Dedicating ample time upfront to effectively plan out the components that will comprise your B2B marketing efforts for a given period is time well spent. Proper planning is highly correlated to marketing that is carried out with greater efficiency and ease, focused more directly on the right audiences and simply more effective overall. But surprisingly, many leaders and organizations do not devote the time required for upfront marketing planning that supports success.
Here, we take a look at three of the planning tools we use most to carry out successful marketing programs for our clients: the content (editorial) calendar, social media calendar and email marketing planner. To be sure, these are not the only tools used to plan B2B marketing efforts, but they are essential for creating a repeatable framework for effective B2B marketing.
B2B Marketing Content (Editorial) Calendar
Content is the lifeblood of virtually every B2B marketing program. Some begin the year with aspirational ideas or declarations of “we want to post two to three blogs per month, get a few eBooks done, create an infographic and publish a couple white papers.” These are fine goals, but without planning they can all too easily slip away because of shifting priorities. A content calendar helps an organization answer key “W” questions:
- What will be the format (blog, eBook, white paper) and focus (theme) of the content?
- When will the content be published? When does work on it need to begin?
- Who (internally & externally) will be responsible for developing and contributing to the content?
- Which audience segments and personas is the content being developed for?
- Where will the content be published and promoted (company website/blog, external outlet)?
For every piece of content, one should also be able to answer the question of “why are we creating this content,” with a reply of “because it supports our prospects, clients and marketing objectives. There are paid tools containing content calendar creators (Contently, Content Snare, etc.) but for many organizations a well-constructed and maintained spreadsheet can suffice.
Social Media Calendar for B2B
Many B2B leaders and organizations find it difficult to embrace and execute social media efforts as part of their broader marketing program. The belief is that it takes too much ongoing effort and attention for what is perceived as not enough reward. But a social media calendar helps to streamline those efforts and put together a thoughtful, effective approach that will build awareness, grow audiences, promote engagement and generate leads. In addition to many of the “W” questions noted above, a comprehensive social media calendar reflects answers to questions such as:
- What channels (LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram) will the posts appear on?
- At what frequency will posts be published across channel selected?
- What will the posts say? (writing multiple posts in advance saves time)
- What additional elements will accompany each post (images, hashtags, shortened links)
A social media calendar also helps organizations follow social selling best practices like “The 5:3:2 Rule” which holds that 50% of social content should come from relevant third-party sources, 30% should be content you’ve created and 20% of social content should convey one’s brand personality or community values. Here again there are paid tools (Buffer, Hootsuite, Oktopost) that help especially with publishing to multiple channels, as well as calendar creation. Starting with a spreadsheet/workbook is commonly the first step for most.
B2B Marketing Email Planning Tool
Sticking to an email schedule without last-minute anxiety about different elements that will comprise the email and process of getting it sent out properly is also a common complaint for many B2B organizations. And an email planning tool helps leaders and marketers assess and articulate these elements ahead of time and avoid a great deal of discomfort and wasted time. An email planning tool, calendar, or document should document and answer questions such as:
- Who will be the recipients of the email? What lists will be used?
- What will be the subject line of the email? Will there be a second subject line for A/B testing?
- Who will the email be “from?” Someone in the organization? From the brand itself?
- What content will be in the email and who is responsible for writing it and compiling it?
- What are the goals of the email? (number of leads, traffic generated, opens, clickthrough rates)
The email process is broadly comprised of these separate actions: plan, write, code, test, send, report. Devoting sufficient attention to planning helps all of the subsequent actions to be performed more efficiently and with greater effectiveness.
Plan. Prepare. Succeed.
To pick up on our last point above, proper planning supports higher levels of success in every aspect of B2B marketing. It makes your efforts easier, more repeatable, more targeted. It lessens the burdens placed on the staff and teams responsible for deploying marketing programs.
How healthy are the planning aspects of your organization’s marketing efforts? Answering this question honestly and taking the needed steps to shore up any gaps will lead to greater ability and probability of meeting and exceeding your marketing objectives and expectations.