The marketing plan of a B2B company is the direct result, the extension of the strategic analysis performed upstream. By strategic analysis, we mean the definition of a business model proposing an original and sustainable value creation, the setting of objectives and the allocation of resources to achieve these objectives.
The B2B marketing plan
A company’s strategy can take various forms: differentiation strategy, innovation strategy, cost domination strategy, etc.
Strategic Analysis Focuses on Both Internal and External via Various Tools:
- SWOT matrix: in this matrix, the strengths and weaknesses of the company are evaluated, but also the opportunities and threats it may face
- Environmental Analysis: read the definition of a market analysis by the technological, institutional, economic and cultural environment (PESTEL)
A number of objectives are derived from this strategic analysis. For example: to increase sales by xx%, to increase customer loyalty by xx%… Once the general (strategic) objectives have been set, the marketing department defines a product/market strategy to achieve them.
The marketing department first performs a marketing analysis using SWOT / PESTEL-type tools and sets its objectives. These objectives must be “SMART”: Specific, Measurable, Acceptable, Realistic and Temporally defined.
Once the marketing objectives are defined, the marketing department lays out its strategy for achieving them. It proceeds to segment the market (read B2B segmentation definition) and determines which segments are targeted. It then defines the positioning of products, brands, and offers for each of the target segments.
Finally, it details the action plan (i.e. the operational and tactical choices) for each target segment. This is where we find the marketing mix and its 4Ps (read the definition of the marketing mix).
The Limitations of Theoretical Approaches to B2B Marketing Planning
As with any action plan, it is important not to get stuck in time and to remain flexible throughout the action plan. The objective is to be able to react quickly to your environment and to your competitors and to take into account the results that you obtain as you go along.
The adoption of an iterative (non-linear) approach is therefore recommended. It will allow you to make “loops” of decisions according to the results obtained, new information that comes from the market or questions that arise along the way. Having a framework, and a guideline is necessary but the iterative method allows the decision process to be more dynamic, more critical (constructive criticism) towards the planned actions and to be more interactive with the collaborators and the environment.
Trends and Innovations in B2B Marketing Plan
As we have just seen, setting guidelines is useful. Having the broad objectives of a marketing strategy in mind allows everyone to mobilize and achieve those objectives. However, the business environment is extremely fluid, especially in B2B.
Adopting a Test & Learn approach consists in testing one or more hypotheses and then making the necessary decisions based on the results of this experiment. In fact, the idea is to test continuously, which allows you to adapt continuously to your market.
This “on the fly” development of marketing actions is a real revolution in terms of approach. The proposed solutions are not – by definition – perfect. We learn by walking and by making mistakes. Mistakes are therefore allowed, they are an integral part of the process. This can be very disturbing for many senior management, managers or employees.
B2B Marketing Plan Tools and Methods
One of the first methods, when we start on a Test & Learn approach, is A/B testing. Originally, this method consists in comparing two versions of a web page and observing which one converts better or which one is more efficient on a given indicator (time spent on the page…). But the A/B testing approach can be applied to other fields such as e-mailing and CRM. It can be applied to any variable of your marketing mix (read the definition of the marketing mix).
Another method is the Minimum Viable Product (or MVP in English: Minimum Viable Product). The MVP became popular thanks to Lean Startup, a method to facilitate the rapid creation of startups.
The Minimum Viable Product is the first version of a product, a resolutely minimalist, imperfect version. When you take the MVP reasoning to its extreme, one MVP = one feature.
The sole purpose of an MVP is to compare itself to its assumed target audience in order to derive a market estimate.