ThinkSpring Marketing & Communications

Category Archive: Process

Five steps to fast-track your B2B marketing plan

CalendarHelp! The first quarter’s here and we need a plan now. If this cry for help sounds familiar, don’t panic. There’s no time like the present to set your course.

Follow these five steps to expedite your marketing roadmap:

1. Start small

There’s no minimum timeframe for planning. What’s important is defining activities that will help the organization achieve its objectives. Tackle the next six weeks or 90 days and work your way up to a six- or 12-month plan.

2. Prioritize

The marketing wish list will always exceed available resources, so be realistic. Focus your plan on your top three channels, products or organizational objectives and how to support them. Sort potential activities into categories: Required, Desired and Nice. Execute programs in the same order.

3. Delegate

It’s marketing’s job to support organizational goals—not to create them. Ask leadership to share their objectives. Use sales targets, revenue plans and product business plans for guidance. This information gathering will speed your timeline and engage the team.

4. Dedicate time

Like oil and water, strategic thinking and day-to-day marketing tasks don’t mix. Schedule 60-minute blocks of uninterrupted time to draft your plan: no email, no phones, no meetings. If you’re in a high-traffic area, work in a conference room. Make a checklist of items you need to complete, and set a reasonable goal for each work session.

5. Expect revisions

Every plan is a working document, one you will likely adapt as market conditions or business priorities change. When this happens, be flexible, involve others and use the plan as a communications tool. Add or change activities with the same Required-Desired-Nice categories used to develop the plan.

As with any skill, the more you plan, the more proficient you’ll become. And, even a small plan beats a reactive, ad hoc approach.

B2B marketing tip #197: Improve the feedback loop

B2B Marketing Tip of the WeekFrustrated with the input you receive when you circulate marketing materials for review? Take control of the approval process by addressing specific requests to the right individuals.

Do you want feedback on accuracy of product features? Votes on which headline to use? Debate on font size and colors?

Communicate clear expectations to optimize reviewers’ time and keep marketing in control of key decisions.

B2B marketing tip #173: Case closed

B2B Marketing Tip of the WeekDon’t consider your project complete until you’ve convened stakeholders for an official post mortem meeting. Avoid the blame game, and instead take an objective look at what worked well, and how to avoid issues like cost overruns, delays or rework in future initiatives.

Document the discussion and review as a group before planning begins on the next event or campaign.

B2B marketing tip #171: Be prepared

B2B Marketing Tip of the WeekStaying cool in a crisis separates companies that thrive from those who may not survive. Consider the scenarios that could impact your company’s operations or reputation, or require immediate crisis communications.

Work with executives now to develop a plan, including roles and responsibilities, key messages and communication vehicles—including social media.

B2B marketing tip #169: Hang up that phone

B2B Marketing Tip of the WeekFed up with creative that’s over budget, off-message and difficult to approve internally? Before you fire your agency, make sure you’re giving them a fair chance at success.

Before you call to kick off a project, make sure you’ve vetted your idea internally with a written project brief and support of stakeholders. Do you have budget approval? Is sales behind the campaign and willing to follow up leads? Has the product team signed off on key messages?

Early planning in-house ensures a clear direction and a smooth production process when you do seek outside assistance.

B2B marketing tip #166: Expertise, stat!

B2B Marketing Tip of the WeekWatch out for interesting industry statistics and use them as the foundation for thought leadership articles or blog posts. Show your expertise and understanding of the market by interpreting the statistic.

B2B marketing tip #165: Timely followup for tradeshow leads

B2B Marketing Tip of the WeekStay current with trade show leads. Plan the followup process and draft the post-event letters, emails, or calling script before the event. Get buy-in from sales and execs on timing and approach.

Six ways to sink your next product launch

Part II: Avoid these common marketing pitfalls

Avoid these marketing pitfallsLaunching a new product or service can bring out the best—or the worst—in an organization. From cost overruns to development delays, the process of innovation is ripe with obstacles.

Make sure your marketing efforts stay on track by watching out for these issues.

Marketing Don’ts:

(1)    Overpromise. A launch means pressure to build a sales pipeline long before the product debuts, but don’t paint yourself into a corner with pre-launch sales tools and marketing messages. Be cautious about including feature names, screen shots, pricing and other details too early in published materials. Instead, sell your vision for the product and leave the specifics for verbal discussions.

(2)    Underestimate your needs. New products and new market entries are two of the most taxing projects for marketing. Do your due diligence and set appropriate expectations; your first year efforts will require substantially more resources than a typical project.

(3)    Skimp on naming. A name is like a tattoo. You’re going to have it for a long time, and it’s complicated, expensive and painful to change. Don’t leave something this important to an employee contest. Hire a professional and find a moniker that has staying power and panache.

(4)    Guess what the market needs. Don’t rely on developers, documentation or third-hand stories to figure out your marketing approach. Get to the source by visiting your audience and hearing firsthand about their needs. Build time into your launch planning for site visits and testing your product positioning.

(5)    Get too technical too early. Yes, features matter. But how your product works only becomes important once your audience knows it can solve their problems. Tell your story so the big picture benefits always get top billing—no matter how much the engineers push to feature the functionality.

(6)    Forget the influencers. From IT to analysts, bloggers to past employees, social media gives everyone a platform. Identify and reach out to those who can champion your solution, with messages that speak to their role and area of expertise.

Ready to move forward? Read the companion post, “Six marketing essentials for a successful product launch.”

Six marketing essentials for a successful product launch

Part I: What to do—and why

Marketing product launchHere are six must-haves as you plan for your next release. These are tailored to a technology solution, but can apply to other goods or services as well.

Marketing Dos:

(1)    Start early. There’s no such thing as too much time to plan; getting ready to market a major initiative can take 12-18 months. Don’t wait until your solution is ready to sell—invite marketing to the table as soon as possible, so positioning, naming, strategy and research can evolve side-by-side with development of the product itself.

(2)    Sell the vision. With new products, we’re especially prone to talking about features and functionality—the “how it works” part. This can be dangerous when building pre-launch buzz, because functionality is still in flux. Instead, generate early momentum by establishing the ideal scenario your prospect can expect, thanks to working with your new solution.

(3)    Find the “wow.” When it comes to promotion, one fantastic feature will create more impact than a dozen ordinary ones. Take time to test messages about functionality until you can articulate a differentiated, relevant positioning. And if you don’t have it—keep looking until you find it, even it if means adding a feature midstream.

 (4)    Map the sales and support process. One meeting with sales, marketing and customer service can avoid countless headaches. Together, diagram how a buyer will move from lead to demo to sale to implementation. Agree on who will be accountable for each stage, how quickly they must respond and where to track pertinent details.

 (5)    Educate everyone. B2B means selling with people—and not just your dedicated sales team. Employees across the company will talk to customers and prospects, so make sure they’re on message and armed with the facts, no matter what their role. Issue regular internal communications, including the correct product name and a consistent “why this product rocks” elevator speech. You’ll minimize misinformation and energize the organization.

 (6)    Build out from a soft launch. Even the best laid plans seldom come to fruition without a hiccup. Minimize your risk—and be kind to your budget—by launching with a beta test or a pilot program. Even 30 days of trial in a small market will give you valuable knowledge to refine your full launch plans.

Up next:  You’ve seen the Dos. Now explore the Don’ts with “Six ways to sink your next product launch.”

B2B marketing tip #158: Summarize that show

B2B Marketing Tip of the WeekWhen it comes to planning your annual events, don’t trust memory as your guide. Be disciplined. Within 10 days of the event itself, summarize your event presence, pre- and post-show marketing, what worked well, and recommendations for change.

Use your post-show report to communicate results to stakeholders after the event, and as a refresher when you kick off next year’s planning process.

Get the B2B Marketing Tip of the Week delivered right to your inbox! Subscribe today.

linkedin twitter

Contact: 952.200.4798   |   Email   |   St. Louis Park, MN 55416

© 2009-2020 ThinkSpring Marketing & Communications, LLC