Benjamin Franklin once said – if you fail to plan, you plan to fail.
If you’re struggling with your B2B marketing, it doesn’t necessarily mean that your product sucks, or that you’re using the wrong marketing channels.
It might simply be because you don’t have a well thought out plan.
In this article, we’ll walk you through how to create a comprehensive, well-rounded action plan for your B2B marketing efforts.
With a proper plan in place, you’ll find it easier to promote your company’s products and services and ultimately, hit your marketing goals.
Alright, let’s get into it!
Step 1: Analyze Your Current Marketing Performance
Before you start creating your plan, the first step is to analyze your B2B marketing performance to date.
Take a good, hard look at everything you’ve achieved, and ask yourself the following questions:
- Are your sales and marketing teams on the same page?
- Are you tracking your marketing ROI properly?
- Are you using analytics to influence your marketing strategy?
- Are you fully utilizing your customer touch points?
- Is your website up-to-date and accurate?
- Are you hitting your marketing goals?
Let’s walk through these one by one.
First, it’s crucial for your marketing and sales teams to be aligned and on the same page.
As a marketer, it’s your duty to speak to your sales colleagues and understand what type of leads they need you to bring in. You don’t want to be constantly sending the sales team low-quality leads that they can’t convert.
Next, you should also be tracking your ROI across all the B2B marketing campaigns that you’re conducting.
With PPC campaigns and other digital strategies, you’ll probably find this easy. If you’re conducting events and PR activities, on the other hand, calculating your ROI might not be as straightforward.
That said, you should always try to peg your campaign to some sort of quantifiable goal or KPI. At the end of the day, you want to know whether your campaign was a failure or a success!
Next, closely tied to the idea of ROI is analytics.
Yes, your analytics will help you determine your ROI, but it can do so much more than that. Using the data that you’ve got on hand, you should identify key patterns and trends, and use these to fine-tune your future campaigns.
Statistics show that less than 30% of B2B companies are using analytics to inform their decisions, so this is a great way for you to gain a leg up on your competition.
Analytics aside, also evaluate if you’re fully utilizing all your customer touch points.
Most companies tend to focus all their efforts on a few touch points, such as…
- When a consumer creates an account
- When a consumer purchases a product/service
- When a consumer renews their plan (for SaaS businesses)
Yes, it makes sense to optimize these specific encounters that your consumers have with your brand… but that doesn’t mean you should neglect the rest of your touchpoints.
Ideally, you should map out all your customer touchpoints and make sure you’re exceeding expectations at every single point.
That’s how you delight your customers, and win them over for life!
Alright, we’ve got two last points to cover – the first of which is whether your website is up-to-date and accurate.
In the past, B2B marketers could get by with paying less attention to their websites, but that’s not the case anymore.
Here’s the thing:
If a B2B buyer arrives at your website and sees that the last time your site was updated was in 2015, do you think they’ll stick around and look at your pricing plan?
Nope – they’ll exit immediately, and go to your competitor instead.
Now that you’re done evaluating your website, the final question to ask yourself is… are you hitting your marketing goals?
Since you’re reading this article, we’ll hazard a guess that the answer is no.
Don’t worry – being aware of your situation is a great first step.
Just stick with us till the end of the article, and you’ll come away knowing how to create a kickass plan to hit your goals.
Step 2: Analyze Your Competitors’ Performance
Okay, now that you know where you stand, it’s time to turn the spotlight on your competitors.
You can probably rattle off the names of your top three competitors. If you can’t, just Google whatever niche you’re in, and see what companies pop up.
Now, take some time to identify the strengths and weaknesses of your competitors. Pretend you’re someone who’s interested in purchasing their product or service, and browse through their website.
Is their site well-designed and easy to navigate on both desktop and mobile?
Does their site contain plenty of information that helps nurture you towards making a purchase?
Do they have lead magnets (eBooks, white papers, case studies, etc) that you can download if you want to look at more materials?
Do their product benefits and their Unique Selling Proposition (USP) ring through clearly in their website copy?
Are their Calls To Action (CTAs) compelling and eye-catching?
Do they have a testimonials or reviews section for social proof?
And finally, is their checkout or purchase page streamlined and optimized for conversions?
Once you’re done assessing your competitors’ websites, you can also use SimilarWeb to learn where they get the bulk of their traffic from.
Say I run an SEO agency, and one of my competitors is Victorious SEO.
All I have to do is key in their website URL into SimilarWeb, and check out the results…
As you can see, Victorious SEO gets the bulk of their traffic from search, which means that they’re probably investing quite a bit of time and energy into their content strategy.
On top of that, SimilarWeb also shows me that none of Victorious SEO’s search traffic comes from paid keywords. They don’t do PPC campaigns at all – all their readers land on their website via organic search terms.
Okay, it’s your turn! Input your competitors’ URLs into SimilarWeb, and see what insights you can glean.
Step 3: Do A Deep-Dive On Your Target Audience
Okay, so you’ve analyzed your own marketing performance, and you’ve looked at your competitors’ strengths and weaknesses as well.
To arm yourself with one last bit of ammunition, go ahead and do a deep-dive on your target audience as well.
Just in case you were wondering…
I’m not talking about the obvious stuff such as demographic data.
You might already know your target audience’s age range, company title, and the industry they’re in, but that’s barely scratching the surface.
What else do you need to find out about your target audience?
Well, pretty much everything.
We’re not kidding – the more you get to know your target audience, the easier it is to sell a product to them.
It’s all about understand what motivates your target audience, what challenges them, and what makes them tick.
From there, you can easily reframe your pitch to show them how your product can help them achieve a desired benefit, or how it can help them alleviate a pain point.
Here are a few questions to help you get started:
- What does your typical workday look like?
- What’s the best part of your job?
- What skills do you need to do your job well?
- What tools, software or platforms do you use in your job?
- Who do you report to? Who do you manage?
- What are your job responsibilities?
- What does professional success look like to you?
- What does personal success look like to you?
- What are your biggest career-related challenges?
- What are your biggest challenges in your personal life?
- What publications do you read?
- What’s your educational background?
- What did you do before your current job?
- How did you end up at your current job?
Step 4: Identify Your Marketing Goals
Now that you know your target audience like the back of your hand, it’s time to move on to the next step… identifying your B2B marketing goals!
Not all B2B marketers realize this, but your goals will have a huge influence on the marketing strategies that you use.
If you’re working towards increasing sales and revenue, for example, then you’ll probably focus on tried-and-tested channels that give you the highest ROI.
If your aim is to increase brand awareness, then that’s a different story altogether.
To do this, you might set aside a portion of your marketing budget to run branding campaigns. These might not generate you much sales in the short-run, that’s fine, because your goal is to achieve Top of Mind Awareness in your consumers.
If you’re not sure what your marketing goals are, here’s a list of goals to refer to:
- Increase sales or revenue
- Increase profit
- Increase brand awareness
- Grow market share
- Launch new products
- Target new customer segments
- Enter new markets
- Increase customer satisfaction
- Increase retention rates
- Re-brand or re-position
Step 5: Identify Your Marketing Budget
Unfortunately, most marketers don’t get much say in their marketing budget.
You’ll probably just wait to hear how much marketing budget you’ve got… and then try to use it in the best way possible.
But what happens if you’re allocated a measly budget, and you know there’s no way you can achieve your marketing goals with it?
Well, you can always speak to your CMO or CFO, and request for more budget.
Here’s a game plan that you can use to increase your chances of success:
Step 1: Have a solid reason behind your request.
You can’t just go in and ask for more budget because “it doesn’t feel like it’s enough”… well, unless you want to get laughed straight out of the door.
Instead, come up with a logical reason that addresses why you need more budget.
Maybe your website looks like it’s stuck in the early 2000s, and several customers have commented on this in a recent survey.
Maybe you’re supposed to generate 2x the amount of leads for the company this year, and it’s just not feasible without an increase in budget.
Maybe your closest competitor has started advertising aggressively, and you’re going to lose market share if you don’t step up your advertising as well.
Step 2: Identify the expected returns of the increase in budget.
With this step, ask yourself… what’s your endgame?
Are you expecting your revamped, optimized website to double your conversions?
Or are you hoping that your increased focus on content marketing will help you generate 20% more leads every month?
Regardless of what the goal is, be sure to communicate this to your CMO.
Third, outline the key metrics.
This is fairly straightforward – identify and outline all the key metrics associated with the campaigns that you’re pushing for, and give your CMO the peace of mind that you’ll measure and keep track of your results.
If you’re planning to revamp your website, for example, you might look at:
- Unique page views
- Bounce rates
- Average session durations
- Percentage of new sessions
- Pages per session
- Conversion rates
- Scroll depths
Last but not least, pre-empt your CMO’s questions.
Your CMO probably isn’t going to agree to your request right off the bat.
Say you want to work on your company’s content strategy, and you’re requesting for more budget so that you can get a freelancer to write three blog articles per week.
Your CMO will probably have a lot of questions, such as…
“Are you sure blog articles will bring us as much leads as PPC campaigns?”
“Why should we do three articles per week? What if we just do one article per week?”
“Why do we need to outsource this? Can’t the marketing team handle it internally?”
Make sure you’ve got your answers all worked out, so you can handle these objections when they surface.
Step 6: Work Out Your Inbound And Outbound Strategy
Okay, now we’re getting to the exciting part.
Considering all the different marketing channels you have at your fingertips, decide on what channels you want to focus on with your inbound and outbound strategy.
For the record, when you engage in inbound marketing, you’re drawing your leads toward you.
Let’s run with our previous example – say you’re an SEO agency.
If you write a blog article teaching your leads how to optimize their websites for SEO, that’s inbound marketing.
If you create a SEO audit tool and put it on your website, that’s inbound marketing as well.
If you host a webinar and answer the most frequently asked questions you get on SEO, that’s also inbound marketing.
Outbound marketing, on the other hand, involves you reaching out to your leads and interrupting them in their workflow.
If you run banner ads, that’s outbound marketing.
If you do telemarketing or cold-calling, that’s outbound marketing.
If you do trade shows, that’s outbound marketing as well.
Now, the trend these days is to focus on inbound marketing, and avoid outbound marketing.
We get it – using inbound marketing tactics makes it easy to build trust with your leads, and it also allows you to nurture them more effectively. It’s a win-win.
That said, we think it’s unrealistic for a company to completely ignore outbound tactics.
Why do we say so?
Well, inbound strategies typically take some time to implement.
Take blogging, for example.
You don’t just write a single article and publish it, and then get 10,000 readers overnight.
That’s now how it works.
The graph says it all.
You’ll have to publish a steady stream of articles, and keep working on your SEO. Three to six months down the road, you might start getting more organic traffic, and as your pool of readers grow, that’s when you start reaping the benefits.
So, are you going to sit around and listen to the crickets chirping in those three to six months?
You’ll still have to find a way to drive sales – and that’s when outbound marketing comes into the picture.
Now that you understand how outbound and inbound are complementary, rather than conflicting, strategies, let’s look at all the different inbound strategies you can consider:
- Guest blogging
- Social media
- Lead magnets (eBooks, whitepapers, case studies)
- Email marketing
And here are some resources to help you out…
- The Crazy Egg Guide To B2B Blogging
- How We Rebooted Our B2B Blog From 3K to 50K+ Organic Monthly Pageviews
- 6 Easy Ways to Convert B2B Leads With Your Blog Strategy
- B2B Blogging Tips to Create Articles Your Audience Can’t Resist
- List Of 200+ Websites And Blogs That Accept Guest Posts In 2018
- Guest Blogging: The Definitive Guide (2018)
- 32 Experts Share Their Best Guest Blogging Tips
- 12 Essential Elements of Guest Blogging Proposals That Get Accepted
- The No-Fail Guide To Guest Blogging Strategy
- How to Create a B2B Social Media Strategy (Without Being Boring)
- How to Use Social Media to Drive Traffic for B2B Companies
- The Best B2B Social Networking Channels To Grow Your Business
- Your 7-Step Guide To A Successful B2B Social Media Campaign
- 9 B2B Social Media Marketing Tips for Social Media Managers
- 69 Highly Effective Lead Magnet Ideas to Grow Your Email List
- Lead Magnet Blueprint – How to Create a Lead Magnet that Converts
- 10 Lead Magnet Examples That’ll Get You 300-400% More Leads
- Easily Generate Leads with Lead Magnets: Turn Strangers into Subscribers
- 15 Ways to Create a High-Value Lead Magnet in 30 Minutes or Less (No Tech Skills Required)
- Why B2B Webinars Work: The Guide to Effectively Reaching Your Market Online
- Eight Ways to Integrate Webinars into a B2B Marketing Plan
- B2B Marketers: How to Market Your Webinar
- How to Optimize Your Webinar for B2B Lead Generation
- Your Step-by-Step Guide to Producing a Successful B2B Webinar
- The Definitive Guide to B2B Email Marketing
- 11 Tips For Effective B2B Email Marketing In 2018
- 21 High-Performing B2B Email Marketing Examples to “Steal” Ideas From
- The Ultimate Guide To B2B Marketing That Will Boost Your Sales
- The Two “Must Haves” For Successful B2B Email Marketing Campaigns
- Best Email Marketing Software
Now, on to the outbound tactics:
- PPC ads
- Print ads
- Press releases
- Direct mail
You’re probably pretty familiar with most of these strategies, so we won’t link you up with any additional resources.
At this point, you might be wondering…
Gosh, there are so many different channels to choose from. Where should I start?!
If your goal is to maximize your ROI, definitely go for email marketing.
Sure, it’s a little old-school, but it’s crazy profitable. More specifically, email marketing gives you $44 for every $1 that you spend.
If you’re not already doing the following with your email campaigns, we recommend you get on them ASAP:
- Segment your leads based on the stage of the Buyer’s Journey they’re in
- Set up a drip campaign to nurture your leads
- Highlight your case studies and testimonials in your drip campaign
- Personalize your emails using first names
- Analyze open rates to figure out your optimal send time
- Learn how to write awesome email subject lines
- A/B test the different elements on your emails
If you want to position your company as a thought leader in the industry, on the other hand, then blogging is the way to go.
Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you work on your blogging strategy:
- Decide on your posting schedule (aim for consistency over frequency!)
- Research blog article topics (this Blog Title Generator will help)
- Come up with a content calendar
- Write and publish your content
- Repurpose your content into other formats (infographics, cheat sheets, slides for Slideshare)
- Distribute your content via social media
Alright, that’s enough about inbound vs outbound tactics for now. Moving on!
Step 7: Consider The Latest B2B Marketing Trends
B2B marketers often have an “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” mentality.
If you ask us, this is a huge mistake.
Think about it – the B2B marketing landscape is dynamic and ever-changing. If you keep sticking to what you do know, and playing it safe, you’ll only get left behind.
Now, don’t get us wrong…
We’re not asking you to try every new ad platform that’s out there, or get on board every single social media platform available.
What we’re saying is that you should maintain a healthy level of curiosity, and be open to the new B2B marketing trends and strategies that come about.
Take Account Based Marketing (ABM), for example.
This strategy, which started gaining traction a few years back, basically flips the traditional marketing funnel on its head.
We’ve heard plenty of naysayers calling it “gimmicky”, yet look where we are now…
And as for the rest of the companies which don’t do ABM?
Step 8: Implement And Refine Your Campaigns
Awesome – you’re all set with your B2B marketing plan.
All that’s left to do is for you to implement and refine your campaigns!
Now, we know you’re excited to get started, but remember to measure and track everything, and make sure you get your A/B testing right.
Don’t test multiple things at once, don’t make assumptions and end your tests early, and don’t compare different time periods when you’re A/B testing.
If you want to learn more, check out this article on 13 Dumb A/B Testing Mistakes That Are Wasting Your Time.
BONUS: Free Tools Every B2B Marketer Needs
B2B marketing is a tough nut to crack…
So here are some free tools to make your life easier! ;)
- Use Canva to create infographics, posters, and social media templates.
- Use Pixabay to get royalty-free images.
- Use Hotjar to create heatmaps of your website.
- Use Hemingway to write better.
- Use Followerwonk to grow your Twitter account.
- Use Sumo to grow your email list.
- Use Crowdfire to manage and schedule your social media posts.
- Use Emojics to analyze the user’s feeling in real time and see what content or product is liked most.
We’ve saved the best for the last – there’s also Albacross, which is a free tool that you can use to generate leads from your website!
In a nutshell, Albacross helps track and identify the visitors that explore your site. It even provides these visitors’ contact information to you, so you can follow up with them and convert them into paying customers.
Sounds like a dream come true, huh?
Even if you have NO technical knowledge whatsoever, it’s easy to use Albacross.
All you have to do is:
Sign up for an account (100% free, and it takes just 30 seconds). Paste a script on your website (so that Albacross can track your visitors!), and… Sit back and wait for the magic to happen.
Once Albacross gets enough data, they’ll start sending you reports, straight to your inbox.
With these reports, you’ll be able to see who’s visiting your site, as well as how they’re interacting with it.
If you realize that someone from Company XYZ has been to your site five times in the last week, and they keep looking at your pricing page, you know they’re keen to buy.
All you need to do is use the contact information that Albacross provides you with, and get in touch with this guy!
Now, what if you’re getting too many leads to your site, and can’t sift through all these visitors?
Not to worry – Albacross also comes with a filtering function that you can use to filter out visitors from companies of a certain size (or any other criteria you’re looking at).
Pretty cool, huh?
To get your free Albacross account, click here.
A Final Word On Creating A B2B Marketing Plan
We hope you enjoyed this crash course on how to create a B2B marketing plan!
Here’s a quick recap of your to-do list:
- Analyze Your Current Marketing Performance
- Analyze Your Competitors’ Performance
- Do A Deep-Dive On Your Target Audience
- Identify Your Marketing Goals
- Identify Your Marketing Budget
- Work Out Your Inbound And Outbound Strategy
- Consider The Latest B2B Marketing Trends
- Implement And Refine Your Campaigns
When you break it down into smaller chunks, it doesn’t seem that intimidating, does it?
Alright, time to sit down and start working on the first step. Here’s to generating more leads and hitting all your B2B marketing goals!