It’s that time. The end of the year is here and we’re knee-deep in budget planning for next fiscal year. The biggest mistake you can make is to rubber stamp last year’s marketing plan and assume business as usual. As you begin the process of developing your plan, pull in the folks from sales and finance to get their perspective on the tactics and results from this year. Did the big tradeshow pay off? Which services and products would benefit from an extra push? Does your customer base include a healthy mix of old and new?
A good marketing plan supports sales conversion at every stage of the funnel. (If you need a refresher on the topic, check out Hubspot’s article The Steps You Need to Define the Stages of Your Sales Marketing Funnel) A better marketing plan has been optimized to target those stages where there are big opportunities for growth. So to help get you started, we’ve pulled together a list of tactics that address issues at each stage. One thing to note–we’re taking the perspective of a mid-sized B2B business as we were writing this. That said, if you are developing a plan to target consumers, much of the thinking is pretty universal.
Awareness Tactics at the Top of the Funnel (TOFU)
Begin analyzing the process from the start, at the top of the sales funnel. This is generally where marketing teams focus their efforts–growing awareness. If sales reps don’t have enough leads to act on and the number of RFPs seems to be shrinking, that’s a sure sign that the problem lies at the top.
Websites with low traffic, or low engagement with their website content are also reflective of a business that struggles with the top of the funnel. For most businesses, there is a relationship between website traffic and revenue because it generates ecommerce sales, generates leads or at the very least serves as indicator of interest in your business. Your web presence is important.
A company in this situation may benefit from taking a step back. It’s possible that your company’s brand may be due for an update. Before initiating a large scale awareness campaign, make sure your message is current. How do you stand apart from your competitors? Is your focus too broad or too specialized? If sales has relied on an existing pool of customers, marketing has probably been on the back burner and tried and true tactics are now stale. It’s time to focus on new activities that will grow your audience so you get noticed.
EventsTradeshows and conferences are a well-known way to get in front of your key audience of potential customers. There are many businesses looking to do the same thing though - so if your goal is to build awareness, your event strategy has to be strong. Target events where you can present and that are sized to your business so you can afford to marry your booth with additional sponsorships and some decent swag. Being strategic about events is critical because these shows take a big chunk of your marketing resources, both time and dollars. The week before an event your team is consumed with details, and it’s possible that just one show takes the lionshare of your annual budget. If events are a big piece of your marketing plan, be sure to have systems set up to ensure follow up and ultimately measure returns.
Advertising and Public RelationsFor businesses of all sizes, respected industry publications (both digital and print) should not be overlooked as awareness building opportunities. Building relationships with the editorial teams can lead to guest articles and quotes in your areas of expertise. Old fashioned advertising isn’t dead either. If you are considering advertising, make sure it’s a tactic you can afford. Our mantra for B2B ads–size matters. If your business is bigger and your budget can afford it, television, radio and billboards are obvious tactics to grow awareness too.
Blogging, Video and Social MediaNo explanation needed on this one, right? Sharing content is where it’s at. Compared to advertising, these are long haul tactics though. Know your potential customer, develop content that delivers on what they are looking for and surprise them with your smarts. Don’t bore them with news of some award you just won. Congratulations, but no one cares. Give them information they can use and make them come back for more. Do yourself a favor though, don’t blog with a blindfold on. Put a strategy in place, invest in marketing automation, integrate your CRM platform and measure your results. Otherwise, you’ll quickly lose steam and your colleagues will wonder why you are wasting your time.
SEO and Pay Per ClickYou want people to find your website, right? Make sure you’ve optimized it to the best of your abilities. For that reason, we consider basic page level optimization as an awareness tactic. Make friends with Google, get rid of broken links and write good meta descriptions to help increase your odds of getting found in search. Then, once you’ve got your pages optimized, create landing pages and develop an AdWords campaign to generate more traffic.
Purchased email and direct mail listsWe’ll talk about these tactics again as we go further into the funnel, but they have a spot at the top too. That is, if you purchase lists. It’s true, there is nothing better than using marketing automation to nurture leads from potential customers who have opted in by sharing contact information. On the other hand, many businesses and organizations see strong returns using purchased lists to generate awareness.
PartnershipsAre there are businesses that you frequently partner with? Perhaps you could pool resources to develop a shared campaign to cross promote your businesses. If your customer base is regional, sponsoring local events also serves as a great way to enhance your brand as a community supporter while building awareness at the same time.
Nurturing Tactics at the Middle of the Funnel (MOFU)
Back in the ol’ days, the marketing team cared about awareness, while the sales team cared about good quality leads. Nowadays the lines are more blurred, and we’re all pretty focused on the middle - the stage where awareness converts to interest. The middle of the funnel is where we capture and nurture leads. How do we know if there a leak in the middle? Well, if your sales team is twiddling their thumbs, that’s a sign for sure. For companies that use email marketing, a shrinking subscriber list indicates issues in the middle. We can also figure it out by process of elimination. If the website traffic is strong, and sales is doing well closing the leads they are getting - then the problem is likely someplace in between.
If there are opportunities in the middle, marketing and sales need to address it together. On the sales side, it’s possible that we’re making it too difficult for potential clients to raise their hand, and take the next step. Maybe we’re expecting them to jump through too many hoops. On the marketing side, there are a few useful tactics as well:
Product Catalogs and SamplesIf your business is product based, your catalog of sku’s is an important resource. Your eCommerce site may serve as a useful digital catalog, but printed and PDF versions have value as well. Consider developing multiple catalog types that are specific to the needs of different types of customers to simplify their purchasing process. Be strategic about how you price and deliver samples, and ensure that the presentation is the best reflection of your brand.
Website Call-To-Actions, Offers and FormsIf your website is not a key player in your lead generation strategy, there’s no excuse. Develop compelling offers to give potential clients a good reason to raise their hand. Use website forms to allow visitors to sign up for a free webinar, download a product catalog or access other tools on your website. Connect these forms to your CRM so that marketing and sales teams can stay in touch.
Email and Direct MailIt’s surprising how many businesses have databases full of emails and mailing addresses and don’t use them. Make sure those people are still alive, and reach out. Segment your lists and share some of that great content you are developing.
Closing Tactics at the Bottom of the Funnel (BOFU)
If website traffic is strong and leads are coming in but you just aren’t closing them, there are a number of possible causes. Maybe the lead nurturing process wasn’t sufficient, or the leads need to be vetted a bit more before being passed along to sales. Is there a disconnect between your service and products, and what your customers are looking for?
The bottom of the funnel is harder for marketing to address on it's own, but there are still a few cards we can play as well:
Product positioningIt’s possible that customers really want to buy from you, but just don’t get what you’re selling. If the product or service mix is wrong, that’s not something the marketing team can generally address. But perhaps you could put a different spin on things. The names we use, descriptions we create and images we share all matter. Enhancing a product story with case studies and videos may help too. Get input from the sales team - what do they hear from potential customers?
PromotionsIncentives like free shipping, discount codes, or bundled product/services deals can quickly impact the bottom line. To be more targeted with these offers, consider limiting the offer to certain sales channels or promoting the offer in specific publications. Proceed with caution, as you will likely find that it becomes difficult to wean away from these incentives in subsequent years.
The ultimate tactic at every stage of the funnel is ensuring that marketing and sales are speaking the same language. Delivering on marketing promises, using input from sales team at the front lines, and reinforcing the brand at every turn is where the money’s at.