B2B marketing strategies and our loose use of common terms

In last week’s blog on a B2B marketing definition, I defined B2B marketing as “the planning, execution and measurement of the strategy and the tactics needed to sell a product or service to a business”.

So the clear point here – apart from the B2B-ness of the definition – is that planning, execution and measurement are separate, and that strategy and tactics are also separate. If you work at McKinsey and like little boxes you could draw this as a 3 x 2 grid.

In this blog I’ll get into the actual B2B marketing strategies a little, and focus on the planning rather than execution or measurement. Firstly, a quick replay from, last week:

What are B2B Marketing Strategies?

In the context of go-to-market planning, strategy can be articulated by the answers four simple questions:

  • What are you trying to sell
  • To whom are you planning to sell it
  • Through whom (sales channel) do you plan on reaching those buyers, and
  • Against whom will you compete?

But that’s go-to-market strategy. Some companies – even small ones, might need multiple go-to-market strategies for different market segments, or perhaps for different offerings. But there should also be a single whole-of-company strategy where we set levers that have a long-term effect like your profit strategy, your values, and what sort of culture you want to build.

A few things to consider when building your B2B Marketing Strategies

What you sell should reflect more about what is needed, than what you like doing or making. If we understand not only what is needed, but why, we can start to shape a killer product strategy. I go into this a little more in ‘how to make an unrefusable offer‘. Fundamentally, the ‘why’ is all about understanding the problem your buyers face, and that they willingly pay you money to solve. The problem (gap, challenge, impediment) leads to the need, for which your product is a solution. Clue: start with the problem, then the need, not the product.

To whom you sell – your market – should also be shaped by the problem your buyers face. If a part of your market faces many problems, and your chosen problem rarely, then they are perhaps a less-attractive market than another part of your market who often faces that same problem. So focus your attention on that part of your market most likely to be impacted by this problem. I am avoiding using ‘segment’ here and using the rather-banal ‘part’ because to so many marketers ‘segment’ means ‘industry’, and your market might just as likely be sliced into other parts than industries. Size, age, structure, geography are all valid segmentation approaches too.

Through whom you sell is – OK, I know you can see the pattern here – also informed by the problem. Who is it that can best uncover that problem, with that group of buyers? Answer that question, and you know who your sales channel – and referrers – should be.

‘Against whom’ is language we deliberately adopted at align.me years ago. Partially to follow the pattern (what, to whom, through whom), but also because if I ask you “who is your competition” you will likely rattle off the names of your direct competitors. But if I instead ask you “who else solves that problem for that market?” you will likely list a different set of competitors and give yourself more-usable insights.

As I mentioned earlier, these ‘settings’ all relate to your go-to-market strategy, but there might also be whole-of-company strategies to adopt. In Funnel Academy, we address this balance with the first three of the eight modules dedicated to whole-of-company strategy.

Funnel Academy for B2B Marketing Strategies

These are the eight modules of the course I’m teaching in Melbourne next week:

  • Big Hairy Audacious Goals – how to set your business’s life-time purpose
    • In this module, we examine the characteristics of visionary companies and teach participants what needs to be done in order to achieve sustained growth. Ultimately, participants learn to understand that marketing sits in a broader context – one of making the business a long-term success.
  • From good to great – how to accelerate an established business
    • Gaining momentum is hard enough, but how can you kick the curve and massively outgrow your competitors? This module teaches participants the power of discipline, and illustrates how disciplined people, thought and action can generate increased momentum for continued growth.
  • Competitive advantage – how to translate strengths into profits
    • Why are some companies more profitable than others, and what do you need to do to be amongst their ranks? In this module, we outline Porter’s profit model and explore his strategies for profitability. We teach participants that profit strategy boils down to the pursuit of one of two options, but never the pursuit of both.
  • Focus as a strategy – how to target effectively
    • In marketing, strategy boils down to three crucial decisions. One of these is deciding where to play, and answering the question: to whom are we selling? In this module, we teach the value of a focused strategy, and highlight the benefits of targeting a narrower market.
  • How to choose the most rewarding markets
    • Resources are always limited. How can marketers ensure that their resources are being invested in the right market? In this module, marketers learn to select markets by comparing market attractiveness to their business’s strength. Using models like BCG’s Growth / Share model and the GE / McKinsey portfolio, participants learn how to determine which markets deserve focus.
  • How to select a strategy based on the way your market buys
    • The strategy which propels a company in one market will sink it in another. How do you determine the best strategy for each market? In this module, we show participants how to set strategy based on what the market is ready for, and highlight the reasons why the maturity of your market influences every aspect of your strategy.
  • How to allocate resources effectively
    • It’s important to allocate your scarce resources to the areas that will bring you the best results. This module introduces a framework for allocating scarce resources by aligning three key maxims: invest according to the need and worth of the market, not its past revenue; set your strategy according to what each market is ready to digest; and allocate your marketing budget deliberately across three broad streams which change as the market matures.
  • How to translate your strategy to action
    • Strategy is nothing if not acted upon. This module provides participants with a framework for making their strategy action-ready, and helps them to identify the decisions they need to make as a team. Marketers learn how to tie all the pieces together, and are taught the 8 steps for translating strategy to action.

If you’re considering joining us for this upcoming training, or would like to look at other b2b marketing courses we run, please check out our b2b marketing training page.

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