You won’t forgive me if I said I didn’t have a marketing strategy. And your grudge would be fair. After all, I’m a marketing consultant. My 2018 marketing strategy exists and it makes a lot of sense i.e. I’ll do more of what worked and less of what didn’t. That’s all, right? Well, no. This year, I’ve taken a brutal approach to my traditional planning. Everything I do has to link back to clear KPIs, in particular, MONEY. Yes, the dirty word that few people can discuss.
As a business owner, you probably know how much you want to make this year. It’ll be a percentage increase from last year. Or you might want to generate similar revenues but improve your profit margins. If your marketing strategy doesn’t help you make the money and margins, don’t bother. I mean it. What you have is another to-do list that you will soon forget.
Ask these questions as you develop your marketing strategy
- Is your mission for this year the same as last? Why?
- Are you planning to serve a different kind of customer? If you are targeting larger companies, do you have the credibility, resources and competencies? If not, how will you get it?
- Do you have a different value proposition for each customer group? Have you understood what each care about so that your product resonates?
- What is your overall business promise to your customers? To be the best or the cheapest or the most reliable?
- How much of your revenue will come from marketing efforts?
- How much will you spend on marketing to get this revenue?
- What proportion of your revenue will come from repeat customers?
- Can you get referrals to new customers from existing or previous customers? How will you ask for these referrals?
- How much of your business will come from referrals e.g. 40%?
- Which marketing activities will help you achieve these goals e.g. ads, events, SEO, networking etc?
- How much will you spend on each activity?
- How will you know that it is working?
- What kind of content do you need to create to attract and engage new and existing customers?
- Will you create these materials internally or will you engage an external company?
- What changes do you need to make to your processes and systems to allow you effectively track and maintain a healthy sales pipeline e.g. CRM, email marketing?
- What are your non-financial goals e.g. award to win, public speaking engagements, adopting a charity?
These questions will really focus your strategy. If you don’t ever look at your strategy again then it’s unlikely that you are meeting your goals.
To help you keep focused, consider hiring a marketing consultant who understands your industry, not just marketing. An hour or two a month with the consultant can be invaluable in reviewing your marketing efforts against business goals, and making changes if necessary. You are running your business on limited time, resources and budget. Can you afford to spend time on strategies that don’t take you forward?
Understanding your company’s competitive landscape is crucial if you want to build an audience for your business. It is about understanding the business environment outside your business so that you are in the best position possible to grow your business. Competitor intelligence can help you to quickly identify your niche and grow faster.
The kind of information you might get when you research your competition include but are not limited to the social media channels they use, pricing, value proposition, key customers and product features. Here are 6 ways that you could effectively use competitor intelligence to plan your marketing strategy.
Customers who buy from them
Many company websites reveal who their customers are – particularly if they have big-name clients e.g. Fortune 500 companies. When you do your research, take note of your competitors’ existing customers and profile them. You can use a spreadsheet for this and include information like the industry, employee size, revenue and organisation culture e.g. innovative, traditional, conservative etc (if you can figure that out).
Don’t worry if you have some blanks. The idea is to build a reasonable picture of who your ideal customers are – or who are not. Another angle you could possibly take is to notice who is not their customer. Are there any similar companies that do not buy from them? Can you find out why and who those companies buy from instead?
Key social media channels
When you develop your marketing strategy, you will need to include the social media channels that you will engage an audience. With a limited budget, time constraints and a small pool of resources, it is ideal to pick 1-2 channels instead of trying to be everywhere.
Researching already established competitors will provide clues as to which platforms are most relevant to your industry and audience. The beauty of social media is that you can also look at the profile of followers and see who else they follow. This will give an idea of their interests so that you can engage in richer conversations with them.
Content that resonates
If you have many players in your marketplace, there is a lot of knowledge that you can tap into to create a marketing strategy. Some experimentation early on is important to help you identify what works for your target market. But researching your content market and learning what works for your competitors makes your experimentation more focused and your learning curve less steep.
Try different content formats such as long-form blogs, videos, infographics and pictures. What brings the most engagement? Check out questions that your competitors most frequently answer for its customers. You can build a list of content themes as part of your marketing strategy – remember to put our own spin on things!
Pricing that adds value
This is not about copying your competitors’ prices. You need to differentiate yourself and add value. But knowing what the top 3 players in your industry charge vs their services vs customer loyalty will give you some great insight into what the market values are and their existing business models.
For instance, the SaaS market uses predominantly subscription models. Products range from freemium models to over £2,000 a month for complex enterprise products. A good understanding of the pricing regime in your industry allows you to deliberately pitch yourself as a credible alternative. It also gives you the insight to find a better business model that works.
Value proposition and key messages
You should have a unique message to your audience. The message needs to be clear, specific and should offer a value proposition. For instance, will you save time for your customers? Will you provide customised support? Will you be the most affordable long-term? Through competitor intelligence, you will know the other messages being shared so that you can differentiate your message to engage your ideal customers.
One of the biggest steps you need to take is to go out and get customers. For this, you need a sales strategy. Ask yourself: Will I approach existing customers of my competitors or will I approach new customers who are not currently using a product like mine? Competitor intelligence will help you to understand your competition’s offering so that you can engage existing customers if that’s where you decide to start. This is sometimes called a competitor displacement strategy. Acquiring new customers will also be easier if you spend time studying your competitors’ successes and failures.
Remember that the learning curve in business is steep. Competitor intelligence could make it flatter and easier to climb.
This article was originally published on the Upwork blog on 03 October 2017
Feature image by Maico Amorim on Unsplash
For a recent Forrester report on the B2B digital transformation, the team interviewed senior execs from global corporation giants GE, IBM and Cisco Systems. The report highlights key themes arising from the move to align sales teams with the new reality of the digital world.
Why B2B Digital Transformation?
B2B digital transformation is driven from the buyer’s side as companies seek to attract digital buyers. Previous articles suggest that the root cause of sales and marketing misalignment is a lack of understanding of the buyer. Some practitioners explain that closer alignment between sales and marketing could even shorten sales cycles.
Therefore, global leaders like GE, Cisco and IBM have taken steps to reevaluate sales and marketing strategies and to enable new ways of empowering direct sales teams. Part of the reevaluation is a digital transformation. According to the Forrester report, key areas of best practices are experimentation, collaboration and innovation. Similar practices apply to any change management programme including social media and technology adoption.
In this blog post, I will summarise the three case studies: GE, Cisco and IBM to draw out key insights.
Cisco: B2B Digital Transformation through Collaborative Innovation
Cisco aims to tie innovation to business outcomes and to de-fragment pockets of innovation throughout the business. The goals are:
- Meet customers where they are
- Reach new markets more efficiently
- Give sales teams more time for actual selling activities
Focusing on innovation and collaboration, Cisco executed its B2B digital transformation as follows:
- They built and piloted new tools, managing the innovation from incubation to scale. The new tools were based on increased efficiency and higher quality interactions with potential and existing buyers.
- They established collaboration and shared goals between sales and marketing. For instance, they paired marketing’s sentiment data with sales data. These create insights that tie to opportunities for the organisation.
GE: B2B Digital Transformation through Centralised Innovation
GE is a complex, matrix organisation with several products being sold across different divisions. Therefore, the emphasis for the industrial giant are:
- Centralise new technologies
- Form new collaboration partnerships across the divisions
- Reduce sales cycles by 50%
Some of the positive benefits of executing the initiative were that:
- Centralising enables scaling of technology. For instance, it allows the reuse and recycling of successful tools and processes. It also provides a 360 degree view of interactions at all levels across the organisation, hence increasing collaboration on opportunities.
- Collaboration enables sales to respond to customers 50% faster. For instance, GE built an app to reduce time that sales teams spend addressing forecast questions. Salespeople can input information on the fly through voice text solutions. Overall, GE’s sales teams are spending more time on customer-facing selling activities.
IBM: B2B Digital Transformation through Data-Driven Sales Innovation
IBM saw significant incremental sales revenue from putting data scientists in sales teams rather than at corporate level. The success from leveraging data science can be attributed to:
- Making data scientists part of the sales team. The organisation developed deeper understanding of buyers due to a more scientific approach. For instance, salespeople could differentiate between a motivated buyer and a latent buyer. Also, the teams could more accurately assign sales cycles and measure the impact of new tools and tactics.
- Identify pockets of innovation in the sales team then empower salespeople who already have digital affinity to test new approaches. This drives a culture of innovation starting with early adopters.
- Seek out tools that increase efficiency in the sales team, enable more personalised engagement and provide rich buyer/seller/relationship analytics.
- Have at least one data scientist that aligns with sales.
To read the full report, contact Mary Shea, PhD or visit Forrester.com
Feature Photo by Joshua Earle on Unsplash
This blog post is by Annika Rautakoura, Content Manager at Smarp. Smarp provides an employee communication, advocacy and engagement tool for building influence and engaging employees through content.
With digital and social media mowing the content landscape, content marketing has become the core of building up brand awareness and an online presence that drives business. The importance of content marketing has not gone unnoticed. Currently, 73% of B2B marketers include a plan to operate content marketing as an ongoing business process. It is not simply a campaign (Content Marketing Institute). The focus of content marketing investments have shifted from just content production to content promotion. It’s a combination of these both that ultimately determines the success of content efforts.
What is content marketing?
Content marketing is a long-term strategy based on building a strong relationship with your target audience by giving them high quality content relevant to them on a consistent basis. “Eventually, when customers make a purchase decision, their loyalty already lies with you. And they will purchase your product and prefer it over competitors’ products”, says Neil Patel. Why is this? Let’s look at some of the reasons.
Content is a way to increase brand awareness by building a voice and authority online. It’s about creating an image of honesty and expertise in your respective field. How does this happen? Certainly not overnight. It takes consistency; being accurate and not misleading your audience. Posting on a regular basis keeps you visible to your audience, and posting consistently helps your audience form habits around the consumption of your content. In other words, audiences can expect you to provide certain types of content in a timely fashion. Trust also calls for grabbing the attention of your audience in the right way. You can do this by encouraging employees to participate in content production, connecting with the right influencers and giving shout-outs to brands and people with engaged audiences. When audiences spot your content through familiar or influential people, they are more likely to take that next step towards purchasing.
Content marketing is a way to start discussions around topics that are important for your business and attract the interest of people and organisations tackling with issues your services can provide solutions to. Researching your audience and targeting this audience based on what they’re looking for is the key to get leads. By having the right lead qualification processes in place and having different types of content to provide for leads at different stages of the purchase funnel, you can turn your leads into business. A well-established content strategy means that you need to work less to find leads, when leads will find you through the content path that you have laid out.
You can measure and adjust
Not investing in the right technology and tracking system for managing and measuring the performance of your content marketing efforts is like trying to hit a moving target in the dark. There is little point in producing or sharing content with no means to adjust any setbacks or build on successes. Here are some tips on with content. Tip: focusing on conversions is valuable for witnessing the actual effects of your content, i.e. action taken after consuming it, whether this means subscribing to a newsletter or downloading an e-book.
Boosting thought leadership through content marketing
Investing in content marketing supports your efforts to get messages across to your target audience. You can also build up a brand image through stories that provide readers with something they can relate to. Content that showcases the company’s achievements. For instance, case studies and user testimonials focused on the client are valuable for highlighting the results of your business. Content that brands the company as an employer allows for more personal material, such as behind-the-scenes articles. If you’re not yet convinced on the importance of employer branding, remember that your current or former employees have as much power in sharing the word about your brand.
What type of content works?
Blogging – B2B marketers with using blogs generate 67% more leads (TechClient). The amount and intensity of blog posts is dependent on resources and strategy. More is more, but quality should always be kept in mind.
Social media – A foolproof way to drive traffic to your site and the content you produce. It’s also an easy way to showcase your industry by linking to relevant third-party content that you consider to be of value to your followers. Social media efforts should always be tied to your overall content strategy, so that they have a maximum impact for your marketing goals.
Visual content is gaining in importance. The use of visual content in articles published by marketers increased by 130% between 2015 and 2016. Social media tools like Instagram and Snapchat are alive and well, and increasingly investing in features for companies. Especially in the B2B industry, people wish to see products in practice.
What’s it all about?
Everything boils down to having a strategy and executing efforts with the goals in mind that they contribute to. It’s about experimenting and learning from your efforts, doing your best to educate and attract readers, and raising their interest with your expertise.
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The free email course runs from 1 Dec for six weeks. During this course, you will learn:
1. What to consider when creating your strategy
2. How to research your market
3. How to create (and automate) your content strategy
4. What the different forms of content are (and which ones work for you)
5. Pulling together a marketing strategy that aligns with your objective
and much more… See you there!