Setting B2B digital marketing objectives

Objectives means ‘where do we want to be?’

Most marketing professionals know that objectives that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timed (SMART) provide a pathway to marketing success. How often, though, do you take the time to set a specific plan for the use of the array of digital channels?

SMART digital marketing objectives help select which tools and techniques are best suited to deliver against the strategy you have elected to follow.

Digital marketing offers superb analytical capability but this doesn’t mean much if you don’t have some firm objectives from the outset. This means taking a realistic benchmark of what you have and what you can achieve, and creating some goals on which to base a future evaluation. In this post, I’ll take you through five areas of objective setting we’ve set out in Brilliant B2B Digital Marketing – available now in ebook format from Amazon.

Setting the Five Ss goals

The Five Ss of digital marketing (credit to Smith & Chaffey) is a useful way to start sense-checking your digital marketing planning. The Five Ss are used here as a simple mnemonic for a range of objectives that might be considered.

1. Sell – Have we set goals to grow sales?

Start with goals for your most important transactions which will lead to revenue and profit! That’s sales, or if you don’t sell online, the leads that your online marketing will deliver, which will convert through to sales or donations if you’re a not-for-profit.

For most B2B companies, the sale will come much further down the line but it remains important to set some sales-related goals within your digital marketing planning. Are you able to qualify for example the average order quantity or value based on minimum order, pack size or price? Using Google Analytics you can begin to track clickthroughs to requests for information, telephone calls, face-to-face appointments, demonstrations and free trials.

What about considering ways to increase sales and looking at scenario planning to increase sales by category, by region, by key client or sub-sector? Looking at your pipeline of business prospects, there are also opportunities to increase sales through increasing the efficiency of customer journeys on your website.

2. Speak – Have we set goals to get closer to customers?

Digital channels are not only sales channels, they excel as communications channels to engage your audience. We say engage because it isn’t about one-way broadcasting; good marketing requires you to get the balance right between communicating your offer and interacting with your audience.

Encouraging email subscribers to sign up is a staple ingredient of a successful digital B2B plan as the resulting email newsletter and eshots can provide excellent feedback on how your communication is being received and interacted with. Most email services will help you gauge who opens when and how many times, who clicks through and if they forward to colleagues. It is also good for data cleansing as bad, gone away and unsubscribes can be routinely managed.

For social media, tools are available for buzz monitoring and sentiment analysis. These will show you where you are being talked about and whether the conversations are positive, negative or neutral – also relevant to these goals.

And, since digital channels work best when joined with other channels, the goals here should also include online visits prompted by traditional offline media.

Make sure every page of a website or blog and every email and placed article includes a call to action that is a click to another page, further reading, more information, a sign-up or download.

3. Serve – Have we set goals to online customer service goals?

Most customers visit websites for information relating to orders, help with products or services, or to make comments or complaints. Visitors need to be quickly directed to contact us and frequently asked questions (FAQs) pages as standard, so why not set goals for customer care, service and satisfaction too?

Often this is an area most companies are notoriously poor at, but it might just be the focus of your unique online proposition to pay greater attention to enquiries of this type and offer a supremely speedy service which marks this out as a true value add. Live Talk and other on-page help functions are making a comeback to websites as companies look to differentiate and keep customers for the long term.

Providing excellent end-to-end service online also has a positive knock-on effect to your capability to effectively Sell, Speak, Save and Sizzle.

4. Save – Have we set cost-saving goals?

Saving money, time and effort is a less glamorous goal than some of the others, but you can also show the value you gain through using online cost savings to reduce service costs and save on traditional media like print and post.

This is most relevant for B2B service companies, especially those with multiple site operations where efficiency in operations can be achieved. Marketers can set goals for the number of catalogues downloaded or number of service transactions compared with other channels. In extreme cases, it may help unearth underperforming branches and identify logistical supply issues that are costing money and losing sales.

If you are fighting for budget for online channels, the savings you can demonstrate to your finance director or budget holder through digital means will support your argument.

5. Sizzle – Are we adding value to our brand online?

Putting the sizzle into your digital marketing will really help achieve your sales and speak goals, but it’s not very easy to set goals for elements like brand advocacy and engagement and then try to track them.

Sizzle is about building your brand online. Think about what makes for a positive online brand experience for your target audience and you. Remember that most business buyers are looking for information that is going to inform a short listing or purchase process – and reassurance they are making the right decision.

We have already said it’s important to set goals and track the quality of the experience online, but you should also check the temperature of your sizzle through how shareable and likeable your brand is.

If the experience is effective, the benefits of engaging with your digital presence will be clear; the interactions within the site and with other channels will be smooth and the visitor will want to use your online services again, and tell their friends and colleagues about it.

So, key measures on sizzle need to be set around elements such as sentiment and more specifically levels of satisfaction, service, recommendations and advocacy.

Think about how the Five Ss help to determine what those SMART objectives need to concentrate on. Your goals for marketing your B2B products and services digitally marketing should support, and be supported by, your wider marketing strategies.

Image credit: Laurie Gough

What are you going to do differently?

If your company works to a January-December financial calendar, you are probably knee deep in planning right now. But have you learned from what happened this year, how you went about it, how you motivated your team, how you did or didn’t engage your customers?

There is an old saying ‘if you always do what you always did, you’ll always get what you always got’.

If your 2011 is about getting bigger, delivering more, being more efficient, being more creative, being more attentive, protecting and defending what you have, you need to be approaching things in a different way. Here’s some things to get you started.

#1  Think creatively: Take your planning meetings and brainstorms out of the stuffy confines of your boardroom and stage them somewhere else – a shopping centre, a museum, a park – anywhere where there is new and unusual creative stimulii.

#2 Have a campaignable idea: Create a hook on which all marketing activity can be hung, and stick to it for one year. Familiarity pays off. Advertising theory suggests people need to see an ad five times before it registers and stimulates an action.

#3 Be realistic: Shooting for the stars in the current downturn creates unnecessary pressure on your most precious assets – your people. Set achievable targets that are rooted in market insight not a standard 5-10% which can’t be validated.

#4 Know where you’re coming from: Appreciate what made your business successful and stick to it. Sure, there are opportunities to diversify along the way, but the best companies stick to what they’re good at, and deliver it consistently.

#5 Know where you’re going: Document and share company goals with everyone in the organisation, your partners, suppliers, customers and prospects. Writing it down and communicating puts it out there and gives it the best chance of happening. An idea only becomes so once it is shared with others.

#6 Plan for the best case: In an ideal world, where budget is not an issue, what do you want to achieve and how would you achieve it?  Scale this back within your resource to ensure your activities align with your business goals and where you are going. Be encouraged that the tactics don’t change even if the tools might.

#7 Think measurement: Attribute marketing investment directly to leads generated by mapping the process through given channels and tools. Digital inevitably works best, but specific landing pages can be set up to support all types of activity.

#8 Getting management buy in. Present your plan passionately to your management team as if it is your own business. Sounds obvious but most employees without a shareholding don’t think like this. Nothing achieves engagement better than passion, commitment and belief.

So, we come back to the burning question. What are you going to do differently next year?

B2B Marketing Principles 6: Brand Value Systems

Building and raising brand awareness is often a hallmark of any B2B marketing plan but do you as a B2B marketer have a carefully constructed consistent and coherent system in place to measure the value of your brand?

We sometimes assume that if a cluster of prospects have some awareness of your offering, and can identify with it, this puts you in a more favourable light to secure their business. That’s why most B2B marketing plans include some form of advertising twinned with targeted direct marketing aimed to acquire and then retain customers.

If you’re going to invest in creating and promoting a brand, consider how you will measure effectiveness and value. Becoming, and staying ‘front of mind’ can cost a small fortune as companies compete to build a brand containing some intrinsic brand value.

Take a different view. One where you don’t own your brand and it is instead defined by those who come into contact with it. Think of all your brand ‘touch points’ – a trade counter, your call centre, a representative or engineer, your mail shots, your advertising, your exhibition stands, your seminars, your website, email, social media pages. All of these can offer a great experience and provide the opportunity to ask for feedback. And therein lies the rub: The only way to create a benchmark, and then measure brand value, is to ask.

The Cooperative asks questions on their Chip & Pin machines at the checkout. Linkedin, SurveyMonkey and Zoomerang polls can be quickly created and distributed. Email and website based tools can be effectively harnessed post transaction. In-store and direct marketing response offers can be deployed. Questions can be added to omnibus surveys. And at the most expensive but perhaps most focused end of the spectrum, you can utilise focus groups and tailored market research programmes. There are a wealth of online tools to monitor chatter and buzz about your brand online (to be covered in a future blog).

What is clear is whilst you may set a vision and a value proposition for your brand, it is the market that ultimately determines how your brand is perceived. Come out from the ivory tower, never assume your view is in the line with the market and always deal quickly with a complaint.

Put in place a regular, rigorous process for measuring the effectiveness of your marketing. Focus groups and online research panels together with quick fire surveys can give you a measure of perception together with partnership surveys created with relevant associations and institutions, trade publications and exhibitions.

Image www.davidzinger.com