Content originally posted on Marketing Insider Group
“Strategy without tactics is a daydream; tactics without strategy is a nightmare.” Influenced by Sun Tzu and coined by Sagefrog CEO and Co-founder Mark Schmukler, this quote implies that there’s a clear difference between marketing strategy and marketing tactics. It suggests that one can’t be done without the other, and to do both correctly, strategy must come first. It’s the foundation, after all.
Marketing strategy, however, can mean different things: the position or “strategy” by which your brand will go to market, and the actual way or “strategy” by which your company will create a brand to go to market with. The second definition is what we’re going to talk about here—what your marketing department’s strategy should be for making the most of the time, energy and dollars you allocate to marketing. In a new report1 that collected data from hundreds of B2B marketing professionals, the ways in which B2B marketing teams across the nation operate as a majority were brought to light. In this blog, find out how B2B marketers are planning, executing and budgeting their marketing programs so you can be sure your marketing program’s strategy falls in line, or ahead, of your competition in 2019.
Strategy 1: Have a Formal Marketing Plan
In a significant and encouraging shift from the data released in last year’s B2B Marketing Mix Report,1 more B2B teams are using formal plans to guide their branding and marketing. 66% of B2B marketers reported using a formal marketing plan this year, taking a more strategic and proactive approach to tactics, rather than a sporadic and reactive approach to the marketplace.
Once again, there are differences between a strategic marketing plan and a tactical marketing plan. A strategic marketing plan, which we’re talking about here, combines market research with a situation analysis of your brand. One of the most common ways to get started is by using your marketing agency or internal committee to identify your top five to ten competitors and conduct a SWOT analysis for each. Cross-reference your competitors’ SWOTs against your company’s own analysis to uncover the whitespace—areas where the market is severely lacking or strengths that only your company brings to the table. With this information, you can develop a brand strategy and messaging platform that intelligently markets the characteristics that make your brand different and better from the rest.
Strategy 2: Partner with a Marketing Agency
63% of B2B marketers report using a marketing agency to handle some or all of their marketing program.1 For small-to-medium-sized businesses (SMBs) that can’t afford to build out an entire marketing department in-house, complete with strategic marketers, certified specialists and subscriptions to the various tools and platforms that make a marketing program run, an agency is often the way to go. Marketing agencies give SMBs access to top-tier marketing capabilities and capacity, while using their internal resources more effectively.
“Between digital, inbound and traditional methods, there are an incredible number of moving parts, and the real art lies in not just understanding how each tool works best, but how each works best in cooperation with each other. And that requires an agency that has developed a particular kind of harmony in addition to individual expertise,” commented one of the publishers of the report.1 Consult The Seven P’s of Choosing a B2B Marketing Agency if you’re on the hunt for an agency in 2019.
Strategy 3: Use Retainer vs. Project Contracts
The majority of outsourced marketing efforts are executed via retainers, according to the 2019 B2B Marketing Mix Report.1 More and more companies are taking advantage of retainers, recognizing that the nature of most digital marketing programs is long-term and ongoing.
Search engine optimization (SEO), for example, aims to get your company found on Google by increasing its presence in unpaid search results. But ranking in the search results doesn’t happen overnight. It requires ongoing technical work, such as website optimization, as well as local SEO, which is the process of using a company’s geographical location to rank a business higher than its local competitors. Link building, keyword research, optimizing copy development and more are all part of a successful SEO program, and as you can tell, these tactics are not one and done; rather, they require ongoing maintenance, attention and analytics, which are best executed with a retainer agreement.
Of course project work has its place for initiatives that have a concrete start and end, such as completing a brand strategy, creating a website or producing a marketing brochure. But when it comes to implementing a complete marketing program, including digital, retainer contracts are the way to go.
Strategy 4: Spend 10% of Revenue on Marketing
One of the most common questions marketing leaders get asked is, “How much should I be spending on marketing?” Informed by hundreds of marketing executives, the report found that the magic number for 2019 is 10% or more of a yearly budget.1 Up 5% from 2018’s report, the number of businesses allotting 10% or more of their company’s budget on marketing reflects the priorities of leaders facing greater competition both online and off. Advanced and automated marketing tactics, personalization, interactive content and new user experience requirements all demand a greater portion of a business’s budget to achieve.
Beyond the spend that’s allocated to marketing personnel and agency partnerships, the top three tactical areas where marketers invested that 10%, as identified by the report,1 include website development, digital marketing and tradeshows and events.
So as we move into 2019, consider these top four B2B marketing strategies to guide your department’s operation. Your tactics can’t be effective without a proper foundation in place, and ensuring a proper marketing, execution and budgeting plan will help you run an effective marketing program all year long.