Marketing planning forces you to think about the market, what problem you most want to solve and how you solve that better than the rest. To choose your focus in terms of companies, roles, sales channel, to identify the messages that you need to take to market and how you’ll take those messages to that market and communicate all that to the team, that’s the why.
Let me now show you the how of great B2B marketing planning.
- The first step of how is to get your team together, at least sales and marketing, but try for more.
- Set your long-term and your short-term sales targets clearly.
- Identify the one problem that you want to be the best in the world at solving.
- Debate and document who most has that problem both in terms of role and the type of business they’re working – because that’s your new target market.
- Identify what it would take to 100% fully solve that problem because that’s what you need to take it to market as a solution.
- Identify the sales channel that’s best equipped to flush out that problem with that chosen market and then to earn the right to solve it – because that’s your new sales channel.
- Work out who else solves the problem and how you’ll beat them.
- Identify the philosophy that you need from top to bottom to make your sales targets.
- Identify and document the most effective tactics that can achieve that.
In other words, can move buyers through their journey at that chosen velocity and then distil it to one page.
Let me show you the five articles that I’ve found when researching today’s article on marketing planning. I want to show you also a piece of research that shows why we need to get everybody planning together. There’s some massive gains to be made. Well, hopefully, the first article we found answers, I think, the first question – why do we need a marketing plan? It’s from “Business.gov.au, the Australian government website. It’s a bit 101 but it isn’t wrong in any regard. Let’s just say it’s bland but it is accurate. The template that they refer to at the very end of the article when you scroll down is likewise complete, free but it’s very paint by numbers. It basically says, “What is your answer to this question?” That helps but how should I think about the question is missing. I would argue that none of this, as a consequence of the blandness, really would help your marketing planning to become the source of a sustainable competitive advantage. It’s just how do I get through this pain of building a marketing plan? Wrong approach, all together, even though it’s well done. I’m being unkind. It’s well done but it just doesn’t answer any big questions.
“How To Create a Marketing Plan”, now that’s helpful. Certainly I would agree with the “All Hands on Deck”. One of their conclusions is, “All Hands On Deck”. Starts with marketing plan and they say you can have hundreds of pages. Now, a couple of things I agree with and don’t agree with. “All Hands On Deck”, well, in fact their studies have shown that businesses that plan together enjoy 31% better lead acceptance. That is 31% more of marketing’s leads get accepted by sales. That’s fantastic. As a result there’s a 56% better closure of the leads that come from marketing. Together they produce a 62% lift in how much of your revenue comes from new business compared to those that don’t plan together so, long story short, plan together. I’ll link to that other report in the credits.
Now I disagree though with planning taking months and that a hundred pages is ever a good idea even if you’re a huge company. Frankly, if you can’t get your marketing planning results, your conclusions down to one page, then you don’t understand it yourself and how can you expect others to? It’s big on the why in spite the title. The title says, “How To Create a Marketing Plan.” The video only takes very big on the why and very light on the how so not great. Again I want to include the links to it in the show notes. Planning jointly, quickly and often, often lifts the performance of the engine. We go into how and why, worth having a read of.
Now, blog number three, article number three, “Marketing Plan Template: Exactly What to Include”. Now you might imagine, if you’ve been watching the show for a while, that I would be sick of referencing this article from Dave Lavinsky. Well, I’m not. It’s as good on a fourth read as it was on the first read but it’s a template, or at least it’s a list of topics that you should include. Now that’s what he sets out to do, what to include, so it’s going to include a list of topics and it does. It doesn’t go into marketing planning in a broader sense. For all that, as I have on many other shows, I still recommend this particular article, credits from the show notes as a compelling read.
Article number four, “Customer Think”, this is what I was ready for. It’s a much better on the how to. Essentially what they’ve said is it boils down to it starts with your business plan but marketing planning is about sales and marketing translating the output from the business planning, wholly agree. Get all hands on deck again, I agree. Remember those steps, 31% more leads get accepted, 56% better closure of those leads and 62% more revenue from new business as a consequence. Define your target market. Define your value proposition. That’s principally how we create value for that market. Identify the buying groups. Identify their problems and needs and to build a communication plan. I would agree with all of that. That’s quite handy. Link to that in the show notes. Have a read.
The final article that we found is on “Social Media Examiner”. Interestingly, I don’t read a lot of their articles normally but I’m a big listener to their podcasts. It’s quite good and they’ve drawn some quite compelling conclusions. Now why are we sharing this one? Not so much because it came up in Google but it got shared an insane amount, 5,700 times on Twitter, 3500 times on Facebook, 1,300 times on LinkedIn, 1,000 times on Google and 436 times on Pinterest. It got shared 12,000 times so obviously you like it. Now this is not marketing planning in the broad. It’s specifically about how to create a social media marketing plan. It’s a narrower context than what we were looking for but it’s still useful. It rightly argues that we need to think about where the audience is up to in their buying cycle.
Now that’s good but it undoes that goodness a bit by confusing buying cycle and buyer’s journey. As the guy that coined the term buyer’s journey, I presume to think I know what buyer’s journey means. I coined it in 2003 in my book, “The Leaky Funnel”. What I was referring to back then is the process that each individual buyer goes through along the way to buying. The term’s become quite popular in marketing circles. Buying cycle, another popular term, I think refers to something different and just as important. It refers more to the difference between prospects, customers, repeat buyers and advocates than it does to an individual journey towards becoming a buyer for the first or for the forty-seventh time. Put that way, buying cycle has within it many buyers’ journeys.
Now it gets even worse. It further confuses things by introducing personas. I’ve had a bit of an offline chat with Tony Zambito, who’s a good contributor to Marketing Thinking. He and I had an interesting conversation about personas. I think he’s misappropriated the term and we had a good chat offline about that over a year ago now. Now I think personas are best used to describe your segments, to bring segments to life, not stages that each of those segments will inevitably go through and certainly not the journey. They’ve got a few important concepts here but they’ve blown them a bit. However, don’t write the article off because they’ve made some good conclusions. I’m basically re-purposing or re-articulating their message but I think it’s a good one.
- Start by listening. That is go look what people are sharing socially.
- Get the whole team involved.
- Tailor your messages to each stage and personas. Let’s forgive them that and say tailor your messages to each of prospects, customers, repeat customers and advocates because you’re going to message to each of those differently.
- Empower your team to hold to the messages and those stages. If we can repurpose their language a little bit I would then agree with the article.
There’re the five articles I found when researching today’s show. Let me try to distil what they’ve said. I agree with most of it today. Quite often, if you’ve watched the show before, you know that I disagree with a lot of what I find. I didn’t today but let me share with you what I think they’ve said and then I’ll give you my spin on it.
- Consider what the market needs and how you’ll meet those needs better than others.
- Decide your focus in particularly market and distribution channel.
- Consider what messages will convey that story and how you’ll take those messages to market.
- Then communicate all that to the team and other key stakeholders. How do you do it? Start with a business plan. I think planning’s really about sales and marketing translating the outputs albeit business planning
- Get all hands on deck. Remember those steps that I shared with you from the report. I’ll give you the link to that in the credits to the show notes. At 31% better acceptance of marketing qualified leads, 56% better closure of those leads and 62% more coming from new business so it’s worth doing.
- Get everybody together.
- Define the target market.
- Define the value proposition. That’s basically how we create value for them.
- Identify the buying group or groups. Identify their problems and needs and build a communication plan that was social. I suggest that we start by listening, good call.
- Get the team involved.
- Tailor your messages for each stage by that we’re meaning the buying cycle.
- Empower your team to hold to the message and the stage.
As I said, I don’t fundamentally disagree with any of that. I just think the order’s wrong and there were some really important missing bits. Let me just reapply it to you now the way I see it. Let’s start with why.
- It forces you to consider what the market’s primary problem is and how you’ll solve it better than others and needs aren’t enough. Needs only matter if the market buys into the point of an action at all and you can’t assume that. The other problem with needs is that it requires the market to definite their own concept of what they need and then they hold you to that view. It’s better that you shape the need, so focus on problems once, not needs.
- Decide your focus. Obviously companies are all sales channel.
- Consider what messages will convey the story and how you’ll take those messages to market and communicate all of this to the team.
Now let’s get to the how, quite different spin on this. Ten steps:
- Get your team together. At least sales and marketing but try for ops, finance, CEO, director, if you’re a larger company, director of your division.
- Set your long-term initial term sales targets clearly.
- Identify one problem, the one that you most want to be the best in the world at solving.
- Debate and document who most has that problem because that’s who your new target is.
- Identify what it would take to 100% solve the problem because that’s your new solution.
- Identify the sales channel who can best flush out that problem with that market. Then you’re in the right to solve it because that’s who your sales channel should be.
- Work at who else solves the problem and how you’re going to beat them.
- Identify the velocity needed top to bottom to make your sales targets.
- Identify and document the most effective tactics that can move buyers through their journey at that velocity.
- Distil it all to one page.
If you haven’t already, a couple of places you can subscribe. Go to Youtube.com/alignmeb2b or align.me/blog. Here’s the real core direction. Clearly you can take all of those steps and you can apply them yourself. Ten steps, thoroughly researched, also based on our 400ish go-to-market plans so we know what we’re doing.
I think those ten steps hold true, but if you want there’s a free tool that can help you do it. It’s called “Funnel Plan”. If you haven’t already used it check it out at Funnelplan.com. At Funnelplan.com you’ll get videos that explain how to do each of those steps. This if for free, free videos. Now there’s also a paid version that you can add additional depth of analysis or you can document more. The free plan is probably the place to start. Go to Funnelplan.com. Check it out for yourself. See if we can help you distil those ten questions into concrete answers and communicate that to your team.
- Business.gov.au for Why do I need a Marketing Plan & How do I write one?
- Entrepreneur.com for How to Create a Marketing Plan –
- Dave Lavinsky for Marketing Plan Template – Exactly what to include
- David Dodd for Marketing Planning for 2016 – How to get started?
- Keith Quesenberry for How to create a Social Media Marketing Plan
- align.me and Marketo for 2014 Sales and Marketing Alignment Report