The Ultimate B2B Marketing Strategy Framework – ProperExpression

Published on: | Updated on: | Nick Ilev

B2B marketing without a strategy can feel like throwing paint at a wall. 

You need a clear, long-term plan to navigate complicated sales cycles and ever-growing buyer teams without losing track of your budget or wasting valuable resources. 

group of b2b sales team working together in office

But how do you ensure your marketing strategy actually delivers those benefits and produces positive ROI – and doesn’t end up, in Richard Rumelt’s words1, “long on goals but short on policy or action”? 

This blog explores the role of marketing strategy frameworks and reveals the framework ProperExpression actually uses to help clients generate outstanding marketing ROI. 

Expect to learn: 

  • The most common errors B2B companies make when putting together a marketing strategy
  • Three essential factors that every marketing strategy needs
  • The steps ProperExpression takes to build robust marketing strategies for our B2B clients 

An Overview of Marketing Strategy Frameworks 

What Is a Marketing Strategy? 

A marketing strategy is a plan of action to promote your business. It combines three core factors: 

1. Marketing objectives 

What is the intended outcome of your marketing? You need to focus your efforts on a specific outcome, which could be increasing brand awareness, generating more sales or maximizing ROI. Objectives should always be “SMART”: 

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Relevant
  • Time-bound 

2. Intended audience 

Who are your marketing efforts aimed at? In a B2B context, there are two elements of this:  

  • The types of businesses you are trying to sell to
  • The buyers and influencers who will make a purchasing decision within those organizations you identified 
     

3. Tactical plans 

How will you go about achieving your objectives? This includes the channels you will use, the messaging you will deploy, and the budget you will allocate to each campaign. 

Sounds simple, right? 

Where Many Marketing Strategies Go Wrong 

The above description makes creating a B2B marketing strategy sound clear and simple, but most companies lack a coherent, structured approach to strategizing – which means they experience at least one of the following problems: 

  • Wasted time: A process that could have taken a few days takes three weeks. Research is extensive and there are lots of “strategy meetings”, but it all feels a little improvisational – and the strategic direction changes multiple times.
  • Lack of accountability: It is never decided who is responsible for which tasks or when they are supposed to deliver them. The strategy becomes a muddle of ideas, insights and tactics - not a coherent centralized plan. In many cases, it’s not even written down.
  • Internal conflict: Different groups within the marketing team have conflicting ideas about your strategic goals: the head of Paid Media wants to focus on brand awareness, but the Head of Content wants to drive more organic leads. Heads butt, meetings are confusing, and you never quite reach a consensus about the direction of your marketing. 

As a result, the strategy misses vital opportunities, lacks buy-in from the entire team and often just becomes another document that your team passes around without reading. 

Of course, this is all a little exaggerated. But it makes an important point: without a reliable, unifying process, most marketing strategies do not fulfill their purpose – which is exactly why you need a strategy framework. 

The Role of a Marketing Strategy Framework 

A marketing strategy framework is like an anchor that keeps your strategy process under control. It puts clear parameters in place to determine the deliverables required to build a strategy and ensure everything is done in the most efficient way possible.  

The benefits of this are multiple, including: 

  • Faster deployment: You produce the strategy faster and start producing results sooner. There are no meetings to decide how to approach the strategy process or sudden suggestions that add an extra week to the process.
  • Saved time: You gain a reliable source to refer to later in the marketing process. Whether you’re creating personas or planning an ad campaign, the framework ensures you produce a strategic document that unifies all marketing efforts.
  • Buy-in: The entire team working on the strategy knows what is required and when. Nobody feels their voice is being ignored or others’ views are being given priority, because you are all working from the same established (and shared!) framework. 

Better still, a strong framework ensures your strategy meets the most essential aspects which many marketing strategies lack. 

Three Key Elements of Any Marketing Strategy 

1. Clarity 

Your marketing strategy needs to make it easier to collaborate and work towards a shared aim.  That includes: 

  • Shared language: Every person involved in marketing understands how your lifecycle stages are defined, what constitutes a marketing-qualified lead and how to communicate with sales.
  • Shared aims: Your goals are clearly defined across multiple timeframes and accountability for each goal is established. 
     

2. Feasibility 

The aims, objectives and tactics outlined in your marketing strategy can’t just be pipe dreams – they need to be rooted in reasonable expectations for what your company can achieve. That includes: 

  • Realistic goals: Your total addressable market (TAM) is limited and your existing marketing database may not be squeaky clean. The goal destination needs to be reachable from where you currently are.
  • Reasonable budget: Your marketing strategy needs to take into account resource constraints. If you have a small marketing team, mounting an omnichannel campaign without expert assistance is going to be a big lift.
  • Manageable timelines: Tripling your leads within a month is not plausible for most businesses. If you set out to achieve results unrealistically fast and fail, you will harm team morale and ultimately decrease long-term performance.

3. Measurability 

Every marketing strategy needs to consider how results will be quantified in order to: 

  • Measure ROI: You need to be able to assess whether the strategy is actually producing financial gain.
  • Optimize performance: When a particular tactic, channel or audience is not producing the results you wanted, you need to be able to quickly pivot. Equally, you want to be able to allocate more budget to factors that are producing great results.  

group of b2b sales team working together in office

Five Steps to Build a Winning B2B Marketing Strategy 

The following five steps provide the basis for the strategic audits we have undertaken for numerous clients – and forms the foundation for marketing efforts that have produced outstanding results: 

1. Establish Your Situation 

Overview 

Our initial research phase covers your business, market landscape and audience. We need to understand exactly what your company does and what makes it relevant and valuable to prospective buyers. 

This is done at multiple levels of resolution, including: 

  • The elevator pitch: What are the essential facts about your offering?
  • The value proposition: How do you deliver real value for your audience?
  • The challenges: Where is your marketing not producing results and what are the hurdles you face?
  • The audience: Who are you selling to and what are their pain points and goals?
  • The products: How do your products work and how do they alleviate your personas’ pain points? 

Pro Tips from ProperExpression 

  • Get multiple perspectives: When we kick off with a new client, we want to talk with as many people within their business as possible to gain a deep understanding of what they do, how buyers respond to their messaging and how we can improve the approach. Oftentimes this means meeting with executives and key stakeholders, marketing teams and sales teams.
  • Test assumptions: Businesses don’t always test their assumptions about their audience or market with rigor. You might believe buyers resonate with a specific term or pain point, but we need to validate those claims by gently challenging and ultimately testing them. 
     

2. Conduct Industry and Competitor Research 

Overview 

The next step is to build a clear view of your competitive landscape in order to determine where you fit; where you can differentiate to build a competitive advantage; and what you can learn from other businesses in the industry. 

This involves: 

  • An industry overview: We research your industry to gain deep knowledge of how it works. What kind of publications do people within your niche read? What are the most popular conferences and who are prominent thought leaders?
  • Competitor analysis: We do a deep dive into your most prominent competitors to determine how they approach marketing, what kind of messaging they use and where there are clear gaps in their own strategies that we can exploit. 

Pro Tips from ProperExpression 

  • Abstract your learnings: When competitors are doing something well, you can’t simply copy them – you need to extract the principle and apply it in your own way. If a competitors is using informal copy well, you can learn from that and make your own language more relaxed.
  • Conduct ongoing competitor analysis: It’s important to revisit your initial competitor research regularly, at least a couple times a year. As competitors update their messaging or pivot the digital channels their leveraging, it’s critical that your team stays aware of their efforts and evaluates how your own business can compete directly with them. 
     

3. Perform a Thorough Marketing Audit 

Overview 

The final phase of research is a thorough audit of your existing and historical marketing efforts. We need to understand exactly what we are working with, how your existing processes work and what can be leveraged in the future. 

This covers every aspect of your marketing, including: 

  • Customer Relationship Management (CRM): What platform do you use? Is your data clean and healthy? How accessible is it and how is it used in your marketing? Are you able to create hyper-segmented audience lists?
  • Website Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO): How effective is your website currently? Does it generate leads? Is it immediately clear what you offer? Is it easy to navigate? Do you have higher conversion rates and low bounce rates?
  • Content: How do you currently approach content marketing? What is your existing process and how much of your content can be repurposed? How do leads interact with your current content?
  • SEO: Does your website rank for the most important keywords relevant to your offerings? Are there technical or content factors that can be quickly improved?
  • Email marketing: What is your current email health and deliverability? Are you actively nurturing new leads and engaging old ones?
  • Organic Social: What is your current presence on social media? Which platforms do you use and how large is your audience?
  • Advertising: What kind of campaigns do you run, and do they produce results? 

Pro Tips from ProperExpression 

  • Focus on data: While there are various “intangible” factors to consider, what matters most is the actual performance of your marketing. We leverage data wherever possible and use it to compare different channels, campaigns and products to understand exactly what is and is not currently working.
  • Optimize what’s working: Based on the channels you identify as most successful, focus on optimizing those to drive even stronger results before you start exploring launching new channels.  

4. Establish Goals 

Overview 

With a clear view of your business, competitors and existing marketing position, we establish a set of goals for the next 12-18 months. This should include both: 

  • Performance targets: You might want to generate more leads, increase conversion rates or reduce your cost per acquisition (CPA).
  • Tactical plans: How will you actually achieve goals? How will you solve the problems that prevent you from currently reaching them? 

Pro Tips from ProperExpression 

  • Look for low-hanging fruit: Big strategic goals are important, but most B2B business are sitting on gold that they could easily dig up. Make sure to consider the relative cost-benefit of your goals, and ask yourself: is there something we could achieve that would be just as good – but faster and easier? 
     

5. Plan Your Initial Campaigns 

Overview 

We complete the strategy process by developing a plan for initial campaigns that will put our findings into action. This ensures the strategy is immediately actionable and helps quickly test assumptions against reality. 

The initial campaign plan will generally include: 

  • Process alterations: How will you alter your processes to create smoother, more impactful marketing? This could include migrating to a new CRM and marketing automation platform or simply changing how you plan campaigns.
  • Specific deliverables: Which channels are you going to use and what kind of content will you deploy? We try to include a fixed cadence to ensure accountability and make capacity and resource planning easier.
  • Path to ROI: How will these campaigns produce a return and what is required to ensure they are profitable? 

Want to Learn How This Framework Helped Increase Inbound Revenue 466%? 

These exact steps were the foundation of our recent engagement with a healthcare cybersecurity SaaS client. 

With the basic building blocks in place, we were able to leverage multiple channels to serve as a true strategic partner – running omnichannel campaigns, optimizing the results and ultimately doubling the volume of leads they generate. 

You can get the full story here. 

And if you want to figure out how we could produce similar results for your business... 

Book a Growth Consultation

References:

1. https://books.google.com/books/about/Good_Strategy_Bad_Strategy.html?id=zFC7AQAACAAJ&source=kp_book_description

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