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Have you set your marketing priorities for 2019?

2019-01-16

Already January!?! Some of us feel the panic approaching... No marketing plan in place this year...either! Don't worry, there are some short-cuts to an efficient B2B marketing plan. The key is to focus on what's most important for any company: Sales.

There are numerous templates for B2B marketing plans available. They all to have a few strategic areas in common: Know your market, know your position in the market, define your goals for the brand positioning longer term and what customer segment(s) to target, and define your sales goals for the shorter term. Then the template usually includes an activity plan to list the key activities to reach said goals. Best case, there is also a section specifically outlining targeted activities to support sales to identified key customers. If you've done your plan already, you may as well stop reading here. Congratulations! You're most likely well prepared for 2019.

But. If you're not quite done with the plan, if you're struggling to find the right priorities, I have a tip: Adapt a pragmatic approach and focus primarily on supporting your sales team's efforts!
By my experience, this approach usually goes well with the management team's overall priorities for the year, and it will be easier for you to choose the activities to prioritise. In addition, since you'll be able to produce a focused plan with clear goals, there is a good chance you'll earn a good return on your efforts.

In this type of a focused B2B marketing plan, there are a few must-haves:

  • What accounts to focus on.
  • What offerings you'd like to market and sell to these accounts.
  • How to reach these accounts, i.e. what marketing mix to employ.
  • How to measure success.

What accounts to focus on

There is a vast market out there, often with numerous potential prospects. Making a short-cut marketing plan, to identify the target accounts for your efforts is probably the most important ingredient. This will lay the ground for a good return on your marketing activities. Segment the market, map opportunities, identify accounts to grow, identify twins to your current best clients, etc. Your sales team may already have done this, but if not... Take a look at your sales team's ongoing opportunities (pipeline) and select some of these! This is the fastest way to get going.

If you think this approach is too short-sighted, may I suggest looking at what Bisnode (our owner) has to offer? Bisnode has a broad offering within account identification and selection, and are truly capable when it comes to segmenting the market and selecting key accounts to focus on to grow sales. And this is effectively the key to successful marketing: Knowing who to target.

What offerings you'd like to market and sell to these accounts.

There is a good chance that this part has already been outlined by your sales team in their account plans or by your product teams in their plans. If this is not the case, do spend some time on discussing with the sales team what they know about the different accounts: What are the target accounts' pains? What offerings should fit their current needs? What do you think the accounts know about you and your offering, Etc. These questions will not only help you answer what solutions to prioritise in your marketing efforts, but also what messages to convey to the different accounts.

How to reach these accounts, i.e. what marketing mix to employ.

Employing an account-focused marketing plan, it makes sense to consider both the sales team's efforts and the marketing team's activities as part of the total marketing mix. SiriusDecisions' data shows that the reality is that  buyers want a fairly even mix of human and non-human interactions, to help them answer their questions about why they should change. Hence, your marketing activities such as events, e-mail newsletters, and advertising should be planned to go hand-in-hand with the sales team's efforts. When it comes to what advertising to include, you'll find some ideas in my earlier blog on this topic.

The marketing activities are geared both to open doors, answer questions, and push the target customer's decision process further. This sales-marketing alignment may sound like a challenge, but as sales and marketing have already agreed on both target accounts and the offering to promote, my experience is that this alignment feels rather natural by both parties.

How to measure and define success.

This - measurements and ROI - is one of the most discussed topics in B2B marketing: How do you know that your marketing activities paid off? "To be meaningful, b-to-b marketing measurement must be aligned to the specific ways that marketing is intending to create value," Ross Graber concludes in his SiriusDecisions' blog from December 2018. And he continues by stating that "Measurement must be used to create value. Measurement that isn't used doesn't improve decision-making. "  For a short-cut marketing plan which focuses on supporting sales, my recommendation would be to track the marketing activities using standard measurements such as CTR or conversion, but to make the only true goal, a "positive development of sales for the accounts targeted", compared to other accounts or to the previous year.

To conclude, if you haven't yet completed your marketing plan for 2019, my advice would be to take a pragmatic approach and focus on the most important: Driving sales. Include the four topics above in your plan. Ensure shared goals with sales. And it's likely that your marketing plan truly will generate value.  

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