Did you know? Our thought processes, our strategies and how we use our B2B tools need to change.
Unified marketing is a big idea in B2B marketing. While “integrated marketing” has been around a long time, unification takes it to another level. Simplistically, integrated marketing is about tactics working together; this is still important in unified marketing, but unified marketing starts with the strategy and concept and drives all messaging and tactical decisions.
It starts early in the process. Since we are coming up on fall planning season, let’s look at planning.
We all know what a plan is. But how often do we put together good marketing plans? Many B2B marketers have a “default” line-up of tactics that always make-up the plan – advertising, trade shows, PR, website, etc. In fact, many marketing budgets are already segmented by these tactics. Over the years these categories can become fixed in the minds of marketers and accountants alike.
At that point, tactical planning consists of plugging in key messages for the year and tweaking the tactics to allow for product launches or big events. Marketers may find themselves saying, “Last year we spent $300k on advertising. Let’s do some ads talking about thought leadership, but let’s take that down a notch so we can put $50k more into trade shows, and keep digital at $65k.”
There IS a better way! Stacy Whisel’s post talks about the benefit of using customer insight in the planning process, especially updated insight into how customers move through the buying process. This insight should drive the overall strategy and central concept behind the plan. And then, the next step in unified marketing is to use the strategy and concept to drive planning and tactical decisions.
Let’s take a simple example. Let’s say the concept involves having customers tell their stories. That would suggest a plan that emphasizes gathering and telling stories. Aside from the allocations needed for travel, writing, photography, video, etc., the tactical plan might favor events, online videos and social media over, say, print ads.
One of our clients even invites select customers to join them in their trade show booth, a great way to apply a “customer story” strategy to a marketing tactic that is often in its own world strategically. The customers and their machines take up a significant amount of booth space, but the impact of having actual customers talking about their successful projects far outweighs any concern about not being able to jam-pack the booth with product displays, disconnected from the strategy of telling customer stories.
When you think about it, trade shows are a great testing ground for this new way of planning. They are a microcosm of the B2B marketing and sales environment as well as unified marketing (especially when you include all of the pre-show, at-show and post-show activities that could and should go into a successful show or event). They have a defined and limited life for trying new approaches and getting quick metrics as well as qualitative feedback from booth visitors and your own salespeople. They cost a lot of money and measurement is elusive for many B2B marketers, so they are a fertile ground for improvement. And, the point of this topic, they are often disconnected from the overall marketing strategy (“I don’t care what we are advertising; I need to show my product”).
Trade shows are just one example of how using the strategy to drive tactical thinking would be a big improvement on the typical approach of “plugging thought leadership stuff” into an existing line-up of marketing tactics. The same case could be made for the website strategy or any other part of the marketing program. Two important planning tools in this regard are a comprehensive content plan and unified media strategy. These tools help you align your messages and keep all of your means of communications working together.
So try this at home. During the upcoming marketing planning cycle, rather than divvying up a budget and using last year’s tactics with this year’s messaging, start with the strategy/concept and let them drive tactical decisions and allocations. Try it and share with us how it works out. You might like where it takes you.