How To Create Effective B2B Marketing Plans
Editor’s Note: Today’s post comes courtesy of Liz Pate, the marketing communications manager at Bulldog Solutions, a marketing technology company that provides software and agency services to BtoB enterprises. A writer by trade, Liz also specializes in campaign Development and execution and content creation and management. She also manages Bulldog’s blog. Follow Liz on Twitter at @liz_pate.
Imagine a scenario where marketers could maximize the ROI of every dollar spent — where planning cycles were accelerated and time to marketing pipeline was weeks, not quarters long. Image a planning process so streamlined marketers could model and predict their impact on revenue before they spent a dime.
To deliver on these demands, marketing leaders have become more activity focused — executing more campaigns, programs and tactics into their markets. Then, they turn to marketing automation platforms and CRM to organize these activities, but struggle to optimize them for maximum impact. Today marketers also invest heavily in technology to drive their tactics. However, amidst these developments, one critical practice remains in the proverbial stoneage: planning.
Building a marketing plan is likely the least sophisticated activity marketing organizations perform. Current “tools” like spreadsheets and document managers are often insufficient for the complexities of marketing organizations. These tools lack version tracking, integration, change management, visibility, collaboration, and in most cases reporting capabilities. Another roadblock is lack of visibility into marketing plans.
The good news is building an effective BtoB marketing plan can enable marketers to:
- § Model different planning scenarios that align to revenue goals
- § Collaborate on campaign and program development
- § Calendar campaigns and programs to gain visibility into activities
- § Optimize marketing mix along critical dimensions
1. Demand Modeling. Think of the demand model as the intelligence behind marketing plans. Being able to define velocity stages, conversion percentages and average sales prices can add the predictive aspect marketing executives need in their plans today. Over time, as marketers tweak their demand models with actuals from prior periods, their demand waterfall will get stronger with tighter tolerance ranges, gradually adding more sophistication and predictability.
2. Collaborative Planning. By building an enterprise framework, marketing executives set the foundation for efficient team collaboration that promotes continuous improvement after each planning cycle. This framework should require that teams have common vernacular and work on the same plans in the same place with the same tools. A framework promotes team collaboration and sets the tone for clear goal-oriented activity.
3. Campaign Calendaring. With the demand to prove marketing’s impact on revenue, marketing leaders must be agile and ready to show the impact of their activities on the spot. Critical to this effort is a centralized campaign calendar that provides an overview of all activities. Ideally, a unified view of a marketing plan will:
- § Ensure activities cover all stages of a demand waterfall
- § Prevent activity overlap between different teams or functions
- § Space activities properly over the course of the quarter and prevent “dead spots”
- § Align with other teams to prepare for product launches, campaigns, etc.
4. Marketing Mix Optimization. Marketing mix allocation is an area of perpetual consternation for marketing leaders. But perfection should not be the goal when it comes to marketing mix. Customer preferences shift. Competitive dynamics require response. Budget pressures oblige you to explore new avenues. New technologies present opportunities to reach your audience in new ways.
The playing field is not always level but that fact should guide marketers in effectively optimizing their marketing mix. Specifically, conducting what-if analyses can help compare objectives across various planning scenarios. Being able to evaluate these scenarios in one place simplifies the process and puts these analytics to good use — showing you where to get more bang for your buck.
When it’s said and done, it takes flexibility, collaboration, creativity and discipline to build the organizational maturity marketing executives need to thrive today. Starting with a solid foundation for planning efforts is critical to delivering on your commitments to the business and proving the value of marketing.