to bottom of the Starbucks hierarchy. And, love ’em or hate ’em, there’s no denying their great success, even in a strained economy.

Marketing Strategy v. The Economy

The economy is an incredibly sensitive subject around the globe. What we’ve also noticed is that a lot of companies and business owners are using a depressed economic state as a reason (and in some cases, an excuse) for the shortcomings in their business.

For example, a big trend recently has been layoffs. Larger corporations are using weak economies as a reason to purge its staff and cut positions, when it knows just as well that that’s exactly the opposite of what needs to happen. Or does it? It’s become hard to tell. Is surviving a “depression” really as simple as, say, reassessing your marketing strategy? While an unstable economy is troubling, risky, and unpredictable, it’s also an excellent test of the flexibility of your marketing strategy. Your strategy isn’t set in stone…the whole purpose of designing a strategy in the first place is for smooth navigation through any given circumstance, whether good or bad. Unfortunately, many CEOs and CFOs target their marketing departments first in lean times, while the reality is that it should be investing in these areas so that its marketing managers can adjust their strategy to survive-maybe even prosper, through tough times. An excerpt from the blog of R. Bruer, the owner and head of a strategic communications firm in Portland, Oregon, lays it all out:

“Most businesses treat marketing as a discretionary expense, making it an easy target for budget cutters. It’s as if marketing is a luxury afforded only when times are flush. Less customer demand, less we can afford marketing, or so conventional thinking goes.

But really, can we ever afford not to market?

It’s natural to want to preserve cash during a downturn. I was an employer for nearly 14 years, so I’m sympathetic. But the tendency is to make deep cuts in marketing when sales head south. Companies often start by reducing or eliminating outside expenses, such as advertising, events, sponsorships, research. And when that’s not enough, they lay off marketing employees, sometimes the entire department.

The net effect of gutting marketing is to stifle generation of customer awareness, demand and retention just when these things are needed most. It’s a penny-wise, pound-foolish decision.”

Your Marketing Strategy

While marketing strategy isn’t tangible, its role in business is just as dire as the product or service being offered. It’s contribution bears significance through every phase of a business plan, from conception to execution and far beyond these four aspects of research, planning, identity and economy.

Marketing strategy will continue to fold itself into business plans as long as it is created and executed properly. Research on your industry and competitors will enable you to develop and formulate a proper, pliable strategy. From here, your marketing plan will act as a guide that will bring your strategy to life, attaining and exceeding the goals outlined, all while establishing your corporate culture and identity. Remember, the culture piece works two ways. Your culture helps to form the strategy, and following that strategy will reinforce your culture. Lastly, your strategy must be both strong and flexible enough to withstand the most difficult or unpredictable of circumstances, such as an economic depression, new trends or competitors in your industry.

Strategy is a small piece of a much larger picture. It can all be overwhelming at times, sure, but it’s part of the adventure. With dedication, organization, and a champion marketing team (ahem! B&A), the pieces will come together with ease, allowing for the truly awesome personality of your business to shine, and profits to follow shortly thereafter.