The closer your team gets to the end of the year, the more it seems like you’ve done nothing to meet the ambitious and inspiring goals you set.
But don’t be too quick to judge your performance and fall into the old patterns of self-flagellation and.
The end of the year is, in fact, a company’s chance to:
- Reflect on the wins and lost opportunities of the year
- (Finally) have enough data to analyze and outline growth opportunities for the future
- Get your strategy’s dead ends out of the way
The only things you need are a positive mindset (which, we understand, might be tough given the context) and the right set of practices (that’s the one we can help with).
Without further ado, let’s dive into marketing strategy planning 101 we’ve prepared to make sure you don’t skip the critical steps.
Analyze Your Results
Yes, this one right here is the most effort-consuming and frightening part. Facing your losses and achievements throughout the whole year, going through tons of data, and drawing viable conclusions from all the mess sounds like a literal nightmare.
Are the results worth it, though? 100%.
Here’s what you do to collect and analyze the strategy outcomes you have so far.
Review plans and goals for the current year
In the beginning, was the word, and the word was…strategy. To plan something ahead, it’s important to see if, currently, your team is still on the same path you set at the beginning of the year.
Lay out all the marketing goals you’ve had for the current year. Were you determined to boost your inbound marketing success by updating your website or adopting a new social media channel? What growth metrics were you bidding on this year?
Outline the most important ideas and objectives you want to bring to life, and move on to the next step.
Review all activities
Now that you have refreshed the end goals, it’s time to think of the tools you used this year to make the change happen.
For example, let’s say your primary objective for the year was to increase the sales quota percentage coming from inbound marketing.
The activities you might’ve bid on to achieve this target are:
– SEO optimization for your website
– Launching a monthly newsletter with industry insights to educate the audience
– Building an online presence on LinkedIn on LinkedIn and Twitter
– Setting up a Medium publication to create more content that brings traffic to your website.
The list can go on, but your task here is to extract all the activities you pursued during the year to make sure you find the ones that actually worked.
Review program performance
Once you’ve collected all the activities set for the year, the next viable step is to find out which of the activities contributed to your marketing growth and which ones should be buried until better days.
And that’s where all the data you’ve been piling up for the whole year comes in handy.
Take all the marketing activities you outlined earlier and extract the data that directly affects your revenue. Some of the important metrics to consider:
Number of qualified opportunities
A Qualified Opportunity is a prospect your sales team has qualified after the initial meeting. Unlike the generally accepted model of labelling the prospects as Marketing or Sales Qualified Opportunities, or MQLs and SQLs, this metric aligns more with your business goals: find the opportunities that are ready to enter the next sales funnel stages and have all the necessary resources to make this step.
While many organizations share a similar model of qualifying an opportunity, the approach itself may differ according to the ICP and buyer persona you think fit your value proposition.
Try dividing your qualification into three major aspects:
- Fit. At this stage, you determine whether the company fits your criteria in terms of location, headcount, and location.
- Pain. Once you have checked the surface, it’s time to dive a bit deeper. Think about your prospect’s pain points. Are you able to solve them? Will both of you benefit from the deal? How can you fill in the buyer’s gap and achieve the promised results?
- Interest. Finally, now that you know you can help, ask the prospect if they need your help right now. If they are – you got yourself a qualified opportunity ready to move down the sales funnel. If they aren’t – you leave them for now, yet continue targeting this audience when they’re ready for purchase.
Check out this HubSpot blog post to learn more about qualifying your prospects.
By dividing the number of closed-won deals by the total number of opportunities over the year, you get the success percentage associated with your activities.
Pipeline Conversion Rate
Similar to the previous one, this metric demonstrates how many business opportunities you generated in regard to the total number of prospects that appeared on your sales radar throughout the year.
Average Deal Size
This metric will show you the average amount of revenue generated from the successful deals closed over the year.
Cost per Lead
The meaning is pretty much in the title. Don’t forget to define how much money you spend per qualified opportunity.
Average Sales Cycle Length
To realize how well your activities work, you need to know how fast you can close a lead. Add up the total number of days it took to close every sale, and divide that sum by the total number of deals.
When all the data are in place, it’s time to get the real performance review magic going.
Divide your data by source
The metrics discussed above won’t give you much information unless you know the exact activity that boosts or slows down the process compared to previous periods.
That’s why you need to calculate the success rates for every activity or channel you use as a part of the annual marketing strategy.
For example, if this year, you were focusing on increasing your website traffic, LinkedIn content marketing, and newsletter set-up, calculate how many closed-won deals you for from each source and see how much time and effort it costs you to close a lead in the first place.
By separating the metrics for each source, your team will easily define the performance rating for all the channels, bringing you to the next step.
(Non)Arguably the best method to analyze your marketing and sales performance is to measure the sales velocity.
What is sales velocity? It’s a metric showing how fast your clients move through the sales funnel to bring your business money.
The formula for sales velocity is:
Check out this article to learn more about the meaning and impact of Sales Velocity.
Finally, we can get to a more fun part. Based on all the data you gathered and all the sources you analyzed, you can now clearly see the programs and channels that deserve more attention in the future.
Outline the opportunities that require the least effort and bring maximum results and add them to your marketing stack. As far as less obvious programs are concerned, make sure to pay more attention to them and define the growth opportunities you might want to get back to next year. Maybe, these are the programs that take more than a quarter to close the lead, but the overall deal has more revenue potential in the long run.
In other words, an annual review is a time to reflect. A lot.
And this reflection means you can’t get away from untangling the why’s of your wins and losses.
Conduct Win/Loss Analysis
What does it mean?
In a nutshell, a win/loss analysis is a detailed overview of why specific clients did or didn’t settle for a deal. The information to have in place is:
- Your win rate
- Your loss rate
- Win/Loss Ratio, which you can calculate by dividing the number of closed-won deals by the number of opportunities you lost this year
- The data collected from your sales reps indicating the reason why a specific opportunity was lost
- Client data collected through feedback email forms or post-negotiation calls.
If everything is in place, it’s time to conduct the analysis itself. Take all the data you have, calculate the high-level metrics mentioned above, and get ready to answer the questions you’re here for:
– What are the primary reasons for lost opportunities, according to your prospects?
– What are the primary reasons for closed deals, according to your new clients?
Then, you might want to track these answers back to the source. Is there a problem with the product itself? Were there any miscommunications or lack of follow-up along the way? Have your prospects chosen another solution over yours? If yes, why did it happen?
Present these findings to your internal stakeholders, mentioning the amount of time, money, and effort that has to be spent to break the loss pattern.
In case you don’t have enough data to conduct a close analysis, make sure to look at the article on how to prepare for interviews with clients and gather sales team feedback and learn the real value of the win-loss analysis.
Self-awareness by learning your operations inside and out is the number one competitive advantage a company has. And without proper reflection on your ups & downs, there’d be little room for growth left.
Put Your Results into Perspective
Conduct SWOT Analysis
One of the most common and well-known evaluation models, SWOT analysis, is the assessment of your company’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.
It is a simple but powerful tool that can help you analyze what your organization does well and what should be improved. It also provides an opportunity to look at your company more critically as you examine the threads that are holding you back or might appear in the future as the company grows.
When conducting a SWOT analysis, consider asking the following questions:
You can check out this quick and easy B2B marketing SWOT guide to find more information on analysis planning and questions to tackle during the review.
The “strengths and weaknesses” part of the analysis is related to your company’s internal processes. And that’s when the win/loss review comes in handy.
Take a look at all the activities that perform well or, on the contrary, are poorer than expected, and try to dig deeper into the WHY of these processes. Does your email marketing outreach perform better than cold prospecting on social media? What is the main reason for it? How does the communication approach differ in those scenarios?
These answers will help you see what kind of product and communication technique you’re pursuing within the marketing strategy.
Where do you go from here?
Directly to the analysis of external factors that contribute to your marketing success. We’re talking about market and competitor analysis, in particular.
No matter how great the team perceives your product, the thing is that your company and product will always operate in the context of the total addressable market and the particular competitive landscape.
Without keeping abreast of it, the chosen marketing strategy will almost certainly go in a very different direction.
To make sure your strategy moves along with the client, every stakeholder in your company needs to make sure they know what the customer needs, what ongoing market trends may influence this need in the long run, and how your product can fulfill this need better than other folks out there.
Let’s start with market research. This type of analysis shows the overall context of your audience and brand positioning to ensure you’re approaching the customer with a message that hits just right.
Usually, we talk about two major types of market research:
Primary market research
During this stage, companies usually collect empirical data on the market and customers they target. For example, if you’re a company working on a SaaS project management solution, your primary research goal would be to target the project managers as key external stakeholders of your product and learn what they expect from adopting a similar solution.
Some of the ways to conduct primary market research are:
– Online surveys and questionnaires
– Focus groups
– Qualitative in-depth interviews.
Side tip: If you work on collecting your primary data on your own, make sure to provide your research participants with a certain incentive. Whether a gift card or a more extended trial period for your prospect, the motivation should be good enough to pull the most data out of the research sample.
Secondary market research
This is the stage where you address the web to gather all the relevant studies, reports, and marketing analyses on the ongoing trends in customer behavior and your addressable market in general. Sources like Gartner, Forrester, and your internal marketing metrics should be a great start for secondary research.
To learn more about market analysis, check out the HubSpot piece.
Now, you know the insights into the market you’re approaching, But what about your competitors and their position in the market?
That’s what competitive intelligence is about.
In essence, competitive intel stands for your ability to differentiate your value proposition from the competitors by researching and discovering insights related to the competitors in your industry.
Let’s begin with the questions you should ask yourself when analyzing the competitors:
- How do customers perceive your competitors?
- How do your competitors position themselves in the market?
- Who is the typical buyer persona of their product?
- For what purposes do customers use the competitors’ solutions?
- How are they positioned in the future?
- How often does your target audience mention the competitors?
These answers will give you a sense of clarity in terms of whom to keep an eye on, what battle cards your sales and marketing team should use to “disqualify” the competitor from the communication with a potential buyer, and what gaps in the competitor’s value proposition you might close as a part of the upcoming marketing strategy.
So, how exactly do you increase your competitive intelligence?
- Check out the company’s homepage. Just google your competitor without the need to dive into the darkest nets of the web. Simple as that. And by doing this easiest task, you’ll get access to their positioning, communication style, selling proposition, product features, and, if you’re lucky, the functional stack and UX solutions they offer to the target audience.
- Monitor the third-party review websites. This is your answer to both who uses the competitor’s solution and why they do or (fingers crossed) already don’t use it. While an excellent tool to dig up some dirt, try to be more considerate and learn what they offer to retain satisfied clients. Use keywords associated with your USP or pain points, such as “simple interface,” to clarify the comparison.
- Surf social media communities. Slack channels, Twitter mentions, and Quora discussions can tell you even more about the product, as the primary function of these platforms is to communicate rather than assess, so people might share more elaborate and, so to speak, uncensored feedback.
- *Speaks in B2B * Don’t forget about LinkedIn. Check out recent job openings, employee headcount growth, and other metrics that may indicate that your competitor is scaling.
Of course, there are way more sources and tools that provide you with an uncomfortably large amount of information, but if you’re only embarking on your journey, don’t get too overwhelmed by the data you can’t manage and process. Leave some space for actual work instead of installing a 24/7 spy cam on your competition.
At the end of the day, It’s all about using this information to build a better and more accurate strategy for yourself. And with a good grip on a competitor landscape, you can use your competition’s weaknesses to emphasize your solution’s benefits on a sales call, simultaneously refining your product and providing your team with information on aspects worth more attention.
Bonus tip: if you’re looking for resources to identify your competitors, here’s the list of tools to get you started.
Now, combine all the activities discussed so far, consider the advantages and weak spots detected within the team and in the market, breathe in, and move on to a slightly easier (emotionally, of course) part of strategic planning.
Re(Define) Your Targets
Breathe out. You’re finally allowed to stop dwelling so much on the past performance of your team and have a glimpse into the future.
Think of your product positioning, the target audience you approach, the addressable market you currently work with, and the Ideal Client Profile (ICP) you’ve defined for your brand. Do all the aspects align and create a foundation for strategy? Or did your analysis show that the prospects you approach don’t respond well to your unique value proposition?
Use these answers to shape the targets for the upcoming year. Make sure that your marketing targets don’t revolve specifically around the ICP and buyer persona. Ask your team to come up with ways to expand the audience and reach those prospects who stay out of the market (for now).
Line up your audience with the communications tactics you employed this year. Are they all working the way you want them to? If not, think of the channels and approaches that you can replace or even exclude to align your operations with the end goals you want to achieve.
Set SMART Goals
Performance analysis – check.
ICP and audience review – check.
Market research – check.
New targets – check.
So far, so good.
But what’s there left to do with this information? Shape it into viable and measurable objectives you can track in the upcoming year.
There are various challenges that frequently come into the game when setting goals for the year.
One of the biggest issues is narrowing down the list of options. There might be many great ideas, but you also want to set goals that are reachable. Quality over quantity, remember? Once you decide on the final goals, run them through the SMART goals model. Just like with SWOT, this tool allows one to take all the puzzles apart and then put them back together into one logical piece.
Let’s break down an example of setting a SMART goal for the upcoming year.
For instance, while worried about the pitfalls and customer acquisition costs in the context of an economic downturn, your team is committed to boosting customer loyalty and focusing on customer retention efforts throughout the year. How do you make this goal SMART?
Specify that by the end of the following year (time-based), your team expects to see a 10% (measurable) increase in the retention rate by introducing quarterly virtual events to share industry insights and boost networking with your customer and a monthly newsletter with educational content and personalized reward incentives for your client’s feedback.
Be sure that your goal is relevant and, most of all, attainable. Starting another B2B marketing podcast won’t bring you 500 Qualified Opportunities to the pipeline each month, so discuss with your team some more realistic ways to convert leads while you start to build a name for it.
As you set the year’s goals, we recommend dividing them into smaller objectives. These milestones along the way will help your team to stay on track and reflect on the progress. Make sure you leave some space for flexibility. It can be hard to make long-term plans when the business constantly changes.
Turn this Perspective into Action
List Projects That Will Take You There & Set Your Roadmap
The question you like to have at this stage is, “Where do we go from here once we have the idea of something we’re willing to achieve?”
To move further with your strategy planning, you need to understand what activities and projects will have the potential to take you to the desired goals.
This list should include the activities you’ve already adopted and are excited to keep using and the market trends that fuel your addressable market’s dedication to sticking to a particular solution.
Based on the sources your audience is most likely to use when making a decision, prioritize the list of projects you have based on their lead conversion potential, the difficulty of implementation, and the number of resources involved in their execution. The “low effort/ high ROI” projects should go on the top of the list, as they will be the ones to help you kick off the strategy. But each of them deserves equal attention from the team.
Just like your goals and objectives, your projects need to be SMART. And that’s what the roadmaps are for. A roadmap is a detailed outline of your marketing project that indicates:
- Every step required to meet the objective. Let’s say you’re planning to launch a monthly newsletter. What smaller tasks do your team needs to complete to make it happen? Try to break it down as specifically as possible, but don’t resort to micromanaging every single process.
- The tangible deadlines for completing each step.
- A team member overseeing the task execution.
Starting from outlining the leadership’s milestones to execute a successful strategy, a roadmap is a must-have tool to give every person on your team a clear understating of what they’re expected to do and how this action contributes to the bigger picture.
To learn more about planning and roadmap outline, take a look at these templates by CoSchedule.
Plan the Budget
And now, it all comes down to money. No matter how ambitious, your strategy needs to fit into the budget you’re committed to allocating to marketing for this year.
While it seems logical to invest the money in the operations that seem to yield the most profit, the allocation of marketing costs is always a bit trickier than that. By now, you should’ve learned your customer, your market, and the key focus of your competition. You also probably should’ve realized that the project or campaign that boosted your ROI can simply work worse the next year because your buyers and the landscape you’re operating are never the same.
Instead of telling you what to do with your money, here are some tips that can help you make a decision:
- Your budget goes in line with your buyer’s journey. Pay close attention to what channels and sources your buyers prefer, and keep in mind at what stage your buyers are likely to make a decision. A minor spoiler alert: most likely, the decision is made at the very first stages of product discovery, so this stage might be worth the investment.
- Keep in mind the SMART goals and projects you’re bidding on this year. If your team is committed to making it work this year, the budget is the foundation for kicking the tasks off.
- At all times, keep an eye on the ROI. At the end of the day, the money you spend on every project won’t be measured in MQLs and SQLs. It’s about the revenue made from the investment, so project the realistic ROI onto all the steps you take.
For a better perspective, take a look at the budget you spent over the past years and notice some recurring tendencies to avoid or use again this time.
P.S. Here’s a simple reminder that cutting on a marketing budget at times of recession is no longer an option. According to Harward Business Review, “that is today’s equivalent of bleeding—an old-fashioned but once widespread treatment that reduces the patient’s ability to fight disease.”
Remember how we told you that time-consuming data analysis was frightening? It was an honest mistake. Strategy execution. That’s the scariest one.
Actually bringing to life all the ideas and plans you have is, by all means, mortifying.
Here are a few tips to make the execution easier (not easy per se, we’re still working on that one):
- Make the roadmaps your go-to tool. Once you’ve put enough effort into breaking down all the projects into smaller tangible tasks, you’ll find it so much easier to start the execution process and keep track of everything your team has done so far.
- Conduct situational analyses of the milestones you’ve reached so far. If you feel like your team is lost or there’s no feedback on the project you’ve launched, don’t wait until a half-year review to make necessary adjustments. Set up a small strategic session to discuss what your team can do to take the project off the ground.
- Always stay on the same page with your team. Make it your habit to plan fortnightly/monthly meetings to share the insights within the team and answer all the questions that may hold the execution back.
At the end of the day, don’t perceive your marketing strategy as the hard copy of “rights” and “wrongs” you can’t change. A strategy is a tool that guides your team toward meeting a goal. Some tweaks in the path are allowed and, when detected timely, rewarding in the long run.
Your audience, competitor landscape, and priorities may change, but the overall process will stay the same. So make sure you collect as much data and insights as possible during the year, as you’ll have to use it later for laying out the next annual strategy, bringing the knowledge you have to build a data-driven vision of your team’s future.
If you feel like you need any help with understanding your current marketing environment, getting to know your buyers, and launching specific steps toward achieving your goals, Respect.Studio is always here to help you out. Just say the word, and we’ll figure out the rest together.