When we started this article, it was initially going to be “Things to know before starting your first B2B marketing campaign”, but really, there are certain things you need to keep in mind when starting any B2B marketing campaign, whether it’s your first or your thousandth.
There’s that old adage, “fail to prepare, prepare to fail”, and it’s especially true when it comes to B2B marketing campaigns. To make sure you’re as prepared as possible, this article is going to take you through 6 things you need to consider before every B2B marketing campaign, why they’re important, and steps you can take to make sure you’re as prepared as possible.
Setting up marketing campaign objectives, or, what are you trying to achieve?
This might seem obvious, but ill-defined campaign goals can be extremely damaging to the success of any of your marketing activities. Defining the purpose of your campaign will shape all the other factors.
Here are some of the main goals of B2B marketing campaigns:.
- The vast majority of B2B marketing campaigns are lead generation campaigns, with the purpose of making contact with companies that are likely to become customers. These involve activities targeting the top of your marketing funnel.
- Lead nurturing campaigns are intended to turn your leads into customers, targeting the middle of your marketing funnel.
- Customer retention campaigns focus, you guessed it, on keeping your customers loyal, and perhaps encouraging them to become advocates for your brand. These are usually finding ways to push them along your customer retention funnel.
(You might have noticed we mentioned marketing funnels quite a bit there. For more on B2B marketing funnels, click here)
The above are sort of “big picture” campaign goals. Below are a few common campaign goals that might fit under the above categories but are worth defining in their own right.
- Awareness. Businesses that don’t know about you and what you offer can’t buy from you, simple as that. The most obvious are campaigns that tell people about your products and services, but you might also want to be telling people about cool things about your company like high profile hires or an award you might have won. Awareness campaigns don’t necessarily have to be aimed just at businesses who are completely unfamiliar with you (lead generation), you might want to be letting existing leads (lead nurturing) or customers (customer retention) know about new things to do with your brand. In particular, you might be looking to sell more products to existing customers, which are often covered under…
- Cross-sell/upsell campaigns. These are campaigns focused on selling more of your products and services to existing customers. These work best as highly targeted campaigns, to make sure you’re offering products and services to people who actually need them. For example, an add-on to an existing product they already purchased. It’s not worthwhile targeting a business that doesn’t have that product.
- Testing. Your marketing needs to be continuously evolving, and the only way to know which way it should be evolving is by testing it. You could be trying out new copy, different images, new types of video, a new channel, or countless other variables that come up in marketing. Often, you’ll run these kinds of campaigns as A/B tests, where you’ll run parallel ads to see which ones generate the best response.
Identifying what you're promoting and how you want your audience to respond
Again, this might seem like a no-brainer, but making sure you’re clear in what your campaign is promoting is essential. At no point do you want your audience to be confused about who you are and what your brand is offering, as that moment of confusion could be all it takes to lose them.
You should make sure you have a clearly defined customer journey, where you determine the route and the steps that you’re looking for your customers to follow. No matter the length of the journey, you should be making clear what you want your audience to do to progress to the next step with a clear call to action.
- Example 1. If your campaign is to get more social media followers, you should make sure the posts clearly ask people to follow you. Most social media platforms allow you to have a button that clearly says “follow” on the ads, but you should still make it clear in the copy that’s what you want people to do.
- Example 2. If you want people to sign up for your mailing list, make sure you’re directing them to the right place to do that and instructing them clearly on the information they need to provide.
- Example 3. If you want people to buy a certain product, make sure you’re directing them to that product’s page and it’s clear how they can go about purchasing it from you.
- Example 4. If you’re inviting people to an event, make sure you’re directing them to a place where they can show interest (and, ideally, RSVP).
How to identify your target audience, or, who are you talking to?
So far, we’ve identified why you’re setting up a marketing campaign and what you’re marketing with it. Now it’s time to talk about who you’re marketing to.
In the B2B world, this isn’t as simple as just saying “all businesses everywhere”. You’ve got to also consider if they’re the types of businesses that will need and use your products and services. You can break this down through marketing segmentation.
Here are some of the basic questions you should be asking when you’re trying to identify your target audience:.
- Where are they geographically? This is important if you sell a physical product, as you’ll need the ability to deliver your products to them. It might seem less important if you’re selling something digital, like SaaS, but those products often need access to continuous customer support, so you’ll need to consider whether you’ll be able to offer that if they’re in different timezones.
- Can they use your product? There’s no point in trying to sell timber supplies to a company that doesn’t need wood, nor is there any point in selling design software to companies that don’t have designers.
- Do they need your product? Often, your product will be best suited for companies of a certain size. A product that’s ideal for startups, might not be appropriate for multinational corporations, and vice-versa. There’s no point in setting up a campaign targeting the wrong type of company.
- Can they afford your product? With a bit of research, you can find out if a company is likely to have the resources to spend on your product. Hitting them should be a priority.
A good B2B marketing campaign doesn’t stop there. A business isn’t a huge monolith, it’s made up of different people and different levels of decision making. By working out who’s the best to target within that structure, you can tailor your marketing strategy towards them.
For more on the how to identify different types of decision-makers you can target with B2B marketing campaigns, check out our guide.
Selecting the right marketing channels, or, which types of marketing are you going to use?
So we’ve covered the why, what, where, and who, so next might as well go with another interrogative “wh-” word and think about where you’re going to market.
In an ideal world, with unlimited resources, we’d say everywhere with a true omnichannel strategy.
But no business has unlimited resources, and even huge corporations didn’t achieve their current status without making sure their marketing was cost-effective, and the main way to do that is to incorporate a suitable marketing strategy at the right place at the right time.
For your marketing campaigns, you’ll need to identify the right types of marketing and which channels to use depending on your audience. For a digital campaign, you’ll probably be using LinkedIn and email as a foundation, as they’re channels key stakeholders/decision-makers you’ll be targeting regularly use.
But if you’re looking to use other channels, you should do your research into whether your target market is using them. For example, unless you’re targeting businesses made up mainly of Gen-Z, you’ll probably be using platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, instead of TikTok, as they have a fairly broad audience. All those channels have sophisticated targeting you can make sure you’re looking in the right place if you’re doing something like a paid campaign.
You can also look into the most popular sites frequented by your target market to place ads, sponsor content, or feature your own content on those sites.
For non-digital/traditional marketing, you’ll want to identify which trade events to attend, place posters/billboards, or even sponsor to make sure they’re being attended by the right businesses and people within those industries (of course, as of writing in early 2021, there aren’t many physical trade events at all, but they will eventually return). You can also familiarize yourself with trade journals or magazines so you can feature ads or contribute articles.
How to measure marketing campaign success, or, how will you know your campaign is working?
Obviously, you’ll know your campaign is working if the goal you picked out is being met. But if that’s all you’re tracking, you’ll be missing out on some big opportunities. You need to track and measure the different aspects of your marketing campaigns so you can fine-tune them for future campaigns, which is why marketers establish KPIs (key performance indicators).
Without the right KPIs aren’t in place, you'll risk making key decisions based on internal assumptions. Which means you’ll either just be guessing when setting up future campaigns, or worse, you’ll just run the same campaign forever, or repeat it over and over (making the same mistakes). Establishing KPIs allows you to break down each function within your marketing and see what needs work.
You need to identify the right KPIs so you’re getting valuable information from them.
Let’s take a social media campaign as an example. A common trap to fall into is to take reach (the number of people who see your posts) as a KPI. But having a good reach doesn’t tell you anything about how the quality of the posts you’re putting out. You need quality social media KPIs that can tell you if the post is doing its job, like engagement or click-throughs, instead of vanity metrics (check out our starter guide to social media KPIs).
Consistent KPIs across campaigns allow you to improve and refine future campaigns, but they can also allow you to make changes or even pull the plug early on campaigns that don’t appear to be working before you’ve wasted too many resources on them.
KPIs also allow you to see how your marketing efforts fit into the wider company. If you’re in charge of email and your KPIs look good, but your campaign isn’t meeting its goals, then there could be broader problems, perhaps with your website when people click-through, or (more worryingly) your products. Defining your KPIs at the start of a campaign can also make it easier for non-marketers to understand what’s going on, so you can work more cohesively with other departments.
Having the right KPIs is particularly important in email marketing, and with it being so important to B2B, we’ve got a guide for you right here.
What will you do after the campaign?
No matter the scale of the marketing campaign, having a clear after-action process is important, from just a short report all the way up to a company-wide debriefing. Whether the campaign was a roaring success or a bit of a damp squib, it pays to break down what worked and what needs improving with the rest of your team and other stakeholders (this is where your KPIs come in handy).
It can also be a good opportunity to get the ball rolling on your next campaign (no rest for the wicked, eh?).
There you have it, 6 things you should be considering before every B2B marketing campaign. Once you’ve got a few under your belt it might become second nature, but it might be a good idea to set up an established process or template for planning your campaigns so that you do it every single time.
What’s the most important thing to you when planning your B2B marketing campaigns? Let us know!