Marketing is the continuous evolutionary journey every successful business must go on. It is a customer-focused process for achieving sustained growth and profits. Use the marketing journey as a planning checklist to grow, evolve and build value into your business. Evaluate where your business is strong and where it needs to improve to get the maximum from your marketing budget.
Do you inspire and unite your stakeholders with a compelling sense of purpose?
Is your market is changing? Is it as big as you think? Is a rival about to launch a similar product or service? Is legislation or new technology about to disrupt the market forever? Third party research tells you the things you might not want to hear - as well as confirming what you suspect and potentially uncovering new and exciting opportunities.
Informed by research, strategy is the process of defining an objective, evaluating the landscape and establishing the challenges you will face. The next step is to define a policy for each challenge and a detailed plan for each policy, assigning budget and responsibility in an orchestrated fashion.
Every B2B market can be segmented. Each segment can be evaluated for fit and each approached in a tailored way.
Segmenting by size, geography and type well as the attitude and velocity of the businesses you are targeting enables you to invest your marketing funds where you can maximise return on investment.
In B2B marketing we are usually dealing with multiple decision makers - often with different agendas. It's key to identify these decision makers and understand their perspective, their challenges and their goals.
Decision makers of different generations have differing attitudes and are using very different maps of the world. They may garner information from very different sources.
Understanding these differences enables you to tailor your messages and your media for maximum effect. Failure to invest sufficiently in persona development makes for weak messaging and risks the wrong choice of media.
The purpose of business strategy is to create a unique proposition for a specific type of customer. If you can't be unique, be as different as you can. Failure to differentiate makes marketing and sales inefficient and very expensive. In creating your customer proposition it is critical that you can look at your offering through the eyes of each of the personas you have created. Evaluate critically if you are offering enough value and how you communicate that value. Focus groups can be useful.
A trusted brand in any market is worth a lot of money.
Brands are created to communicate a promise to a specific audience. The style of communication we use has to be appropriate for that audience and the words, tone of voice and messages have to be used consistently across an increasingly wide variety of media.
Brand guidelines are created to help a team achieve consistent excellence in communication.
A business plan is like a slice of the strategy pie. It is about the goals that can be achieved within a specific period and it is about what resources we will employ - money, time and effort to achieve these goals.
If we plan the investment and forecast the return we expect, we'll know if we are off target and we'll be able to adapt and change course if necessary. Without a plan you are rudderless and drifting.
Marketing plans translate business plans into action.
Achieving specific business goals requires specific marketing campaigns. By breaking down marketing activity into campaigns and tactics businesses measure and manage return on marketing investment more easily and maintain focus at all times.
Each marketing activity should be focused on achieving a specific result. Digital marketing in particular lends itself to the measurement of key performance indicators (KPIs) that indicate whether or not a campaign is on track - enabling results to be optimised.
The opposite of a marketing plan is spontaneous, unbudgeted, random marketing activity without measurement.
In today's world it is highly unlikely that any business has all the skills it needs for its own marketing in house. This makes partner selection a critical part of the marketing journey. Outsourcing provides an opportunity to acquire a flexible skills base to supplement the in-house team.
An experienced partner should not be afraid to challenge your thinking and provide an alternative perspective. You hire experts for the value they can bring. Partners should be consulted at each stage of the marketing journey and included at the planning stage if you are to get best results.
Communicating with stakeholders such as the internal team, external partners, shareholders, suppliers and customers is vital to align every element of the organisation.
Where once brochures and slide decks were the norm, media such as videos (live or canned) and webinars are often deployed to help all parties to pull in the same direction. Regular content can be even be produced via a branded virtual business TV channel.
Increasingly employers are working on 'employer brands' (as they realise the power of promoting their values to their own teams) and engaging in activities which re-enforce their values inside and outside the organisation. Brands have to be magnetic to their employees as well as their customers if they are to attract and retain the talent they need to compete effectively.
Marketing plans require tool kits to execute. Tools may include traditional brochures, business cards and exhibition stands but increasingly the focus is on websites, blogs, landing page creation tools, videos, CRM systems, marketing automation systems, analytics and social media toolkits. The ideal is that as many of these systems as possible are integrated in order to provide an efficient marketing toolkit.
Failing to adopt new key technologies to their full potential could put your business at a serious competitive disadvantage.
Adopting new technology requires education if optimum results are to be achieved.
Marketing technology changes quickly and it would be very rare for a year to pass without some major new marketing innovation. An essential component in every marketing journey is a budget to attend shows, talks, exhibitions and technology training courses if your business is to stay competitive.
Depending on the lifecycle stage of your business and your ambition, you should be investing 5-10 per cent of turnover in marketing. Most of that spend should be invested in planned marketing campaigns but this must be balanced with the need to be able to understand what works and what doesn't. John Wanamaker is often quoted as saying, "Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don't know which half." In the age of digital marketing this is unacceptable.
Increasingly, marketing systems are cloud-based and rapidly deployed but poorly integrated - creating yet more silos of customer data and information. Gaps in systems are filled with error-prone spreadsheets and while data abounds, information is scarce. In order to get to an accurate ROI, investment needs to be focused on integrated marketing systems while ensuring that reporting needs are clearly defined well in advance.
Marketing plans should be created with ROI metrics built in. There are only three ways to increase sales:
If you can extend the lifetime and increase the value of a customer you can transform your business. What budgets did you allocate to marketing to your existing customers? What results did you expect? What did you achieve? For every pound you invested in marketing to existing customers, how much revenue did you generate?
How does this compare with new business acquisition costs? How many new customers did you recruit? What revenue did that yield? What did new business marketing cost and how does the cost of acquisition compare with the lifetime value of your customer?
Sustainable profits cannot be achieved without happy customers - they fuel growth. Unhappy customers will give you negative reviews, damaging your future prospects.
Customer lifetime value in marketing is a key metric. Surveys keep us informed about what our future looks like. Net Promoter Score (NPS) surveys give us a quick snapshot of how our customers are feeling and are quick to take.
Every contact with a customer can be an opportunity to take the temperature of the relationship. Do you have a structured feedback system in place?
Did your marketing journey go well? When it's time to revisit those original objectives, you may need the services of a third party.
All businesses have a tendency towards marketing myopia - looking at our own business from the inside out. Nobody can truly detach themselves and look at their own business from the outside in.
This is why a strategic review is best carried out with a trusted third party. You need an adviser who will challenge your thinking and assumptions; somebody who will ask you awkward questions and be brave enough to talk straight. Solicit the most brutal feedback possible to ensure you are ready to embark again on your next round of evolution.