The ten first focus areas for modern marketing success


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If you’re starting a marketing effort from scratch, where do you start? If you’re taking over a marketing program that’s been sorely neglected, where do you focus first to drive velocity and success?

We get these questions quite a bit, and although my first two answers are always the same (define success, and get to know your target audience), what do you do next to capitalize on that insight?

Here are the ten focus areas I recommend as the foundation for a strong, modern marketing program.

1. Metrics for Success
How will you define success for the business overall, and by extension marketing, in the next 6-12 months?
This sets the context for everything, and ensures that all decision-making, triage and execution moving forward is focused on what matters. It also ensures the right conversations about success measurement happen right up front.

2. Customer Personas

Who are we selling to, what do they care about, and what problems are they trying to solve?
You can literally write a full marketing plan based on a series of questions specifically about what makes your targets tick. Who are they, where did they come from, what keeps them up and night, what motivates them to get up in the morning, etc. And for every direct buyer, there’s typically an ecosystem of co-buyers, influencers, endorsers and other direct and indirect participants in the purchase you also need to understand and navigate to be successful.

3. Buyer’s Journey
How does the buyer buy? What’s the process they go through to research, learn, evaluate, choose and consummate?
This is separate from the customer persona, and it’s actually quite valuable to consider persona and buyer’s journey enumeration as separate exercises. One has to do with what the prospect is and needs independent of you. The buyer’s journey has to do specifically with the problem you’re solving, and solution you’re offering to address a problem, pain or need. How long does a purchase decision take? How many steps are there? How many people are involved, and why? The better you can map the buying process with your sales process, the more you’re eliminating natural friction and increasing your chances of closing the deal.

4. Content Plan
What content can you create that will map to the buyer’s journey and draw them closer to you?
Great content is at the core of any successful, modern marketing effort today. If you don’t have good content, you have no solid means of attracting attention, trust, preference and interest. Great content can speak directly to your product or service, but your most important content likely ignores what you sell, and speaks directly to the needs and objectives of the customer. If they feel like you understand them, they’ll keep listening. Attention is the coin of the realm for modern marketers, and content is what earns that for you.

5. Calls to Action (Registration Offers)
What will you create and offer prospects to compel them to register, learn more & hear about you moving forward?
A good content strategy will address both content and calls to action (CTAs) at the same time. And with a great repurposing strategy, they can literally be the same thing. A bunch of great blog posts can be repurposed into a PDF download. The barrier to entry is lower than you think. But differentiating between content that attracts, and content that registers, is important to feeding the top of your pipeline, and earning the right to continue building direct value with short, medium and long-term sales opportunities.

6. Social engagement and curation
What will you do to engage prospects before they’re ready to buy? How will you use social channels to reach prospects known and unknown early in their buyer journey?
I continue to believe that the social web is the greatest opportunity for B2B sales & marketing professionals – to find, engage and convert prospects at the top of their funnels at an incredibly low cost, with almost infinite scale. This is about engaging those prospects with content they care about (much of which may have been written by someone else, but that you curate through your branded channels) as well as finding and reacting to buying signals from early-stage prospects on a daily basis. This might be the biggest opportunity on this list, but requires many of the steps above to get it right.

7. Keyword research and leverage
What words and phrases do your prospects use to describe their problems, envision the outcomes they seek, and research potential solutions?
Using tools such as Moz and Wordtracker, you can effectively replace traditional focus groups and expensive primary research projects with real-time intelligence that not only makes your content, copy and marketing smarter, but helps you reach and engage those prospects before anyone else. This isn’t one and done, but the work you do up front sets the stage for everything from that point forward.

8. Explainer video
How would/could you communicate your core value proposition in a non-product, very tight video?
I’m talking about a minute, 90 seconds at the most. Animated is better, as it gives you a lot of creativity to tell your story sometimes in non-linear but customer-friendly formats that speak less to your solution and more to the problem you solve. Explainer videos are replacing traditional sales collateral, in may cases, at the front of the selling process by explaining more effectively what you do (which, really, is all about what your product or services does for your customers).

9. Influencer engagement
Who do your customers & prospects already listen to, and how can you get them listening to & talking about you as well?
Engaging the influencers has already been important, but never has it been as important as it is right now. That’s because influencers represent a highly-efficient, cost-effective channel to reach your prospects but also increasingly are important in generating higher search rankings with Google. Use a tool such as Little Bird to determine who the influencers and primary experts are in your industry or category, and invest time in getting them to know who you are.

10. EFN (email f’ing newsletter)
What can you start getting in front of your customers & prospects, quickly, via email, on a regular basis?
Eventually, you’ll have a sophisticated marketing automation system rolling. Multiple customer and prospect segments, drip campaigns, lots of content dynamically generated based on observed behavior. But most companies way overthink their early-stage communication. I recommend thinking in terms of the EFN – the email f’ing newsletter. Seriously, produce a regular email newsletter with customer-centric content, curated as needed from your blog, your curated social content, etc. Your email f’ing newsletter may continue to be the foundation of your outbound lead nurturing efforts for a long time to come.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Matt Heinz
Prolific author and nationally recognized, award-winning blogger, Matt Heinz is President and Founder of Heinz Marketing with 20 years of marketing, business development and sales experience from a variety of organizations and industries. He is a dynamic speaker, memorable not only for his keen insight and humor, but his actionable and motivating takeaways.Matt’s career focuses on consistently delivering measurable results with greater sales, revenue growth, product success and customer loyalty.


  1. Matt: this is a solid list, but one that should be formulated after first asking,

    1) What opportunities must our company capitalize on to achieve our business strategy?

    2) What are the most consequential risks that we face in achieving these opportunities?

    In my experience, among senior executives, question #1 is the more joyous of the two discussions–although there can be a bit of rancor when bringing blurry ideas into sharp definition.

    Question #2 presents more challenges, because many executives are loathe to face risks, or they procrastinate on addressing them when they are known, because they are not yet manifest. Some companies stifle the discussion altogether by branding people who bring up issues as ‘whiners,’ or ‘naysayers.’

    No foundation is complete without a thorough understanding of opportunities and risk – along with a plan to manage them.

  2. Thanks Andrew, great comments! Does this speak to the difference between a business plan and a marketing plan? Clearly there’s a ton of overlap, but your questions feel much more fundamental to how the business operates and focuses vs. the go-to-market elements.

  3. Business Plan v Marketing/Sales Plan – they’re connected – or at least they should be. I recommend to all of my clients to conduct a methodical risk/opportunity assessment before launching a tactical business development program. Risk assessment findings are consequential for every item on your list, but especially for #’s 1,3,4,5,6,7, and 9.

    Recognize which risks are material (high likelihood/high impact), and planning will be much more effective, and resources can be allocated the most productive way. There is a ‘cost of risk,’ and I’ve seen companies waste money managing risks that, in their current situation, aren’t as consequential as ones that are being largely ignored.


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