The lack of an effective B2B marketing strategy can result in lost opportunities and a long term decline in business. Without the market analysis that is a key pillar of any strategic process market changes can catch a business unawares with potentially catastrophic results.
However, too many marketing plans are poorly constructed and a complete waste of time and money. It is too easy to get bogged down in detail and miss the overall picture. This post outlines some tips on how to maintain focus on what really matters.
Build A Outline Plan
At a top level briefly answering some key questions and pinning the results to some other place they can be easily referred to can bring a process that is starting to wander back on track. Key questions to ask include:
- What basic product / service does the business provide?
- Why are those products / services needed?
- Who needs them and why
- Who else can satisfy that need?
- Why should a potential customer pick this business and not a competitor?
Some basic numbers are required as a starting point? What is the growth target? From which market segments? What is the current position? What is the sales gap we need to fill?
It is then important to draft out several possible paths (scenarios) to get from where the business is now to where it wants to be. These scenarios should include well defined target customer groups or segments.
B2B markets are complex. Although there are some problems with generic strategies (discussed below) Porters competitive strategies do deliver a useful starting point. Porter stated there were three basic ways a business can achieve a sustainable competitive advantage as follows:
- Cost leadership
He also argued businesses need to avoid a mix of the above and make a firm decision on the single option they wish to pursue.
Provided a business can maintain industry standard pricing then if it can achieve overall cost leadership it will be among the better performers in its market segment. Cost leadership is based on taking every opportunity to drive out cost to become the lowest cost producer in the market.
As the name implies a differentiation strategy is based on delivering a unique offering of real value to buyers. Differentiation involves charging a premium price. Businesses that successfully employ this tactic are above average performers but, to be a success, the offer must deliver distinct advantages over anything else available in the marketplace.
Finally, a focus strategy is based on selecting a few market sectors (excluding all others) and delivering a specific offering of interest to those specific sectors alone.
The Strategic Planning Process
Most marketing plans fail because the market analysis is performed without sufficient detail or with bias Incorrect segmentation of customer groups is also often an issue.
If focus is maintained and analysis is performed correctly then the rest of the B2B strategic marketing and planning process should flow without major problems. Estimating results, modifying plans and setting programmes and schedules should be relatively easy for most professional marketers.
Measurement, Control and Feedback
With the plan in place, it is then important to measure actual performance and to take appropriate action where necessary. A well constructed plan should layout in detail programmes, events, timescales and expected results so it should be a simple process to go back and measure actual against expected.
Too often marketing plans spend their life sitting unused on a shelf. This is a wasted opportunity and a significant waste of time and money. The prime reason plans never see the light of day is the strategic marketing process was allowed to meander and follow various blind alleys – it lacked focus.
Although building an effective B2B marketing plan is a complex and time consuming activity if focus on the key issues and process is maintained the activity can pay for itself many times over. Without a plan a business is more likely to drift which in the longer term can be fatal.