In his blog, Joe Pulizzi recently wrote, “As our recently released 2014 B2B Content Marketing Benchmark research tells us, the majority of brands out there have absolutely no documented content strategy.” CMI found that only 44% of marketers have any type of content marketing strategy.
But I think even those results are suspect, because there is a great deal of confusion among marketers about what constitutes a marketing strategy. But it’s critical to figure this out, because CMI also found that 84% of marketers who don’t have a documented content marketing strategy say their content marketing is ineffective.
A Marketing Strategy is NOT a Collection of Tactics
For example, we recently met with the global head of marketing for a mid-sized financial technology provider (they do around $50M in revenue). She pulled out their 2013 marketing strategy. It consisted of the following:
- A positioning statement that made this firm indistinguishable from every other technology provider on the street.
- Objectives that were vague and un-measurable (e.g., “to increase total lead generation” and to “increase brand awareness and global brand consistency”).
- A collection of vague tactics around the various marketing delivery channels (email, social, website, events, etc.)
A marketing strategy is not a collection of tactics. It should be a strategic plan that clarifies your target market and audience, articulates your core messaging, explains how the message will be integrated across channels, and sets measurable and achievable objectives.
Start with Revenue and Sales Goals
First, make sure you know what revenue the company needs to bring in this year. In most cases, the executive team and head of sales will have specific goals. Your marketing strategy should start with those goals. For example, you need to know:
- How much of that revenue will come from existing recurring revenue streams?
- How many new named accounts do you plan to acquire?
- How at risk is the recurring business?
- How much account expansion opportunity exists?
- Where does Sales need the most support to achieve these goals?
What Are You Offering?
Most companies start their marketing from the product point of view, creating sell sheets with features and benefits. But this is not where your marketing strategy should start. Begin with the business problems your product or service helps solve or the goals it helps achieve. Who has those problems? What happens if they don’t achieve the goal? What capabilities do they need to achieve the goals? This is the foundation of your messaging. But it should be from the CUSTOMER’S point of view…not yours.
How Does Your Team Sell?
This might seem like a strange question, but it’s a critical component of your marketing strategy.
Some products are upstarts, creating a whole new category. So Marketing and Sale’s primary job is to create awareness of a problem that the target market doesn’t know they have and then craft a vision for how to solve that problem. For example, when Steve Jobs introduced the iPhone, he spent 70% of his presentation describing a host of problems with current technology. Then when he introduced the iPhone, millions of people suddenly had an urgent desire to solve a problem they didn’t know they had five minutes before. So Marketing has to create that urgent need.
Other products are new or different interpretations of solutions already on the market. In this case, Marketing and Sales have to re-engineer the customer’s current vision of how they solve a problem. This becomes about differentiation – drawing attention to the shortcomings of current solutions and new opportunities that can be obtained via new and differentiated capabilities.
Who Are You Targeting?
This is about more than just buyer personas. Most sales teams have a very specific target market. For example, for fin-tech vendors targeting the tier 1 and tier 2 institutional sell-side, there are only about 500 companies globally that will meet their target profile. In most cases with our clients, Sales has a very specific list of companies they’re targeting. For a marketing strategy to be effective, it should target the same people.
- Is there a list of companies that Sales plans to target?
- What asset classes and parts of the target organizations are you targeting (e.g., front office, risk management, compliance, etc.)
- Who are the members of the buying committees?
- How does Sales get access to these committees?
- What does a sponsor need to know before they agree to meet with sales?
Who Are Your Buyer Personas?
Once you know what companies and departments you’re targeting, it’s time to consider the actual buying committee. Much has been written on this topic. But still, few companies actually develop effective buyer personas.
In her eBook, The Buyer Persona Manifesto, Adele Revella defines a buyer persona as, “a composite picture of the real people who buy, or might buy, products like the ones you market, based on what you’ve learned in direct interviews with real buyers.” The most critical thing here is DIRECT INTERVIEWS.
I find that most marketers attempt to construct personas based on their intuition and conversations with Sales. But they never pick up the phone and actually talk to people who represent these personas. This is foolish. Interviewing your customers is THE MOST POWERFUL STRATEGIC MARKETING TOOL IN YOUR ARSENAL. Sorry for yelling, but it’s that important.
Your Buyer Personas Drive Your Messaging
We find that these customer interviews uncover a wealth of material. For example, we did a series of 5 or 6 customer interviews for a client last quarter. Each interview lasted 30 minutes, and we recorded and transcribed them. We’re using those to determine our messaging, so we can describe the capabilities the firm offers from the customer’s point of view.
For More Information
I’ll be writing more on marketing strategy over the course of the next few weeks. Also, on November 14, I’ll be holding a live conversation with the global director of marketing for financial technology provider Object Trading about how he developed and is executing on his marketing strategy (more information coming soon).
In addition, here are a few blog posts we’ve written in the past that should prove helpful:
5 Tips for Getting the Most Out of Customer Interviews
Content and Thought Leadership to Support the Buying Cycle
Capturing Return On Investment With Content Marketing