26 Roadblocks To B2B Marketing Success

Profit inhibitors are roadblocks to your B2B marketing success.

This checklist will help you think about possible barriers that you are facing with your brand, product or service. More importantly, it will get you to focus on how do you plan to overcome the profit inhibitors that are impacting your marketing programs?

Profit Inhibitors

Do They Apply?

Plans To Eliminate?

1.  Absence of customer oriented thinking
2.  Inexact or inadequate marketing objectives
3.  Internal communication failure
4.  Inadequate distribution planning
5.  Lack of innovation in product, packaging, etc.
6.  Budget deficiencies in communications
7.  Failure to dominate in communication media used
8.  Misunderstanding customer motivation
9.  Too generic marketing approach/messages
10. Inadequate understanding of market and customer opinion
11. Failure to “merchandise” or follow through
12. Over-promoting (dealing) or too much “price” concern
13. Information loss from management to point-of-sale
14. Giving promotion jobs it cannot do
15. Watered-down messages due to too much committee approval
16. Failure to build-in measuring systems for all plans and programs
17. Failure to define – and influence – the corporate image
18. Imbalance between communication activities
19. Copying competition in communication activities
20  Failure to build extra benefits of quality image of product and company or service
21. Failure to update marketing strategy/ organization
22. Working in silos
23. Inflexibility of policies
24. Inadequate knowledge of competition
25. Lack of or stagnant web and social media content
26. Failure to take advantage of “competitive edge”

 What Profit Inhibitors did we overlook that are barriers to your B2B marketing success?

Good Selling!
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Are You Asking These 8 Key Strategic Questions?

 

Don't shoot yourself in the foot by not asking these 8 strategic planning questionsOne of the worst things that you can do is to engage in the planning process and base strategies on a flawed set of assumptions.

8 Key Strategic Questions is a tool for strategic and business planning reviews designed to get you thinking differently. Some of the questions may not be applicable in all circumstances e.g. process groups probably do have competitors, although they do have customers, changing market dynamics, etc.

1. What is the market? (Past, Now, Forecast)

  • 8 key questionsHow do you define your market worldwide? Is it defined by technology? End-use application (products offered)? Customer type or characteristic (market need)? Method(s) of distribution?
  • How big is the worldwide market in which we compete? How has it grown? How is it expected to grow? What drives the growth? Which geographical area is growing fastest?
  • Which segments do we currently serve and why? Geographic? End-use? Price-point? Product performance? How have the segments (served and unserved) been growing? How are they expected to grow?
  • What trends are affecting this market today? How are these trends impacting the overall market and the segments we serve?
  • In what cycle of development is your market? (Start-up, early growth, maturity, decline).
  • What are the key characteristics of your market?  Concentration? Fragmentation? Oligopoly? Hostility?

2. What is the competition? (Now, Past, Forecast)

  • 8 key strategic questions to askWho are our major competitors? What is their share of market? Do they play in all segments? Where are they strongest? How has their market share changed over the past five years  By segment?
  • Do our competitors manufacture similar materials to our own? Did they develop their own technology? What are their facility plans? What are their technology plans? Are they a leader or a follower?
  • What are the competitors’ manufacturing economics? Are their plants small or large? Flexible/inflexible? Are they positioned to capitalize on trends in the industry? To drive trends in the industry to their advantage?  What is their pattern on bringing on new capacity?
  • Is this market subject to competing materials? What materials compete? What materials are expected to compete in the next five years?  Do these materials have large competitors or are they fragmented?  What are the technology and economics of the competing materials?  What are the performance attributes of the materials?  Is their penetration of the market drive by specific applications?  Is their penetration of the market driven by specific applications? Economics of the end-user?
  • How does the competition market its product? How do they price? Are they a price leader or follower? Are they engaged in market development? Which segments? Have we noticed trends in their level of marketplace activity?
  • Is any of the competition adding capacity? If so, where? Does this pose a threat? How? What are their economics for new capacity (both incremental capacity in existing facilities and greenfield)?
  • What key competitor actions have been unanticipated in the past?
  • How global are our competitors? What competitive advantages or disadvantages does their global network give them? If they are regional or national, do they have the capability of becoming global?

3. What are your competitive advantages?

  • 8 Key Planning QuestionsAre we the cost leader (including production, opex and capital utilization) in our major market segments? Are we cost leader at each level of the cost chain? Manufacturing? Distribution? Marketing and Selling? Are our customers’ costs lowest when they do business with us? Are their profits highest when they do business with us?
  • Are we the technology leader in our major market segments In our rate of development of new products or penetration of new markets? In our rate of commercialization?
  • What are our competitors’ costs? How does their technology compare with ours? What about their total delivered costs? What are the customers’ economics when they do business with our competitor?
  • Have we effectively differentiated ourselves in our market segments? Have we done this through brand? Service? Product design/features/technology? How does our differentiation translate into improved profitability?
  • What barriers exist to allow us to sustain our cost or differentiation advantage? Do we have proprietary technology? Economics of scale? Unique distribution? Government regulation?
  • What switching costs exist for our customers? How might our competitors try to lower these switching costs? How can we lower the switching cost of our competitors’ customers?
  • What strategic shifts have taken place in your industry over the last five years? Have they eroded or strengthened our competitive advantage?
  • What changes do we expect over the next five years? How will they potentially impact our competitive advantages?

4. What is your mission, objectives and goals?

Goals, Objectives (market share, revenue growth, profit growth, cash flow, geographic, technology position)

Mission Framework for 8 Strategic Questions You Should Be AskingGoals and objectives are definitive and results oriented, derived on strategic assessment and reflects what you must do to achieve your Vision. Accomplishment of the goal should be measurable.

  • Should we grow, maintain or harvest this product segment? / CUSTOMER segment? / geographic segment
  • If we are going to grow this segment, what is your growth goal – market share, revenue, EBITDA, cash flow?
  • Do you need a partner or strategic alliance to reach your goals?
  • What sustainable competitive advantage is your growth plan built upon?
  • If the goal is to maintain your product segment, how will you make sure that you are following a maintenance and not harvest strategy?
  • Why is strategy maintain as opposed to grow?
  • Which criteria should be used to measure maintenance?
  • Do we need to continue to own this segment? Should we joint venture it?  With whom? Should we sell it? Potential interested parties?
  • If your recommendation is harvest, should it be a slow harvest or a divestiture?
  • Does your business strengthen any of your sustainable competitive advantages? If so, how?

5. What are the key strategic programs recommended to achieve your mission and goals?

bang-head-against-brick-wallStrategies reflect most efficient and effective road to achieving goals. They should show best practices and innovative thinking.

  • What are the key strategic issues in your segment?
  • What strategies will be implemented worldwide?
  • What strategies will be implemented in specific countries or regions? End-use customers?
  • How will technology flow between countries?
  • Do we want to have one face or multiple faces to the customers in different geographies/based on product mix, quality, technology level?
  • What growth opportunities exist worldwide and in each region and how will these be achieved?
  • What trade-off decisions between opportunities in this segment have you made?
  • Are there support products we must develop to implement a strategy?
  • Where are your centers of manufacturing, technological excellence (development) for this segment? Does one region have the lead in development? If so, how will the needs of the other regions be supported?
  • How will you encourage the development of different products based on the different needs and cultures of each region?
  • What support do you need from the staff groups to implement your plan? (Finance, Human Resources, Sales, Marketing, Sourcing, R&D, Ops, Engineering, Legal, others)
  • Does their need to be a high level of integration between the plan for your segment and another segment?

6. What are the resources required for the recommended strategies?

  • Are You Pricing For Volume or Profit?What capital needs to be invested in each year?
  • What R&D programs need to be started or completed?
  • What training programs, new skills, etc. Are required from our employees?
  • What support is needed from outside consultants?
  • What resources are required from each functional area?
  • What are the returns from these investments?

7. What are the risks in your plan?

  • 8 Key Planning Questions to ConsiderHow much of your sales/earnings growth is tied to increases in prices?Volume?
  • What is the impact on your financial results if price and costs are 1% higher or lower than you anticipate? 5%?
  • How much of your plan is dependent on the economic environment?
  • What change in customer need puts your plan at risk (or other customer actions)?
  • What is the supplier fitness-for-use criteria to which you are most sensitive?
  • Which competitor is best positioned to block your strategy?
  • Which competitor has a competitive advantage which would make him better at implementing your strategy?
  • How will we know if your strategy is not working? What is the lead time for major capital and strategic decisions?
  • What technological breakthrough is your strategy dependent on?
  • What technological breakthrough puts your strategy at risk?
  • What critical employee skills is your plan dependent on? What training/hiring plans do you have in place to meet these needs?

8. What is your track record/credibility?

  • 8 questions for strategic planningIf your business does not have a solid track record of performance, what critical success factors will lead to a different performance in the future?
  • How do you want your strategy evaluated? Measured?
  • Which elements of your strategy should be included in incentive compensation? Over that time period?

If you really want to succeed in your planning process, ask yourself this one simple question

If you were to join your competitor’s business tomorrow, what would you do to attack the business you worked on yesterday? What are the three most dangerous things competitors can do to you (can be from a product perspective, customer perspective, market access perspective, technology? What can you do to protect/immunize itself, offensively succeed?

Good Selling!

What’s Your Advertising Agency Accountable For?

Hold your ad agency accountable for resultsAds, of course.  Lots of ‘em.  Creative ones.  Ones that win awards.  Ads your boss will love.  Ads the agency loves to work on.  Beautifully illustrated, brilliantly written ads.  Oh, and a media plan.  Carefully crafted for the highest delivery, more points, lower CPMs.

That’s all swell, except you don’t need ads or CPMs.  What you need are customers that are buying your product.  Unfortunately, what many advertisers fail to do is to hire an advertising agency for accountable results.

Amazingly, accountability is a concept that often strikes fear in the hearts of both ad agencies and marketing managers.

 in the hearts of both ad agencies and marketing managersIs that because the agency’s creative director is more interested in making “cool” ads than boosting sales?  Is your marketing manager more interested in going on the photo shoot than delivering customers?  Is the account executive spending more time on the fairway than talking to your distributors?

You may have heard (or even made) those kinds of accusations at one time or another.  But, in all likelihood, they’re unfounded.  The real problem is the lack of a plan.  Without a plan, neither the agency nor your marketing staff know, with confidence, what is expected of them.  The accountability for the advertising plan starts at the very top of your corporate ladder.

There are four essential links in the planning chain that precede the ad plan.  Like any chain, if you remove a link, it falls apart.  And, if you expect to make your advertising agency accountable, they need to be familiar with all the elements that provide the foundation for the advertising plan.

In order of occurrence and importance:

1.  Mission Statement – Whether you’re a billion-dollar public company or a half-million dollar retailer, you should have a straight forward mission statement that everyone – yes, positively every employee in your company – should know and understand.  In one simple paragraph, you should state why you’re in business.

2.  Strategic Plan – This is a three to five-year view of how you plan to achieve your mission.  It anticipates risks and opportunities in the marketplace, and strategies to prepare your business for them, through organizational structure, capital investments, distribution channels,  product mix, etc.  A strategic plan should be a continually evolving document, although one that changes too radically or too often is impossible to implement.

3.  Marketing Plan – The marketing plan is an annualized version of the strategic plan, emphasizing tactical implementation:  What do we want to do this year and how do we plan to do it?

4.  Communications Plan – One of the subsets of the marketing plan, the communications plan should incorporate advertising, public relations, employee communications and community relations.  It should clearly identify communications objectives, strategies and tactics.

5.  Advertising Plan – Finally, we’re there.  But don’t get too comfortable.  You’ll probably need multiple advertising plans, one for each campaign or each brand, product or service that you plan to advertise.

Who Is Responsible for the Advertising Plan?

The ad plan should be written by the agency – probably a team effort of the account supervisor, planner, creative director and media director.  They don’t pull the information out of thin air – the input comes from the client.  The ad plan encapsulates all of that input (often gleaned from days of meetings and pages of research) into a simple and brief document (not more than a couple of pages) that confirms the agency knows what is expected of them.  The plan should be presented by the agency to everyone responsible for approvals at the client company, and a consensus reached.

What’s In the Advertising Plan?  

Avoiding badvertisingThe advertising plan consists of a series of basic questions and simple, straight-forward answers to each.  Specifically:

Why are we advertising?  There is only one reason to advertise:  To create a fundamental change in consumer behavior.  What behavioral change are you trying to make with your advertising campaign?  Among the most common possibilities:  Cause consumers to buy your product and not your competitors’ products; Cause customers to buy your product more often; Cause customers to pay more for your product; or, Cause customers to visit the point-of-purchase more often.

“To increase sales” talks about internal goals, but doesn’t address changes in consumer behavior.  Similarly, “to improve our image” or “increase brand awareness” are attitudinal rather than behavioral changes that fail to address a tangible result.

Beware of multiple answers.  If you have more than one goal, you should expect the results of each one to be diminished accordingly.

The next two questions need insightful, unbiased knowledge of your marketplace.  Whether you commission your own research study, purchase syndicated research or get the data from a sophisticated trade association, it is essential that you reach beyond your own empirical knowledge of the marketplace.

Who are we talking to and how do they act?  This question combines quantitative and qualitative issues.  “Who are we talking to” is a matter of defining your target audience in every possible respect.  Traditional demographics (age, gender, income and geography) are essential data for a consumer media plan.  For a business-to-business plan, the answer must identify markets and/or industries, typical titles of buyers and influencers, etc.  The more narrowly you define the audience, the more effectively targeted the advertising can be, in both media and creative terms.

“How do they act” addresses behavioral issues.  For instance:  Are they skeptical, conservative buyers that demand proof or are you after early adopters?  Are they driven by practicality or status?

What do they think of our product/service/company?  Do consumers perceive your product as the best quality, most desirable, best value, lowest cost, market leader, prestigious, – or all the opposites?  Maybe they don’t think of it at all!  If you’re launching a new product, go further and identify consumers’ attitudes towards your brand.

What do we want them to think of our product/service/company?  How do you want your product positioned in the minds of consumers?  Should it change?

What is the competitive environment?  What other messages are consumers receiving from your competitors?  What threats or opportunities do they pose for your advertising campaign?

What is the single most persuasive idea we can convey?  This is sometimes called a unique selling proposition, or USP.  What is the most important reason someone should buy your product or service over your competitors’?  The answer should always be stated in terms of consumer benefit, not simply product feature.

Why should they believe it?  The last question was reason to buy, this is reason to believe.  Your ad makes a claim, back it up.  Offer a free trial, cite independent research, refer to past experience – the more real your claim, the more sound and credible the evidence must be.

What 3 to 5 words define the brand personality?  Brands, even institutional and industrial products, have personalities associated with them.  Words such as “elegant,” “tough” or “trustworthy” convey that sense of personality.  Researchers sometimes ask consumers about personalities in terms of animals: “If brand-x were an animal, what would it be?”  Answers to this question can be enlightening and frightening!

Bewitched ad teamHow will we know if the advertising was successful?   Finally, we’re back to accountability.  To answer this, you’ve got to go back to the first question about why you’re advertising.  Having identified that goal, how will you measure it, and what performance is acceptable?

If you want your agency to be accountable, you have to agree to a plan that everyone can follow, beginning with a mission statement.  Include your agency in goal-setting, and the budgeting process to meet those goals.

Let your agency know that they’re accountable for results, not for ads or CPMs.  What about those great creative ads and brilliant media plans?  Truth is, they’ll never deliver results without them.

Special thanks to Todd Steele for his help with this post.