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November 5, 2018
Building an Annual B2B Marketing Plan
Liz Brohan
Liz Brohan

As I mentioned in my last blog, now is the time of year to tackle 2019 annual planning. As one of the most important initiatives that marketers do every year, a B2B marketing plan is the roadmap for everything you and your team will undertake in the coming year to ensure future success.

It is definitely a large and often difficult assignment to say the least. One that can become overwhelming, especially if you’re not familiar with everything that should go into the plan or how to pull it all together.

So, here are 10 steps to follow to help you look at the data that will influence the plan and the strategic considerations needed to successfully bring it to market.

1. SET OBJECTIVES AND GOALS.

In order to plan correctly, you have to establish what needs to be achieved – what you’re aiming for. There can be several objectives within your annual plan such as increasing sales, generating more qualified leads and growing market share. Be sure to categorize each objective and goal.

That is, determine whether they are business, marketing or sales oriented, and who is accountable for each. This step requires buy-in from all internal stakeholders.

2. ESTABLISH A BUDGET AND SET METRICS.

Once you’ve identified goals and objectives, you’ll want to quantify each as much as possible. The more accurate the numbers, the easier it is to determine a budget and produce a plan that will reach them. The budget will guide all your tactical recommendations. Even if the budget is not finalized at the beginning of the process, you can use it as a starting point and make adjustments later.

While you’re thinking about budgets, start deciding on what measurement will be needed to justify it. Determine the metrics you’ll look at in every channel you anticipate utilizing as well as the larger data points needed to gage success as it relates to your objectives.

3. IDENTIFY TARGET AUDIENCES.

Target audiences are often thought of as a constant, something that never changes from year to year. But the priority you put on them can shift once objectives have been set. Your plan might call for focusing more on distributorships instead of your end user. Or you might zero in on a certain group of influencers who can increase sales through their advocacy.

Either way, start by defining which audience will best help achieve your goals and learning all you can about how your products and services meet both their personal and professional needs.

4. REVIEW OR CONDUCT RESEARCH.

Early in the planning process, you’ll want to review any research findings you have. As you assess the data, be on the lookout for patterns and responses that give you insight into both market activity and audience behavior. You may even consider conducting additional research. Look for the gaps in what you have and determine what additional data you need to support your recommendations.

5. ASSESS COMPETITIVE ACTIVITY.

The best way to do this is to create a spreadsheet that lists all your competitors and captures their individual characteristics. Be sure to include their unique positioning, points of differentiation, key messaging, new products and marketing spend. Keeping an eye on what they are up to will help you refine your go-to-market strategy so you can out-maneuver them – even if you can’t out spend them.

6. MAP THE PURCHASE JOURNEY.

What is the process your customers follow as they move towards buying from you? Long before they accept a call from a sales rep, some of their steps might include conducting online research, asking colleagues and friends for recommendations, checking you out at a trade show and requesting information or a sample kit.

Your plan needs to define when, where and how they will come into contact with your brand. And while it is unrealistic to aim for omnipresence is the marketplace, this step helps ensure you’ll be where you can have the most impact and influence in getting them to consider and ultimately buy from you.

7. FACTOR IN MARKETING COMMITMENTS.

Start with all the “givens” or “must haves” that you know absolutely have to be included in your plan. Another way to think about it is to consider all the places you’re committed to because your audiences are sure to be there. This could include event sponsorships, trade shows and sales meetings that happen every year.

Just be sure to factor in your ROI against those commitments. You’ll want to weigh the price you’re paying to generate awareness or have those conversations against the actual revenue they generate.

8. DETERMINE YOUR MARKETING MIX.

It all comes down to where your message needs to appear to meet your goal and how you persuade your audience to act. In B2B, this mix usually includes both traditional and online media. But should it? You might anticipate better return though a digital strategy that includes SEO, banner ads, paid social, social media, PPC and retargeting.

Most importantly, build in offers that will motivate your audience to respond and leave you their data. Also, be sure to factor in the costs associated with structuring and fulfilling these promotions.

9. BUILD A CONTENT STRATEGY AND MESSAGING MATRIX.

Keeping your budget in mind, determine what content would be most helpful in moving your target audiences along the path to purchase. You can start by looking at content you already have and determine how best to refresh. Then you’ll be equipped to define what is needed to cover any gaps in the communication stream. Be sure to also engage the SMEs you’ll need to provide you with relevant messages, and how you’ll re-purpose content to work in all the platforms you utilize.

10. FACTOR IN WAYS TO TURN PROSPECTS INTO BUYERS.

While this doesn’t have to be the last step in the process, lead nurturing that continues to engage prospects and incent sales is critical to achieving ROI. Take a look at your CRM initiatives to score the leads you get, and create communications that provide them with reasons to buy from you.

The hard work you put in planning your content strategy and structuring offers can be very helpful here. Much of it can be refreshed and reused in your outreach. And the more you can automate communications, the more help you are to the sales team in building relationships and conducting conversations that matter most.

We’re all looking forward to an exciting and successful 2019. And planning for it makes getting there less stressful and more inevitable.

Have additional tips on building an annual B2B marketing plan? Share them with us on Twitter @cbdmarketing.

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