"The most successful B2B companies in the world use marketing to dominate their industries and deliver enviable results."
Lisa Shepherd’s book, Market Smart: How to Gain Customers and Increase Profits with B2B Marketing, equips you with an effective process for achieving B2B marketing success. The words “practical,” “helpful,” and “useful” come to mind when reading Lisa’s book. Readers are inspired to use this comprehensive guide to create and put into action a marketing plan that would make a real difference to their company’s success. Lisa takes the mystery out of B2B marketing, instead offering a pragmatic approach that leads CEOs, owners, and leaders of B2B companies through the strategy, planning, management, and implementation of good B2B marketing. Lisa makes it simple which is very appealing in a complex world.
Lisa is also the Founder and President of the Toronto-based Mezzanine Group, a B2B strategy and marketing company. She’s worked with over 200 B2B companies in more than 30 different industries over the past decade. She knows how to help company’s get results. And, Lisa has run the gamut from working with very small (pre-revenue) to very large (global Fortune 500) companies. Through her book, you can scale your marketing plan to suit your company’s needs.
Lisa presents her approach in two parts, through step-by-step sections taking the reader through B2B marketing strategy and management, to implementing B2B marketing. And, she also employs charts, graphs, and links to useful templates, throughout Market Smart, to underscore her message: When B2B companies use marketing effectively they raise awareness of their products and services, enhance the profile of the brands, attract potential customers, and increase their profits. In short, B2B marketing is everything a company does in order to identify, generate, and support the securing of revenue opportunities.
As a small business owner, I have definitely lived the successes and failures that Lisa talks about in Market Smart. From trying to “do it all” yourself you quickly learn that everything rests on a solid approach that leads from well-considered business goals. If you have not thought through your target market, value proposition, and company messaging first you will start moving forward, and taking action, without a sense of clarity. And this will confuse potential customers. It is from developing a full view of your company, customers, and competition, that you can develop your marketing plan. And, from the marketing plan, the tactics will evolve with clarity.
So, how can you Market Smart?
Get Smart About B2B Marketing
"Smart marketing, used effectively in B2B companies, leads to growth."
It all starts with a marketing strategy
Lisa shows you how to develop a B2B marketing strategy in three steps:
Step 1 is an internal process to gather information available within the company. It includes a company workshop and interviews with staff and management. It also collects available reports on sales, profitability, and marketing.
Step 2 is external – it includes research and interviews with customers, industry experts, and competitors to augment internal information and validate, or disprove, the hypotheses you’ve made in Step One.
Step 3 brings together the data and insight you’ve gained to confirm the marketing strategy – target market, value proposition, and messaging.
Lisa then provides a detailed approach to help you put into action the three steps, and even includes an example of a marketing strategy, and other helpful templates, to guide you here.
How do you take action on your marketing strategy?
"There is no silver bullet in B2B marketing."
Once your marketing strategy is in place, tactical planning begins. Lisa details how to choose tactics, create a realistic timeline, determine appropriate resources, and also covers budget and performance measurement. As Lisa explains, “there is no silver bullet in B2B marketing.” It is more effective to employ multiple tactics together to get optimum results. And, avoid the desire to “jump on the bandwagon” and focus on one seemingly hot, new tactic. Lisa offers these factors to consider when determining tactics:
The target market
The company’s position in the market
How much marketing the company has done in the past and how successful it has been
What kind of marketing the competition does
The company’s goals
The company’s marketing budget
Lisa then outlines four guidelines to help companies choose the right tactics:
Guideline 1 – Get the basics in place
Guideline 2 – What’s your stage of evolution?
Guideline 3 – Prioritize tactics by ROI
Guideline 4 – Focus your efforts and evolve
Lisa also encourages you to reassess, recalibrate, and adjust the timing of tactics as you go – actively monitoring and remaining flexible to changing market conditions.
"Marketing can transform a small player into an industry leader, and make the difference between struggling for sales and having leads come to you."
Before you implement, of course, you need to develop content. As Lisa explains, B2B companies need to be thought leaders in order to dominate their industries. They need to have deep expertise in a particular area and a demonstrated track record. Being recognized as a thought leader makes you the “go-to” for particular products or services and is a powerful way to increase brand equity, achieve price premiums, and avoid bid competition.
To decide what topics to cover, you can:
Generate a list of twenty topics and ask your customer-facing staff (business development, customer service) to rate the topics.
Repeat the process of gathering topics, but have a customer advisory panel rate the topics.
Take your product developers (often engineers) to lunch, talk to them, and take notes.
From here, Lisa suggests you cross-reference your topic list against upcoming product launches, your firm’s core competencies, market trends, and changing customer needs – and create an editorial calendar.
Then, interviewing the thought leaders to create content is necessary – either through your marketing team or a third party – such as Lisa’s company The Mezzanine Group.