Is it even possible for an outside agency to develop a B2B marketing strategy for a company? How can people who do not even work in your industry, let alone at your firm, know how you should go about attracting new leads and clients?
The good news is that it is possible. And the even better news is that we are going to share how we do it. You can use this information to help create or refine your own strategy, you can use it when working with an agency or consultant, or – and this is our favorite option! – you can use it when working with your B2B marketing experts from our PMG team.
It starts in the sales process.
The beginnings of a client’s B2B marketing strategy start in the sales process with our initial website assessment. Our prospects provide access to their Google Analytics and/or HubSpot portals if they are using those tools. We then review their activity, trends and results to date and create a report that shares our initial findings and recommendations based on what we see.
Some agencies will say that no one should give away services during the sales process, that we should get paid for our ideas. But we have found that giving away a little during this part of a relationship is a worthwhile investment for several reasons:
- It allows a prospect to see how we think and to decide if our approach could potentially work for them.
- When we present our findings, we get a good feeling on whether we connect with a prospect and vice versa. If a prospect shows little to no interest in hearing our thoughts and ideas, then we know that they will not be a good client for us. If their response to every recommendation is that they have tried that before and it did not work, then they may not be open to working with a partner who may push them to try new things.
- By digging into a company’s inbound analytics, we come up with several questions about the marketing programs and efforts to date. Going through these questions during the sales process communicates to the prospect that our approach will center on them and their unique needs, rather than on us and a cookie cutter approach.
- If the fit is right and there is mutual respect and chemistry, then the foundation for a strong relationship is laid by going through this assessment process before anyone signs on the dotted line.
The right team is assembled.
The success of any B2B marketing strategy will depend on one thing – a commitment to consistent execution. The reason that most clients come to us is that they have created strategies in the past only to see them limp along because no one has the time to devote to seeing them through. They realize that they need someone to drive the programs forward. That doesn’t mean, however, that you can hire an agency and then disappear.
We insist on our clients showing complete buy-in to the marketing strategy that we all agree to, and we are clear about what that buy-in looks like. In the beginning, it means some time invested to make sure the strategy is clear and that roles and responsibilities for execution are outlined.
Execution can happen in a variety of ways, depending on the internal resources that our clients have. In most cases, our clients are seeking a team to create and execute their strategy, and they want their involvement to be as subject matter experts who can provide industry insights and information for content creation.
The beauty of outsourcing is the mixing and matching of marketing resources that can work on your strategic plan as needed. For the price of hiring one full-time seasoned marketer, you can engage with an agency that brings in the specialists you need as you need them. This allows you to drive your strategy forward most efficiently. Our teams typically include:
- An account manager to oversee the engagement
- A project manager to drive activity forward
- A content strategist to lead content creation and promotion
- A creative director to lead design projects
- A paid search/paid social expert to drive campaigns
- An executor to implement the marketing programs as created
Kicking things off right!
Successfully onboarding a marketing agency to create and drive your B2B strategy is a critical step in the process. Only if the agency fully understands your business and industry, roles and responsibilities of the client and the agency, and how success will be measured can they deliver for you.
Some clients have told us that the questions we ask in our discovery meetings cover topics that they've never really considered. We dig deep. We have found that the best way to help our clients with their marketing strategy is to integrate fully with the overall business vision, and to do this requires that we ask a LOT of questions.
One set of questions we recently started asking involves what could go wrong in the engagement. No one really wants to think of this at the beginning of a relationship, but by honestly discussing potential obstacles we may run into, we can understand what the client values most. It also gives us a chance to communicate our expectations so that we can build a true partnership.
A two-pronged approach: 90-Day Plans
After our discovery call, our team gets to work brainstorming and creating a B2B marketing strategy that is then planned out using a two-pronged approach executed over 90 days. It would be easy to spend months fleshing out a marketing strategy but most companies simply don’t have the tolerance for taking this kind of time. They are looking to drive qualified leads to their business. That is why our initial plans always include foundational work and specific campaign work to drive and nurture leads.
We have also found that it is silly to try to plan out a 12-month calendar for any company, as business moves and changes so fast. It is also inefficient to do one-month plans, as your team ends up spending more time creating and presenting plans than they do carrying out the work. So 90 days has become our sweet spot and clients are responding very well to this approach.
At the top of every marketing strategy document are these core elements that we like to keep front and center:
- The goal of the engagement with our agency
- Metrics that will be used to measure success
- The target buyer personas
- The core messages/value proposition/differentiators we want to communicate
- The overall tactics that will be used
The foundational work that is included in your B2B marketing strategy includes things like:
- Buyer personas
- Keyword research and site optimization
- Website updates
- Content strategy and editorial calendars
- Social media
- Paid search and paid social for branding
- Analytics dashboard for tracking results
The campaign work includes creating one targeted, strategic program to drive or nurture leads. This campaign process includes:
- Defining the goal of the campaign, for example, to bring in 100 sales qualified leads within 6 months
- Defining the buyer persona for the campaign – who are you targeting?
- Identifying any existing content or offers that can be used in the campaign
- Identifying new content that needs to be created for the campaign
- Outlining all the tactics that will be used to go after this particular persona, including:
- Activities to build awareness – social media, events, paid advertising, site optimization
- Activities to drive conversion – lead generation offers, paid advertising
- Activities to nurture leads – email campaigns
- Scheduling out how all tactics will be executed over time
Review results. Refine. Repeat.
Your B2B marketing strategy is a living, breathing document that needs ongoing review as it unfolds. We typically review a client’s strategy on a 90-day basis as part of creating our plan for the next 90 days. Taking a fresh look after 90 days of activity allows us all to see what is working, what isn’t, what we should do more of and what we should stop doing.
It’s also important every 90 days or so to ask a scary question – is the overall engagement still working? As an agency, it can feel nerve-wracking to give your client the chance to say, “Actually, no, we are not that happy.” But overall, clients appreciate this question and most are very forthcoming about what is working well and what can be improved. And the best clients ask US if we are still happy having them as a client, if they are doing all they can to move their strategy forward.
These conversations are important and they help us all get better and do better.
So I hope you can now see how the right agency truly can help you create and execute a B2B marketing strategy that reaps real results for your business!