Last Thursday we held our latest webinar on building your inbound B2B marketing plan. Jennifer Dawkins, TREW Senior Marketing Manager, walks us through the key marketing plan steps. Then we switch over to the Q&A portion of our webinar, which is hosted by our Vice President of Account Services, Lee Chapman.
You can download our webinar right here.
Answers to questions asked during our webinar:
What if my company does not have business goals, can I still create a marketing plan? If so, how would I go about that?
Absolutely, sometimes companies don’t have documented business goals and that definitely shouldn’t stop you from creating a marketing plan. The whole reason that we look at the marketing goals as part of the planning process is to really help inform the plan with some of the key initiatives of the company. So we know what the growth opportunities are, what the key initiatives are, what are the new markets that we are going after. So in the absence of documented business goals, another way to do that is simply have a conversation with leadership, and talk through those questions and find out what they see as the growth opportunities, where do they want to be in a year, what are we focused on. Then use that to inform your marketing plan in the same way you would use the top-level business goals.
What format or tool would you suggest for building your marketing plan?
There is a wide variety of ways to do that. At TREW Marketing, we create a formal written marketing plan, that we have bound and printed, and we do that to have something that is sitting on people’s desks. It is something that you can hand out, and can refer back to. Though, there is also several other ways you can do that. We also have our plan in PowerPoint format, because it is digital, it is easy to update, it is easy to share, and it is easier to present with a larger group to get everyone aligned. Some people prefer to keep track of things in Excel, so I have seen marketing plans that were actually created in Excel. So it is really about using whatever you are the most comfortable with using. The biggest thing is that it has to be something that you can go back to, it has to be something you can make changes to, and something that you are referring to often, because your marketing plan is a living document.
Do you have an overall marketing plan for individual product marketing? So if you are going to market multiple products, how are you going to roll that out into your overall marketing plan?
That is were the campaigns come in, and you might have a campaign that focuses on a certain target industry or applicable message but your product launches may roll up into that specific campaign. Or depending on how significant the product launch is to your business, your company, or that particular year’s growth goals, you could have an entire campaign that is all around that launch. So campaigns are just a series of activities around a specific initiative, and if a product launch is so significant to your company, then it is going to have activity spanning for an extended period of time and have quite a bit of activity around it. You could have an entire campaign around your product launch.
Which is the most effective marketing action in terms of bringing in new quality leads?
So in this presentation I focus on three, because I feel that they are the three most important ones, making sure you have a great website, making sure you have great content, and making sure you are optimizing for search. It is tough to choose one of those three because they are so interconnected. If you have great content that is not optimized for search then no one is going to find it. If you have a great website, but not content on it, then it is not going to do much for it. So, I think that those three are very related. Also, we have seen some great success around paid LinkedIn promotions for your content and with that you can target by role or job title. That can be an effective way to further amplify your content and reach a new audience and attract new leads that may not already be in your database.
SEO takes time, so while you are waiting for that process to happen. Paid search through LinkedIn is a great way to supplement.
While engineers love reading short marketing blogs and case studies they tend to not like writing them. So what have you found that works to help get engineers excited or engaged in the marketing plan?
When you talk about content and content development, the number one thing that people say is “how do you get your subject matter experts to write the content?” So knowing how valuable the subject matter experts time is. The first thing that I recommend is making sure that you are really optimizing that time. So pairing up that subject matter expert with a writer is very helpful. So that way the subject matter expert is sharing their information, sharing their expertise, but maybe doesn’t have to be the one to actually write the content. If you do not have a technical writer to pair them with and the subject matter expert is the only one to write the content, you can still maximize their time by taking the original content based on what they have wrote and then using it and leveraging it in different ways. That way you are maximizing the investment that he or she is spending on the content.
Another key is once it is established that content is important, once you are seeing the results from it, once the business is seeing how it brings people in, then it becomes more of a priority and you will be more likely to get people to be able to invest some of their time into creating it.
We tend to be stuck in a two or three month cycle of executing activities. So moving to a moving to a full year sounds great, but it seems hard to forecast that far out. Also, if we are moving towards inbound plan and a lot of the activities are new to us, so with that being the case, how do you plan for adjustments and changes to a year long marketing plan?
Looking at a year long plan, through the process that we outlined. You know what your focus areas are, some of the activities may happen say in November, and you might not know the topics you will be talking about, you might not have some of the specifics. Like you may do a blog post series but not know exactly what it will be on. Some of those things that you might not know, but committing to a general plan such as, doing a blog post twice a month, a case study once a quarter. It is a way to get resources aligned, it is a way to say that we know what these things are. We are going to take the actually theme planning, the messaging, the topics, and which customers we are going to feature on a quarterly basis.
You have the plan, and you know you are going to do a webinar this month, you know that we are going to do a whitepaper or a gated piece of content every quarter, but you don’t put the pressure on trying to figure out all the details. Every quarter you have a content planning session or a quarterly meeting where you look at your results and look forward, and that is where you can add that detail in, at that two to three interval that your organization is likely most comfortable doing.
They are moving to inbound so a lot of the activities are new to them, if you take what you just said about having your annual plan, but looking at things quarterly and seeing which new inbound activities are driving the results and them tweaking your plan on a quarterly basis to make sure you are adjusting the activities to focus on the ones that are bringing you the best leads or new contacts versus the ones that do not work out. It is really important when you are new to inbound, that you try new things, see what works and was doesn’t, and keep your plan tweaked as you go throughout the year.
How do you incorporate social media and other ideas for powerful promotions into your marketing plan?
Social media is one that I think is very important and the main reason that I think it is important is because is that when I mentioned the off page SEO. Social media is a great contributor to that, so having a regular cadence of posts on a variety of social channels is bringing people back to your site, it is creating inbound links to your site. The more people are engaging and talking about your brand on these sites, it is boosting your SEO as well. So it is important because it is another way to reach audiences, but it has an indirect benefit of getting it back, getting the content and visitors back to your site. As far as how to implement it, in the same research study with Engineering.com that I have mentioned, we specifically asked about social channels that engineers care about and the top two by a pretty good margin were LinkedIn and Twitter. So those are the two that they are on, that they are looking at, so if you are going to start small, those are the two platforms I could focus on. I would prioritize LinkedIn first and then Twitter, and any of the content you are creating you can put on those channels but really identify what you are using those channels for, and what are your target audiences that are looking at those channels, because it might be different for each channel. Knowing that is really important, even with Facebook.
Do you have a standard rule of thumb on the volume of different types of activities? I am guessing that one blog post per quarter is not enough?
At a minimum, I would say that, one to two blog posts a month are essential. Blogs are really important because they have that fresh content and that helps with your SEO and it also helps with your loyalty and getting people continuing to expect that content from you. So that is blog posts but that is just one area. Having at least one gated piece of content per quarter is pretty important and that could be a webinar, it would be a whitepaper, it could be an e-book or some research information. Case studies are also really critical in proving that value; I would say two to four of those per year. That is just the content that you are creating, that volume of getting that out and promoting it a layer on top of that so we do recommend having at least a quarterly e-newsletter that regularly touches base with your audience, implementing automatic marketing emails, emails that go out after you are in a show, that go out after someone downloads content from you, kind of keeping in touch that way. So there are different layers but there is a baseline on how much content you have but there is also a baseline on how often you should be reaching out and getting that content into your database. The great thing about search is that it is people finding your content and coming to you. That is something that you don’t have to worry about if you are consistently creating the content and having the right SEO tactics, then you’ll continually get people coming to your site without having to do anything additional.
Have you found funny, silly, or serious content to be more successful for engaging with the engineering world?
We talked about our personas that we created and that is something that you absolutely need to evaluate through your very specific personas, engineers are a very broad bucket so it is tough to say across the board does this work for all engineers. In the design engineering persona that we showed today, in really looking in-depth at the specifics with design engineers, we saw that they prefer data and hard facts; they do not want the silly or funny information. So that is true for that audience, it is really important that you look pretty specifically. Also, conversational tone is probably fine, I think something can be very factual and still be conversational. It is really about how far you go over into the silly or funny and after you looked at your target audience, if that is something that they are okay with.
If you want to hear more on these topics, you can download this webinar right here and leverage TREW Marketing’s expertise to strengthen your own.