Evaluating Your B2B Marketing Plan: 5 Areas of Focus for 2018

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With the year almost over, this is a great time to take a hard look at your B2B marketing plan, and how it can drive new business for the coming year.

You won’t be the only company doing so: according to a survey my firm recently conducted, business development is a top priority for more than 70% of firms. As you review your plan, be on the lookout for these five common — and avoidable — mistakes.

1. Too Many Cooks in the Strategy Kitchen

Ironically, one of the most fundamental mistakes firms make when developing their B2B marketing plan is to be too inclusive.

All too often, firms approach the task of brainstorming ideas for next year’s marketing plan by assembling their partners and other firm leaders. This sounds reasonable — but it actually presents two problems. First, such large groups tend to have difficulty reaching consensus, because there are simply too many opinions. Second, and more importantly, such groups generally have a natural resistance to change. Not surprisingly, the plan they arrive at for the coming year usually looks very similar to this year’s.

Our research points to a better way. The fastest-growing firms tend to delegate the development of marketing plans to a small team that has been authorized to make decisions.

2. The Wrong Skill Set

One unfortunate reality we time and again is that firms choose the wrong people to head up their marketing planning.

How does this happen? Quite simply, firms are often unclear about their overall plan of attack in the first place, and therefore uncertain about which specific marketing skill sets they need for a successful team. To succeed, your marketing team needs a broad set of skills, ranging from writing content optimized for search engines to using social media and analytics. Unfortunately, many firms focus more on minimizing marketing expenses, and less on maximizing impact.

3. Giving Up Early

It’s one thing to create a good B2B marketing plan, but often it’s quite another to implement it. The reasons for this disconnect can vary. For starters, initial enthusiasm about a plan can quickly fade as it goes into effect. A firm might launch a monthly webinar series or blogging campaign, only to find that interest dries up after a couple of attempts, which is especially understandable when there is paying client work.

Another frequent scenario occurs when a new approach isn’t producing expected results, tempting the marketing team to fall back on “tried and true” tactics. Unfortunately, firms often pull the plug on the new approach just as it’s beginning to deliver.

4. A Malfunctioning Sales Funnel

In theory, the sales process attracts prospects, nurtures them, and then converts them into paying clients.

Some firms, however, don’t connect the three key parts of the process, or omit key elements. As a result, prospects don’t move through the sales funnel to the point of conversion.

A firm may do well at attracting new prospects, for example, but fail to take the relationship further by offering ways for prospects to obtain additional content.

5. Not Learning from the Market

Many firms place too little focus on tracking the results of their marketing plan.

In fact, through our research, we’ve found that the highest-growing firms tend to monitor significantly more metrics regarding their marketing efforts than low-growth competitors. Higher-growing firms use this data to know when and how to adjust their campaigns. To gain even deeper insights into one’s target audiences, using an impartial third party to interview clients and prospects is often the fastest and most efficient approach.

Low-growth firms, in contrast, are more likely to use anecdotal evidence, or simply rely on “instinct.” Such approaches mean a firm will be more likely to invest in unproductive tactics — or communicate the wrong messages to the wrong prospects.

Until recently, it has been difficult to accurately measure marketing impact. Fortunately, digital marketing makes it much easier to do so. To help firms take advantage of this opportunity, we have created a new, unique web-based resource. Using data from our annual High Growth Study, this resource allows firms to reorient and strengthen their marketing approach.

Get Started Now for a More Prosperous New Year

The end of the year presents a timely opportunity to take lessons from what the fastest-growing firms are doing. Armed with an effective strategy for understanding clients and prioritizing your marketing spend, you will be able to better identify the business needs of your prospects — and nurture those prospects into loyal clients.

 

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Elizabeth Harr

Partner at Hinge Marketing
Elizabeth Harr is an accomplished entrepreneur and experienced executive who heads the technology team at Hinge. Elizabeth brings over a decade’s experience in strategic planning, brand management and communications to her role as Partner.