Does this sound familiar: "We spent over $100,000 on marketing last year and I feel like all we got from it was a bunch of pens with our logo on them."
That's a statement from the CEO of a $5 million software company I met a while ago. He had made a financial commitment in marketing because he knew his company needed it to grow sales, but he wasn't seeing the results, and he was frustrated.
After I heard what kinds of marketing his company was doing, it became clear that they were ‘doing marketing’, but it wasn’t strategic marketing.
What’s the difference between ‘B2B marketing’, and ‘strategic B2B marketing’?
B2B marketing has to do with B2B companies (rather than B2C). Here’s a good primer on B2B vs B2C if you’d like to read about the difference. This post is written for B2B companies, and while the lessons still apply for B2C companies, you'll see that B2B is often referenced.
A lot of small and mid-sized B2B companies are facing the challenge of achieving strategic B2B marketing these days. Many B2B companies are putting marketing in place for the first time. They haven’t needed marketing in the past (their revenue generation came from sales people and networking activities), and now that the new era of buyer behavior is shifting the dynamic of how customers find suppliers, marketing is becoming necessary in order to stay competitive.
In the drive to get marketing in place, some companies launch a number of marketing projects, initiatives and campaigns. And at first blush those activities can deliver results for the company. Activities like a new website, a blog and social media presence. But unless those marketing projects are connected by a marketing strategy, they can end up as thousands of dollars all going in different, and counter-productive, directions. And after a few months or years, that adds up to frustration with marketing.
The difference between ‘marketing’ and ‘strategic marketing’ is the MARKETING STRATEGY. Marketing is just a bunch of activities, while strategic marketing is marketing activities based on a strategy that move the company in a consistent direction.
What goes into a marketing strategy?
At the heart of the difference between marketing being strategic or not is the marketing plan. There are three vital components of a B2B strategic marketing plan:
- Target markets
- Value proposition
Here’s an overview of each:
- Who are your ideal customers and why do they buy from you? Most B2B companies have several target markets (they might differ by industry or role of the person doing the buying). Knowing who your company is best positioned to serve is the most important element of B2B marketing success.
- What do you offer those ideal customers? A good value proposition clearly states:
- what problems your company solves
- what benefits customers can expect
- why customers should buy from you rather than alternative solutions.
- How is your company perceived relative to your competitors? Are you the low-cost competitor? The innovator? The customer service leader? There are elements of your value proposition that will inform your positioning, so some of the tough work is already done. Often the biggest challenge, and benefit, in defining your positioning is the process of having your senior management team agree on it!
If you develop a marketing strategy that covers these 3 elements, and create a road map of marketing activities that is based on your strategy, you will achieve marketing that is strategic.
Don’t get me wrong, it isn’t easy. It’s one of those pursuits that is simple to say, and much more complicated to achieve. One of the toughest requirements is patience. It takes most companies years to achieve marketing that is strategic. But the payoff is significant: B2B companies who pursue the journey to strategic marketing reap tremendous rewards from marketing in years two, three and beyond.
How should you start your marketing journey? Here’s how Mezzanine develops a strategic marketing plan.