The drastic transformation of the customer journey means buyers are now in the driver’s seat. Especially in the B2B world, customers are comparison shopping online and taking a much longer time to evaluate their options than in the past.
And the buyer isn’t some abstract entity. They are all of us. I don’t know about you, but I absolutely do not want to talk to anyone in sales. And if I somehow agree to a call, I don’t want a rep asking me about my goals. My goal is to hang up as soon as I can.
And with the help of the Internet, I don’t have to talk to sales. A huge part of the customer journey is now invisible to the traditional sales view. In fact, the vast majority of the journey ‒ about 70 percent, according to SiriusDecisions ‒ is now complete by the time a typical prospect is ready to engage with sales.
I can check out your reviews, watch your customer testimonial videos, maybe watch a webinar. With many digital breadcrumbs, marketers have a challenge. We must learn how to get in front of buyers and be involved in that purchase journey much earlier. We need to adapt.
1. Plan to keep customers front and center
The first step to creating a high performance marketing plan is to commit to using five distinct objectives to orient your marketing plan throughout the buyer’s journey. Why? It keeps your customers at the center of your planning. These essential stages are:
- Inbound: First you need to attract customers and let them know you may have what they want, what they need, what they think they need or what they don’t yet know they really do need. They then identify themselves in exchange for your value-added content.
- Outbound: Once identified (but not ready to buy), you nurture the relationship by informing and engaging them in a way that makes sense for them and feels very personal. During this nurturing, you are automatically tracking, segmenting and scoring based on engagement and behaviors.
- Sales: By this point, they’re ready to convert from a prospect to a customer. But, once they’ve converted the marketing shouldn’t stop there. Keep it going.
- Loyalty: Continue to nurture the customer base to maintain and expand customer relationships.
2. Focus on themes and messages customers receive
The next step in building your marketing plan is choosing the types of messages you want to send to your target buyers.
This is the right time to talk about your brand and your product or service. Pick a few essential topics and convey them clearly to your prospects through your content. You need highly focused themes to tie together all of the content you’re producing.
Make sure your buyers have the information they need to make the crucial decision you want them to make – which is to become your customer, not your competitor’s customer. Strategic communication will also help you position your product and frame how current and future customers think and feel about your company.
Effective campaign themes are:
- based on buyer pain points and needs
- simple to understand
- relevant during all stages of the buyer’s journey
- enduring enough to stand the test of time
Once you’ve organized your program around the major buying stages, map all the content in your library to the stage that would resonate most with your audience. Do this with any secondary audiences or verticals, as well as with the typical buying committees involved (could be IT, Finance, and so forth).
3. Get in front of buyers in each stage
Next, consider the tactics included in your marketing plan. You’ve already oriented your content around the buying stages, now is the time to ask: What challenges are my buyers facing at each stage of their journey? What are their primary objectives in each of these phases, and what do we, as marketers, need to do to help them realize these goals?
Once you’ve built a framework for the opportunities at each stage, you can begin to pinpoint specific areas that need attention. Identify and highlight any gaps, opportunities, obstacles, and areas you want or need to focus on.
4. Implement technology that works best for your program
Figuring out what technical systems you need to support your marketing activities and customer interactions is essential to any successful program. There are more than 6,000 marketing technology vendors. That’s a lot to choose from.
So, how exactly do you begin to make sense of it all? It’s important to begin with the basics ‒ the platform backbone. Most midmarket companies and larger companies will have an adaptive marketing platform (AMP) and a CRM, or will at least investigate getting both of those platforms in place.
The next layer to connect to the backbone platforms is channel technology, such as ad platforms or social networks. Additionally, use marketing operations platforms to manage internal processes, data, and reporting. Finally, many content platforms will allow you to produce personalized content, videos, and many other interesting tactics and materials to engage your buyers and help you along the way.
The driving idea behind your marketing technology stack, is that it should enable you to efficiently communicate with your audience in a way that makes sense both to you and your customers. And, implementing marketing automation as a backbone platform can help you consolidate the need for multiple tools into a single command center for marketing teams.
5. Establish your metrics and report back to your boss
Another major advantage of an AMP is they offer marketers the chance to document and report on their outcomes. Take the time to properly set-up the reporting system you will use to track your efforts.
First, establish overall funnel metrics by defining your goals in each of those stages of the buyer’s journey. Then develop specific KPIs to measure progress for the “gaps” you identified earlier. In order for you to be successful, you’ll need to get buy-in from the whole team (marketing, sales, finance). Make sure you have the right technology in place to actually track the performance.
By doing all of these things, you will know if your marketing program is on track.
6. Be an innovator and leave your mark.
Building your marketing plan is a great time to shine.
Start with championing a new channel or tactic that could open new doors. For example, if your company is not yet engaged on social media, maybe that’s the big idea that you’ll advocate for in the plan. Or, maybe you don’t have a video program and you want to build that strategy up within the business. Or, perhaps you’d like to dive into podcasting and you need to get buy-in.
Pick one great idea out of your plan and go full force with it. Be creative, be innovative, be bold. This will give you the opportunity to be an internal leader and an agent of change.
Overall, a high performance marketing plan is one that addresses your customer’s needs at every stage of the buyer’s journey – even when they’re not even considering purchasing! A successful plan is one that is flexible, adaptive, and meets your customers where they’re at. After all, the modern buyer doesn’t just have one path to reach the purchase point; there are literally millions of ways your customer can find you, connect with you, and eventually purchase from you.
Ultimately, the best marketing plan is the one that focuses entirely on what really matters: your customers.