In my experience, B2B companies rarely have a strategic marketing planning process as their immediate priority. This is largely due to a buyer journey traditionally focused on interactions with a sales team.
I find this to be especially true for B2B startups. Sure, marketing may be considered, but it’s often in a passing, “I’ll get to that soon” way. Usually because there are always “bigger” things to worry about. Things like finishing a special client project, HR challenges, or smoothing out the bumps in a piece of technology. Don’t get me wrong, these are all important pieces of the puzzle. But, defining your value proposition, confirming your resources, and developing your strategic plan, (all part of your strategic marketing planning process), needs to be on your “to-do” list. Thinking about marketing from the get go is a critical part of any business, new concept, or technology.
Put simply, it’s never too soon to think about your strategic marketing planning process. Here are 4 reasons why:
1. A strategic marketing planning process helps to clarify what’s really important
A big part of marketing strategy is figuring out the key messages to use when engaging with your customers. Defining these key messages early helps hone in on the problems you’re solving. It also helps you understand the key benefits of your product or service. While you may have broad ideas about this, forcing yourself to develop key messages at the outset makes you distill what’s really important. It also ensures you clarify other aspects of your business as well. For instance, from they key people you might need to hire next, to how to structure operational aspects, like departments and billing.
- Tip: The wording for your key messages doesn’t need to be perfect at this early stage. This is not a “set it and forget it” activity. Instead, work on establishing 3 to 5 key points you want to convey and go from there. While the wording may change and evolve, you’ll be surprised at how the essence stays the same.
2. Marketing establishes credibility & memorable identity
As the popular 1990’s Head & Shoulders shampoo ad coined, “you never get a second chance to make a first impression”. Thinking about your marketing from a visual or brand strategy perspective is important because it sets the overall tone, look and feel for your brand in market. As a new player, the right brand image conveys the message “you’re a serious organization for consideration” and helps to position you for success.
3. Marketing helps you take advantage of unexpected opportunities
More information is available online today than ever before. In fact, 67% of the buyer’s journey is now done digitally (Source: Sirius Decisions). Creating your digital footprint (i.e. website and SEO strategy) sooner rather than later is critical. It is safe to say that B2B buyers, networking connections, and professional colleagues are all doing their research on YOU and the COMPANY before meeting you. Without a relevant digital presence you risk losing credibility before you even get started.
- Tip: Don’t get caught up in thinking you must have the Cadillac version of your website ready for day 1. Rather, focus on creating a V1 website (i.e. <10 pages) that lets you convey your most important information while you get all your other ducks in a row.
4. Marketing plugs in your eyes & ears
In talking about establishing digital presence, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention social media. It’s another table stake in the foundational marketing elements that should be considered early on, especially when you consider these compelling statistics. For example, that LinkedIn is now responsible for a staggering 64% of all visits from social media channels to corporate websites. More than Twitter or Facebook. (Source: Econsultancy). Further, 84% of C-level and VP-level buyers use social media interaction to influence purchase decisions (Source: IDC). If you want to drive awareness and traffic to your website, or influence purchasing decisions, social media is a major highway to use to get there.
- Tip: Again, Rome wasn’t built in a day. Think about the channels your customers are using and then secure your handles (i.e. @yourcompanyname for twitter). Set up your accounts, whether it’s twitter, LinkedIN, GooglePlus, FaceBook, snapchat or something else. From there, start identifying and connecting with influencers in a meaningful way so that when you’re ready for your major launch, you’ve already got a community to engage with.
Starting a business in today’s ever-changing digital marketing landscape requires more than just a great value proposition, tool or solution. It also requires a strategic marketing planning process that establishes, connects, and builds meaningful engagement, from pre-launch onwards.