11 steps to effective B2B market planning

Peter Drucker once famously quipped, “The really important things are said over cocktails and are never done”. Okay, that can be an exaggeration, but maybe you have heard great plans being discussed while you are on a business trip, or at the airport while waiting for your car rental. The result is a hodge podge of plans. Nothing strategic.

Is this really how you want to run your company?

In the busy, busy world of executives and entrepreneurs, planning is oftentimes considered a nuisance. More time is spent in putting out fires that could have been avoided in the first place. During the last quarter of the year, your sales team is so burned out that they are just ready to be done. The next fiscal year comes in with the same set of problems.

The key is planning.
More and more companies are embracing the concept of MBO (management by objectives). However, there are still instances where organizations fail to develop a road map (the plan!). Timelines, budget, deliverables, and responsibilities need to be clear. Some plans are so secret, only the executives know where the company is heading. Wrong! Planning and execution are inseparable. The success of a plan lies on the people who will execute it.

Plan. Implement. Review. Plan.
Why plan? Because things change, markets evolve, employees leave, customers come and go, and you operate in an unpredictable economy! Planning enables you to consider all aspects of your business and develop measurements for success.

There are different types of planning framework, but for sales and marketing, a strategic marketing plan is invaluable. A marketing plan decides what products/services will be sold, to whom, in which markets, and at what price. It sets objectives and market share. Of course it is important that your business, marketing, and strategic plans be aligned in support of your short- and long-term business objectives.

A strategic marketing plan is your step-by-step guide to success, broken down into pieces, easily digestible by those who work in the back and front offices. It is the fire that ignites the passion within your organization.

Say stra-te-gic. Markets shift and your organization needs to be ready. A strategic marketing plan gives you tactics and strategies to implement in a fluid manner. Here are the 10 key ingredients you need to include:

  1. Define your brand. What is the essence of your business? What is its Unique Selling Proposition (USP)? Is this USP important to your customers?
  2. Market summary. Identify the players in your industry. Who are the leaders? How are your products/offerings differentiated? What is your market share?
  3. Products/services. Evaluate your offerings versus your sales volume. Check to see whether you are at a level where you should be. Can you expand your product lines? How?
  4. Customers. Do you know who they are? Their expectations? The problems they encounter? How do they perceive your products/services? Identify the value propositions you offer.
  5. Collaborators. Who distributes your products and controls inventory? Who will partner with you to provide services in new markets? How well is your target market being served? Why will they sell your products? What is your relationship with them?
  6. Sales goals. How will you grow in the next fiscal year? Per product/service, per customer, per salesperson, per territory? Integrate your sales efforts with your marketing strategies.
  7. Marketing communications plan. Some organizations confuse their marketing communications plan with a marketing plan. Each has an inherent value. Your marketing communications plan covers branding, direct marketing, online and offline marketing, trade shows, collateral, and all other initiatives with details on what you will say and how you will disseminate the message. The objectives of a marketing plan include identifying the products/services that will be sold and how.
  8. Sales and marketing infrastructure. You may have a salesperson, but you also need a marketer. The role of your salesperson is to ‘sell’ the relationship to the client while a marketer takes care of the branding and marketing initiatives. Sales is more transactional while marketing is focused on long-term business objectives—the bottom line. Do you have both skill sets on board?
  9. Timelines and deliverables. If you know what your sales cycle is, you will have a better idea on how, when, and where to allocate your resources.
  10. Budget. Calculate your returns by having a cohesive strategic marketing plan that includes a budget for each and every initiative you implement. Tie in your budget with your marketing objectives.
  11. Return On Investment (ROI). Implementing a lead management system allows leads to be tracked to sales thereby providing data to measure ROI. Other details such as the average length of sales cycle, effectiveness of tactics employed, which segments are most viable, etc. can be obtained and used for future strategizing.

There is no fast and hard rule as to how much time you need to develop a strategic marketing plan, but this type of project takes time and effort! Ideally, you need at least 60 days to meet with your team, cultivate ideas, write, review, analyze, make changes, plan, and generate commitment. In this case, your company needs to start planning now! Make sure to involve a cross-section of your organization.

A more informed strategic view of the business is the direct result of market planning. The process that you and your organization need to go through to create a road map that will guide you for a year can be overwhelming! You could start by analyzing where you are now, where you want to go, and how you are doing versus your competitors; identifying marketing needs, etc. Or, this is where we come in. Borns can guide you to a successful marketing expedition starting with your itinerary—the strategic marketing plan. Email us now to ensure that you are taking the optimum route!

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