B2B Marketing

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fresh experiences on marketing topics for the B2B enterprises and more

Where do you look for more revenue streams? How about your own portfolio of products and services?

Every so often I get clients wanting the moon for their business… isn’t the marketing consultant’s purpose you’ll ask? Well if you start from “underground” it’s gonna be a bit more difficult to reach the moon, especially when you’re not sure where exactly you at are within this distance.

In order to succeed, in any planning process you have to understand clearly the starting point, meaning the t0 situation in planning. I’ve seen “great” strategies that failed because of poor understanding or even consideration of this particular phase.

 You cannot make a giant ride a minibike!

When did you actually evaluated last the situation you are now in, with the same depth and will as the achievements (or better yet the risks) you perceive in your desired actions and plans. By nature, we tend to superficially evaluate the current situation, because we are at this particular point and we want to get it done with, to get to the next step! By outrunning this, we put all our attention in considering the next step.In marketing planning especially, this tendency is even more emphasized, ‘cause marketing itself is future, development and business growth –oriented. However, as you’ll notice, the initial point and momentum, dramatically affects the success or the failure of the program. The misunderstood initial points will give bad start in planning and execution, both, and will ofcourse contribute to teh eventual failure of a plan., program or campaign. Before taking and step further into your strategies, take a moment to consider the following (critical) aspects:

Are you aware and fully exploiting everything you actually got at this particular moment?

Usually taken for granted, the products and services portfolio is not just your products and services. For example, support, guarantees, client assistance, brands, quality and account management and many more, are also parts of your offer. Although maybe you take them as “free of charge” and think they don’t require a special attention in designing and positioning your portfolio to your client, if you think about it really well, you can actually sell this items one by one… as a different component and in different “packages”; so look at them again and this time see what you actually can and should sell.

In general, these are seen as attributes, but when you think about your “whole” offer, these need particular attention and care, if you actually want to make money off of them; or don’t you J?

Anything that brings value to your client is automatically a component of your portfolio….

It will be easier to sell your products and services if you understand this.Another aspect worth considering si the way these components are connected or not, if they are packed or if there’s certain dynamics and dependencies in between them, etc. All these thoughts can guide you in a storm of new ideas and opportunities to further exploit what you already got.

How are products and services interacting within your portfolio?

This really isn’t your everyday wake-up questing, is it J? If you considered this even once, you are one big step ahead.

For example, you offer different products to different market segments. How do you administrate them without creating confusion and more, to secure your positioning with each segment? This is an area where you can easily get conflicts between different components within your own portfolio. A classic example here is when you have products for both SMB and big customers. You try to offer both an accesible product, to strictly answer SMB requirements, and then you also have to offer a larger scale and scope product, within great quality standards to big customers. In IT, for example, a lot of companies that offer enterprise solutions for very large corporations cannot, as much as they tried already, to accommodate in their portfolio solutions for small clients with the same success and vice versa.

I’m not saying that it can’t be done, but, in this case, this audit of your own portfolio and dynamics must be done with a high level of caution and results need to be reflected upon.  What are the opportunities in your current portfolio?At this moment, in your portfolio are many opportunities to continue exploiting the components of your own offer and find new revenue streams.Can differently apply you product or service? Can other clients or market segments use it as well; with small changes, could you apply it differently, or can you outline all new benefits in a different context for your client?…etc… What are the limitations in your current portfolio?

If you noticed conflicts in your own portfolio in the above point, these are acting as limitation currently. Lack of certain products features or services extenstions that are critical for better exploiting your portfolio on the client side, require you to think of alternatives to respond their requests.

Any acknowledged limitation becomes an opportunity to develop your offer!The coverage to which you can expand the purpose of your products and services acts as limitations. Anytime you wish to add a new component to your portfolio you have to take each of above steps one at a time and make sure the certain addition doesn’t affect your current portfolio.

You products and services portfolio is complete?

When analyzing your portfolio with the above points, you will surely come up with ideas of either products or services improvement. In order to fulfill clients’ needs better, or to perform better tasks, to enlarge the scope or simply to satisfy your customer better,  consider adding small features, benefits, additional “goodies” to your portfolio.

The small additions need to be just that…”small”, but as you’ll notice these can be very impactful; just for a exemplification purposes, it’s enough to draw, a list of recommendations and references when they request a certain category of services that you do not perform, so that your customer can be satified and percieve you as more of a professional and caring company.

Somtimes, it maybe be better to consider whether that certain service really is critical for your product’s usage, then, seriously consider providing this to your customers.

***

While performing the analysis suggested above, you will figure out exactly your current situation, you will find so much more to explore within your current portfolio, you will be able to control all the aspects of your offer that bring value to your clients and, probably, you will find many ideas for further development.

One challenge we have when executing a strategic plan is the first step, because there’s usually no logical path between the starting point and the finish. Well, this is the first step! Sometimes after performing this step you might even change the scope or your strategy to realize that your value and your offer needs to be developed in another area that you initialy thought of. You’ll figure out easy developments and logical steps to get your value proposing one step further.

The periodical evaluation of your portfolio of products and services, of your company’s offer, is critical for your company’s performance on the market.

Note: An in-depth analysis of your products and services portfolio is “formally” performed in few ways. The most popular models are the Boston Consulting Group Matrix and the General Electric/Shell aka McKinsey / General Electric Matrix. Yet, these are methods that analyze the performance of products and services within the portfolio and don’t give out a clear view of the dynamics and opportunities in your current situation.

However, these analysis will help you determine your product strategies; we will discuss about this in another post.

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Filed under: Business-to-Business, Marketing Audit, Marketing ROI, Product Marketing, Strategy, Technology Marketing, , , , , ,

Objectives… or where are all marketing efforts supposed to be going?

Objectives and marketing objectives by excellence would easily make up for a whole new discipline, the discipline of “where is everything going” J. But really, where are all marketing efforts going?

If you read some of the posts in here you already must have understood I do not subscribe to “marketing is an art” but that it is in itself a science; an innovative one, yes, I agree. In this respect, when establishing new marketing strategies, policies, tactics or any other marketing-related needs, what are you actually paying for, are the expected results. In “before the execution” terms, you’re actually investing in meeting the objectives.

So, what can we and what should we use when setting up marketing objectives in business to business? And more than that what should we pay for?If benchmarking is a structured approach for identifying the best practices in a certain area, than the first thing that comes to mind is let’s target the industry benchmarks with our objectives.  But when there’s such a lack of data on B2B Benchmarks, how do you actually setup the marketing objectives in B2B?

Why is this such a challenge in our sector? This is simple; in b2b, you don’t have a “mass” to research upon, the clients are not that “many” as in b2c; not to mention that reaching to decision makers in b2b is a challenge in itself due to their usually specific individual habits. The actual studies in this area are not even performed on the clients, but the markets themselves are inquired to submit some numbers in order to draw conclusions (ie. about campaign results); so the process altogether is not that objective as in B2C where consumers are actually inquired. The only things that are better and better tracked from this perspective are the e-marketing campaigns in b2b but even there, there are many question marks before saying these can be benchmarked upon. The actual profile of the client is so specific with each business, and businesses are so careful to treat their clients in this respect, that I think there’s even a shyness into generalizing and benchmarking them into specific set of results, behaviors etc. (we’ll address this further into a future posting on market segmentation in b2b).

Before we go into the details of setting objectives, let’s see where do we start. We start form deriving marketing objectives from our business objectives. Here’s where most businesses fail at, since they don’t actually link the 2 and sometimes, they put marketing objectives without even looking at the business objectives. The worst is when the marketing manager is asked to come up with some proposals for marketing objectives,  and the management committee will not get involved. The easiest way to test that is when the marketing manager actually asks for the marketing budget and then everyone suddenly starts asking questions to understand what money will be spent on. So how do you actually derive these objectives? We already touched practical case examples on how to get to marketing goals from company objectives in our earlier post on “How do you design marketing systems that generate guaranteed sales results”.

From marketing goals it’s just one step further to the objectives, by adding a measurable to the goal, the expected result and a specific course of action. Ie:

  1. marketing goal: put a loyalty program/system in place translates into marketing objective: customer retention of “a”%
  2. marketing goal: lead generation of [y] translates into “re-active”(or prospects that come into the sales pipe without a sales effort) sales from marketing channels of “a”%  or a certain number
  3. marketing goal: build awareness into [this] market translates into a branding objective
  4. marketing goal: new product launch is a marketing goal of product branding, product success/market adoption or exposure metrics of “a” expected result
  5. marketing goal: analyze the market, develop a positioning on the market and research for new prospects base, lead generation etc. translates into research objectives, new market identification, development of an USP etc
  6. And many more… Other marketing objectives may derive from other business divisions; for example the need to employ qualified personnel and talent will require and employer branding program; or the change of some internal systems, processes and procedures might require corporate communications of change or development of own internal communications. Although some of this don’t directly fall into marketing, it should still employ marketing on the long run, and it’s best to keep marketing involved in any aspects of your business.

However, these, as you see are objectives specific to each business needs. If you’d like to generalize, although I am not a particular fan of this, throughout marketing planning there are certain “themes “ or “guidelines” that will come up within your marketing objectives; this will rarely be accurately and comfortably to set, especially if you never used to set them up before, but we will address methods for fixing this as well. Some of the themes are inherited from B2C and are disputable to work for us, others are the knife & bread for a B2B marketer.

  • Lead Generation – this is closest related to the business development and this I think should be the masters of all objectives into b2b marketing strategies. Finding new customers should not be left solely to sales. Actually, best marketing programs should produce so much lead generation that your sales force should be busy full-time with just bringing those sales “home”.
  • Development of own portofolio of products and services aka Product Marketing – is an objective that needs to be specific for your own business; do not leave it general but setup metrics for what you need to achieve, if you need to although a product, setup metrics of market adoption, if you need to sustain it than it’s market exposure. So identify what phase in the product lifecycle are you on and set a specific metric for that.
  • Branding – this is one of the inherited ones; some markets will argue that you can’t make it in b2b without a brand, some other will argue that in our sector, branding builds only organic, through referrals or good wom, and you cannot artificially push for building a brand; I agree with both J However, setting a branding objective into b2b is so challenging that I personally am not sure how other actually make it.  It’s not difficult to set it but to measure it will be your challenge. (we’ll expore on just this topic sometime soon)
  • Channel strategy development –since b2b channels are so complex, putting efforts into understanding, streamlining and developing those channels will just in itself pay off big time.
  • Developments within own Customer Base – although in B2C, especially in highly competitive environments this is an objective that tops the marketing programs, I see many businesses disregarding this objective in  b2b; since you already have a loyal customer why not sell him more, why not see what’s his other needs and meet them, why not get regular purchase? Quite recently we doubled a customer’s turnover just by promoting more intensively other service features and some new services in portofolio to the same customer base. So it would you like to gain more with less effort, work on your existing customer base.Advertising – there’s many ways in which you can promote yourself in b2b and other that just won’t work (see my view on tradeshows bellow).  Since this is a generous topic we’ll dedicate it a full post soon.
  • Communication objectives or PR objectives – are rarely targeted in our side of the industry, and they are usually part of a branding or new product launch. I agree to this, but I would like to suggest here a new approach to setting objectives in PR for b2b. Do it for sales. Make sure that when your sales guy gets his foot on a prospect’s door, that prospect already knows or heard about you in the last week. That will come in handy. Since PR is not even expansive, and it can also feed you with other valuable market information, do it right and you’ll get some results. Also, choose PR to generate good will or good wom on your potential employees, potential partners and suppliers and other business stakeholders.

With any marketing plan please setup between 3 to 5 maximum objectives that are specific to your priorities. You should go as a process from your company objectives o your marketing objectives. Since we mentioned lack of benchmarks we will start formulating objectives from company’s own marketing track record, consulting own personnel and  other similar programs up there; however since you started from your own marketing needs, coming up with measurable and expected results should not be a challenge.  It will be the mastery of your marketing team to make it and since there are not too many rules on out sector, there’s really little arguments why they shall not reach any objectives.

Before we step into the segmentation and market analysis, we’ll stop next onto a marketing audit of your own portfolio of services and products and you’ll notice how important it is to perform a thorough audit, when engaging into any marketing planning activity. As you’ll see by adjusting small things in what you already have, with little of no effort you’ll get more results than engaging into expansive new programs.

Filed under: b2b marketing, Business-to-Business, Marketing Accountability, Marketing Planning, objectives, Strategy

Setting company objectives in b2b… with ease!

Strange coincidence that just when I was to set off writing about objectives I enrolled into a week-end training on personal development where a big chunk of it was about setting objectives; of course personal objectives, but let’s face it, what’s really different in the process of  setting a company objectives than when setting personal objectives?

So why do you need objectives? And I mean in any area, why do you need objectives? Some of the answers to this inquiry may be: it’s definitely easier to shoot at a target that you identified, rather to just shoot and hope something will fall out of the sky.
Plus, once you identified the aim, your actions and your team/ your company’s actions have a sense… that is to get the target in site and shoot for it. And there are many more reasons why it’s important…

Before setting your company objectives, it’s best if you seat together with your team and actually identify why it’s important for you and your team to set objectives for the company or for certain activities and processes? Do not proceed further until you have identified about three to five reasons why you need to set up objectives, so that you will understand why is this important for you and your team, and so that you and your team will be motivated and involved into this process.

Now that you know why you’re doing this, it appropriate to choose a method for setting objectives, in accordance to your needs. My soon to be ex favorite method was the SMART (you can Google it if you’re not familiar with the acronym; there’s too much good literature on this one). Although I always had a „sweet tooth” for the SMART method of setting objectives, there was something about the “Attainable” and the accountability or “measurable” attributes in the SMART method that did not fully justified how some people or companies realize so much more than what would be realistic, achievable and timely for them in a given timeframe. Today it just hit me, you have to perform a goal setting process similar to a personal goal setting system.

For example personal goals need to be positive and in your control; you cannot wish for the competition to die or vanquish from the market :)… because that is not in your reach, in other words you cannot control it… whatever objective you shoot for it must be within your control, you have to own it and it’s accomplishment. So, you could set a goal to be better at this game, by going onto a new market, developing the next product, making your customers loyal, having a better management of your finances etc; yes, on the long run this strategy will put some competitors of the market, but it’s not your goal; your goal is that you will be “better”.

Identifying those elements that will make your company and your team “better” is the basis of your objective setting. If we’re to take a real case scenario, your goal it’s a certain turnover but your final objectives needs to be in terms of what change you need to make within the company, so that you can achieve that financial objectives. How is the company now and how does it “needs to be”, what are the resources you can use to perform the change and could you assume as the actual “price/cost” of the change? Will your company still function in the same business environment, and how will this environment perceive and react to these changes? And that technique is actually borrowed from a personal development technique.

Unlike the limitations of the SMART model, in this model, make the objectives relevant to your own company following the above steps. When completing this, you also need to perform it with your team and make sure it’s a collective result. You need them to understand, agree and commit to the accomplishment of these objectives, because otherwise we have often seen wrong in execution due to the lack or mis- understanding of the objectives. It’s also your team that will be responsible for execution so you need them very motivated when they need to “get going”.

Never set objectives without making them relevant for each of your management staff. Brake down the company objectives at their individual level, clarifying what each has to achieve, but also making sure that in the process they will support each other, ‘cause corporate cannibalism can really affect your final result.This process would take very little time and effort and a lot of creativity or innovation.

What I am proposing here is a more flexible way of setting objectives rather than the rigid traditional ones. Your company is unique, you team is too, who’s to say you can’t be the first to land on the “moon” with corporate services or solutions, whatever this “moon” means for you. If you and your team are up to it…

Since our focus is on marketing in this blog, we’ll explore further in a future post, how to set marketing objectives in b2b.

Filed under: Marketing Planning, Marketing Tactics, Strategy, , , , ,

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