Are your current marketing efforts generating sales today while promoting growth for the future? Is your marketing plan as effective and efficient as it can be? If so, consider us impressed. Marketing is tough, especially in today’s digital age. B2Bs in particular face a unique set of challenges in trying to reach, and ultimately convert, their target markets.
Every company and every marketing strategy is different, but there are important principles that every successful marketing campaign possesses. Here at Adventure Marketing Solutions, we refer to them as the 7 Fundamentals of Marketing Success. They are especially useful for B2Bs, who we have identified as a group that increases sales and experiences growth when applying the fundamentals to their marketing plans.
Our goal is to provide you with a foundation for success in future marketing efforts. By understanding and applying the 7 Fundamentals of Marketing Success, you can alleviate frustration and minimize failures. This is an overview of the entire strategy — a snapshot from 40,000 feet. We’ll dive into more of the specifics in in future posts and provide you with real examples and how-tos you can apply at your business.
So without further ado, here are the 7 Fundamentals of Marketing Success:
1. Identify the most Profitable Prospects
As a B2B, you probably sell to a wide range of clients. But chances are, you don’t have a large enough budget or enough manpower to successfully target and market to all of your different segments. Not many companies do. You need to be smart about who you target and the way in which you spend your money and resources. The key is to target only your best, most profitable segments.
You can’t be everything to everyone, so don’t try. Strive to be really great for a small segment of the market, and make sure it’s the right segment that will have the biggest ROI. Then, move on to your second, third and fourth best segments as time and resources allow. How do you identify your best segments? We call it the IDeal™ Customer Discovery Process, which examines four Key Performance Indicators: Volume, Frequency, Recency and Profitability.
Take a look at your sales history from the last five years, and weigh and score each customer against each other based on the IDeal™ KPIs. You are looking to determine the customers that have the greatest lifetime value.
After analyzing your customers comes the tricky part of the process, which is placing customers into groups. Look for common attributes of each group, such as industry category. Then, take the top 20% and look for trends. This is called developing profiles. Your goal is to decide which group is your IDeal™ Customer. Don’t forget to speak with your sales team about the data. They can help identify any anomalies or skewed numbers.
2. Identify the most Efficient Marketing Channels
Now that you’ve identified your most profitable prospects, you can begin identifying which marketing channels will have the highest ROI. Before the emergence of digital marketing, selecting effective channels wasn’t too difficult. For the purposes of many B2Bs, as long as you were good at leveraging direct mail, brochures, phone calls and one-to-one sales, you were set. But now, there are hundreds of channels creating an abundance of clutter that is difficult to cut through. So how do you even begin to narrow it down?
Start by getting into the heads of your IDeal™ Customers, specifically the decision makers. Map out their “buyer’s journey,” which is their typical purchase decision process. Usually, the steps are Awareness, Consideration, Comparison, Intent and Decision.
Next, look for opportunities along the path where you can easily reach them and influence their decisions. Ask yourself, where will they go to get information about the product we sell? It could be through a trade association, trade publication, tradeshow or maybe just the internet. If the majority of your target market is using the internet to become Aware, Consider and Compare, your marketing needs to be focused on the internet.
Just remember, you can’t afford to be everything to everybody, and you also can’t afford to be everywhere. Maximum impact is achieved by focusing your time, energy and budget on specific points along the buyer’s journey. Don’t worry about reaching prospects on every step. Just hit them on the two or three steps where you will be able to make the greatest influence on them.
3. Stand Out from the Competition
We hate to break it to you, but there’s a good chance that your competitors will be present on the same channels as you. But you probably expected that, right? If you are going to win the battle for the most profitable prospects, your brand needs to be stronger than theirs. To stand out from the competition, do a competitive analysis — actually compare yourself to the competition. The three key areas to analyze are Brand, Value Propositions and Unique Selling Propositions (USPs).
- Brand – What does your company stand for, or what is it known for? Maybe you’re the high price, high quality option. Or maybe you pride yourself on being affordable to all customers. Whatever it is, it needs to be clearly defined so there’s no confusion among potential customers. Secondly, find out what customers think about you and what experience they have with the brand. After reviewing yourself and your biggest competitors, ensure that your marketing strategies help your brand display Credibility, Differentiating Values, Value Relevance, Trustworthiness, Emotional Connectivity and Positivity. Your public perception needs to be better than your competitors if you want to prevail.
- Value Propositions – Why are customers seeking out the product, and what value does it bring to them? If they are going to give up their money, they are placing value on a product or service. When you understand the value propositions, you can more efficiently speak to potential customers on your marketing channels.
- Unique Selling Propositions (USPs) – Value propositions don’t change based on who the customer is buying from, but the USPs do. Your USPs need to clearly state why they should buy from you instead of the competition. As you discover areas in which you are better than your competitors, document them and use them in your strategy.
Next, develop a strategy using what you learned during your Brand, Value Propositions & USPs analysis. This strategy will help you ensure that your marketing materials get the message across that your business is the best option. This strategy should be documented so that it can be shared with your key partners, who may include: media, printers, copywriters and designers. Consistency is key!
4. Attract & Convert “Ready-to-Buy” Prospects
Of all the steps, this is by far the toughest. Attracting and converting prospects is difficult on its own, and it gets even more challenging when you need to do the balancing act between maintaining awareness to the entire market segment while at the same time getting really close to clients when they are ready to buy.
How do you stay engaged with prospects without having a massive sales force? It would be easy if you had a salesperson for every dozen prospects or so. But the reality is that not many companies have that kind of manpower.
So what is the answer?
Your best bet is to embrace technology so that you can stay engaged without leaning entirely on your sales staff. One of the hot trends is marketing automation, a system of “set it and forget it.” Marketing automation is used to attract new customers, communicate with interested prospects, qualify leads, feed them to the sales team and maintain communication to build loyalty.
Even if you don’t get a marketing automation system put in place, you need to always keep some kind of feedback loop available to stay engaged with prospects. Create an engagement calendar to make an appointment with your audience. When they are ready to buy, you need to be available and ready to help them complete the transaction.
5. Accelerate the Sales Cycle
The quicker you can get prospects to commit to making a purchase, the more sales you’ll be able to make. This process can naturally be assisted by the just-mentioned marketing automation. When engagement material is constantly pushed out to potential clients, the sales team will be able to spend less time nurturing and engaging prospects and more time speaking to them and closing deals when they’re ready to buy.
Look at it this way, marketing should be doing more of the presale work. If your marketing can handle the Awareness, Consideration and Comparison portions of the buyer’s journey, then the salespeople can concentrate on Intent and Decision.
Another way to accelerate the sales cycle is to add urgency to your messaging. Give your prospects a good reason to contact you. They’re called “call to actions” and they should be present throughout your marketing. Make it easy for customers to do business with you. You need to make sure they can easily understand what the next step is after seeing your marketing materials. Is your call to action clear? Will they know to call now, click a link or submit an inquiry? Think about some offers and incentives you can provide. Give them a reason to respond today.
6. Increase Sales
Wait, why is there a step about sales in a marketing process? Aren’t sales and marketing in two different camps? This is a misconception that may explain some companies’ struggles. Communication and collaboration between marketing and sales is key because they really are working toward the same goal, which is increasing sales. Marketing generates the leads, and sales closes the deals.
For this process, when we say increase sales we really are referring to an increase in conversions. This step is much like the previous step in that success depends on marketing doing more of the presales work.
With any marketing plan, you should start with the end in mind. How are your prospects going to convert? Is it as simple as getting them to go online, or does it require you to go out and do an analysis or have a salesperson pick up the phone and sell? When you understand how clients convert and the best way for them to convert, you will be better equipped to design a marketing process that will turn them from prospects into buyers.
If you can construct a system where marketing is attracting and engaging prospects and salespeople begin nurturing them further along in the journey and getting them to commit, you will see an increase in sales.
7. Increase Sales & Marketing ROI
You can’t manage it if you don’t measure it. This should be your motto for every marketing project. How do you measure the successfulness of your marketing? By putting mechanisms in place to record KPIs throughout the process. Every B2B is different and every campaign is different based on the tactics employed, so the mechanisms will vary.
The thing to keep in mind is that you must be specific. Simply labeling an effort as good or bad isn’t enough. It’s critical to identify both the strengths and the weaknesses in your marketing plan so that you can adapt and improve moving forward. Following Steps 1-6 and gaining a complete understanding of your marketing metrics will allow you to improve your ROI in the future.
To more easily identify strengths and weaknesses, it’s critical that you test your efforts. Through a process called A-B testing, you will find out exactly what does and does not work. If you’re not familiar with A-B testing, it’s simply deploying a variation of a marketing item (B) and measuring to see if the results it produces are better or worse than the original marketing item (A).
Keep in mind that this form of testing is a comparison between just two items. So, only one aspect should be altered at a time. If the B test includes multiple variations from the A test, how will you know which variation produced the better or worse results? With A-B testing, you will be able to fine-tune your marketing efforts to produce maximum ROI.
Great marketing is complex. There are several interconnected, moving parts that work together to produce results. Hopefully, you now have a better understanding of what makes up a successful marketing plan and picked up some relevant tips and tricks.
Don’t worry if there are some things that are still unclear. Remember, you are just getting a glimpse from 40,000 feet. If you continue to read our articles, you’ll eventually get a closer look to where the rubber meets the road. Information will get more granular and specific, and you’ll be able to put the wheels in motion to incorporate a stronger marketing effort at your company!