When we talk about B2B marketing, we talk about B2B marketing goals: what can you get out of this post, that website, a free-to-download PDF? We do this because marketing is, first and foremost, about telling the story of your brand to the people around you in the hopes that they’ll be interested enough to hear more of that story.
But to tell a story effectively, you need structure.
And to run a proper B2B marketing campaign, you need to have a strategy in place that can guide you.
Do I really need a B2B Marketing Strategy?
The short answer: yes.
The long answer: yes, because without a marketing strategy you’re throwing darts in the dark in a crowded bar. You’ll hit something, but probably not what you were aiming for.
Brands without strategy struggle. What is easy to forget about the way we market today is how different it is to the marketing before, where the only competitor that we had to contend with was the one vying for the same billboard space, the same spot in the newspaper. Audiences today are global; competition comes from all over; your work is going to get lost if you don’t make the effort to immortalise it.
Business is personal. People want to work with the brands that have the same values and way of thinking that they do.
A strategy makes sure that your audience knows you two will work well together, and sends that message far and wide.
But before you can start with strategy, you need to know your brand.
Brand and B2B Marketing
Why does your business exist?
(‘To make money’ is not the right answer here; it’s definitely an answer, but it shouldn’t be the first thing that comes to mind).
Your business has a reason for being here. That reason is your brand. Your brand is built on you: your personality, what you like, what kind of people you get along with, what sort of brands you think are admirable.
Before you can start with strategy – before you can start with any external business – you need to go internal, and you need to know what your brand is. You need to know what your business stands for.
Every business stands for something. And every business has a client that they would like to work with. Identifying those two things first puts you on a path to building your strategy.
They are a business, so their aim is always going to be to make money. But what else? Why did they partner with IBM when their Windows services were already making a substantial amount of revenue? Why offer it as a service at all?
Why put out so many reports? Why share their knowledge freely instead of paywalling it? Why put so much effort into free content?
Once you have the ‘why’ for your brand, you have the first method for your strategy.
Identify your audience
You’ve found out why your brand exists.
Who does it exist for?
Your audience is going to be who you talk to the most; who you’d like to talk to more. Your audience is what keeps you in business and on social media and keeps you innovating.
No audience is the same as any other audience, but they overlap within industries, so you need to have a good idea of who your audience is, and what they value.
Remember, your brand isn’t there to make value for no-one. Your brand has an audience it wants to talk to, a value it can offer them, and a relationship to build.
Figure out where your audience is. Figure out what they like. See where they stay: online or offline? Social media or niche hobby forums? Do they want budget prices, or are they looking to spend money?
Your audience is your biggest asset. Learn everything you can about them.
Understand your position in the market
We’ve all heard of keeping your enemy close.
This is kind of the same thing.
The beautiful, tech-driven, nowhere-is-too-far world we live in has no limits, which is an unmitigatedly amazing thing.
However, it means that your competitors just got a lot more global and there will be at least one company who will offer the same thing you offer, slightly better, and with a greater range of options.
You need to know who those people are. You need to know who their audience is: if there’s overlap with yours, if you’re both trying to attract the same consumer.
Understanding where you stand in the global marketplace is critical if you want to move up from where you are. Not only will you see which of your competitors have superseded you, you can study what keeps people coming back to your product and to your brand.
Goals, Goals, Goals
You have the why. You have the who. You have the where.
Now you need to know what you want to get out of communicating with your audience.
Do you want to grow your business? Do you want to generate leads? Do you want to build demand for your products? Are you launching something new? How are you going to get people interested in you?
All businesses must grow. Businesses that don’t adapt and move forward stagnate, and businesses that stagnate lose market-share and then collapse. It doesn’t happen overnight, but the nature of what makes it easy to communicate with your audience also makes it easy for your brand to collapse if you stop moving onwards and upwards.
Look at how your product is doing on the market. Run surveys and tests; collect information. See where the world is heading, and see what you can add to it.
Talk to your sales team. Talk to your marketing team. Have them work together on this because the two parts of your product need to know what’s happening before it happens, and once you start communicating about your business, you need to have a reason why.
In the end, it’ll all boil down to resources: what can you afford to do, what fits your budget in the now, how can you make the most impact with what you have?
Understanding where you’re going and how to get there is one part of the equation only.
Actually managing it is a completely different thing.
Your marketing efforts won’t be wasted, even if all you’ve done so far is figure out you need more resources. Put what you have into the things that will create the most impact – the ones that will go straight for the heart.
Select your marketing tactics and execute
We’ll be honest: you’re going to end up with a lot of data after this. The steps before this one can help narrow down that data – and the marketing channels you can use.
As we’ve said before, doing all this work and not following up on it with activity isn’t useful for you or for your brand. By knowing what marketing channels you can leverage, it’ll help you figure out not just where your message should go, but how you can put enough effort behind it to really make the most of your message.
Set concrete goals. Create a reporting structure – you’ll need this to see if your tactics are working.
Target your audience based on what you’ve researched. Fill your channel with everything you discovered, everything you worked on, everything you have proof for.
Test it out.
Measure and report
Testing it out is key.
Maybe your metrics are a little off. Maybe you missed out on something in the research phase. Maybe your channel isn’t doing as well as you hoped, and you have ideas on how to fix it.
This is where the report comes in handy.
Putting down in concrete words what you’re doing and how it’s impacting your channel is key to understanding what will perform best on your marketing channel. It’s not going to be the same as an eCommerce store, where optimising your communication will be a little bit easier, but you’ll get an idea of what your audience wants.
And once you know what your audience wants, you can shift your communication to match.
This is a lot of work. Is it worth it?
We think it is.
More than worth it, we think it’s becoming the only way you can communicate.
The internet keeps growing bigger. Your hold on the audience that you want to attract is growing smaller, and in competition with other brands. Testing out your communication and adjusting it as you go is only a little more effort than what you’re expending now, and with a greater payoff.
And if you need some help understanding why, we’re happy to help.