13 Jan

The ONE thing to do when you write a marketing plan

There is no question that marketing planning has become a lot harder over the years.

For one, digital media, including social have added a whole new layer of complexity but many business now also work in more diverse markets. Physical distance is no longer the constraint it was (or was perceived to be). Local operations are now national, and national brands think and operate internationally.

Making choices

The hardest part of business and marketing strategy has always been choosing what NOT to do (as Micheal E Porter famously stated), and that’s even more critical now. It’s not made easier by the fact that from the outside, it’s hard to see the effort required in a lot of the work marketers do. Why don’t we do this and that, AND that? It can’t be that hard, after all.

The hard conversation

The best marketing plans start with a hard conversation. With your CEO, Sales Director (or with yourself if you’re all of the above.) Before you start thinking of WHAT and HOW you’re going to do all this marketing stuff, spend some time on clarifying the business and sales goals. If you are lucky, these goals are written down somewhere, but often they’re not. So the ONE thing to do, is have the hard conversation.

  • Make sure you’re absolutely clear on what the specific outcomes are  the business required, and by when.
  • Make sure you understand the priority order of these goals
  • Write them down, and get sign off before you start any marketing planning

It will be the hardest (and maybe most uncomfortable) part of writing your marketing plan, but it’s your foundation. If you nail this, making those choices becomes much easier, you’ll spend half the time on your plan, and you’re behaving like a marketing leader, not a manager.

 

07 Jan

Self education of B2B buyers? It’s only half right

It is now common belief among B2B sales and marketing folks that our B2B buyers self educate online, having made up their mind pretty much before a sales person is even in the picture. That idea itself creates a need of course, and it’s fertile ground for people selling marketing services and sales methodologies.

A recent study by the Corporate Executive Board reported that B2B buyers are 57% of the way to a buying decision before they are willing to talk to a sales rep. And a survey last year by DemandGen Report, reported that 77% of B2B buyers said they did not talk with a salesperson until after they had performed independent research, and 36% of buyers said they didn’t engage with a sales rep until after a short list of preferred vendors was established. (Tom Martin, ConverseDigital)

Great blog with interesting content and I don’t argue that self education takes place…however.

It works when customers know they have a problem and are motivated to solve it
It assumes that customers know they have a problem, and are actively looking for a solution to a problem. They research options online, without ever speaking to you until they need a price. It’s where your inbound leads come from, maybe as a result of your great SEO, advertising, social strategy, etc etc.But if you look back at last years’ new customers, exactly how many of them were inbound? 30, 40, 50%? Where did the rest of your new business come from? 

What if they don’t feel the pain, or are not motivated to look for a remedy?

More often than not our potential customers are pretty happy in their imperfect world. They tend to actively resist change. Change is risky, it costs money, it takes time and effort. 

A significant part of your new business probably came from people making outbound telephone calls, connecting via LinkedIn and in meetings, supported by email and other outbound tools and activities. They introduced potential customers to the fact they have a problem signifncant enough to invest the time, risk and money to solve it. They disrupted people. They somehow got 1 minute of someone’s time to introduce an idea. 

Now self education starts again

Of course, once that contact is made and the seed is planted, you still need to be ready for them to jump online and do their self education about your brand and product.

In a nutshell, it ain’t that simple.

So my point is not to ignore the need to cater for the self educating customer. But the greatest challenge remains to disrupt people and convince them that they have a problem significant enough to invest in a solution. How smart you are with that disruption is they key to success.