Now, let's dig into a few details you need to know before you get started building out your rockstar marketing plan for your B2B company.
A marketing plan is more than content
I think when people get started with content marketing, they think their content strategy is the entirety of their strategy. While a content strategy is, indeed, a large piece of the proverbial marketing pie, it is not actually the entire pie.
Mmm, pie. Now I'm hungry. Is it Thanksgiving, yet? 🦃
Your company's marketing plan should encompass so much more beyond your content — although your content is very important:
Email marketing campaigns and newsletters
Social media marketing
Paid media and social advertising
Events (virtual and in-person)
That's why you need to have a marketing plan, scoped out on an annual basis, with regular updates (as necessary). But your marketing plan isn't just a means to delineate what your campaigns are. It's so much more than that.
What is the purpose of a marketing plan?
The best marketing plans, no matter what industry you're in, all accomplish the same three things (based on a defined period of time):
They provide a clear overview of what goals your marketing efforts will achieve over a specific period of time, across the entire company.
Each objective has measurable, specific goals that correspond to your company's overall mission and purpose, with defined milestone points at each stage (activation, acquisition, and expansion).
For every objective, at every stage, you see how each element of your marketing (social, content, email, etc.) all come together holistically to help you achieve your goals.
Why is this B2B marketing plan template based on account-based marketing?
The free B2B marketing plan template above is based on the principles of account-based marketing. Account-based marketing takes the traditional B2B sales and marketing funnel and turns it on its head by going after “qualified” leads rather than letting them filter themselves.
Whereas inbound marketing starts with organic lead generation, account-based marketing starts by identifying and targeting key decision-makers within accounts which have the potential to bring the biggest revenue to your business.
That being said, we do not view the principles of ABM and inbound or content marketing to be mutually exclusive. In fact, create content that answers the most pressing questions of your ideal buyers (as you would in a content marketing strategy), is still critical to the success of your B2B marketing plan.
With an ABM approach, however, your content will simply be more targeted to what is called your ideal buyer profile. As a note, you need to create your ideal buyer profile first before you get started. And no, it is not the same as a buyer persona.
(It's an efficient exercise though, so don't panic.)
How do you create a B2B marketing plan with an ABM approach?
The best ABM-based B2B marketing plans have their efforts broken out into three specific stages:
Acquisition This stage is for bringing net-new accounts into your pipeline. Most companies focus a lot of their efforts in this stage.
Acceleration Once you have engaged accounts in your pipeline. You are either keeping them engaged or potentially reviving what was previously a dead deal. Techniques, such as personalization, is really helpful here.
Expansion Expansion is all about retaining, upselling, and expanding relationships and service agreements with your existing customer base. Like the old saying goes, it's easier to win business from existing clients than to attract new ones.
That's why each section of the B2B marketing plan template is broken out into those three phases, based on the specific service/product objectives you outline in the beginning of your plan. That way you see how, at each interaction phase, you are targeting your marketing efforts to meet your goals.
What are the benefits of an ABM approach to B2B marketing?
In addition to going after qualified leads right at the start, instead of having them self-select and identify their fit for your products and services, there are four key benefits to an ABM approach to B2B marketing:
It personalizes the experience for your buyers, because your marketing campaigns are less broad. Instead, they're more targeted and focused on the specific needs and pain points of your ideal buyers.
You build trust and long-term relationships by networking with people within accounts and transforming them into advocates — a big deal since a 5% increase can lead to an increase in profits of up to 95%.
It shortens and streamlines the sales process because you're already dealing with more qualified leads that require less nurturing. Your sales team will also waste less time with bad-fit prospects, because they won't be targeted in the first place.
You'll align your sales and marketing teams because ABM is, simply put, a business growth strategy that holistically aligns your sales and marketing teams around the same goals and objectives.
How to make your B2B marketing plan a winner
As the marketing leader at your company, creating a winning marketing plan is a unique challenge. When done right, your people will love you for helping to grow the business with a clear strategy.
When done incorrectly, however, you can find yourself in a very lonely place, with a big document and nothing much else to show for it.
So, how do you avoid the latter?
Do not write your marketing plan on your own. Talk to leadership, sales, and different segments of your business. Leadership will help you align on what your goals and objectives should be. Sales will help you with the finer details of your plan — realistic goal-setting, ideal buyer profiles, etc. Anyone you list as a stakeholder should be someone who gives feedback.
Take your time to create your marketing plan. A great marketing plan isn't written overnight by candlelight. It takes time, requires lots of collaboration, and is too important to be rushed. Instead, make it a four- to six-week initiative, with a clear delivery date. Then, have specific milestones, such as a first draft for leadership review, a draft for cross-department collaboration, and so on.
Be as thorough as possible the first time you write it. From experience, I know how writing massive, 20+ page documents can feel tedious and draining — even if you're totally bought in on the outcome. Don't cut corners. For example, you may be tempted to say, "Oh, I'll note exactly what happens in this nurturing sequence when it comes time to do it." Don't do that. Do it now.
Again, yes, it is a ton of work. But trust me when I say you'll thank yourself for all of the effort you put into it. Instead of scrambling at each stage — "What should this workflow include? What social media campaigns do we need to run? Crap, did we even think about paid media?" — you'll simply be ready to execute
On top of that, you'll know already that your logic is sound and vetted by other teams, including your leadership. Which means, more buy-in for the work you're doing.
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