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From the Trenches

Jumpstart Your 2014 B2B Marketing Plan with 5 Critical Questions

Mike Sweeney | October 17, 2013
Automobile jumper cables

I love strategic planning. That might make me one of the crazy ones, but when done with the right people, strategic planning can be revealing, inspiring, and dare I say it – fun.

In most companies, however, it’s not done often enough, thoroughly enough, or with enough focus on particular issues or decisions. In those cases, the process will fall flat, people will stop trusting the process, and the outcomes will be difficult to measure.

We’re in the midst of different types of strategic marketing planning – both formal and informal – for some of our clients and for Right Source Marketing. While there are literally hundreds of questions that get asked and answered during strategic planning, here are five critical ones that every B2B organization should be addressing.

Do you know who your best clients are?

Quick: name your biggest client. (I bet the answer came in less than three seconds.) Now name your most profitable client. (Maybe that one took you five seconds.) Last, name your best client. (Tick tock. Tick tock … still waiting.)

The typical B2B company assumes its best clients are either its biggest or most profitable clients, and that is a flawed assumption. Others focus on the profile of the client – industry, revenue, number of employees, etc. – which is also flawed, if considered alone.

Consider the “softer” elements of the relationship. Does the client respect and value the work? Is the client work interesting, and does it lend itself to employee training? Does the client have a well-defined decision-making structure, so that you’re not dealing with corporate drama? Does the client provide constructive feedback?

The list of criteria related to mindset and relationship should be at least as long as the numbers-oriented criteria. And if it turns out that your best clients are also the biggest and most profitable ones, pat yourself on the back. That’s a rare occurrence.

Once you know who your best clients are, you can begin to map out ways to find more of them.

What are you doing to keep your clients?

Many of the clients I work with are focused almost exclusively on lead generation, or ultimately, client acquisition. After all, if marketing isn’t driving new leads and clients, why make the investment?

Here’s an idea: invest some of those marketing dollars into retaining your current clients. Why? If I have to explain this one, then perhaps you need to go back and take some business school refresher classes.

Gartner Group says that even a one percent increase in client retention rate could result in an eight percent increase in profits. Bain & Company says that increasing client retention rates by five percent increases profits by 25 to 95 percent.

I’ve seen many a marketing plan that does not address client retention. In particular, most startups I work with are exclusively concerned with customer acquisition. Smash and grab, right?

Not if you want a real business, and real customers. Sure, focus on the smash and grab, but focus more on the keep.

Do you have a comprehensive content marketing strategy and plan?

If you haven’t figured it out yet, content marketing plays a role in every facet of marketing. Effective content marketing requires a strategy.

The 2014 B2B Content Marketing Benchmarks, Budgets and Trends report shows us that strategy is the key to effectiveness. Eighty-four percent of marketers who say they are ineffective at content marketing say they have no documented strategy. B2B marketers who have a documented content strategy are far more likely to consider themselves effective (66 percent vs. 11 percent).

Content marketing is not a marketing tactic but a marketing approach.

Content strategy planning wheel

You can start your content marketing plan here: 12 Questions That Should Guide Your Content Marketing Plan and 5 Tips for Building a Content Marketing Budget. Before you do, though, answer the remaining two questions.

Do you know which marketing noise to block out and which noise to pay attention to?

Pinterest. Instagram. Tumblr. Vine. Snapchat.

Noise. Noise. Noise. Noise. And…Noise.

Believe it or not, these properties may not benefit your business. But Sweeney, that’s impossible. Just last week, my cousin Willie put up some Vine videos, and within three hours we had 367 views. People are clearly interested!

Are your clients interested? Prospective clients?

I hate to pick on social media properties, but they are the most obvious examples of noise as it relates to marketing planning. Bottom line: for B2B, LinkedIn definitely matters. After that, question everything and make educated decisions based on your audience. Ignore the noise.

Listen closely, though, and you may hear some noise that changes your business, or at a minimum, your marketing. For instance, your organic search data is about to be decimated, but that doesn’t mean you should run – this is noise you should be listening to, because it impacts what is likely one of your strongest sources of traffic, and your ability to measure that traffic.

Do you know what you want to measure and how you’re going to measure it?

What matters? Traffic? Time on site? Shares? Leads? Lead quality?

Find out – ask the person who controls the purse strings what will be important to measure. He or she might be a CMO, COO, CFO, CEO, or simply the owner of your business. Regardless of who you’re dealing with, this is an important step in the marketing planning process.

That’s the hard part. Next, you have to figure out how you’re going to track those metrics. You may need the basics (Google Analytics), or you may need something a bit more advanced (a marketing automation platform), but identifying and then measuring what matters is critical.

Thankfully, you still have time to organize your 2014 marketing plan. Answering these five questions should spawn dozens of other questions. Just make sure that you’re not asking your strategic planning team to answer so many questions that you end up heavy on information and light on decisions.

Need help creating your 2014 marketing plan? Do these five questions leave you scratching your head? Right Source can help – get in touch.

Related Resources

About Mike Sweeney:

As Right Source’s co-founder and CEO, Mike Sweeney creates, plans, and implements our vision, mission, culture, and strategic direction as well as serving as an advisor to our clients. Mike received a bachelor’s degree in business administration with a major in marketing from the University of Notre Dame and has more than 20 years of experience in B2B marketing strategy, including digital, content, and marketing technology. You can find Mike on LinkedIn.