What is marketing strategy? There can be many different definitions. Yet, in essence, a marketing strategy is the justification of your marketing budget. Without a sound strategy, you wouldn’t know where to spend your money, and how much. And as the result, your marketing team can get lost along the way.
In this guide, we will discuss all the necessary steps in developing a B2B marketing strategy. Keep in mind, since this guide will be focused on the B2B environment, it might not work in the B2C counterpart.
Let us begin by discussing the key considerations you should have before planning a B2B digital marketing strategy.
Before we can develop an effective B2B marketing strategy, it is important to understand that marketing strategy is hardly static, and we can’t use a universal approach.
Meaning, tactics that can be effective for one company might not have the same effect with others, even for two companies belonging in the same niche or industry.
So, a B2B marketing strategy should be tailored according to the organization/company, especially regarding the specific organizational goals. Also, we should consider the needs of our specific customers.
With those points being said, here are some key considerations you will need to have when developing a B2B marketing plan:
1. Competitive Analysis
Arguably, this is the most important part of planning a marketing strategy: seeing what your competitors are doing. Yet, it doesn’t mean we can simply do exactly what our competitors are doing.
The real value of competitive analysis is to gain insights on what type of tactics, methods, and initiatives that are the most effective in your industry to connect with your customers. With the data gathered from competitive analysis, we can significantly improve the impact of our B2B marketing strategy.
2. Brand Messages
What are the specific messages you want to convey about your brand? Before you can effectively promote these messages, we should first understand it ourselves.
Identify, and clearly define key messages based on your specific goals and the needs of your customers. Only after this, you can develop the correct strategies and initiatives to align those messages with your audience. Also, specific messages might work better with a specific channel (online and offline) compared to others.
3. The Digital Strategy
Many B2B organizations made the same mistake of focusing on just one or several digital tactics (SEO, PPC, website, content, etc). Yet, we should think of our B2B digital strategy not in a tactical approach, but in an overall, strategic approach.
We should align all the various tactics and initiatives in a coordinated strategy, with the aim to achieve our marketing and organizational goals.
4. Monitoring and Analytics
When planning our B2B digital marketing strategy, it is very important to plan how to measure success (KPI) and the analytic methods we will use. A marketing strategy will require constant improvements, and only when we can measure it, we can understand the critical issues need improving.
This, in combination with competitive analysis, will enable our digital marketing strategy to stay relevant according to the industry benchmarks and customer’s needs.
The Step-By-Step Guide To Developing B2B Marketing Strategy
Step 1: Define Your Goals
There are two key areas to focus here: your overall business goals and your marketing goals. The idea is, your marketing goal(s) should accommodate your organizational goal and not the other way around.
For example, your organizational goal might be to achieve X% of revenue growth this year. Then, to assist that goal, your marketing goal can be to get a certain number of generated leads. On the other hand, if your overall business goal is to become the perceived market leader, your marketing goal can be improving brand awareness.
Both your business and marketing goals should be specific and realistic enough to achieve. While having massive goals can have their benefits, you might disrupt your team’s morale if they never get that sense of achievement. A workaround for this issue is to break down the big goal into smaller, more realistic milestones.
Step 2: Defining Your Target Customer
Before we can continue with anything else, it is very important to understand your buyer’s needs. Thankfully, in the B2B environment, the buyer’s needs are generally more focused and can be boiled down to mainly saving cost and time.
For a B2B business, obviously, your target customers will be companies or organizations. Yet, there is a second layer to that: each organization might have different decision making roles. Sometimes, there are more than one roles that will be involved in purchase decisions. Each role might have different needs, and you will need to personalize your contents and products to effectively interact with each of them.
Here are the key considerations you should have in this step:
1. Buyer Organization Size
Different size businesses face different challenges, or at least will prioritize different challenges compared to other sizes. In general, a larger company might buy a more expensive product, although not always. If you have several different products, make sure you are targeting the right company size with each of them.
As mentioned, there can be several different roles making the purchase decision in a single company. They can be very different from each other, so you will have to split them into different buyer personas.
The main idea is to consider the different challenges and motivations of each role, and define how your products or contents can deliver value for each.
We shouldn’t misinterpret “influencers” here as the one used in influencer marketing. Each company usually has their own “influencers” within the organization. It can be the CEO, it can be a highly-influential manager, and so on. If you can identify these influencers, it will bring a significant improvement in your chances. Also, you should also identify the external influencers that relate to each decision maker.
Step 3: Measuring Your Market SIze
The marketing strategy, whether we like it or not, will be always tied to the marketing budget. So, a huge part of planning your marketing strategy is to know where to spend your money, and how much. The core part of doing this is to understand the size of your market.
For example, let’s say you are a B2B SaaS business selling a marketing automation software. Let’s say, there are 1000 businesses in your geographic area that currently spend over $10,000 a month on software and technology tools. This will be the Total Addressable Market of your business. Now, you should consider only those that spend on marketing automation tools. This will be your market size.
Depending on your industry, getting the necessary information can be difficult, and you might need to make estimations.
Step 4: Develop Inbound and Outbound Strategies
Based on the market size and buyer persona discussed above, now we should figure out ways to engage with them.
There are two approaches here: first, there is inbound marketing (link), which is in essence, publishing valuable contents and other information to attract buyers. The other is outbound marketing, which is putting advertising, cold calling, direct mailing, and other forms of marketing activities where you are “chasing” the prospects.
If you’ve already done the market research and truly understand your customer’s needs, you will have an easier time in this step. The idea is to figure out the right tactics,initiatives, and channels that will be effective for your buyer persona.
Also, keep in mind that you should always evaluate your tactics, as well as whether you are targeting the right accounts. As mentioned above, define your KPIs according to your goals, and measure the right metrics according to those KPIs.
For example, with the correct tracking, you can measure how many leads are generated by your inbound marketing. Evaluate whether the numbers are satisfying, and if not, determine whether you are using the wrong channels, targeting the wrong personas, or whether your content is not developed well enough.
In a broad sense, there are three different approaches you can try:
1. Gather Qualitative Data Through Interviews
It is important to gather information from multiple data sources for a correct estimation of the market size. Interviewing different sources can help you gather important detail about the current conditions in the market, and you can further determine whether you are underestimating or overestimating the market size. Use the gathered data to find out whether there are opportunities in the market.
2. Top-Down Approach
Here, first, we obtain the overall, broad market data and then narrow it down. Let’s use an example: you are a company selling an antivirus for Windows PC. Then, the total population of people using Windows PCs is your total addressable market. Let’s say you estimate that 70% of these users are concerned about security, and so your market size is 0.7 multiplied by the total addressable market.
3. Bottom-Up Approach
Let’s use the same example above to illustrate this approach. Here, you will need to compile purchases data of antivirus software or security tools. This approach is generally more time consuming, and the information is not always available. You can combine this approach with the top-down approach, and then take the average of the two to estimate the market size better.
Step 5: Plan Your Infrastructure
Your marketing strategy success will ride upon the marketing infrastructure. There are five main elements to focus here:
1. Your Website and Web Analytics
This one is pretty obvious, your website will include all the contents (i.e., on your blog), landing pages, and downloadable contents (ebooks, research reports, etc.
Your web analytics should be able to track where your visitors came from, which part of the website they interacted with, how long they stay on each page and website conversion data. The idea here is to be able to measure which pages and offers are efficient in engaging and converting visitors.
2. Marketing Channels and Their Respective Analytics
Marketing channels are where your marketing initiatives will work together to achieve your goals, especially to generate awareness and prospects. These can include social media platforms from LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, etc., search channels like Google, PPC/display advertising networks, influencers, email, and many more.
Many of these channels include their respective data tracking an analytics, where you can usually track impression, clicks, and conversions. The main thing to monitor here is whether your channels are generating the right leads for your website and/or business.
3. Lead Nurturing Tools
Depending on your industry, the sales cycle can be relatively long or short, and some business might need a longer lead nurturing process than others. If your sales cycle is especially long, you might need to invest in automation tools to help simplify the nurturing process.
The key factor to monitor here is whether your channels and website are effective at converting leads. Also, we should monitor whether the prospects are re-engaging and moving down the sales funnel.
An attribution tool is usually a hub software that can pull all available data from other marketing channels and software, and connect them to the downstream sales data in the CRM. So, the attribution software will effectively convert marketing data into sales data.
The main thing to track here is whether your marketing channels, website, and lead nurturing activities are resulting in revenue. You should be able to measure the contribution of each effort to revenue.
The Customer Relationship Management (CRM) platform is your centralized place for customer information, with the primary function to help both the sales and marketing teams to understand customer data and opportunity.
In the past, CRM was mainly used by the sales team. Yet, nowadays where the lines between sales and marketing are more blurred than ever, CRM is now a core part of the marketing domain.
The key analytics to focus here are whether your leads and opportunities are being converted into customers and whether your customers are churning or spending more.
Step 6: Monitoring and Scaling Your Revenue Generation
Before we can scale our marketing activities, we should first measure its performance.
The main idea in this step is to figure out whether you are spending your money in the right place. So, your main focus here is to find the best channels, campaigns, and tactics that will generate the best possible revenue. More often than not, this is not a single campaign or tactic, but a combination of campaigns and channels where you can scale up your budget.
Different channels have different scalability limitations. For example, SEO and partner programs generally have higher scalability than running events (limited number of events per month).
Carefully measure your channels, and find out how much it will cost to scale different campaigns and channels.
Developing a B2B marketing strategy is a pretty broad topic, and you might need to regularly revisit each element to maintain success. The key throughout the entire marketing strategy is measurement: if marketers can’t measure performance, you won’t know how to improve upon it.