As professional marketers, we’re all excited about content marketing. We’re itching to write our next blog post that will surely move us forward on our growth trajectory. This enthusiasm is great, but before you get started with launching any type of marketing activity, it’s important to have a complete strategic marketing plan.
To help you start thinking about your smart marketing strategy for 2016, we’ve pulled together this list of steps you can take to accelerate your B2B marketing success. Get your blank Google Doc or Word doc ready — you’ll want to take a lot of notes.
1. Analyze your sales & revenue trends
Where have your sales been coming from? Is most of your revenue from new or existing customers? How long is your sales cycle? What are your best (and worst!) customers? Why?
What are your best lead sources? Are prospects getting stuck in the sales cycles? Why did you lose the opportunities you think you should have won?
What is your sales process? Does your sales team have everything they need to win? Could your closing rate be improved?
Document the lessons learned, and start thinking about improvements you can make for Q4 and next year.
2. Define your one-year company vision
Sure this is basic – but you’d be surprised how many marketers skip this step! Write a one-page description of where your company will be in 12 months. Be specific. It’s OK to think big, but keep your vision achievable.
3. Set your priorities and goals (KPIs)
What projects need to get done in order to achieve your vision? What roadblocks need to be overcome? Make a list, and then break it down by quarters, with no more than 3-4 things to focus on in any quarter.
How are you going to measure success? Note your Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). Make sure these are metrics that you can track! What additional resources are you going to need to meet these goals?
Are you setting S.M.A.R.T. goals?
4. Analyze your marketing trends
Where do you stand right now as compared to those goals? Look over the last 12 months at your website traffic, conversion rates, online vs offline leads, and ROI. Look at the value that social media has brought you. Look at how to turn over leads to sales, and what happens to those leads after turnover.
5. Review your buyer personas
Are your buyer personas complete and do they still represent your ideal target customers? Look back at your best customers and make sure you identify the characteristics that make them profitable to you and enjoyable to work with.
6. Check out your competitors
Your competitors have likely been very busy! Get into intelligence-gathering mode and complete an analysis your your top 3-4 competitors.
Take a look at their websites to see what may have changed, look at their company profiles on LinkedIn, and spend some time on Google looking for news and press mentions. Run their websites through the HubSpot marketing grader and see how their online presence compares to yours.
7. Confirm your unique positioning in the market
Get really clear about what differentiates you from your competitors? Is that differentiator something your market still cares about? Talk to some of your customers and find out why they chose to buy from you – and what could make them switch teams and buy from your competitors instead.
8. Review your marketing collateral
Are your printed and digital marketing materials written and designed to attract your ideal customers? Do they effectively communicate your company’s unique qualities to prospects? Is the branding consistent? Is the messaging still relevant?
Make sure copyright dates are updated, that your style guidelines are being followed, and that everyone on your sales team is using the right version!
9. Review your various web platforms
Is your website looking a little dated? Is your content current and your offers focused around your buyer personas and they sales journey? Is your branding consistent?
What about your various social media platforms — ask the same questions about messaging and branding. Are you engaging with the right target audience?
10. Review your sales process
Is your sales process set up to close the quality and quantity of customers you need to reach your company’s growth goals? Does everyone on your sales team follow the same process for qualifying and nurturing prospects? Is your process documented? Is your CRM (customer relationship management) system set up to support your process efficiently and effectively?
Is your proposal template clear and up-to-date? Does it use standard language or is it filled with jargon? Is it focused on the challenges of your ideal customer?
11. Identify gaps in your sales and marketing
Document any issues as you uncover them. Look for areas of your process where prospects or customers get lost or ignored due to lack of time/energy/resources. Is your sales process well documented and the entire sales team using the same steps as they work through the process?
Is your inbound marketing process well-documented? Does your team follow the same steps every time they create a bog post or an ebook or a webinar? Documenting these processes reveals gaps you might other wise miss. Developing a process for each of your marketing activities makes your efforts scalable.
Prioritize the issues you have identified and develop a phased approach to tackling them over the next four quarters. Depending on the issues you have identified, you may need to develop tactical plans for content/inbound marketing, social media, lead generation, lead nurturing, or account development.
12. Track your progress and evolve your tactics
Make sureto define metrics for measuring success, and assign individual team members to be accountable for solving each issue. Set up regular meetings to review progress, identify and solve issues, and align activities across teams. Learn from your mistakes and victories, and evolve your tactics as needed to maintain your traction!
Obviously, there’s a lot of work to do here, and it can be tough to be objective about your own company when you’re so close to it. Some companies choose to engage an agency to facilitate this process for them, and to take on some of the workload so the process can be completed more quickly and efficiently.