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:
- marketing goal: put a loyalty program/system in place translates into marketing objective: customer retention of “a”%
- 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
- marketing goal: build awareness into [this] market translates into a branding objective
- marketing goal: new product launch is a marketing goal of product branding, product success/market adoption or exposure metrics of “a” expected result
- 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
- 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.