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Insight/ Strategic Planning

8 Strategies For B2B Marketing Success

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by Maribeth Ross
VP Of Marketing
NetProspex

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Here we are in the back half of the year. Chances are, you’re thinking about how to guide your team toward hitting your numbers for 2012. Marketing-generated revenue is on the line, and the task of planning next year’s marketing budget is looming. The good news is, now is a great time to get your team thinking about both short-term goals and long-term activity. Here are eight concepts to focus them on.

Short-Term Winning Strategies

1. Play The Volume Game: Do your team members know exactly what they need to do to hit your marketing team goals? High-performing marketing teams understand the volume of marketing activity and precise actions they require to hit their targets. In fact, the best marketing cultures rally around these numbers, which are closely tracked and understood throughout the marketing department.

It is not difficult to run numbers through a marketing funnel tool. Many calculators exist for doing so, or your team can create its own using conversions at all stages (either your internal conversion rates or published averages). As a result, your team will be able to predict how much activity is needed in order to hit revenue numbers and plan its activities, such as number of programs, contact data purchases, and programs spend. Beyond running the numbers for the year and quarter, consider requiring team members to run the funnel numbers prior to the launch of each individual program. You’ll want to set the precedent that these figures will become the success measures for programs and individual performance of marketing team members.

2. Assess The Quality Situation: Great marketing campaigns start with great contact data, yet all too often the state of the marketing database is left to chance. In fact, according to SiriusDecisions Research, between 10 percent and 25 percent of B2B marketing database contacts contain critical errors. Imagine the net impact on marketing programs of a database that is only 75 percent marketable. A short-term fix is to assign someone on your team stewardship of the data. Having that person get a handle on the current state of the database and understand how to fix it quickly will prevent negative impacts of incorrect data on your campaigns. Be forewarned, however, that databases grow and change quickly, so your data quality efforts cannot be a point-in-time fix. High-performing marketing departments have assigned owners of the data, often part of the marketing operations function, and an ongoing plan for assessing and repairing data quality. Make this part of your long-term core strategy, and you’ll see positive results over time.

3. Take An Extra Step In Qualifying Your Leads: Are all of your marketing leads going directly to sales? Fully qualifying your marketing leads into sales-ready opportunities with the help of teleprospecting could dramatically improve the quality and conversion of leads that end up in your sales pipeline. Studies show that marketing leads sent directly to sales may not receive follow-up (as much as 50 percent, according to MillerPierce VOC) because sales folks responsible for closing business may not have the cycles to fully qualify and convert marketing leads. Employing a teleprospecting effort, with a dedicated calling team, ensures no marketing lead is left behind. This approach requires agreement with sales leadership on the specific definition of a fully qualified sales-ready lead and can be a great boost to help everyone meet their goals.

4. Get Feedback: In addition to reviewing metrics from the sales automation tool, make sure your team members are constantly engaging with sales to discuss their perception on leads passed and opportunities created. The definition of marketing success also includes the perception of sales, and it is important for marketers to understand the perceived value of the leads they are passing. Doing so will allow your team members to actively engage in dialogue with the members of the sales team about the real (rather than perceived) results and reset any misconceptions. The process will build the relationship with sales, and your team will likely get some good feedback about ways marketing can support sales through the selling process. 

Next Page: Long-term strategies.

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Long-Term Gain Strategies

5. Assess The Targeting Situation: Ensure that you have crossed the “T” in targeting. With a large volume of marketing activity, both inbound and outbound, happening in your department, it can be easy to lose resolution on the target. To ensure you have all of the right target buyers in your database, encourage your team to analyze historical purchase data. Your team should use data from sales automation, marketing automation, and your CRM system to identify as much as possible about the target buyer and other influencers who were involved in the buying process. After all, the shortest path to a sale is to involve all of the influencers from the beginning to get them aligned. In addition, take note of the length of the buying cycle and average deal size. This information will help you frame the schedule and frequency for marketing activity required to hit future goals.

Once target buyers and influencers are determined, your team should evaluate your prospect database to confirm that it has these buyers--both the primary targets and influencers--in the right volumes. Your team can again leverage a marketing funnel calculator to determine the correct database size and take steps to grow the database if needed. This is a great time to append missing contact info (email/phone), add segmentation criteria, such as demographic/firmographic info (industry/title), or include behavioral data, such as installed technology data.

6. Persona Research: The emerging trend of B2B buyers’ decreasing their engagement with salespeople until they’ve narrowed their options to just a few solutions is not going away.

Now more than ever before, your company’s success requires content that is grounded in deep insight about buyers’ decision to choose you over a competitor, or to do nothing at all. Marketers on your team need to become experts in their target buyers, how they buy, and what is important to them in order to be successful.

As a marketing leader, it is incumbent on you to instill the importance of this in your team and move them away from a culture of creating stuff that meets the sniff test of all the smart people on the team. Drive them to understand what each of your buyers wants to know at every step in their evaluation process and create relevant content to support it. Establish formal programs and ongoing measurement for team members who are responsible for researching, documenting, and communicating buyer persona information. To reinforce the desired behaviors, add to their performance goals metrics for number of win/loss interviews conducted and number of sessions where they communicate insights from the research across the marketing team.

7. Messaging Alignment: Marketing creates a lot of stuff. And it is easy to get in the habit of creating unnecessary new stuff to support new demand gen activity. One way to combat that is through planning. Once your team is aligned around the target buyer, conduct an inventory of the content you currently have. Have team members review all content, checking to ensure it maps to the messaging themes of the persona and establishing how the buyer expects to use that content in his buying process. The results can be captured in a simple matrix that will easily the identify gaps that exists and allow you to plan for content creation.

To further align the team and ensure on-point messaging, consider conducting a workshop where you identify all relevant messaging themes for your target buyer, as well as important messages for your business (e.g., to support product releases), and plot them on the calendar for the year, aligning all of your team’s marketing activity, such as events, demand gen, product launches, PR, social media, etc., under the messaging themes.

As your team works through the exercise, you’ll want to create repeatable top-of-funnel programs for messages that are important to the target buyer and can be repurposed throughout the year to net new prospects. You’ll also want to build repeatable nurture programs for leads that fall out of the funnel. Doing so will give economy of scale and remove the need to create unnecessary content. Plus, your team will have a messaging map that shows exactly what is planned for the year in terms of activity and how the pieces fit together.

8. Measure, Analyze, And Hold Accountable: With the tools available today, there is no excuse for not being nimble and adapting in real time, yet busy marketers can easily lose sight of tracking the effectiveness of campaigns in real-time and miss the opportunity to adjust to hit goals.

Today, marketing leaders need to foster a culture of numbers accountability, expecting their teams to understand the performance of their efforts and eventually be able to project results of future efforts based on past performance. And while it may be a new direction for some marketers, focusing on the quantifiable results will help them understand what tactics work and what do not so they will become more strategic about their future planning and decision-making. Make sure that your team formalizes around what it measures, having metrics for both overall macro performance, such as YTD numbers, as well as microlevel metrics for individual program performance.

-- This article was written in partnership with AG Salesworks.

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