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If You’re Building Your B2B Marketing Strategy, Start Here

Andrei Zinkevich

July 30th, 2018

B2B marketing strategy framework feature image

For 13+ years in marketing, I’ve never seen a B2B company who’d say they don’t have a B2B marketing strategy framework or that their marketing strategy is ineffective.

But at the same time 6200+ B2B marketers say that their biggest challenges are generating traffic and leads, and proving the ROI of marketing activities.

b2b marketing strategy framework state of inbound

Which can be interpreted in simple words as: “We simply don’t know what to do next and don’t know whether what we’re doing now is a good strategy”.

In this guide, I’ll share with you a proven B2B marketing strategy framework that will help you identify the most prolific market segments, your ideal customer profile, and the right marketing channels to generate leads.

What Is A B2B Marketing Strategy?

According to Wikipedia, a marketing strategy is a long-term, forward-looking approach to planning with the fundamental goal of achieving a sustainable competitive advantage.

Sounds weird and unclear, agree?

That’s why so many companies create 40-page documents stating the mission, vision, values, etc. The truth is nobody has a clear idea what should be achieved and in what way.

I’m a big fan of simplifying things.

For me, marketing strategy is the way to go from point A (current situation) to the point B (desired outcomes) by planned beforehand (marketing channels and tools) with affordable resources (marketing budget, team, etc.).

How do you create this strategy the right way?

Let’s dive in into the step by step process.

B2b Marketing Strategy Framework

  1. Segment your market and focus on a target segment
  2. Create an ICP for every market segment
  3. Run a competitor analysis
  4. Develop a USP for each market you want to target
  5. Take your prospects through the buyer journey

1) Segment your market and focus on a target segment

Imagine you’re scaling a tech startup and you’ve decided to invest in CRM. You’ve read tons of information and stopped on 2 variants.

One of them is a CRM which gets your sales organized.

Another one is a specialized CRM which help to organize your sales, track recurring revenue, and the churn rate. Which one will you choose? The answer is obvious!

That’s the power of marketing segmentation.

When we focus on a specific market segment, we can personalize our offer not only by *FNAME*, *ROLE*, and *INDUSTRY* but according to the needs and challenges of the companies who belong to this segment.

This always leads to higher conversions, ROI, and revenue.

Start here:

To figure out your segments, start with these 2 simple questions:

  • Who can be a potential buyer of my products (your target audience)?
  • Why do they buy products or services like mine? What kind of problems or tasks do they want to solve?

Evaluate these segments with these criteria:

  • Competition level
  • The breadth of the market
  • Lifetime value
  • Segment growth
  • Continuity
  • Your past experience
  • Ease of getting past gatekeepers
  • Solvency
  • Margin

After this exercise, you’ll realize 2 things:

  • Not all market segments are equal. Some segments can generate higher ROI but require more resources. On the contrary, some have less potential but you can generate revenue easily.
  • All market segments are unique and have different needs. Which means you’d create a different proposal for every market segment you want to prospect and use different approaches.

2) Create an ICP for every market segment

What’s the difference between an ideal customer profile (ICP) and simple customer profile?

Well, this is a good question which points out to a common marketing mistake.

I see so many companies just look at all their clients from different segments and try to create an average persona from all the data they have.

As a result, instead of adopting their product, proposals, and lead generation marketing campaigns according to this, people they try to create a universal product pitch.

The biggest difference between ICP and a “simple” customer profile is that an ICP focuses on attracting high-quality leads who are similar to your key customers instead of prospecting everybody who might buy your product.

There are 3 benefits of such an approach:

  • You’ll be really able to personalize all your marketing materials: sales pages, proposals, ads, lead nurturing emails, etc.
  • You can figure out the most effective lead generation channels instead of guessing what works.
  • You’ll be able to choose the right marketing qualification criteria to evaluate the efficiency of every marketing campaign.

Next steps:

Here is an exact process to create an ICP:

  • Choose one market segment
  • Select top 10 customers from this segment
  • Fill in the ideal customer profile template
  • Collect additional data about these customers from social media
  • Survey your customers
  • Create an ideal customer profile from the data you’ve collected

The easiest part here is to collect the data as sex, age, location, job role, industry. On LinkedIn, you can simply open profile and scrape the data.

Questions to ask when you survey your customers:

  • What leads you to buy products like ours?
  • Can explain your current challenges?
  • What are the problems our product solves for you?
  • What might happen if these problems won’t be solved?
  • Where did you hear about us?
  • What do you love most about our product?
  • Are you satisfied with everything (quality, service, support, results, etc) or something can be improved?
  • What features would you like to see in our product?
  • Can you recommend our company?
  • What social media do you use the most?
  • Which industry blogs, websites or influencers do you follow?
  • Who are the key stakeholders in your company?

I also highly recommend collecting data such as:

  • Websites your customers are sharing content from on their profiles. This will give you an idea about where you can apply for guest posting or collaboration.
  • Influencers with whose content they engage — this will give you an idea about whom you should start to build relationships with.
  • Communities where they contribute. You can use these communities for co-marketing, contribution, and content distribution.

3) Run a competitor analysis

It’s smart to work on your foundation before implementing any marketing tactic.

There are dozens of marketing channels, tools, and growth hacks you can implement. SEO, PPC, Facebook Ads, cold outreach, etc. The truth is that they all at the same time work on some markets and don’t work on others.

How do you figure out what marketing channels you should focus on?

  • Survey your core customers (what we covered in the previous step)
  • Spy on your competitors

Next steps:

I highly recommend using tools like SimilarWeb, Ahrefs, and BuzzSumo to understand where your competitors’ traffic comes from.

This data will give you a better idea about the channels you should really focus on instead of diluting your efforts.

The second part of competitors analysis is devoted to learning more about the sales process, strengths, and weaknesses, USP (unique selling proposition), pricing policy, etc.

The list of things you analyze is completely dependent on the industry but these are mandatory points you should always check.

Evaluate your competitor’s MoFu activities

  • What kind of tools do they use to generate leads? Webinars? White Papers? Demos?
  • How do they get your contact? Do they use pop-ups?
  • Do they try to nurture you after getting your contact? Do they overcome your objections and answer your questions? Do they nail the benefits of their approach?
  • Do they use case studies? ROI calculators?
  • Do they segment you and send relevant content?
  • Do they try to build relations and learn more about you, or try to sell from the early beginning?
  • Do they retarget you on social media?

Next, analyze their BoFu activities

You must do 2 mandatory things: talk to the sales team and ask for a proposal.

During the sales call pay attention to these questions:

  • Does the sales team know their product? Can they answer specific questions?
  • Are they prepared for the conversation? Do they try to understand your challenges or focus solely on the product benefits?
  • Can they clearly answer what makes them different from the competitors and why should you buy from them?
  • How did they try to close you?

4) Develop a USP for each market you want to target

Many companies think that positioning and a USP are the same.

This isn’t true.

Positioning is how the customer perceives your company, brand, or product. In simple words,  it’s what you do, how are you different from your competitors and how you can help a prospect.

Next steps:

Here’s a five-step process I use to develop a USP:

  • Reach out to your core customers. Ask them what their favorite features are.
  • Select top-10 features and rank them by their importance
  • Compare your product/top features with your top three competitors.
  • Choose the criteria where you top your competitors.
  • Formulate your USP by focusing on some of these factors: impact, feature, need, target audience etc.

How to formulate your USP

Result + important feature + guarantee

SMM agency example: We guarantee that we’ll attract 1.000 new members to your community that will fit yours Ideal Customer Profile within the first month or we’ll return the money.

Need + important feature

Translation services example: We’ll pick the docs from your office on the same day when you make an order and deliver them back when the translation is ready, for free.

Result + target audience + guarantee

My example: I help B2B companies implement system marketing and guarantee to increase pipeline, scale revenue, and customer growth.

Unique feature

Ice cream manufacturer: Ice cream from natural olives without sugar and milk

5) Take your prospects through the buyer journey

According to Hubspot, at any given time, only 3% of your market is actively buying. 56% are not ready, 40% is poised to begin.

Another fact: 63% of people requesting information on your company today will not purchase for at least three months – and 20% will take more than 12 months to buy.

So, if you focus only on bottom-of-the-funnel (BoFu) activities, you’re leaving 97% of your audience untapped.

What do these stats mean?

56% of your market are in the awareness stage.

To attract their attention you should know the exact process of how the problem which your product solves occurs and how your prospects become aware of it.

Example: The prospects for a B2B marketing consultant company at this stage never search for “B2B marketing consultancy”. They search for: “how to generate leads for…” or “how to improve my campaigns”.

Answer these questions and help your prospects identify the problem and start considering different solutions.

40% are in the consideration stage.

Example: At the consideration stage, prospects might search for “how inbound marketing works” or “how to generate leads with inbound marketing”.

3% are in the decision-making stage.

At this stage, you’d qualify and help your prospects to choose the most appropriate solution.

Example: At this stage, prospects might search for case studies about your solution as “Company X cases”.

When the lead is qualified, he must be nurtured to be aware of all benefits he’ll get upon choosing your product.

Start here:

Realize that the sales funnel is only a part of the customer journey.

Before working on sales qualified leads, you must attract them (ToFu activities), qualify them (MoFu activities), and nurture them (BoFu activities).

Also, besides the marketing funnel, the buyer journey also comprises a:

  • Sales funnel which is responsible for lead nurturing and closing deals
  • Post-sales funnel — responsible for educating buyers while tracking customer satisfaction.
  • Referrals funnel — responsible for generating referrals, recommendations and case studies.

b2b marketing strategy framework sales funnel

Get Started with Your B2B Marketing Strategy Framework

Your marketing strategy should consist of:

  • Clear goals you want to achieve (e.g. increase sales by 30%) that are based on current indicators
  • Milestones
  • Market segments you’ll focus on
  • Marketing channels and tools you’ll use
  • Resources (team, budget, etc.)

And, your marketing strategy should also have these attached to it:

  • DRI (Directly Responsible Individual)
  • Deadline
  • Budget
  • Expected outcome
  • Execution and analysis

What makes a marketing plan effective?

When you include marketing focus zones into the plan and add activities to every zone which might help to achieve your goals.

What can be a marketing focus zone?

Bellow are some examples.

  • Lead generation: You’d plan activities for different marketing segments according to the buyer journey stages.
  • Lead nurturing: Activities which help increase deal close ratio (e.g. case studies, educational videos).
  • Trade marketing: Activities which stimulate sales with existing customers.
  • PR: Activities on gaining mentions from the press and influencers.
  • Product: Activities which include analysis of current products (ABC, XYZ, etc.)
  • Partnerships: Activities to develop partnership relations.

I really hope this guide gave you some fresh insights on what to improve in your marketing strategy or how to create a new one from scratch.

What did you think was the most useful here? Share your thoughts in the comments!


Also published on Medium.

About the author

Andrei Zinkevich

Andrei started his marketing career as a sales rep in 2007 and then switched to trade marketing at Kimberly Clark. In 2013 he started to work as a B2B marketing consultant and founded Getleado – a B2B marketing consulting agency. Since then, he’s helped multiple brands in IT solutions, enterprise SaaS, B2B manufacturing etc., create an effective marketing strategy, increase pipeline, and scale revenue.

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