In these challenging times, businesses need firm guidance on how to face the uncertainty and ensure they stay focused on their long-term aims. In this Q&A session, Miriam Drahmane from bcm, a strategic B2B marketing agency, offers some advice to those looking to the future while dealing with the present.
Should businesses invest in marketing now given the economic downturn and uncertainty?
Many businesses have had to make spending cuts due to the coronavirus pandemic, and the latest IPA Bellwether report reveals a record decline in marketing budgets in 2020. But we would argue now is not the time to put the brakes on your marketing activity, although it’s obviously a question of affordability. History shows that share of voice in an economic downturn equates to share of market in the recovery. This is demonstrated in both World Wars and the financial crisis of 2008. The key thing is that any marketing efforts should be underpinned by a robust strategic plan that ties directly back to the financial goals of the business.
Is there any point having a strategic plan when things are changing daily?
Yes. 45% of companies don’t have a clearly defined marketing strategy, but those that do are undoubtedly more successful. Every company should have a marketing strategy that is aligned with the financial goals of the business. The plan should cover the short and longer term – pipeline and quick wins, as well as long-term brand building.
Creating a strategic plan makes the business more target driven. The priority should be on productivity; better marketing for your budget that will give you the best ROI. A good agency will be able to advise you and recommend the right strategy and tactics for your organisation. Agility is undoubtedly top of the agenda too amid the constant change, as we see businesses needing to pivot and diversify in these difficult times. Agility focuses on shorter-term trials to gauge what works so that budgets are not unnecessarily wasted. We work to a unique one-page plan that acts as a roadmap for the business and becomes a working document to measure against with regular strategic reviews. This onboards teams and has a proven track record for success.
How important is positioning, segmentation and targeting?
It’s critical. Once you’ve got the strategy in place, the next step is to consider your positioning. ‘Me too’ companies in this climate will struggle to survive. You need to find the gap. You need to either win on differentiation or distinctiveness. What truly makes you different or more memorable against your competition?
To my mind, not enough companies undertake adequate research to fully understand their market or customers in order to get this right. Times have changed and no doubt your customers and their behaviours have too. Tacit knowledge just isn’t good enough. Truly understanding your customer is fundamental to success, and will allow you to segment and target effectively.
The b2b decision-making unit (DMU) is made up, on average, of seven people. That’s seven people, with different motivators and drivers you need to align on the buying journey. The only thing known to actively shorten that buying journey is great creative; distilling your value proposition into visuals and words that will resonate with the decision-making unit. You might have an MD, a Finance Director and a Chief Marketing Officer, for example, who are all part of the DMU, and the messages you need to give those people will be considerably different.
How do you think COVID-19 has impacted B2B decision-making?
In times like this, the DMU can become quite fractured, be it through furlough, or changes and restructuring throughout an organisation. You’ve also got people working remotely, so their normal way of working has changed and in some cases it may be more disjointed, causing the decision-making process to become even longer. On the flip side, some decisions are being made very quickly as companies are thinking they need to act fast.
What tips would you offer to B2B companies looking for an agency to work with?
Getting the right agency for your business is key. At bcm, we want to do right by the client and so we may not be the best fit for every business. Things to consider are whether an agency has specific experience with B2B, as it’s very different from B2C and works on different principles. You also want to make sure the agency understands the complexity of your industry and has a good handle on the types of people you sell to. Strong communication between you and the agency is equally important, as well as having regular meetings and being very clear on what the agency is accountable for. Measure, measure and measure some more! At bcm we believe marketing should pay for itself and the only way to achieve success is by setting clear goals and KPIs.
Find out more at www.bcmagency.co.uk or email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 01727 226202 or 07788 537567.