Developing a B2B Marketing Plan: A Step-by-step Guide
by Mike Khorev
Without a proper marketing plan, it is arguably impossible to achieve optimal growth for any businesses, much less for B2B businesses where the size of the market is fairly small yet the competition is high.
With that being said, this guide will discuss the necessary steps required to develop a B2B marketing plan: from figuring out the right channels to measuring their effectiveness.
Let us begin.
Defining Your Goals
Every plan is, in essence, made to accomplish a certain goal or goals. So, if your goal is not totally clear, not realistic, or worse, you don’t know your goal at all, your plan won’t be effective.
The first principle here is that your marketing goal(s) should properly align with the overall goals of your business: if you are aiming to increase revenue by 10%, it can translate to putting your marketing efforts to generate more leads by 30%, for example.
So, we should start this step by defining your business goals. Your goals should be based on the current state of your business, as well as the current market conditions. Then, we can define marketing goals to help achieve the business goals. Here are a few key areas to focus on:
- Understanding your audience
In the B2B space, we are targeting organizations where there can be several different decision makers You might need to develop different buyer personas for each of them.
- Communicating the benefits of your product/service
People aren’t essentially buying your product or service, but rather the benefits tied to them. Develop and communicate your value proposition properly.
- Competitive analysis
Understanding how your competitors are approaching their marketing strategies is essential. You can either learn something from their efforts, or imitate their successful tactics.
Develop Inbound and Outbound Tactics
This is the most crucial step, as there are many different tactics, channels, and campaigns to choose from. However, generally we can divide all the different marketing activities into two big groups:
Inbound marketing, in essence, is the marketing efforts that are designed to pull your audience “inwards”. This is mainly done by publishing valuable content out there, so that the prospects that are looking for a specific information can find this content.
The main idea behind inbound marketing is to establish your position as the expert/thought leader of your niche, and so there are two main aspects of inbound marketing:
- Developing your content: the better you understand your audience, their needs, the specific keywords they are looking for, and so on, the better you can develop relevant content pieces for them.
- Promoting your content: your content, no matter how good, will only bring value when it’s consumed by your audience. Use various channels to promote your content, and aim to get more backlinks for SEO purposes.
Inbound activities are generally more effective nowadays, especially for B2B businesses. However, outbound, or traditional marketing activities do have their benefits over inbound marketing: inbound marketing is typically a long-term tactic, and you will need to invest a significant amount of time before you see results.
In most cases, we should expect to invest at least 6 to 12 months before we see significant results from inbound marketing. Yet, not all businesses will have that luxury of time.
This is where outbound marketing activities like advertising come in: with traditional outbound marketing, you are guaranteed to get short-term results, provided you have the money to spend. Here are some common outbound marketing activities for B2B businesses:
- Advertisement, offline and online, including social media marketing
- Email marketing
- Direct mail
The thing about outbound marketing is maintaining cost-efficiency, and so, maximizing ROI. So,the key here is to find a good balance between your inbound and outbound marketing strategies: the balance between cost and time. Inbound marketing is more cost-efficient and sustainable, and outbound marketing can generate short-term results.
Optimizing Your Website
Your website is an integral part of your marketing strategy, the equivalent of a storefront in this digital age.
An optimized, presentable, and professional-looking site can help establishing your credibility. Your site’s content can be effective in generating and nurturing prospects, while optimizing your site and landing page for conversions can ensure growth.
Here are some key areas to consider when developing and optimizing your site. The main thing to consider is your audience’s needs. Understand their intent, and optimize your website to address this intent.
There are three main stages of the marketing funnel where you should optimize your site:
- Lead generation: how your site can capture more prospects, mainly covered by inbound marketing (your blog, podcast, etc). Your site should have at least several lead magnets like offering valuable content in exchange for email address.
- Lead nurturing: nurturing prospects until they are ready to buy. This is mainly done through content and email marketing, as well as on-site tutorials, etc.
- Conversion: convincing prospects to actually purchase your product is a difficult process, so don’t make things even more difficult by not giving them a clear conversion path. Make sure your site is optimized for conversion.
- Make sure your site is mobile-responsive. All your buttons should be clickable on mobile devices. Also, if you are including forms, don’t use too many fields and make sure they are easily read.
- Set up the necessary analytics to track important metrics. You can use Google Analytics or paid options like KISSMetrics and Mixpanel.
Develop a Marketing Plan
We can’t have a proper marketing plan without a proper budget allocation. Develop a 12-month marketing plan, consider all the details and the smallest possible steps.
For example, if you are planning a content marketing campaign, figure out all the details from finding the right keywords, planning the topics, finding the right distribution channels, and how you will promote the content. Allocate a set budget for each of these steps.
Evaluate this plan regularly. You can look for new opportunities, optimize the performance of your campaigns, and eliminate the ineffective ones. Adjust your budget based on performance.
Monitoring Your Progress
An important part of your marketing plan is to continuously measure your performance, the effectiveness of each campaign, and optimizing them when necessary.
We should monitor the performance of each channel, tactic, and campaign based on goals and KPIs. For example, if your marketing goal is to increase revenue by X% and you have content marketing as a campaign to achieve this goal, your KPI is can be the number of traffic and conversion rate, among others.
Set up necessary tracking tools to measure these KPIs. We can use Google Analytics to track most of the important metrics such as the number of website traffic, the number of email newsletter subscription, and so on.
For a more detailed measurement, you can implement a marketing attribution model. In essence, marketing attribution is assigning credits to various marketing channels and campaigns based on their contribution to revenue.
For example, if a marketing channel is assigned with 10% credit, and your revenue is $100, then this channel is perceived to contribute $10 to your revenue. Marketing attribution is a pretty deep subject on its own, and you might want to check this guide to learn further.
While developing a B2B marketing plan might seem complicated at first, it is actually quite simple once you get the hang of it. The first step is to define your goals. Then, you should define the necessary steps and tactics to achive these goals, and monitor your performance.
January 25, 2020
January 18, 2020