A very common reality among B2B marketers is that their annual marketing plan is closely tied to their fiscal year budget. In most B2B environments the budgeting process for the upcoming fiscal year usually begins to take place about two-thirds the way through the current fiscal year. This places marketers in the position of calculating marketing success and or ROI for the current year with only partial data. So how can you make informed decisions about B2B marketing budget allocations, let alone a marketing strategy without a complete data set?
Use what current data you have and pair it with qualitative customer insight.
A strong strategic marketing communications plan is rooted in a keen understanding of your customers. That understanding can be formed through various efforts including web analytics, social media programs, well managed CRM systems and other extemporized feedback from sales, customer service and other customer touch points. And of course, most marketers “know” their customer, because they have been selling to them for years. But how well do you know them? Jeff Ernst at Forrester once wrote a great blog post on how B2B marketers have a blind spot when it comes to their customers and the buying journey. He makes a great point of noting that companies that revisit their B2B buying process and inject fresh insights into how customers move through that process will be the ones that succeed.
So even if you have massive amounts of analytics and CRM data, none of that information can paint the full picture of your marketing program success, because it does not answer the “why”.
To truly understand the “why” you need to dig in and do actual customer insight. And digging in is not always just emailing an online survey - to truly get to the underlying issues you need to actually talk to your customers. Curt Hitchcock has written several blogs that speak to the art and science of in-depth interviews, but we see them as more than interviews, they are conversations, and discussions. These types of discussions will provide the insight that will begin to answer the “why” and provide a more well-rounded view of your customer. As the budgeting process for the next fiscal year gets underway, consider pairing your current data set and ROI calculations with some qualitative customer profiles. Combining all of that information provides a foundation for a much stronger marketing strategy, and sound rationale for budget allocations.