How to Make a B2B Marketing Plan that Drives Sales Results

A display shows an active marketing plan strategyMarketers know intuitively that the ultimate goal of marketing is to make sales happen. And yet, oddly, marketers are often cut off from the information, relationships and connections they need to make that possible -- or they are given tasks that are considered important to the company but don't actually have any clear relation to the sales effort.

The CEO insists on a new corporate website because the current one 'is embarrassing' and 'looks old', but there's never a discussion about what else the company can do with a new site other than 'look new'. The head of sales asks for a group of new data sheets urgently because the sales team 'is always getting these questions' but there's little interest in discussing the best format for answering these questions (blog entries, customer case studies, or perhaps a podcast or video?).

The best way to solve this problem - whether from the CEO's level or from the marketing department itself - is by developing a marketing plan that is built from the ground up to drive sales. Crafting a plan for marketing that focuses on sales allows the company to adapt to a more integrated sales and marketing model, and begin investing in the areas that can produce real revenue impact. Here's how:

1. Begin with Qualified Prospects

The scope of most marketing departments begins with the company website and ends with trade show leads, online inquiries and other data that is then passed through a vortex (or black hole) over to the sales team, never to be heard about again. That's why an effective marketing plan begins with the qualified prospect: What it is, what it looks like, how we know it's qualified, and what makes a qualified lead so valuable to the sales team. This, in turn, encourages a discussion between marketing and sales about how the one can more effectively support the other.

2. Focus on Lead Generation and Nurturing

Lead generation can come from a variety of sources – online, offline, event, referral, repeat customer, etc. The question is, how can we maximize the generation of solid, high quality leads from across these sources? Once a lead is generated, the 'handover' to sales needs to be re-engineered. Sales teams only have time to focus on the leads that are hot now, which means that the leads that are lukewarm, warming up or in any other stage are not going to get much attention. That's why marketing's commitment to lead nurturing is so essential.

3. Emphasize Marketplace Education

The marketplace is full of potential customers, all trying to figure out what they need and where to get it. They are overwhelmed with information but underfed understanding, which is why you need to develop marketing content that talks less about features and benefits and more about issues, challenges and accomplishments. Tell customers how to succeed – or better yet, show them how others like them have done so – and suddenly your position in the prospect's mind shifts dramatically.

4. Insist on CRM Information

The customer relationship management (CRM) system used by your sales team must be accessible by marketing staff. Marketing can't nurture leads if it doesn't have access to them, and it can't support sales if it doesn't share the same platform. Think about new ways in which marketing information can make the sales team's work easier or results stronger, and make sure that both departments are using the same playbook.

5. Automate and Integrate Your Shop

Marketing today is dramatically different than it was as recently as five years ago. Today, the methods and processes of marketing are far more diverse and complex than ever before. Instead of starting with a list of 'marketing channels' and setting budget amounts or task items to each one, commit to an integrated approach using marketing automation software.

More and more marketing automation systems such as HubSpot are now within the reach of mid-market and growth-oriented companies, and there simply is not enough time in the day (or budget for increasing staff headcount) to make marketing happen without the right tools.

These five components will help you develop strategic marketing plans that resonate and drive real top-line growth potential for your business. The results will become clear as the sales team sees greater impact and better sales cycles through the power of a sales-driven marketing strategy.

Executive's Pocket Guide to Planning Your Brand

Image credit: JenB on Flickr (Creative Commons).

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