Marketers: Are you building your demand gen plan for next year?

In this article, I have collected the required ingredients you will need to define your integrated marketing strategy and build your go-to-market plan. With a solid understanding of these foundational elements, your marketing programs will be designed properly to deliver the results your sales team expects and requires.

Strategy before Execution

When demand gen plans fail to produce quality leads, the root cause is because of an incomplete or incorrect go-to-market strategy. In fact, the “plan” is often improperly presented as a laundry list of tactics. “Marketing popcorn” (random acts of disconnected marketing) never works. As we head into 2023, most B2B companies are not making their numbers. The impulse is to light an even bigger fire under the CMO to produce, produce, produce more leads. The result is reactive marketing: ready, fire, aim! To break out of this downward spiral, the marketing team needs to catch their breath and take a fresh look at the set of assumptions driving the integrated marketing plan.

Before you jump to tactics, revisit these 6 strategy-guiding elements. If you don’t have any of these, make time to build them.

1) Buyer Persona

I created my own B2B persona template because generic templates don’t capture the three key dimensions I require: demographics, target company profile, and psychographics. The persona has nothing to do with your product or service. It has everything to do with your target audience and the business/operations/technical problems they are trying to solve.

Read: Creating a Buyer Persona? Here are 3 common problems and how to avoid them

Check out our online course: Product Management & Marketing: Personas — Building B2B personas for the enterprise¬†

2) Buyer’s Journey

Creation of a clearly defined target persona is always step one. But it is far from sufficient. Your team needs to understand the complete buyer’s journey from beginning to end. As with the persona, the buyer’s journey is all about them, not you. You will never have as much market research and data as you’d like to create this. So, you will need to build an hypothesis. Take your best shot, and pay attention as you execute against it. You will be constantly revising this. As I always say, “whoever understands the customer best wins!”

Read: The Customer Advisory Board & the Buyer’s Journey

Interviewing a set of customers can provide great insights and wisdom. However, most marketers are not good interviewers. My team and I have been interviewing customer executives and decision makers for 20 years. Check out our online course: Mastering Customer Interviews

3) Content Map

How much content has your company produced? Articles, whitepapers, application notes, demos, videos, etc. One company I worked with had a library of 800 blog posts spanning 14 years. Most of this was out-of-date. Updating it all was not the right answer. Now that you have your persona and understand the buyer’s journey, your next step is to map the relevant content to the specific stages of the buyer’s journey in order to answer their questions at each stage. What content do you already have? Where are the gaps? Use this exercise to prioritize your content. So many marketers get overwhelmed and burnt out because they are buried under a ton of content requests. Guess what: most of that is probably unnecessary or confusing, thereby lengthening the buying process. Success requires focus.

Here’s a simplified version of a content map that was built upon a buyer’s journey. Notice how the buyer’s journey is linked to the content map by including questions to be answered, ways in which your content should be delivered, and specific pieces of content (for what is relevant and exists today, and for what needs to be created). As you begin this exercise, your content map will become cluttered and instantly complex. It will take several iterations to gain focus. It’s better for you to weed through your content because your customers won’t do it for you.

4) Product / Company positioning statement

Many marketers confuse value propositions and positioning statements. Value propositions are broad in scope catering to all possible target markets, your product portfolio, and the price for those goods and services. Value propositions are used for driving company strategy. Positioning statements, on the other hand, are a subset of the value proposition and are used specifically for marketing communications. You will have different positioning statements for unique customer-product combinations. And rather than unleashing all the value you provide all audiences, you communicate only the benefit and features that are relevant to this specifically targeted prospect. Before you can craft any messaging, the positioning statement must be crystalized. This is your rudder that guides your messaging.

Read: Value Propositions vs. Positioning Statements: What’s the difference?

Read: The case for the positioning statement (includes template)

Video: What is a positioning statement?

Check out our online course: Product Management & Marketing: Positioning — Learn how to master your “positioning statement”

5) Elevator pitch

When it comes to messaging, there are many techniques available. My favorite one is called, “The Message Box.”¬† Because nobody likes to be sold to, successful messaging is all about story-telling. The hero of your story is the customer, not your product. You should not attempt to tell your story until you have completed elements 1 – 4.

Read: Introducing the Message Box

Check out our online course: Learn how to create a killer Elevator Pitch!

6) Integrated Campaign (capital “C”) Map & Program Blueprints

With 1 – 5 completed, and your team aligned, you are now ready to build your Campaigns and supporting programs.

I think of “Campaigns” (capital “C”) as strategic; They reflect big objectives, like capturing X% marketshare or displacing competitor ABC. To support any Campaign there are supporting programs with their own set of sub-objectives. There are seven types of programs. The most common: awareness/thought-leadership, new customer acquisition, and nurturing prospects. I’ve outlined very simple examples of each program type and illustrated how they fit within a master “Campaign”. Each program type as a specific set of engagement rules that will map back to the Buyer’s Journey. Building Campaigns and supporting programs is where marketers enjoy unleashing their creativity and cleverness.

Read: The confusion around the word “Campaign”

Download the simple Campaign Map and Program template examples. I share these as simple examples to explain the context. Your Campaign and programs will be unique to your business. Some may be quite complex; others simple. In all cases, they must link back to the buyer’s journey.

Putting it all together

The words, “campaign planning” are easy to say; but, it is hard to do. It takes disciple, patience, and requires attention to detail. There are a lot more details behind each of these 6 steps, but this information will get you started as you build your next demand gen strategy

We can help you and your team make quick progress in your planning efforts.

  1. Provide quick tips and coaching for you and your team.
  2. Asses your current plans, processes, and skills of your marketing team.
  3. Facilitate hands-on planning exercises with your team. Together, we make real progress.
  4. Train your staff with workshops on any/all of the elements discussed here.
  5. Step in as your interim or fractional CMO or marketing chief of staff to drive the planning exercise for you.

Mike GospeMike Gospe leads KickStart Alliance, a marketing leadership consulting team. An expert in Integrated Marketing, Program Blueprint Design, and Product Launch Plans, he guides CMOs and their teams to improve their demand gen performance. He also facilitates marketing planning workshops and Sales & Marketing Summits. His books, Marketing Campaign Development (2008) and The Marketing High Ground (2011) have become reference materials for marketers around the world.

Mike also fills in as an interim or fractional CMO for B2B companies retooling to grow from $50M – $100+M ARR (annual recurring revenue).