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For many manufacturing businesses, the B2B marketing strategy and planning process can be both time consuming and complex. This post suggests a process to deliver a top level plan that addresses key issues with less time and effort.

Although the importance of a strategic marketing planning process is well known relatively few businesses utilise and implement their plans. Simplifying the plan, obtaining buy in and making the plan flexible enough to adapt is key to success.

To survive for any length of time a business must be expert at whatever it delivers but this leads to a focus on today’s market and the short term. Key staff often grow up with a business which blinkers their view. These factors combine to make it difficult to step away and take a longer term view. 

Many businesses avoid market evaluation and long term planning. Why? In our view it is for two main (interrelated) reasons:

  • The complexity of the process and the time and resources involved.
  • The perceived usefulness of the finished plan to the day to day running of the business.

The complexity of the market analysis process often generates information overload, a lack of clarity and a final plan which is difficult, if not impossible, to implement. Hence, if a strategic plan is produced, it often sits on a shelf gathering dust. Kaplan and Norton research shows that >90% of organisations fail to implement their strategies.

For some businesses, the time and resources are simply not available to put a formal B2B marketing strategy in place. For others, the planning process produces so much data it is difficult to identify the key issues. The best approach is always to undertake a full marketing audit to ensure nothing is missed but a short cut approach can be to define:

  • Precisely what does the business deliver to its customers?
  • Why are those products or services needed? What needs do they satisfy?
  • Which customers (groups of customers) need what the business offers and why.
  • Given the offer and the need it satisfies who else satisfies that need?
  • As there will undoubtedly be competition why should a customer pick the business and its offer ahead of all the rest?
  • How does the business make its offer known to identified customer groups?

Product or Service Definition

It is best to try to define what the business offers in terms of its benefits to customers and the need it satisfies. It is all too easy to get hung up on products or services and fail to understand what the business really delivers to its customers.

Why Is The Product Or Service Needed

To be successful whatever a business delivers must satisfy some sort of basic customer need.  It is too easy to be superficial in the analysis and fail to understand what really drives customer purchasing activity.

Which Customers Need The Product Or Service

Following on from the above, different customer groups (segments) may have different needs that are satisfied by different products or services. Some of those customer groups may be a perfect match with whatever the business offers, some may be less so. This analysis allows a business to focus its resources on the best customer groups. New customer groups to attack often also fall out from this analysis.

Who Are The Competitors

With the offer and the target customer groups selected competitors may be identified. Competitors may be different for each customer group, new competitors may emerge and/or existing competitors may be less of a threat than expected.

Why Should Customers Pick Me

The previous analysis leads to this crucial step. If this cannot be articulated, written down and become the focus of future marketing activity then the business will reside in a ‘me too’ position. A dangerous place to be for any business.

How do I Raise the Profile Of the Business

The key issue here is focus. Promotional activity should be focussed on delivering the message on what makes the business different, to the target customer groups, by the most efficient means possible.

The above cannot be considered a replacement for a full B2B marketing strategy and planning process but it can be an interim step that delivers some useful insights.