7 steps to a data-smart B2B marketing strategy

Marketing nirvana is rarely a place that B2B marketers inhabit. Here, Liz High explores seven basic steps you should follow whether you’re a small start-up surviving on a shoestring or a global enterprise.

It’s that time of year, 2020 planning is looming large. With the luxury of time and a limitless budget, we’d all do the right thing. Collect fresh, hyper relevant customer data, go deep on competitive analysis, think hard, debate, prototype, test and refine to create the perfect customer centred strategy.

A data-smart B2B strategy doesn’t have to come with a huge price tag nor a long runway. It does, however, require a structured approach and commitment to find useful data in unconventional and sometimes uncomfortable places. 

The steps are the same but you either fuel the strategy process with investments in collecting new data, or pragmatically rethink and restructure what is already known inside the organisation.

It doesn’t mean data-driven strategy development is easy, but it is possible if you follow the process.

Step 1: Work out what you know already – it will surprise you 

Data is everywhere. Someone has done research on your customers, brand and competitors. Someone has bought an analyst report. Find it. Looking at seemingly unrelated research through the lens of your current goals can unearth new and powerful insights. 

Step 2: Get on Google and go

There is no substitute for DIY data basics. I give myself a full day of online reading every time I start a new project. When was the last time you did that? What are your competitors talking about? What surprises you? Who is standing out? How do you compare? What issues, in the news and trade press, are impacting the businesses and audiences you’re chasing?  

Step 3: Trust and listen to the front line  

If you can’t invest in primary research, spend time with the people closest to your customers. No one knows the market better. Listen to sales calls, tag along with account managers to meet customers face to face. Every interaction is a valuable data point. Some of the best strategies come from one compelling story that unlocks a unique way of thinking or seeing the world. 

Step 4: Get inside your customer’s head 

Analysis paralysis is the enemy. Let’s say you have done all that reading, had all those conversations, but are struggling to make sense of it. Start with customer-first thinking.   

Think like you work in the businesses you want to win. Be one of the buyers you need to engage. Use first person language when you are talking about them – e.g. I need, I want. Sure, it feels odd at first, but you get used to it. It helps your brain to think differently. 

Get other people involved. I usually involve a diverse set of people with different views and experiences from across the business and keep workshops simple using the framework below.

b2b table outlining step 4

It never ceases to amaze me how powerful it is just to get what’s in people’s heads down on paper. It becomes immediately clear how to trade-off all the customer opportunities for the right ones.

Step 5: Get on the customers’ journey 

A customer journey is not your marketing funnel. It projects the world through your customers’ eyes, hearts and minds, Truthfully, this is the hardest part of the process, especially if you don’t have budget to involve customers directly. 

You need to walk in your customers’ shoes from the moment they discover your brand to ultimately becoming loyal advocates. 

At each stage in the journey you build, think about what customers want, need, and feel. Yes, B2B customers are emotional beings too. Use the audience planning you have done to identify emotional moments where an interaction is critical to you and to the customer. Focus your strategy on creating powerful, meaningful and resonant interactions at these moments of truth and you are well on your way to a data-smart, customer-centred strategy. 

Step 6: Take everything and turn it into clear, actionable and measurable goals 

All good data-driven B2B strategy requires clear Objectives, Goals, Strategies and Measures. The below OGSM model is based on one used by P&G. It’s not new but has never let me down. It’s simple, starts at the top and cascades down through teams and organisations so everyone knows the role they play in strategic success. Here is the important part: if something you are thinking about, talking about or doing, doesn’t obviously drive to your OGSM, don’t do it. The diagram below gives you an example of how it works.

b2b marketing

Step 7: Get the troops aligned

The power of the OGSM process is that every goal has an owner and a set of dependencies that will make it successful. Nothing unites disparate teams and skills sets more than shared goals.

It doesn’t matter if this involves multi-day offsites or is a simple conversation by the water cooler. You need to do this throughout the planning process so you can identify any barriers to success or skills gaps that threaten your success. The sooner you identify issues, the sooner you can resolve them.  

One last piece of advice for your 2020 strategy: nothing is perfect. But, applying some rigour, deep thinking and capitalising on the rich knowledge that invariably exists across your organisation can get you most of the way to a meaningful, successful data smart marketing strategy.

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