Many companies operate with a fly-by-night marketing plan that’s cobbled together with last-minute opportunities and best-guess decision-making. This is not only counter-productive and unnecessarily wasteful, it’s downright dangerous.
Marketing plans done right help organizations identify key objectives and opportunities, minimize risk, and leverage core competencies. They provide a basis for establishing tasks and organizing work efforts towards the strategies that will have the greatest impact on the business. And, they are particularly useful in aligning the vision with the brand and ensuring that what is communicated to potential customers is accurate and meaningful to them as the core target market.
Of course, a major reason many firms don’t have a solid marketing plan is because they have no real process for generating one. So what does effective B2B marketing planning involve? It starts with a systematic approach for developing marketing goals, strategy, and implementation tactics – in the form of research. This type of research takes a little work, and is often at the heart of why firms never move forward with building a true marketing plan. The best crafted marketing plans are grounded in a thorough understanding of your audiences’ key characteristics, their learning, buying, and decision making behaviors, the challenges that keep them up at night and their rendition – not yours – of how exactly the problem is defined.
If you’re willing to put in the time and effort to craft a solid B2B marketing plan, the pay-off can be enormous. Let’s take a look at what you might expect to reap as rewards for all your hard work:
Effective planning yields more effective and cost-efficient techniques
Comprehensive B2B marketing planning encourages you to take a cold, hard look at how you’ve been doing things, right or wrong. Just because you’ve “always done something that way” doesn’t mean it’s effective or even a good idea. Proactive, thoughtful planning should take you outside your comfort zone to look at your marketing approach in a new light. Specifically, your new plan should address the different stages of the client journey. When your marketing is tied to the client journey, a single technique you used to employ on it’s own, say a blog, will become infinitely more effective when that blog leads your audience to middle of the funnel content. A marketing plan should in effect reflect a marketing system, with components that attract prospects, engage them, and turn them into clients.
Systematic planning reduces risk
I made mention earlier about the importance of taking a systematic approach to planning, beginning with research. Most executives will claim they already know their audience and opt to skip this step. Sadly, they are almost always wrong about some key element of their clients’ thinking and decision-making. They misjudge the clients’ real priorities, and they rarely understand how clients choose new providers. Guessing on how to market to your audience is a risky endeavor and can waste precious human and capital resources. Research takes the guesswork out of what techniques, channels, and tools your marketing plan should adopt.
A good marketing plan provides accountability
When you employ a step-by-step planning process, you encourage sales and marketing teams to set goals, determine metrics, and create a way to measure success. The byproduct of that process is accountability: “We said that this would be the result of that activity. Did we accomplish that? If not, why not – what caused the plan to not meet the goals?”
Proper planning is proactive
It stands to reason that if you’re planning, you’re actively engaged in a process. It is, by nature, proactive, putting you in control of your marketing so you can maximize its impact.
Planning provides a competitive advantage
Once again, all that research pays off. If done right, it produces a treasure trove of competitive information. You have a good idea of what your competitors are doing and why. Even better, that research will help you uncover key differentiators that set your firm apart from your competitors and create more value for your business in the minds of your prospects. That kind of differentiation is what high-growth firms use to capture more market share and fuel growth and profitability.
Effective B2B marketing planning is your secret weapon for success. While your competitors may fall back on what’s always worked for them, with some spur-of-the-moment marketing activities thrown in as the result of poor planning or sheer desperation, you are, as the old saying goes, “planning your work and working your plan.” Careful marketing research, planning, and implementation is the key to long-term business success and growth.
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