Why Marketing Planning is Hard (and How to Make It Easier)

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With less than two months remaining in 2015, many marketers have already started planning their marketing efforts for 2016, and most others will begin their planning process over the next few weeks. To develop a successful marketing program for a B2B company, marketers must make several important decisions, and those decisions require answers to a number of questions. Some of the most critical questions are:

  • What kinds of organizations will make our best prospects?
  • How will our products or services create value for those prospects?
  • What individuals in the prospect organizations will make or influence the decision to purchase our products or services?
  • What “arguments” will we use to persuade potential buyers to purchase our products or services?
  • How will we demonstrate the value (ROI) that our products or services will deliver to a prospective customer?
  • What content formats and communication channels will we use to tell our story to potential buyers?
  • What technological capabilities will we need to develop or acquire in order to effectively implement our marketing programs?
  • What human skills and capabilities will we need in order to successfully develop and execute our marketing programs?
  • How will we evaluate the effectiveness of our marketing efforts?
  • What financial resources will we need in order to adequately fund our marketing efforts?
From these questions, it should be clear that planning a comprehensive marketing effort for a B2B company is not a simple undertaking. And the reality is, I could easily have doubled, tripled, or quadrupled the number of questions that I included in the above list.
Planning an effective B2B marketing effort has become more complex for a variety of reasons that have been widely discussed over the past few years. For example:
  • The abundance of easily accessible information has shifted power to buyers and placed them firmly in control of the buying process.
  • The abundance of information has also elevated buyer expectations and made buyers more demanding than ever before.
  • The proliferation of content formats and communication channels enables buyers to obtain information in the ways they actually prefer, and this multiplies the volume and variety of marketing content resources that companies must develop and the number of channels they must use to effectively reach buyers.
These and other factors have made it more challenging for B2B marketers to plan, develop, and execute marketing programs that will create the kind of meaningful engagement with potential buyers that drives higher sales.
While it’s not possible to eliminate the inherent complexities of marketing planning, you can make the job more manageable by using a well-designed planning process and framework. A good process and framework will help ensure that you address all of the issues that are important to the success of your marketing effort, and that you deal with those issues in the right sequence.
In my next two posts, I’ll describe an approach to marketing planning and a planning framework that I’ve found to work well in B2B companies.
Image courtesy of David Wilson via Flickr CC.

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