How-To: Develop Strategic Plan

BtoB Business Strategy Plans for Customer Connection in B2B

Some folks might call this a MarCom or Communications plan. In the traditional Marketing four-P’s this would be Promotion.

In B2Beacon, we’ll call it a “Digital Connect Plan” since we’re only focused on digital channels. (You can call it whatever makes you happy.)

First, Be Clear On Your Broader Context

  • Define your company goals and your high-level Marketing goals.
  • Understand your markets and your products.
  • Most important, understand your customers.

The box on the right lays out the elements of full corporate marketing strategy.

Elements of a Full Corporate Marketing Strategy:

  1. Corporate values and vision
  2. Company’s current overall situation
  3. Corporate metrics, industry, competitors, etc.
  4. Company’s business objectives
  5. High-level Marketing objectives
  6. Marketing Strategy:
    1. Markets to pursue
    2. Products to support choice of Markets
    3. Customers needs well understood
    4. Communications Plan
      • Digital
      • Offline
    5. Infrastructure to execute
  7. Budget is clear and consolidated
  8. Analysis of the right metrics
    See a more detailed version here:

Then, get connecting.
Here are the key steps to develop your Digital Connect Plan – an integrated strategic plan to connect your customers and your content through a broad mix of digital activities.

1. Set Objectives
Define clear objectives, goals and metrics for your Digital Connect Plan that:

    • Support company and high-level Marketing objectives
    • Align with your your markets and products
    • Meet the needs of your customers in each phase of their buying journey
      Multiple audiences beyond customers:

      • Media
      • Industry analysts
      • Industry thought leaders
      • Business Partners
      • Employees

      We’re just focused on customers here but the same principles apply.

Ideally, you’ll set objectives and plans for each segment and/or persona that you engage with. To do this, you’ll need to:

    1. Develop a segmentation strategy that makes sense for your business:
      • Determine how many dimensions are relevant for content and outreach. E.g., industry verticals, geographic regions, etc.
      • Only create a new segment when there is a meaningful difference in the needs of a group of customers.
    2. Develop personas for each segment
    3. Develop strategies for each segment/persona
      • Messages, channels, tactics are covered below

Explore phase example:

  • Audience persona: Senior Engineers at power plants
  • Objective: Make aware of new approach (to solve specific need)
  • Goal: Engage with 50% of target audience
  • Timing: First half of 2014
  • Metric: Downloads of infographic from partner and media sites

2. Create a Messaging and Content Plan
Based on your understanding of your customers, you’ll develop a messaging hierarchy designed to get their attention and engage with your content.

Message maps can be helpful for brainstorming and prioritizing potential messages based on their credibility, effectiveness and resonance. Demand Metric offers a template.

  • First, craft an overall positioning statement that articulates the primary thing(s) your customers should know
  • Second, define specific things that each persona needs to know in each stage of their journey
  • Third, develop a detailed content plan to deliver on this. We cover developing the right content in more below detail.

3. Find the Optimal Mix of Digital Activities
You won’t have the budget to fully leverage all possible digital activities (Analytics, Search, Social, Website, Display, etc). And, there’s likely some serious inertia behind investment in offline activities like events and direct mail. So, you’ll have to be highly selective.

“67% of the buyer’s journey is now done digitally”
SiriusDecisions BtoB Business Strategy for B2B Marketing

  1. Assess Your Current Activities
    Once you’ve implemented the right customer data management capabilities, [link to How to – get data right pg] you can base decisions for the mix and optimization of activities on analyzing the right metrics.Use the right metrics to determine what’s working:

    • Measure effectiveness of channels, projects or campaigns based on the specific Marketing goal of the activity – not just on immediate leads.
      • Different activities have different roles in each phase of the buying journey.
      • Apply the appropriate metrics depending on those roles.
According to the Google ZMOT study, customers touch 10.4 channels on average before they convert.
    • You’ll under-support the Explore and Experience phases if you base optimization solely on direct attribution to leads or sales.
      Example of the ‘right metrics’ for a phase & activity:

      • Phase: Explore
      • Goal: Make prospects aware of your approach
      • Activity: Display campaigns
      • Metric: Viewthroughs (viewed an ad and later visited your site)
  1. Develop a Roadmap and Forecast
    Use the B2Beacon Planning and Forecasting Tool (Coming Soon) to develop a detailed plan for all digital activities (Analytics, Search, Social, Website, Display, etc). This plan should include the budget required and forecasted ROI for each program.

    • The B2Beacon tool is pre-populated with:
      • Benchmark conversion figures for each activity in each phase
      • Detailed recommendations for ‘first 90 days’ to bring key activities up to best practice
        • Includes budget and ROI figures
      • Annual plan highlighting key actions for all activities

Developing a Content Marketing Plan
Think about content as an ongoing program rather than occasional one-offs.

Your Content Marketing Plan will have three main components:
BtoB Business Strategy Connect Audience Objectives & Metrics for B2B

Customer testimonials and case studies are considered the most effective content marketing tactics, identified by 89% and 88%, respectively, of B2B marketers. (2013 B2B Content Marketing Trends Report)

Your specific objectives will inform which internal and external audience segments you’ll target. Your channel tactics, which come later, will depend on knowing where your audience can be reached most effectively. At this point you need to understand who you want to consume your content and how it will drive the outcome. Does the ultimate purchase decision involve two influencers? Do you need content for the finance team as well as the engineering team? Does your target audience have two different reasons to buy your services? If so, you may need to know which reason to offer the right content. This will help shape your contact strategy.

Customer data is essential to define your audience targeting strategy now and to develop Personas that you’ll use to create personalized content.
Read more >

Customization is key to performance (and data is customization). Consumer expectations have changed and B2B Content Marketing has proliferated. To be heard by your customer and to influence them, you must create customized interactions with content that meets their need at the right time. This means that depending on your strategy, you may version the same essential message for different vertical segments, like the healthcare version and the professional service version or for different roles like the decision maker versus the influencer.

Our strategic plan comes first and informs a clearly articulated and prioritized set of Content Marketing objectives for each main audience we’re marketing to. After all, we’re content marketers, not content publishers, so our efforts must be aligned with our core marketing objectives.

Be clear on the 1 to 3 key outcomes your content must drive. You may want your content to gain new customers or nurture existing ones. You may want to reposition yourself against a competitor or build up prospects in a regional or vertical segment.

Example Content Objectives:

  • Drive Traffic to Site (Explore)
  • Identify Anonymous Site Visitors (Engage)
  • Advance Relationship and Lead Score (Purchase)

Audience and contact strategies drive content strategy and channel strategy. (not the other way around)

Example audiences and contact objectives

  • Anonymous > convert to known
  • Known but new > understand prospect better, qualify through engagement
  • Repeat engagers but no sale > understand timeline better, qualify through engagement
  • Existing Customers > up-sell, resell, service or retain

Your outcomes must be measurable. While you’ll definitely measure consumption of your content in clicks, form-completions and downloads, these tactical metrics will not tell you how well you are doing against your business goals.

With your business context and strategy-driven goals in mind, define the 1-3 metrics that will demonstrate to your CEO that your Content Marketing Strategy is delivering. More on “Reporting Content Marketing ROI to the C-Level” from Content Marketing Institute.