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B2B, Branding, Lead Management

B2B Marketing Framework: how to manage the complexity

We often discuss in this blog how B2B marketing is becoming more complex, and how to manage this complexity. Marketing is getting involved in many more areas that touch the customer along the buying process, multiplied by a dizzying variety of new tactics, online communications and engagement platforms. I have always liked frameworks to make sense of this complexity, and add some structure to identify focus areas and value drivers, dependencies and hierarchies – all to make complexity a bit easier to manage.

Pragmatic Marketing Framework
One of the best known frameworks in product marketing is from Pragmatic Marketing. Very clean and structured, it lists all major areas that need to be designed, built, and managed by product marketing and product management.

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My problem with the framework is that while it shows a neat hierarchy (from market to programs and support) it only loosely links its components along a common thread. In my mind, this common thread should be the customer’s buying process (instead of the vendor’s planning hierarchy). This way you increase customer centricity and make sure that strategy and tactics are mapped to the buying process your customers perform (stages: unawareness, pain recognition, understanding how to solve the problem, identifying and selecting the right solution and vendor, validating the choice and acting on it).

RocketWatcher Marketing Framework
April Dunford at RocketWatcher has recently published a modified version of the marketing framework that I think is excellent because it simplifies things and focuses on the marketing aspects rather than the product management side of the business.

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A Simple B2B Marketing Framework
So taking this general concept a step further, I created a simple B2B marketing framework that depicts the hierarchy of B2B marketing strategy and tactics. It builds upon April’s framework and comprises a stack of marketing “layers” that build upon each other, each centered around the customer’s buying process.

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The framework starts at the bottom with the “Market Knowledge Layer” – the foundational aspects of understanding the market opportunity and customer problem – and then works its way up to tactical execution of marketing programs along the customer life cycle.

Market Knowledge Layer
The “Market Knowledge” layer captures key information and develops organizational knowledge about target market segments, market needs, the drivers of value (cost reduction, revenue increase, efficiency improvements, etc), and what competing alternatives exist to capture this value.

Business Strategy Layer
The next layer up is “Business Strategy”, taking into account the insight derived from the Market Knowledge layer below and deciding what business model is best suited for generating value in the market environment, what products and configurations to take to market, how to go to market from a marketing and sales perspective, etc.

Buyer Centric Tools & Content Layer
The next layer “Buyer Centric Tools & Content” aims at creating deeper insight into the buyer to create the tools that inform message creation, marketing content, education of sales and marketing teams, creation of campaigns, etc. This includes the definition of the buyer personas, how buyers approach buying decisions (buying process) and what messages will influence their perception and decisions at each step (message maps).

Marketing Tactics Layer
Finally, the top layer “Marketing Tactics” is concerned with tactical execution of marketing strategy, the push/pull, outbound/inbound delivery of messages that influence buyers’ decision making. The tactics are informed by a deep understanding of the target segments, buyer personas, and their pain and approach to solving it (buyer’s journey) – all derived from the underlying layers.

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I see the marketing tactics layer divided into four phases mapped to the stages of customer development:

(1) Segment Marketing – In the customer life cycle, this is the very first attempt to reach your target audience and attract potential buyers to further engage with you in a conversation. Initially, you may not have any information about the buyer other than generic segment and persona profiles. The goal is to attract interest that converts into qualified leads which you can follow up with and/or nurture over time.

(2) Lead Nurturing – Leads that are not sales ready need to be nurtured with the goal of guiding prospects through their buying decision process with educational and actionable content. Marketing automation tools can help with targeted and event based outreach to prospects, offering opportunities for digital engagement and interaction that provides more insight into the buyer’s general fit with the target profile and readiness for taking the next step.

(3) Sales Enablement – At this point your sales team is actively engaged with the prospect. Your marketing activities for this phase focus on providing your sales team with the tools that help them in the discovery process to better understand the prospect’s true needs and to create and present a solution that the buyer finds attractive and selects over competing alternatives.

(4) Customer Marketing – Many marketing teams focus their attention and resources on new lead generation, often neglecting the ongoing nurturing of existing customers. Here is where you have an opportunity to delight your customers, truly understand why and how they use your products or services, and identify additional opportunities to maximize the lifetime value of your customer (not to mention the lower cost of incremental revenue from existing customers).

Goal Setting and Performance Measurement
To make matters more complete, I added “goal setting and metric definition” to the left of the marketing stack, driving the direction of every marketing layer and its components. On the right hand side is the “measurement” aspect that looks at the marketing outcomes using the metrics defined for each layer. Here we can compare results against the original marketing goals to identify deviations, ideally using leading as well as lagging performance indicators.

To close the loop, and ensure continuous improvement, the feedback process (bottom) loops back to inform changes to strategy or adjustment of goals and tactics to more closely reflect the reality of external market dynamics as well as internal company resources and competencies. The idea is to create frequent feedback cycles and adjust as often as feasible (the challenge is to strike a balance between the incremental cost incurred by making changes and the benefits derived from these changes).

Planning and Execution Cycles
Another way to look at the layers of the B2B marketing stack is to think of them as “spinning disks” where each disk revolution represents a planning or execution cycle. For example, the business strategy layer typically has longer planning cycles (a full cycle can take many months or quarters). The tactical layer at the very top, in contrast, is characterized by very fast execution and adaptation cycles (sometimes only days or weeks).

Cycles for planning and knowledge gathering take longer to execute and receive market feedback to validate or invalidate your assumptions of the market (at this layer, your macro environment also changes more slowly). Rapid cycles at the top of the stack, on the other hand, provide almost immediate feedback (for example, what keywords are performing for paid search, reports on open rates of email campaigns, popularity of a content asset) and allow you to adjust quickly.

The feedback collected in real time at the top of the stack not only informs the tactic itself in order to optimize it, but it also cascades down to inform underlying strategy adjustments at the bottom of the marketing stack.

Operationalizing the B2B Marketing Framework
The next iteration of the B2B marketing framework will map out the buyers journey in greater detail. But that’s content for another blog post. This framework reflects the marketing view but can be easily expanded to link into the sales perspective (deeper view into the sales cycle). 

Let me know your thoughts about this framework. What frameworks help you organize and structure your B2B marketing efforts?

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About Md. Moulude Hossain

FinTech | AVP, Business Development KONA Software Lab Limited

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