A Powerful B2B Marketing Plan Template for Your Business
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(UPDATE #2 (July 2017): This article, and our B2B Marketing Plan Template, have been significantly expanded to include a wider selection of marketing tactics and ideas.
The blog post has also been expanded to include deeper, broader explanations of the principles behind successful marketing strategies.
To get the expanded list and the complete, augmented B2B Marketing Plan Template, you’ll need to download the Analyze Your Marketing — 13 Steps to a Clear Marketing Strategy ebook, which not only includes the template, but has dozens of pages of explanations, tips, examples, and ideas that help you
- Understand who you’re targeting with your marketing
- Outline how the specific marketing tactics you’ve chosen will resonate with your target markets and segments
- Build a brand from scratch or update an existing brand
- Tie your marketing strategies and tactics to both specific audience(s)/market segments and business goals
- Ensure you’re not wasting time on worthless marketing tactics while better opportunities pass you by.
You can still download an updated version (as of 2017) of the B2B Marketing Plan Template by scrolling to the end of this article, but this version will not include
- The expanded Brand Persona Template
- The expanded Customer Persona Template
- The comprehensive marketing goal-setting exercises
- Close to 80 pages of marketing explanations, examples of marketing strategies and tactics, and a wide variety of tools and tips to help you reach your target customers and get those valuable accounts that make the difference between a fantastic year and squeezing by.)
And now for the article…
Your Marketing Sucks Because You Don’t Have a Plan, and You Can’t Grow Based on Product, Price, or Customer Service Alone
Here’s what I’ve seen in case, after case, after case — businesses have been coasting on the strength of their product, their customer service, and their price, for a very long time.
They’ve been successful because
- They have a unique offering
- They got into an industry early
- That have extensive industry expertise
- They’ve cut costs drastically or are extremely efficient, leading to consistently competitive pricing
- They’re impressive networkers and have powerful industry connections
- They provide products and services that meets an incredibly high standard of quality
- They’ve shrewdly targeted a niche market and paired it with their niche expertise
- They’re incredibly talented and have an incredibly talented team
- They provide amazing customer service and really care about their customers and what they do
- They’re all around rockstars, and they were born to win.
And while a business can grow to a certain point and be extremely successful in a limited way based on the above criteria, there’s a hard business truth that every Business Superhero eventually butts their head against (often with disastrous consequences):
None of that awesome stuff above will lead to infinite growth — at some point, you will always need marketing to continue to grow.
And a business that doesn’t grow is a business that’s doomed to fail.
Look, you’re good at what you do, and your team is good at what they do.
You wouldn’t be reading this if that wasn’t the case.
But sooner or later, every business has to implement a well-thought-out, specific, data driven, masterfully employed, and meticulously checked, rechecked, and adjusted marketing strategy (often quite a few of them, depending on the number of markets targeted) in order to break through their growth plateau and start competing with the big boys.
Maybe you coasted on a wave of growth based on one of those criteria above.
Maybe you had some knowledge of marketing and were able to implement a simple strategy for a while.
But now you’ve reached a point where that can’t be sustained, where you need to get serious, specific, and granular about the precise ways you’re going to reach a variety of target markets and segments and then start converting them into customers.
You’ve eaten up all the low-hanging fruit — you’re ready to start the hard grind upward.
You’re ready to get serious.
You need a serious marketing plan.
Our B2B marketing plan template will help you get there — we offer a lower-cost version at the end of this post, but if you want a robust plan, you’re going to have to crack open the wallet and plunk down a few Washingtons to get the Analyze Your Marketing ebook.
Or, you know, just hire us 🙂
Before we jump into the B2B marketing plan template, let’s cover some of the basics.
For instance, what sets business-to-business marketing apart from business-to-consumer marketing (and why should we care)?
B2B Marketing Basics — Emotion Plays Less of a Role, but It Still Plays a Role
The big difference that many people think exists between B2B marketing and B2C marketing is this: in B2B marketing, you’re marketing to a business, and so your marketing needs to be targeting, basically, a robot.
I swear, it’s like some people literally think they’re marketing to the brick and mortar location itself…
Instead of the people in the building.
The truth is, every business is run by people, and even massive multinationals with layers of decision makers who supposedly keep emotion out of their decisions do anything but.
The truth is, even CFOs and CEOs are emotional creatures, and they can be reached using many of the same marketing tactics that work so well on consumers.
The truth is, even high-powered C-suite veterans are only partially influenced by data, smart rhetoric, clever arguments, and demonstrations of quality, price, and high-end customer service.
The truth is (I swear it’s the last time I’ll say that), time is limited, and if your numbers and offering are right, the only thing that’s going to stand between you and that big account you’ve always dreamed of is a few competitors and the emotionally driven gut decisions of people with fancy letters after their name.
If you can choose marketing tactics that appeal to the emotions of these people, you’ll likely be more effective than the stiff, stilted, overly professional competition.
Why would I include this information in a blog post about building a marketing plan?
Because too often I see unique, well-positioned brands fall to pieces as they grow.
They start to think they need to do too much (instead of focusing on what they do best) and that they need to look and sound like everyone else.
They focus heavily on the logical side of every marketing tactic and completely forget the emotional side of the equation.
They go from unique to a faded grey, they blend in with everyone else, and they can’t figure out why their rocketing growth suddenly plateaus (and starts heading backwards).
So, as you consider your markets, your audience, the segments of your market that you want to target most, remembering that they are, at their very core, human beings.
They’re not robots.
They’re not skyscrapers.
They’re not brands or logos.
They’re people — and you can appeal to them the same way you can appeal to the average consumer.
And the average consumer, the average human, is influenced more powerfully by their emotions than their logic.
They go with their gut more often than not.
This is true for men and women, it’s true across the board, it’s just that, in B2B marketing, you need to have your ducks in a row before you start employing marketing tactics that have an emotional basis.
You Can’t Rely on a Template to Plan for Every Eventuality — You Have to Continually Revise and Update Your Marketing Plan Based on Market and Business Conditions
There is no one right way to write a marketing plan, and plans have a nasty tendency to fall apart when they meet face-to-face with reality.
However, if your plan is fluid and flexible, if you continually revisit, revise, and edit your plan to take into account how the tactics are working in practice — basically, if your marketing plan is a living document — it’s going to be effective.
You have to spend time on your plan, but not too much time.
If you spend tons of time trying to come up with the perfect plan, you’ll end up with a plan that was perfect for conditions 3 months ago but that may have no relevance to your business today.
That fluidity is critical — you don’t want a static plan that looks forward an entire year without wiggle room.
Plans that might be effective in the first quarter can fall apart when the business environment changes, so you need a plan that’s going to flow with the dynamic environment of business…
And the only way it can do that is if you’re referring back to it constantly and making changes when necessary.
We recommend you check your filled-out B2B marketing plan template at least every month — make adjustments as you go, check when you can, look at the data, and go with your gut.
Metrics don’t do you much good if you don’t apply changes when you have new information, so don’t ignore what you learn.
How to Use the B2B Marketing Plan Template Most Effectively
A marketing plan is only as good as the planning that goes into it.
Just choosing a handful of marketing tactics out of a hat and saying, “Yeah, that seems good,” is a good way to waste a bunch of money.
A good marketing plan requires the following:
- SMART goals (explained below)
- Target audience(s) and a clear understanding of the target market/segments
- Defined brand(s), product(s), and service(s)
Now, we have a variety of templates that help you define all of these things:
Some of this stuff is included in the ebook, some of it isn’t, so your best bet is to just download it all and work your way through it.
To use your B2B marketing plan template most effectively, you need to set goals, flesh out your brand, define your audience for each marketing strategy, thoroughly define your products and services… all of it has to be worked out before you even begin to think about dropping some cash and putting marketing tactics into motion.
Your brand, your products, and your services are both informed by (and themselves inform) your target markets and the segments you choose to target.
As your target audience shifts, grows, ages, and changes, so too will your brand.
Your goals will fluctuate from quarter to quarter, year to year, and decade to decade.
All of these things inform your marketing strategies.
You might have dozens of strategies all centered around different products, services, markets, and business ventures, all of which are going to change and fluctuate over time.
To use our B2B marketing plan template most effectively, you need to realize this at a gut level and always be ready and willing to change your plan to meet new conditions.
All factors must be taken into account if you want to choose the most effective blend of tactics, combine them with business goals, and form them into a variety of strategies.
Marketing Tactics VS Marketing Strategy
Look, if you really want to dive into the difference between marketing strategy and marketing tactics, you can read this blog post, but the difference can be summed up pretty simply with one sentence:
Strategy is your plan to achieve a specific business goal — your tactics are how you actually make that happen.
This requires that you have clear business goals worked out from the outset. Your goals should be SMART:
- Agreed Upon
Now, our B2B marketing plan template and the ebook both include a summary on SMART goals and a worksheet that teaches you how to create SMART goals in a meaningful way, but if you want to learn more about setting SMART goals and creating a SMART action plan, read this blog post.
Here’s a simple example of a SMART goal:
Our goal is to grow our business by 7% in the next year by increasing conversions by 15%, leads from our website by 50%, leads from our outdoor advertising campaigns by 12%, and by increasing the value of the average sale by 10%.
This goal is very specific, it’s measurable, it’s time-bound, and, for this particular business, it’s both agreed upon and reasonable.
Once you have a goal, it’s time to create your marketing plan: that’s your strategy—the overarching plan to turn your goal into reality.
Tactics are the specific marketing methods you use within that strategy to reach your goals.
I’ll give you a very simple example based on the SMART goal listed above:
Our strategy to grow our business is as follows — we will employ a combination of pay-per-click and social media advertising to increase our website leads.
We will increase our outdoor advertising by 30% in our major markets and begin outdoor advertising campaigns in two new markets to generate more leads in those areas.
We will also offer a series of promotions on our core products to increase conversions, and we will increase commissions on upsells and cross sells to encourage higher-value sales.
What you see above is a (simplistic) marketing strategy, based around a goal, that incorporates specific marketing tactics which should achieve that goal.
Once you have your goals in mind and your strategy in place, you really need to think a great deal about each tactic.
Consider the following:
- The reason for choosing the tactic — why choose this tactic over another? How will it help me achieve my goal(s)?
- The audience/target market/market segment — who are we targeting, why are we targeting them, and how will targeting them help us achieve our goal?
- Time frame — is this tactic going to be effective in the time frame it needs to be effective in? Is short term what we need, or is long term better?
- Frequency — how often are we going to employ this specific tactic? How many times will we try it before we retire it?
- Cost — how much is this actually going to cost us? Are we going to get a measurable, reasonable return on our investment? At what point does it become too expensive to continue?
Let’s dive into each of these.
What’s My Reason For Choosing This Marketing Tactic?
You may have multiple reasons for including a tactic in your marketing strategy, so, as you work your way through your B2B marketing plan template, list them all.
Part of choosing a tactic is knowing why you are spending money on something, even if that reason is, “Because someone who knows what they’re talking about told me to do it.”
However, you still want to try to find better reasons that relate to the goals you are trying to achieve.
Some reasons for choosing one tactic over another might be to
- Establish your brand as a thought leader
- Create brand awareness
- Generate new leads
- Nurture leads through the sales funnel
- Increase conversions
- Increase average sales value
- Support your sales force
- Improve/change brand image
- Acquire customers
- Retain customers
- Upsell/cross sell existing customers
If you’re spending money on something, you need to know why you’re spending that money and what you hope to achieve as a result.
Does This Tactic Fit My Audience?
Any tactic you use must be a good fit with your ideal customers.
If the market won’t support the tactic, if the environment is wrong, if the segment doesn’t respond (or worse, responds negatively), the tactic is wrong.
You wouldn’t plan to attend a tradeshow where none of your potential customers (or other parts of your supply chain) will be in attendance.
You wouldn’t spend time on a social network that doesn’t represent your market well.
And if you’ve built your customer personas, then this shouldn’t be a problem — you’ll already have a pretty good idea of what will work on each audience (and what won’t).
You also need to figure out if you have multiple audiences.
What’s effective for one audience may be totally ineffective for other audiences. If that’s the case, then you need to come up with multiple personas to make sure that you target each customer segment effectively.
You want to make sure you’re using your resources effectively.
This is pretty important. As you know, your resources are finite.
You can’t afford to waste time or money on something that isn’t working and won’t create a return on investment.
Every minute is worth something in your business, and you want to spend your time as wisely as you spend your money, so make sure that the tactics you invest your time and money into are targeting your ideal customers and clients.
What’s the Timeframe for This Tactic?
You need to figure out exactly when you’re going to use each tactic.
When during the year is going to be the best time to use each tactic?
For instance, you may want to wait until the fall to start your email drip campaign, leading up to an industry event in the spring.
Some tactics may only have a start date and aim to continue for the foreseeable future.
With What Frequency Will I Employ This Tactic?
You also need to consider how frequently you’re going to employ each of your tactics.
How often will you deploy pay-per-click ads on social media? Will you run them constantly for 6 months, or only a few times a month?
Are you going to continue to spend money on radio and TV ads every week, or is it time to only do a few a year?
Will you put out blog posts monthly? Bimonthly? Weekly?
How many tradeshows will you attend this year?
Find a frequency that’s reasonable (and doable) for each tactic.
HINT: For some tactics, it may be wise to start small and increase frequency as you meet your goals. Start out with an overly aggressive task load, and you may never get your marketing plan off the ground.
How Much Will This Marketing Tactic Cost Me?
Don’t forget your costs!
You need to make sure you’re utilizing your resources effectively.
Planning it all out and developing an extremely detailed, specific strategy will force you to look at the costs as a whole.
You won’t get far with your marketing plan if your budget doesn’t make sense, so go ahead and factor in those monetary costs now.
This will also make it easier to determine if you’re getting a positive return on your investment when you check your progress later.
Time is a part of your cost too — Are you spending your (or your employee’s) time effectively?
Is it worth it to keep paying someone to spend hours blogging when their time might be better spent writing marketing emails for you?
Just looking at how much time you and your employees are spending on various tasks can show you where you can make changes.
What Are My Expectations And Goals?
You can’t launch into a new marketing tactic without having some sort of expectation of outcomes, so spend some time thinking about your goals, but also spend time thinking, realistically, about potential outcomes.
Try to set attainable yet aggressive goals for your marketing, evaluate your progress, and be realistic about how it’s working out.
Follow the SMART goals recommendations found here, and don’t be afraid to reset your goals (and your marketing tactics!) along the way.
And, at least once a month, you should be analyzing your progress in each area of your marketing plan and adjusting the plan and tactics (and goals!) accordingly.
Some Tactics We Recommend You Use When Filling out Our B2B Marketing Plan Template
Although there are quite a few tactics out there (and really, the possibilities are almost limitless), here are a few that you might consider:
- SEO (Search Engine Optimization)
- SEM (Search Engine Marketing)
- PPC (Pay-Per-Click Advertising)
- Social Media Marketing
- Industry-Specific Social Media Sites
- Content Marketing
- Video Tutorials
- Email Marketing
- Warm and Cold Emails
- Email Drips
- Direct Mail
- Affiliate Marketing
- Tradeshow Marketing
- Radio/TV Advertising
- Outdoor Marketing (digital and physical billboards, posters, vehicle wraps, mobile billboards, window signs, and handheld signs)
- Point-of-Sale Marketing
- Press Releases
- Promotional Items
- SMS Marketing and Proximity Marketing
- Remarketing/Programmatic Marketing
- Telemarketing/Cold Calling
- Guerilla Marketing and Viral Campaigns
Remember, the important thing is to meet your audience where they already are and to properly represent your brand in every tactic you plan.
Choose your goals, develop a strategy, add in tactics, and put it to work — stay in budget, keep doing what works, and stop the stuff that isn’t working.
As simple as it sounds, it’s often more art than science.
Watch your metrics, track things carefully, but go with your gut.
Trust yourself to know what’s best — and, if you just don’t have the marketing chops to make it happen, click the button to contact us.
We’d love to help you grow.
Download the B2B Marketing Plan Template and the Ebook Now
If you’re ready to get to work, then click the button to download our B2B Marketing Template.
Or, if you want to stop screwing around and get serious about increasing your commissions, generating leads, pumping up website traffic, and converting, buy the Analyze Your Marketing — 13 Steps to a Clear Marketing Strategy ebook.
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