There has never been a greater need for Australia’s manufacturers to create innovative and effective marketing strategies than over the past 2 years.  For many, the hype around social media in consumer land is influencing and complicating their B2B marketing plans.   Before you can decide whether social media can add value to your business, you have to ensure you have a detailed understanding of the ‘customer journey’.  This is very much consumer advertising speak, but it is extremely relevant to B2B marketers.

The premise is that unless you meet the customer on their terms, on their purchase journey and add value…you fail.  The customer journey should always be the starting point for any marketing plan.

So, how do you understand the customer journey?  Through research, surveys, field intelligence and web search habits you build a picture of:

  1. Usage – do you really understand how your product is used, how often, what’s features are valued.
  2. Trigger events – what drives the need for the prospect to commence the purchase activity for your product.
  3. Research – how does the prospect research and gather information for your product.  Would you be in their consideration set from this form of research?  Are you easy to find?  Is it easy to gather the necessary level of information on your product?  Social Media may play a role here!
  4. Purchase – what is the most important criteria considered/valued? What information is required by the prospect? In what format do they need it presented?
  5. Share – Do customers share product/service experiences, good and bad with their wider community/industry?  It’s these conversations, in B2B marketing, that can have a major influence on your sales!  Third party opinions are so much more powerful and influential than anything a company can promote about itself.  It’s why customer testimonials are a capital equipment sales person’s best friend.  Social media may play a role here!

Once you have a solid understanding of all of this, an ‘integrated’ marketing plan can be developed.  While many companies believe they have integrated 360 – degree marketing, very few have.  A true integrated campaign has the following elements:

• A timed series of marketing actions

(this is to stop all those marketing stakeholders taking the company on a roller coaster ride, reacting to every opinion or latest article read)

• Built around a compelling insight or idea

(which is derived from understanding the customer journey)

• Which deploys the most intelligent and appropriate recipe of media channels

(may have social media but, there is a  huge chance social media does not have a role for your
business – yet!)

• To propel customers and prospects along a pathway…

(a well constructed, consistent, relevant and compelling marketing campaign should make it simple for message-overloaded prospects to know you, understand you and know how to deal with you)

• To achieve measurable business outcomes…

No matter what new marketing and social trends get everyone talking, please remember that ‘Strategy is always the King’.  If your sales and marketing strategy is weak, every other activity will just be band-aid marketing solutions.