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A planning vacuum means most B2B marketing progresses in fits and starts. Inertia kills momentum.

Ask a consumer marketer for a look at their marketing plan and you're likely to get anything from a 20-page powerpoint deck to a 400-page binder with tabs, spreadsheets, gant charts and dashboards.

Ask a B2B marketer for their marketing plan and you're likely to get a funny look and some awkward rationalisation. "Erm... we're agile here. Our market moves too fast. If we had a plan it wold be out of date in a week." Yadda-yadda-yadda.

The result is that the vast majority of B2B marketing departments are run in an ad hoc way, pacing through the year from campaign to campaign. There are lots of problems with this:

  • Tactics replace strategy – you end up just doing stuff, then doing more stuff; no real direction, no real progress.
  • Reaction looks like action – and everyone mistakes busy-ness for effectiveness.
  • Progress is intermittent – a campaign works, then the energy dies back down.
  • Mistakes are repeated – ad hoc marketing is notorious for ignoring all learning; so you never really get any better.
  • You waste a lot of money – chasing opportunities instead of using your assets and playing to your strengths.
  • Your marketing loses focus – and your audiences never get a coherent sense of what you're all about.

This list could go on for twenty more bullet points. And most marketers know it. But they're still happy to lurch from item to item on the To Do list and call it progress.

If marketing is the act of rolling a big, heavy rock up a steep hill, then most B2B marketers tend to give their rock a push, rest, chat, give it another push, stand back, write a deck, hold an offsite, then realise the rock has returned to the bottom of the hill. And start all over again.

Why does B2B marketing tend to be so short-sighted?

Maybe because B2B marketers just aren't as professional as our peers in consumer markets (ouch). Let's face it, many B2B marketing directors backed into the job from sales or product management.

Others got marketing thrown into their remit at some point and never managed to lose it. Few are dedicated, career marketers who chose B2B for its unique challenges. They exist, but they're rare.

Or maybe it's because many B2B businesses are not really marketing driven like Coke and Nike are. Some fabulously successful B2B businesses have been built with little or no marketing.

Some B2B businesses can win with great engineering and sales alone. They'd do better with great marketing but they'll succeed without it. Coke and Nike wouldn't.

Or maybe it's because B2B businesses have lost faith in their marketing departments and, as a result, ask much less of them (double ouch). Low expectations means less accountability. And accountability is what drives marketing plans.

But this is changing. The new, digital, social B2B and the new technology arsenal (marketing automation, lead nurturing, revenue performance management) are bringing accountability back to B2B.

Marketing is starting to deliver more to the business – and prove it with charts and graphs and pipelines gushing money. So expectations ar rising. Accountability is emerging. And, lo and behold, the B2B marketing plan is making a comeback.

Just scan the agenda of this year's FUNNEL B2B marketing event and you can see the emergence of a new kind of B2B marketing.

It's a discipline that's far less likely to stumble through the year and piss away the budget. Or let the rock roll all the way to the bottom of the hill before staring to think of new ways to roll it back up.

How can you fight inertia and get the momentum back into your marketing? Take four hours max and do these few simple things:

  • Write a two-page plan – even if you only show the team members.
  • Make three explicit and quantifiable goals – with deadlines.
  • Jot down three strategies for each goal – simple ones.
  • Name three tactics for each strategy – also simple ones.
  • Put them on a timeline – or chart.

A few hours. Two pages. And you've done more for your marketing than all those meetings, decks and offsites put together.

Here's to momentum...

Doug Kessler

Published 13 September, 2011 by Doug Kessler

Doug Kessler is a founder and Creative Director of B2B marketing agency Velocity and a contributor to Econsultancy. 

19 more posts from this author

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James Gardner

Doug,

I completely agree with you in your assertions around momentum and forward planning. Some of the short-term thinking I've seen is stunning (for all the wrong reasons.

Sometimes this is to do with personnel, but I also think that funding is an issue. When funding is doled out on a quarter by quarter basis it breeds this kind of thinking. Marketing plans should be thought out, planned and funded much further in advance to get the best out of them

James

about 5 years ago

Doug Kessler

Doug Kessler, Director at VelocitySmall Business Multi-user

Great point, James.
Failure to win a proper annual budget is definitely one of the causes of ad hoc marketing. Maybe the biggest cause.

about 5 years ago

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Nick Stamoulis

James makes a great point. When you live on a quarter-by-quarter budget, it's hard to plan too far ahead. You don't want to commit to something and then find you don't have the money to do it. If that's the case, why bothering coming up with a plan in the first place since you'll have to wing it anyway?

about 5 years ago

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Robert Wong

With a marketing plan is that you can give direction to short term objectives. Factors such as the budget can be displayed more clearly. Communication takes more sense. And the relationship becomes stronger. Good post Doug, thank you.

about 5 years ago

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Peter Johnston

Doug is out of date here.

Buyers are researching after putting the kids to bed, on the train or over breakfast. They are talking to contacts on social networks in every quiet moment.

That means that marketing is always on too. These days it is about creating and maintaining a digital footprint so everyone can find you. It is about continual programmes to enthuse, engage and assist people with their buying decision process.

That takes a continual programme - it isn't about campaigns any more. It isn't just about marketing either - the best companies have picked skills from marketing and sales and backed them up with technology to create a powerful engagement programme.

Meanwhile Doug is stuck in the blind alley called Marketing Automation. Sirius Decisions statistics show that this converts 2.6 people in every thousand who've demonstrated an interest - way below the industry average. That's 997 people discarded, badly treated or simply p***ed off so you can get 3 customers.

There is a better way. But it won't be at this conference.

about 5 years ago

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Peter Johnston

Oh Doug - how out of date can you be?

Marketing is always on these days - it doesn't work in campaigns any more.

You'll be telling me next that Marketing Automation is cutting edge technology.

about 5 years ago

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Emily Stone

Some controversial comments on B2B marketing here... not sure if I would agree with all of them especially the first one about B2b Marketeers not being as professional as consumer. That one was a little too broad sweeping for my liking.

We do need to get it clear though, the big difference between B2B and consumer businesses is that it is all about your extended marketing mix which heavily relies on good process and people, so actually having amazing sales people and not being so focused on marketing in some cases isn't always such a bad thing. There is no excuse for not having a plan though and providing your people with the right tools in order to generate leads and demonstrate value.

about 5 years ago

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SEO Experts

B2B marketing has seen a tremendous growth in recent years due to these three main factors: technological revolution, entrepreneurial revolution, and marketing revolution. B2B marketers have embraced technology to come up with competitive entrepreneurial innovations. But B2B wouldn't stand without marketing. SEO experts say that companies are moving beyond traditional concepts and means of doing business. In the old days, there was so much preoccupation with targeting mass markets. It's no longer the case today. The focus of marketing revolution today is in building meaningful relationships hence the 'socialization' of marketing.

about 5 years ago

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