Strategy. It’s the justification for marketing spend. It’s the reasoning behind the day to day activities of your marketing team.
Once in awhile it’s necessary to take a step back consider your strategy for every important aspect of B2B marketing.
Whether you’re stepping into a marketing role at a new company or building a B2B marketing strategy from scratch, this article includes the major elements for succeeding at marketing’s most important missions.In this post we go over every major element of a B2B marketing strategy:
- How To Define Your Target Businesses And Personas
- Measuring Your Target Market And Engaging Target Accounts
- How To Engage Your Target Audience
- How To Generate Pipeline
- How Scale Pipeline and Revenue Generation
- How To Optimize The Top Of The Funnel
- How To Optimize The Bottom Of The Funnel
Let’s dive right in.
Defining Your Target Customer/Businesses
A central theme in marketing strategy is change. New pricing strategies and new products often means the type of company and the people you sell to can change.
Ground zero for a B2B marketing strategy is knowing your buyer’s needs. In B2B the needs are more focused, e.g. cost savings and time savings. Diving deeper, job role (seniority levels), and job functions differ which means B2B marketers must create products and messaging that deeply connects with different groups of professionals.
While there is already a lot written on personas, companies should always be focused on feeding customer learnings into decision-making.
How To Develop Personas
Start by understanding company size, identifying the users, and identifying the decision makers.
Company size codes for different processes and technologies. In B2B technology this means larger companies might buy a different or more expensive product line. Different size companies also face different challenges, or prioritize challenges differently than smaller companies.
Let’s use IT as an example, a large company may place high priority for security while a smaller company might place higher priority for minimizing costs and maximizing functionality.
Users and decision makers may be very different people so you have to split them up into different personas. To do this, consider the job level challenges and motivators. Different job responsibilities mean different challenges. Which means your product’s provides different value depending on who is using it.
Identify the influencer. By far the most important part of B2B marketing and sales, winning over the influencers at target companies is the lynchpin to successful marketing. When developing personas include as much information as possible on influential people in the buying process.
Here’s a template for creating usable personas.
You’ve created personas so now it’s time to rock and roll, correct? Hold on there, cowboy. The last, last thing to keep in mind is to continue learning about your personas.
Marketing performance measurement can help. With a marketing attribution solution in place you can report on engagement by persona, filtering your data by job title and the industry of target accounts. It’s a great way to know whether ads and campaigns resonate with the right people.
Who is driving valuable engaging with your marketing campaigns? Is it director level professionals in the finance sector? You can attribute revenue and engagement by personas at the campaign, channel and keyword level with an advanced attribution solution in place.
Measuring Your Target Market And Engaging Target Accounts
A B2B marketing strategy relies on understanding how much to spend and where to spend it. Marketers can’t do this without understanding the size of the addressable market.
Think about purchase qualifications. What are the technologies or processes that need to be in place for customers to gain value? Do ideal customers spend a certain amount of money a month on technology? How large is this market?
Take for example all businesses that currently spend over $10K a month on IT tools in a particular geographic region. This would be a Total Addressable Market. Now take that same market, except consider those that spend on cloud based storage. If you provide cloud based storage then this is the size of your market.
Getting this kind of information is often difficult because information is not readily available or there is a good amount of estimation involved.
Here’s a broad step by step guide:
1. Use a top down approach. Obtaining broad market data and then narrow it down by estimating the percentage that fit into your market. For example if you sell iPphone cases then the total population of people who use iPhones would be your addressable market. If you estimate that a 50 percent of those users purchase accessories like extended batteries then you can infer that this group is also likely to buy phone cases too. You simply find the right multiplier, in this case 0.5, to arrive at your market size.
2. Use a bottom up approach. A bottom up approach can be combined with a top-down approach, taking the average of the two, to better estimate market size. Or one approach can be used to validate the other. Using the above iPhone example, a bottom up approach would compiling data on purchases of phone accessories or iPhone cases. This is usually more time consuming because the data may not exist to answer your market size question, especially if your product is new.
3. Conduct interviews and gather qualitative data. Multiple data sources are important for estimating market size. Interviews can help you understand current perceptions and whether there is opportunity in a market. A growing market is the signal you are looking for. Interviews help gather important detail information about the current state of the market and determine whether you are overestimating or underestimating the market size.
These types of exercises are not just for startups. Companies growing and investing in marketing inevitably have new feature sets and new products. Creating a dependable marketing strategy requires knowing the market. Otherwise marketers and managers will overinvest or underinvest in engaging the target market.
Engaging Your Target Market
Now that you’ve identified the market, and understand the businesses, users, and buyers who should buy your product, it’s time figure out how to actually engage with them.
There is inbound marketing which is offering valuable content and information in an effort to attract buyers and users. On the other end there is outbound which is list buying and cold calling and direct mailers.
If you’re already a well established business then PR, channel partners, and existing customer bases are great resources for helping in finding buyers for your new product or feature.
Going after target accounts is not always easy, but there are ways to check whether your target accounts are indeed the right accounts to go after.
With the correct tracking in place you can measure whether the lead list or inbound campaign is driving valuable engagement that results in revenue. This enables marketers to continually hone in on the right channels and sources for new contacts and accounts.
Generating And Managing Pipeline
After knowing where to reach your target audience and target market it’s time to generate pipeline and revenue.
We’ve written about the core marketing technologies needed to sustain a healthy demand generation or account-based marketing program.
To generate pipeline and scale your marketing programs you’ll need core marketing technologies such as a content management system (CMS) for your website, an email solution to nurture your leads, e.g. marketing automation platform, a CRM to track prospect and customer interactions, and an attribution solution to manage marketing performance.
A key step is to define the stages of your funnel. From there you’ll be able to understand how to manage it as business requirements change, e.g. seasonality that calls for a focus on filling the top or a focus on converting leads at the bottom of the funnel (which we’ll cover later in the article).
There are a variety of tactics for generating qualified leads or converting existing leads into opportunities.
Scaling Pipeline And Revenue Generation
A strategy for scaling your marketing program begins with performance measurement. After hacking it to establish pipeline and new demand channels it’s time to measure scalability and success.
It is now a search for the best channels and campaigns to pour money into. With an attribution solution in place you can identify the campaigns which play important roles in the funnel, a campaign/channel is driving first touch brand discovery or they are driving valuable conversions at the bottom-of-the-funnel.
To create a strategy for scaling consider your approach towards identifying the revenue goal you want to surpass and how much you need to spend to get there. This won’t be a single campaign but a variety of campaigns and channels that will be infused with budget to scale up. Thus it is a detective search to find the groups of campaigns, content and channels that will be scaled up.
To search for this there are several reports to use:
- Net New Leads/Contacts By Channel and By Channel
- MQL’s and Opportunities By Campaign
- MQL’s and Opportunities By Landing Page/Form URL (Blog articles and content downloads)
- Monthly Revenue By Channel/Campaign
These reports will provide a sense of how much revenue can be generated once budget and spending data is used to understand ROI.
Different channels have different limitations as to scalability, organic search and partner programs have higher scalability than channels such as paid search (audience sizes and inventory are limited) and events (limited number of events per year). But with measurement and attribution a top priority, marketers can better understand what it will cost to plan the scale campaigns and channels.
Optimizing the Top Of The Funnel
A B2B marketing strategy should include a commitment to optimizing the entire funnel. A good strategy for optimizing the entire funnel establishes control and predictability.
Have a plan when web traffic or first touch sources begin to dwindle. Addressing top-of-funnel concerns requires that marketers focus on great content that has value for visitors, such as a free tool or a report that delivers helpful knowledge.
In addition to valuable content, clear and concise information that addresses concerns and questions from those doing buyer research. To address this, consider whether the value prop or messaging needs to be updated. And consider whether the audiences doing initial research can find exactly the information they are looking for.
If review sites are already established for your category be sure that language and messaging aligns with how your customers are already talking about your product. Consider what additional details the researcher is looking for after reading a review about your product and then wanting more information from your website before engaging with sales.
There is a balance between educating those who are unaware of the problem they have that your product can solve, and those who are aware and want to know how well your product fits their need or budget.
How you address these two audiences should be considered in your content strategy.
Optimizing The Bottom Of The Funnel
A great B2B marketing strategy include instructions for providing air support for the sales team. How will your marketing team help sales get in front of decision makers?
Providing value such as content that helps decision makers review and learn about the other solutions in your category, or connecting decision makers with their industry peers to share solutions that address the problem your product solves, are good approaches.
Events are a great way to bring together professionals. Consider establishing some kind of forum for decision makers to meet and learn from one another.
Establishing a customer panel and investing in high quality industry analyst reports and studies are all ways that you can deliver compelling information to decisionmakers.
B2B marketing strategy is broad topic and periodically revisiting each element of your grand strategy helps you continue the difficult work of generating and maintaining demand.
Building a revenue engine takes time and dedication to good measurement. If marketers can’t measure performance they won’t know how to improve it.
While measurement is fundamental, so too is high levels of creativity for novel concepts that drive growth and keep costs low.
One of my favorite stories is from the early days of Salesforce.com.
Marc Benioff, founder and CEO, rented all the airport taxis during a competitor’s event and had his sales team pitch Salesforce.com during the taxi rides.
A successful B2B marketing strategy requires creativity and technical skills. And these challenges are what makes it so rewarding.