5 Point Plan for B2B Marketing in 2014
Our Go2Markit Consulting survey of B2B Marketing issues at technology suppliers, both large and small, identified what executives say are the key challenges they are facing today. Here are my suggestions for priority action as a result:
- Carry out an open and frank exploration of where the greatest pressures are being felt on marketing and business development within your specific company. Our survey indicated that there are differing views on the key challenges between business leaders and the marketing 'doers' . This may be a mismatch of understanding of objectives, or a lack of transparency about difficulties, but it is vital that there is a common understanding if improvements are to be made. Also, beware of defensive responses - clearly use this analysis as input to planning, resourcing and skills development rather than as a critique of the Marketing team at performance review time!
- Put a greater focus and effort into defining specifics around target customer personas and solution requirements. It is relatively easy to say " we need an xyz product offering" and expect developers and product managers to go off and produce something that will have buyers queuing up at your door, somehow telepathically identifying what is needed. You, and they, need to spend time with customers, prospects, market influencers and client facing members of your company to understand what it is that keeps your target buyers awake at night so that your solution can address that pain. This will take greater time and effort in the Understand phase of your marketing cycle, but will lead to performance improvements down the track. This is especially true in the Build phase where it enables a greater clarity in development priorities and contributes to more effective messaging. In this, though, beware to not just ask clients or prospects what they want - as Henry Ford allegedly said “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses” - the key thing to ask is what their problems and pains are and then use the creative minds around the company to find solutions.
- Spend more time on crafting, testing and refining market leading and sale-winning value propositions tailored to specific target markets. I know that this, again, is saying "take more time", but it really will pay dividends later in the cycle. Good value propositions need to hit just the right spot with prospects such that they want to engage with you to learn more. They need to achieve that whether they are being described by one of your sales people in a meeting or are being read on your website. So the only way to know if you have come up with the right proposition and messaging is to test it with target audiences. And you have to be specific about your target audience or the value will not be directly recognised by them. Getting the value proposition right will mean sales activities, marketing content and demand generation will all be more productive. Note that, although I am stressing the messaging used, the value proposition is more than the message - it is also how you position,sell, deliver, price and support your offering. Indeed, you could say it is your Brand.
- Provide top level support and direction for a strategic project to align the sales and marketing functions and activities in a way that benefits both teams. This lack of alignment is the area that business leaders and marketing or sales practitioners agree is the most challenging. While the world of buying and selling IT based solutions has changed considerably over the years we continue to cling to an outdated notion of two different job titles – ‘salesperson’ and ‘marketer’ and conflict results from their intersection. This conflict is often exacerbated by differing measures of success – usually because marketing is seen as being measured on activity rather than results. The reality of today’s world is that we have a single continuum of a process that customers would recognise as the way in which they decide what they need and buy it. As suppliers we need to recognise this single continuum and organise as one team to match it. We need to be acting as a single well-oiled business development machine to deliver our financial targets. You can read more about my views on sales and marketing alignment here.
- Consider utilising external consultancy help for these projects to bring new viewpoints, complementary skills and extensive experience that will enable a more rapid positive outcome. You might say that I am biased here, as a Marketing Consultant, but the survey showed that it is already the practice in at least half of companies to use external resources in the marketing and business development areas. It makes logical sense that, whether you are a global IT giant or a small startup, there will be skills or experience that you cannot justify recruiting in a full-time capacity, but which you need. What I am proposing is the use of external help to solve the priority challenges identified above, rather than just for the traditional 'top-up' in PR, graphic design, website build etc.
It probably doesn't need to be said, but I'd be delighted to help any of you with your particular challenges, just get in touch!
If you want to read the full survey report it can be found here.