A friend recently had the good fortune not only to take over marketing for a successful B2B firm, but to do so with a mandate to build a new strategy that ensures a much greater impact on the business.
He's a bit like a kid in a candy store: he's got budget to spend, executive support for a more ambitious marketing program, and a relatively clean slate upon which to draw the new strategy.
The existing program has been pretty traditional, focusing mostly on collateral, events, advertising, and direct support for the sales team. He knows that's not enough, and is definitely interested in doing more with thought leadership and social media, but how best to reshape the overall strategy is not entirely clear.
Asked for some advice, I agreed with a stronger emphasis on thought leadership and social media (which I think are appropriate for all B2B firms), and I questioned the value of putting so much energy into advertising and collateral.
More generally, though, I suggested that the strategy focus on the four marketing engines that I think all B2B firms need to have running smoothly to ensure business success.
Four Engines for B2B Marketing Success
As the need for more and better content continues to grow, marketing leaders have realized that they need an integrated "content engine" that consistently produces compelling content for every stage of the buying cycle. This includes thought leadership content to help build reputation and interest, educational content to support lead generation and nurturing, solutions and customer success content to support sales conversations, and, of course, social media content to support ongoing connections with customers and others.
B2B marketing rises and falls on the strength of the company's relationships with customers, prospects, partners, and market influencers. For many marketing organizations, though, the objective of building, strengthening, and sustaining key relationships has no clear owner or strategy. A "relationship engine" may sound awkward but the idea is to ensure a comprehensive, consistent, and focused approach to strengthening critical stakeholder connections to increase sales, loyalty, and market insight. This should work across such areas as events, customer councils, account management, references, and social media.
Lead Development Engine:
The increasingly long and convoluted purchase processes that B2B marketers face puts a premium on well organized systems for lead nurturing and management. No longer can we focus on just the early stages of generating leads and then throw them over the wall to sales. More and more, we need to stay in the game with longer term programs to develop and sustain opportunities in close coordination with sales. Content and relationship programs contribute substantially to this effort but someone also needs to own the overall system for lead development, including qualification, scoring, nurturing, and assessment.
Solutions Development Engine:
Like many B2B companies, my friend's firm has a long history of successful products, satisfied customers, and productive partners. At the same time, also like many B2B companies, his firm is feeling the heat from increasing competition, margin squeeze on products, and buying decisions moving higher up in their customers' organizations. The result is a need for higher value solutions that respond more specifically to individual customer needs. Doing this efficiently and effectively means moving past the one-off approach based solely in the field. Instead, marketing needs to guide and support the field in determining top priorities for new offer development, crafting the right value propositions, and routinizing the process with the right stage gates and metrics.
The four engines don't cover every last aspect of B2B marketing, but they come pretty close and they provide a clear framework for building a comprehensive strategy that balances short- and longer-term success. Get each of the engines humming smoothly and results are sure to follow.
What do you think? Am I missing something important? Are all of your engines in good working order?
Photo credit: Imnop88a