Archives for posts with tag: Strategy

A well organised, well prepared team will always beat a disorganised, unprepared team with a few stellar players. We’ve all seen it, from amateur teams all the way through to the elite professional levels. The world-beating teams are there because of their painstaking approach to preparation, strategy and execution, and having stellar players doesn’t hurt.

I was recently watching the BBC annual sports love-in called Sports Personality of the Year. It’s not really about personality as such, although you do get the odd winner with personality, like cyclist Bradley Wiggins a few years ago. Last year’s winner was tennis player Andy Murray, who freely admits he’s a touch short-changed on the charisma front and who gets tagged a lot with the d-words: dogged, dour, determined.

Except that Andy Murray beat out the other 11 finalists – who were all world champions and world number ones – to take the crown.  Andy is at the time of writing world number 2 but won no grand slams or the end of year bash last year. He won it principally because Great Britain won the Davis Cup for the first time in about a thousand years. As a side note, thank goodness it’s a Britain thing, because England would be in the bottom tier if the 3 nations competed separately.

The Great Britain team also won the team award as well.

A good team trumps good individuals. It’s the same in business, and especially in sales and marketing. All the more reason for us to stay focused on preparation, strategy and execution.

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If you’re a regular recent reader of this blog, you’ll know that I’ve concluded a series of posts on what I term the 15 steps of B2B marketing, a process that can be applied to pretty much any project, plan or period.

Having built up the 15 steps, I now want to break them up a little.

You may feel that your company, project or plan does not warrant such an exhaustive list of steps. You may also feel that it’s possible to get pretty immediate feedback on your tests and that you might even be able to get stuff out there sooner and iterate your offering while you’re already in the market. A sort of ready-fire-aim approach, if you like.

Indeed, lately, many marketers are starting to borrow from software development and start-up methodologies and talk about ‘agile marketing’, or ‘lean marketing’. Taking a lean approach is a bit like taking a slice of your marketing plan and seeing what it tastes like for customers. This early feedback arms you to improve the next few slices in a series of small improvements, rather than one big cascading marketing push at the end of what might be some untested assumptions and homework.

Lean marketing is not a fad, it’s more a response to the reality that the mechanism of the web makes it much easier for you to very quickly get a steer on whether what you’re doing resonates with those whom you want to relieve of some money. For more on this read here.

In our penultimate B2B marketing step, we iterated our plan as we went, testing the results and tweaking our approach accordingly. And so we come to the final B2B marketing step in any marketing project or plan, the fifteenth step in what I call the 15-step B2B marketing process.

This step will come as no surprise to those who follow this blog and remember the series on stages in the buying process or selling process.

Yes, the fifteenth stage in the B2B marketing process is to ‘rinse and repeat’. The fifteenth step is the first step. It’s back to the beginning, following the tried and trusted best practices that led to the successes of the previous plan or business period.

You have fresh battles to wage, new opportunities to milk, new challenges to address. They’ll all benefit from the same methodical approach I’ve outlined.

I hope you’ve enjoyed the fifteen steps, climbing to the peak that was the eighth stage of crafting strategy and getting down the other side to your destination and your objectives. Feel free to share the 15 steps with others, or with anyone who would benefit from them.

OK, you’ve completed all but 2 of your 15 B2B marketing steps to success. You’ve started executing your B2B marketing project or plan, so you’re pretty much there, right?

Wrong!

You need to test early and test often. Review the activities as you execute them and where possible measure as soon as you can. When a reasonable time has elapsed for each activity to flow through your business, measure the return on the activity and enter the actual results in the last few columns of your activity plan, so that you can see how you stack up against your target results. Then, over time, you can fine-tune your future targets with the benefit of hindsight and increasing experience.

Beware – not many companies close the loop. They do a plan for a project or period, execute, maybe measure the results, but they don’t then learn from the misses and incorporate the learnings into the next plan. Make sure you’re not one of the companies that misses, repeatedly.

Review, measure, learn, adjust and execute again. Until you’re done executing.

The number thirteen. Unlucky for some. But not for you. You’ve done the hard work on your B2B marketing, crafting your strategy, developing a plan for making it happen, working the detail, and getting it approved by your team mates and the powers that be.

Thirteen is a good thing for you.

The thirteenth B2B Marketing Step is execute, executing on your plan for your project or quarter or year. Go do that thing, make it happen! Turn your plan into reality and get it done.

In our previous B2B marketing step, we costed out all of our activities to make sure that each activity and the sum of the activities give us a reasonable targeted return on our investment towards achieving our goals. Our plan is ready to go now, or is it?

Not quite. Now we have to socialise the plan among our colleagues, partners and superiors, get feedback, adjust the plan where necessary and get approval to proceed. This is our twelfth B2B marketing step.

Any draft plan will benefit from different view points. Specific subject matter experts and the people we report to can be a valuable sounding board for the plan and help give it more direction and shape.

Make sure you build in time for these iterations before you start to execute the plan. Sometimes the review and approval process can be quick and painless, but it’s usually more drawn out, since you’re eating into the time of other people whose priorities might be different to yours, even if they’re aligned in overall business terms.

Be prepared to make concessions and adjustments to your plan. It’s inevitable; you won’t get it right first time. Be sure to pick your battles and let go what’s less important, while being ready to defend what is important with evidence and numbers.

Once your plan is approved for execution, you’re good to go.

In the tenth B2B marketing step we mapped out the specific activities underpinning our marketing strategy to hit our goals. We now have a list of specific measurable things we’re going to do.

We now need to cost them and budget for them. This is the eleventh step.

Many of our activities will have sunk or fixed costs against them. For example, sending an email marketing campaign is a function of the time of the salaried marketing staff to set up, test and send the email, and the cost of the email marketing software, both of which we have already committed to. Each of these costs can be counted as one amount that can be spread over a bunch of activities.

Then there are activities where we need to spend money, such as advertising, events, buying data and the like.

You need to estimate as accurately as you can – without it taking too long and becoming self-defeating – the cost of each activity. Then you can balance it against the return you’re targeting. This will help you see which activities you can’t afford or won’t do because you don’t see the return, and those that look better value than others. A balance of activities will help you spread your risk. Some will crash and burn, some will do OK, and the odd one might go gangbusters.

Totalling up all costs and estimated returns will give you a feel for what kind of return you anticipate from either your project or your marketing team as a whole, including any third parties whom you’re paying for their specialist expertise.

All of this helps you fine-tune your activity list – or seek extra funds – to the point where you’re happy to submit your plan for review.

 

In our ninth B2B marketing step we decided the marketing mix elements to execute our strategy and achieve our objectives. We have some momentum now. We know what we’re going to do, we have to get into the specific, measurable detail.

In the tenth B2B marketing step, then, you need to map out the specific marketing activities you will undertake for your specific project. If this is an ongoing marketing strategy, then I recommend you do it on a quarterly basis, as a quarter is a reasonable B2B timeframe for your efforts to bear fruit, and it’s the fruit you’re measuring. All of your specific activities should have measurable targets against them, which, when added up, get you to your overall target for the project or period.

I suggest you put together a table with each numbered activities listed down the left side, and the following 12 headings across the top. You then need to populate your table:

  • Campaign – that the activity relates to
  • Audience – the segment or sub-segment you’re targeting
  • Launch date – so you can work backwards and figure out when you need to start it
  • Call to action – the thing you want them to do
  • What – what are they getting for completing the action (eg registering for an event)
  • Medium – what do you need to build to allow them to complete the action, eg email, web site landing page and piece of content
  • Who – who in your organisation and /or partner ecosystem is on the hook for delivering this work
  • Target Leads – target number of marketing qualified leads for the activity (eg webinar registrations which marketing then qualify)
  • Target opportunities – of the target leads, the amount of sales qualified opportunities that you plan to generate
  • Target pipeline – the total pipeline this activity will generate
  • Total deals – the total deals or that should result from the activity
  • Total business – the total deal amount that should result from the activity

Leave extra columns for the actual leads, opportunities etc that result from these activities once the project or period is over, but that’s a topic for another post.

Make sure you build in buffer, so that you plan to exceed your target with the sum of your activities, even though you’re only promising or are being held to the target itself. Over time, and with successive efforts, you should get better at forecasting the results of your activities.

Notice too that these are all demand generation activities. You will do other activities that may not generate specific demand, like brand awareness initiatives, but you should still attempt to survey and / or measure the results. If a demand generation activity does not generate one SQO with a value that covers your activity investment by a multiple that you feel is appropriate, don’t do the activity.

Once you have an activity plan that looks reasonable, you need to cost the plan, which comes up next :-).

The eighth B2B marketing step is the middle step of what I see as a 15-step process. You should view it as the summit of a mountain. You’ve done the hard work, climbing up the previous 7 steps, doing your research and closing by positioning your company, products or services to your chosen segment. After the eighth step you’ve got the last 7 steps down the hill, with the end in sight.

The eighth step is where you craft your strategy. At this point it’s worth revisiting step 1 of the process and confirming that you’re still trying to do what you originally set out to do, that there’s been no change. It’s by no means unusual for scope or goals to change mid-process, and it’s a good time to sense-check and adjust course if necessary.

Secondly, it’s time to set some targets for the strategy. What kind of sales over the coming reporting periods – typically the rest of the financial year, and the next financial year, split into quarters – are you looking to achieve? What is realistic and achievable? What will be deemed successful? What will be worth the investment?

Then you need to work back and establish what kind of marketing numbers do you need to hit your sales target. How many sales-qualified opportunities, how much pipeline – which I would define as the total of your qualified opportunities as anything less developed shouldn’t really be clogging up the pipe – how many leads, how much traffic, clicks and leads do you need?

Finally, what specific behaviours or tasks do you need to do by when to generate these marketing numbers? Examples might be to finish the research by a certain date, get the plan signed off by a certain date, start executing the plan by a certain date. If you don’t get these leading indicators done in time, you’ll not hit the lagging indicators, the all-important numbers.

Armed with your targets, you can now craft a high level strategy for how you will accomplish the goals or targets of the project. Strategy is all about the how; how you’re going to get there. The what – the activities that make up your strategy – come later. There are a number of buckets you need to cover.

Brand and brand awareness – how will you raise and maintain your profile as leaders in your chosen category? What public relations will you do? What analyst relations will you develop? Which other influencers in the space do you need to be known to?

Business development – how will you promote and generate demand for your product or service? What content will you create, curate and disseminate? How will you disseminate it? How will you attract people to engage in dialogue with you, in person or digitally?

Route to market – how will you go to market? Will you use mail, email, or call centres? Will you have field sales people? Will you sell direct or will you sell through partners? If you’re selling through partners, what types of partners will you use and how will those commercial relationships work?

Product – what components will be in your product or service? Will it be a solution, combining technology or engineering and professional services? How will you package the product or service?

Pricing – what will be your pricing model? What discounts or incentives will you offer? What commercial – and legal – terms and conditions will you wrap around your offering?

Customers – how will you retain your existing customers? How will you upsell your new offering to existing customers? What’s your customer advocacy strategy, ie how will you use your customers to inform your product and service development and endorse your offering to new prospects?

Competitive – how will your end-to-end offering – your marketing, product or service, delivery and after-sale services – be different from and better than the competitors? How will you protect your advantage in this area?

Bit of a long post this one, because it’s a pivotal step. When it comes to crafting strategy, there are a lot of pillars to get right so that they support the building as well as possible.