A true operational roadmap, the marketing action plan exhaustively details all the actions, means and human resources that the company intends to mobilize in order to achieve the previously determined commercial objectives.
The development of the B2B marketing action plan itself is not very complicated. Simply compile tasks in a dynamic table or PPT presentation. On the other hand, the upstream work that allows to define the different actions remains a real challenge that mobilizes a good part of the company’s services.
In this practical guide, the Twilead team explains how to build an effective B2B marketing action plan to achieve your business goals for 2023.
What is a B2B marketing action plan?
The marketing action plan is an operational document, or “executive” roadmap, that describes all the actions planned in a given period, usually the year, to achieve the business objectives set by management. Other complementary information is included in this operational document, notably the KPIs that will be used to measure the success of the marketing actions undertaken, the means deployed and possibly the collaborators and/or departments responsible for executing the actions, monitoring and evaluating them. Companies that target several different markets will have a marketing action plan by market.
To be complete and exhaustive in our definition, let’s recall that “B2B” refers to the configuration in which a company markets its products and services to other companies, as opposed to B2C where the company targets individual consumers.
What is the difference between action plan and marketing strategy?
The marketing strategy defines the course, the major orientations and the objectives on the medium or long term. The action plan is more operational, more practical and more functional, in that it details in a very precise manner the actions that must be carried out on a weekly, monthly or quarterly basis to achieve, or contribute to achieving, the major objectives defined by management in the marketing strategy.
In small companies, it is not uncommon to integrate the marketing strategy and the marketing action plan in the same document.
What are the main components of the B2B marketing action plan?
The composition of the B2B marketing action plan can vary from company to company, depending on the planning skills of the marketing managers, the technological maturity of the company, the size of the teams, the budget allocated to the marketing function and even the culture of the company.
Once that’s said, it’s important to note that there are certain elements that are essential in your B2B marketing action plan. Synopsis:
Key performance indicators (KPIs). KPIs are an essential component of any marketing action plan, especially in B2B where the size of the campaigns and the allocated budgets are generally larger. Without KPIs assigned to each objective, you will not be able to calculate the return on investment (ROI) of your actions, and you will have no way to identify good practices from useless initiatives. In a world that is moving towards data-driven decision making, the lack of KPIs (or the inability to calculate them) is a major problem that affects the competitiveness of your company. Recall Garner’s prediction that 65% of B2B companies will have migrated from an intuition-driven decision model to 100% data-driven decisions by 2026. According to Gartner, companies that have not made this shift will be at least two years behind the competition;
The calendar or timeline for each marketing campaign. This is a classic organizational tool for tracking the tasks and actions that make up each marketing campaign (content creation, social media publishing, emailing, editorial meetings, SEO, etc.) ;
A reminder of the company’s mission, or the famous “Why”. B2B buyers do not decide exclusively on the basis of the technical characteristics of the product being marketed. They place increasing importance on your purpose and values. That’s why your marketing action plan, which is intended for internal “consumption”, must remind you of your mission so that your teams are aware of it at all times. This will be reflected in the content they produce on a daily basis;
Product. The same reasoning is used here as for the reminder of the company’s mission. If your marketing action plan includes the promotion of a particular product, don’t hesitate to include useful information so that marketers can promote it in their content;
The marketing budget broken down between the different missions. To avoid overruns and help your teams make the necessary trade-offs, your B2B marketing action plan should clearly indicate the total budget allocated to marketing, and possibly the sub-budget allocated to each mission and campaign;
A reminder of the buyer persona, so that each campaign, each action and each message is adapted to each target.
Referrers for each task, mission or campaign, to make employees accountable and ensure transparency of all marketing processes, whether operational or tactical.
To summarize, the B2B marketing action plan is an operational document that details the actions to be carried out during a given period, the collaborators in charge of execution and follow-up, the dates and deadlines for each mission, and the means (budget in particular) deployed to carry out the various actions.
How to develop a B2B marketing action plan?
In itself, the development of the B2B marketing action plan is very simple. It is simply an “office” task that consists of organizing a certain amount of information in a table or PPT presentation. It is the process of gathering information about the objectives, the actions to be taken to achieve them, the allocated budget, the collaborators and the deadlines that deserves your full attention. This is a collective and transversal effort that mobilizes a large part of the company’s departments (marketing and sales, finance, top management, etc.).
In this section, we will list the different steps to follow in order to gather all the operational and tactical information to develop a complete B2B marketing action plan.
#1 Carry out a strategic diagnosis of the company and its situation on the market
Before you start building your B2B marketing action plan, it’s always helpful to make an effort to contextualize it to deploy a 360-degree view of the company’s position in its market. This snapshot at the moment “T” will allow you to rationalize your decision, whether it is at the level of the definition of the objectives, the budget to be allocated and the actions to be set up.
The diagnosis must cover three key areas: the company, the competition and the economic situation:
The company: are there any new products planned? What are the company’s resources? What skills do we have in-house? Are there any organizational changes planned?
Competitors: what is the company’s market share? How does its offering compare to the competition? What are the characteristics of the “best competitor” marketing strategy? What is our competitive advantage? What are the key success factors in the market? Can we learn from the competition?
What do the forecasts say about the health of the market? How do B2B buyers behave? Do they have any investments planned for your industry?
You can rely on more strategic marketing tools such as the SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats), the BCG matrix, the PESTEL analysis, Porter’s 5 forces, etc. Do not ignore this preliminary work. It conditions your performance in the long term.
#2 Define your Buyer Persona
If you have already done this work, it may be worthwhile to revisit your buyer personas, as the buying behaviors, expectations and challenges of B2B buyers have been turned upside down post-Covid.
The definition of your buyer persona must be the result of a close collaboration between the sales team and the marketing team. Indeed, if marketing has the theoretical skills and the tools to draw up a profile of your ideal customer, sales people have a practical knowledge resulting from their permanent contact with the field. In fact, a study by HubSpot explains that companies that have marketing and sales teams working together see a 38% increase in sales and a 36% increase in retention.
To develop your B2B buyer persona, capitalize on three types of resources:
Common characteristics of your current best customers;
Characteristics identified by salespeople in their prospecting efforts;
Third-party data, for example from market studies or surveys conducted by research or consulting firms.
#3 Master the buying journey to adapt marketing actions
By identifying the different stages of the buying journey, you can tailor your marketing action plan to your prospects’ behavior and provide them with the content, support and resources they need to move through the funnel. Again, it can be interesting to analyze the path followed by your best customers to attract similar accounts.
#4 Ensure that objectives are clear and understood by all
Goal setting is not part of the B2B marketing action plan. On the other hand, this document is constructed to achieve these objectives. So the first step is to make sure that:
The objectives previously established by the top management are understood by all;
They are formulated in a clear and quantified way. The “S.M.A.R.T.” (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-bound) framework provides a simple and intuitive methodology to ensure that objectives are relevant. “Increase sales” is not a SMART goal. ” Increase sales by 15% in the next 12 months ” can be a SMART goal, as long as it is both ambitious and realistic.
These objectives must be clearly assigned to the employees and teams concerned. Responsibilities must be clearly defined.
The B2B marketing action plan should reiterate the objectives at the very beginning, so that the stakeholders keep in mind that their work is aimed at achieving an ultimate goal.
#5 Allocate actions and human resources for each objective
We recommend that you organize your B2B marketing action plan according to your objectives, so that you never lose sight of the essential. For each objective, define the tasks to be carried out, associating one or several collaborators by name, a deadline, KPIs to measure their success (see below) and finally a person in charge of the follow-up.
#6 Determine the KPIs to measure the success of your marketing action plan
Each objective will have to be accompanied by a certain number of performance indicators (KPIs) to measure the success of the actions as they are carried out, to identify gaps and to initiate the necessary corrective measures. If for some marketing actions, the KPIs are clear(opening, click and conversionrates for an emailing campaign for example), the deal is less obvious for other missions, especially when they touch on branding, awareness, brand image, SEO, etc.
It is therefore important to determine in advance the KPIs on which the missions, and therefore the employees, will be evaluated.
Even after it is completed, your marketing action plan will remain “alive”, dynamic and agile. During the execution phase, you will have to challenge your action plan each time in light of the KPIs and the results obtained. If the performance of a Facebook campaign far exceeds that of a LinkedIn ad campaign, it may be worthwhile to allocate more budget to Facebook at the expense of LinkedIn. Each lever must be optimized according to the results generated.