The new year, Spring, and the start of a new financial year, are all triggers for businesses to look at their marketing plans.
This year, with the end of covid restrictions, there is perhaps even more reason to start planning for the future.
‘If you fail to plan, you plan to fail’ is an age old saying which is especially applicable to B2B marketing.
As a full-service B2B marketing agency, we’ve spent much of the first months of 2022 helping clients – new and existing – to identify the right marketing strategy for the next year and beyond.
So, we thought we’d share some advice on the best approach for your business.
Identify your goals
This may sound obvious but it’s hard to judge success – or that your marketing decisions are taking you in the right direction – without a clear objective in mind.
Your goal may be financial, related to sales or something a little harder to quantify like becoming more widely recognised in your market place.
Regardless, by identifying – and writing down – your objective for all to see, the decisions you make and the actions you take will be far more likely to help you reach it.
Establish a budget
There are two key ways in which most businesses establish marketing budgets.
The first is to identify all the marketing you want to do – and that you have faith will deliver results – then price it all up and agree the cost.
The second is to look at what you can afford – or what you’re willing to risk – and agree a level.
The final figure you arrive at could vary wildly depending on the approach you take. For most, the answer lies somewhere in the middle.
Large international brands – like food or clothing – can spend almost 50% of their turnover on marketing. Smaller B2B businesses, who may be approaching proactive marketing for the first time, are likely to be considering just a few percent.
Sadly, there is no right answer. However, it is important to set a budget which can realistically achieve your goals.
If you’re looking for double-digit growth in an established and competitive market, you’re marketing budget needs to have a realistic chance of making a difference. Too low and it may not be able to achieve your goal even if it is successful.
If you believe in your business – and you believe in the opportunity to grow through marketing – be bold. With the right strategy, your marketing is an investment, not a gamble.
Analyse your prior marketing
Whether you’ve an existing marketing strategy or not, chances are you’ve already delivered more marketing than you think. Marketing isn’t just promotion – it’s any factor which helps define, communicate or deliver your product or service.
And, particularly if you’ve been in business a while, that means you may have lots of experience and past activity you can look back on.
So, before making decisions about the future, take time to analyse what you’ve done before. Look at your marketing with a fresh perspective and try to identify what worked and what didn’t.
Even more importantly, try to analyse your marketing from your customers’ perspective and ask others’ opinions. We can all end up in a business echo chamber where everything is a ‘good idea’!
And remember, whatever you do, the amount you charge and how you deliver it are as critical to success as how you promote it.
Understand your customers
It may seem strange but many businesses – and the senior leaders within them – have never taken time to formally identify who their customers are.
While many may feel they already have a good understanding, there is much to be gained from identifying the common traits of existing customers and identifying those which might provide the greatest opportunity for future growth.
Creating a persona – a fictitious person or people who represent the decision makers and influencers with the businesses you sell to – is a great way to focus your marketing and ensure the tactics, methods and messaging you choose satisfies their needs.
Choose the right tactics
Like any great plan in history, the success of your B2B marketing strategy will depend on identifying and embracing the right tactics.
First, look at your growth strategy. Will success come from new products and markets or from simply finding more customers like those you already serve with your existing products and services?
In B2B marketing, momentum is almost always essential to success. Businesses take time to pick the products and services they need but can become very loyal.
Burst marketing – short term campaigns using just one or two types of marketing – rarely deliver results. So, drip marketing, where you maintain marketing through many methods over a 6, 12 or even 18-months will be much more effective.
It’s good to consider the difference between push and pull marketing too. Push marketing is about educating customers and maybe even introducing them to an entirely new solution. Pull marketing is about attracting those already looking for what you deliver.
The former can be essential if you’ve something new and innovative but can require more time and resources. The latter is more straightforward but requires greater focus on out shining competitors.
Prioritise the most appropriate marketing
The mix of marketing you choose for your strategy will naturally depend on your goals, budget, tactics and marketplace.
However, when developing an effective B2B marketing strategy, there are some common marketing methods which require consideration:
Direct Marketing (email and mail)
If you’re an established business, your earlier analysis should have helped identify who your likely customers are. Going straight to your ideal customers with direct marketing is a strong tactic.
Data can typically be purchased or gathered and an approach tailored to communicate the right message to decision-makers and influencers.
However, direct marketing is a numbers game. Whilst you need to be targeted, you also need to reach sufficient people to create meaningful brand awareness.
Results take time, so make sure you maintain it over the medium-to-long term. An upturn in enquiries will come.
Increasingly, your website is your shop window.
Whatever you sell to businesses – be it complex services or simple supplies – the chances are that they will visit your website at some point to check you out. Almost any marketing you use will encourage prospective customers to look you up online.
Your strategy should identify any weaknesses in your website and include actions to improve them.
Social media use continues to boom and it is a strong way to keep what you do in the minds of your customers – and introduce it to new ones.
Consumer-focused platforms like Facebook remain difficult for B2B businesses to use effectively and, though more suitable for businesses, Twitter relies on highly frequent posting.
LinkedIn remains the primary platform for B2B. It’s good for updating your followers, sharing successes and commenting on developments.
However, don’t over estimate its effectiveness or underestimate the resource needed to do it effectively.
Though you and your colleagues may see your posts, your customers may not, so consider paid boosting. Overtly salesy messages should be limited too, so make sure you identify and exploit any opportunities to share news, updates or advice.
Digital marketing is a broad term including your website, social media, search engine optimisation, PPC paid search ads and anything else online.
Search engines will be the first place most businesses look to research the products and services they need. Being found can be critical to success and growth.
At it’s most basic, SEO is about have a secure website, which displays well on all devices and is regularly updated with fresh content. Adding news and blogs, as well developing the content of core pages should be your first job.
SEO takes time, so as you wait for your efforts to bear fruit, PPC (also known as paid search or Google Ads) can ensure your website appears where potential customers are looking.
Content Marketing & PR
This talk of fresh content brings us on to content marketing – creating written or visual content which helps spread the word about what you do.
The watch word is ‘value’. Whether it’s a blog, press release, video, guide or infographic, it’s success will ultimately depend on how useful, informative or engaging your potential customers find it.
When it comes to PR (public relations) many publications and website are scrambling for content to publish, especially in specific industrial sectors.
Within B2B marketing, sales aids such as brochures, datasheets, presentations and videos have a strong role to play – particularly if what you do is complex, high-value or difficult to distinguish from competitors.
Like all marketing, a consistent look and feel is essential. Just like your website, you want give the right impression of your products and services.
Events, Sponsorship and Advertising
In B2B marketing, trade events can be an unprecedented way to meet your customers and encourage them to spread the word about what you do.
Sponsorship – of events, awards, even sport – can be another way to rapidly increase brand awareness, as can advertising on the websites and in the publications which your customers read.
Whilst choosing the right mix of marketing is critical, so is communicating the right brand and message.
Your brand is ‘what people say about your business when you’re not in the room’. Through marketing, you have the opportunity to influence their opinions by carefully choosing the right messages to include.
Consistence is vital. Pick a few concise brand messages – preferably about the benefits of what you deliver or how you stand out – and include them in all your marketing.
The more concise and consistent the messaging, the more likely your audience is to appreciate and remember it.
Stay the course
Once you’ve chosen the right marketing methods, a Gantt chart is an excellent way to plan out what marketing you will use and when. It will enable you to see the path ahead and take actions in advance.
Now it is consistency and persistence which will deliver results.
If the B2B marketing which businesses choose fails to deliver results, it’s often because it isn’t given enough time to gain or maintain momentum.
If something is clearly not working – or circumstances affecting it have dramatically changed – then it is important to change tack.
Otherwise, have confidence in the analysis you’ve conducted and the decision you’ve taken. If the marketing is of suitable volume, businesses will react.
Ensure you have the right resources
In a modern B2B strategy, there are a range of online and offline channels which require a mix of skills and experience to deliver.
No matter how appropriate the strategy, the plan needs to be delivered correctly.
Many businesses simply do not have the breadth or depth of skills in-house and marketing staff can often be distracted by other duties or unduly influenced by their colleagues into delivering the status quo.
For greater success, consider outsourcing your marketing to a full-service marketing agency with all the experience and capabilities you need to identify and benefit from the right marketing.
Full Mix Marketing is East Anglia’s leading B2B marketing agency.
For more help identifying the right B2B marketing strategy, click here
For more help delivering all the marketing your need, click here