How to define a B2B marketing strategy the team understands

In business, there is endless debate about ‘strategy‘. Yet the term is often confusing or misunderstood. In many businesses, strategy refers to anything ranging from business goals and target markets to specifics such as website management. A scattergun approach often ensues.

There are broad business strategy considerations for any business before it develops a go-to-market strategy. Will you be a cost leader, will you gain an edge through differentiating yourself from rivals, or will you take a highly targeted line?

Whatever you do, don’t try to have a bet each way. Bring into play a consistent strategy – what renowned Harvard Business School professor Michael E. Porter calls ‘focus’.

If you can’t be a cost leader or offer a differentiated product to the whole market, then focus only on a market segment in which you can achieve these goals.

Think, too, about factors that will transform your business from being good to great. Why will your business stand out? And why will it accelerate past other rivals in the long run?

In our experience, this last point is crucial. Momentum is a great outcome, but how do you get it? In B2B marketing, organisations often come up with a great idea, try it once and then go looking for another great idea. This is fatally flawed. Not only is it hard to get good at anything this way, but the market becomes confused.

Consumer marketers know that perceptions take a long time to build. They create ads and sell their message consistently. As B2B marketers, we have to do the same.

Back to our question, though: what is strategy? First, it needs to be seen in the following context.

  • Objectives (what do you want to achieve?)

  • Strategy (how?)

  • Tactics (what will you do?)

  • Plan (in what order, how often and who?)

In this context, go-to-market strategy boils down to three points:

  1. What are you going to sell?

  2. To whom?

  3. Through whom?

Choose where to play

Your first priority is to choose where to play (which product markets do you participate in, which do you ignore, and how much of the budget do you allocate to each product market).

Regardless of your decisions, make sure you have broad internal support for this market strategy so everyone in the business is on the same wavelength.

Choose how to play

Next, identify the correct strategy for each product market.

This requires a careful allocation of the marketing budget to factor in:

  • Environmental Marketing (EM) – getting the market ready through advertising, PR and other positioning activities

  • Channel Readiness (CR) – getting the channel ready through recruitment of direct and/or indirect channels, creating collateral for them to use, training them and managing their skill and motivation levels

  • Demand Generation (DG) – getting the market and the channel together through seminars, white papers, tele-prospecting and so forth.

Decide how to allocate a scarce budget

Finally, build this into a matrix that reflects:

  • the priority for each of the product markets in which you participate

  • the maturity of each of these product markets

  • the ‘correct’ allocation of budget to EM, CR and DG for each stage of buyer maturity.

The result will be a strategy that translates into a budget that reflects the maturity of your buyers.

Once you have determined where to play, how to play and how to allocate a scarce budget you will be able to create your sales and marketing plan.

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