Who is this B2B marketing plan for?
As it is clear from the title, the idea of this article is to discuss how to create a marketing plan for a startup in the B2B space. But honestly, I don’t know if there is a standard definition for startups. Zomato and Swiggy are still called startups by many. So let me try to clearly define the nature of the companies this marketing plan is designed for.
This marketing plan is best suited for companies at least 1 to 2 years into their business and have started gaining some traction in the market. There are several reasons why I want to focus on them (and not premature companies):
- I wanted to cover a wide spectrum of marketing tenets in the plan. What suits the best for a new company is to start experimenting with 1 or 2 marketing tactics/channels.
- A company that has started generating some revenue or received funding will be able to allocate enough resources (people, budget, tools) to marketing. A newbie in business might not be able to do this.
- When a business is 1 to 2 years old, the team would have a fair idea about the product-market fit. That’s the ideal time to be aggressive about marketing.
- Most of the time, marketing is not a priority for B2B companies in the first few months of starting up (there are exceptions, of course). I have even seen companies that have crossed the $50M revenue mark still not actively doing marketing.
Given these, the marketing plan we are discussing today would work best if you are a ‘graduating startup.’
That said, buckle yourself up for a long read. We have a lot to cover today.
Differences between a B2B marketing plan for a startup and an enterprise
A very obvious thought that comes to our mind when we think of the differences between startup and enterprise marketing plans is budget. But it is also important to understand the other key differences. That will put you in a better position to comprehend and implement the plan we discuss today.
So, according to me, here are the most important differences:
- A startup mostly doesn’t have a strong foundation when it comes to marketing. It’s unlikely (but not impossible) that the company has figured out 1 or 2 marketing channels that work.
- The probability of having a well-crafted positioning and messaging is relatively less in startups. This means that a lot of work has to go into making the fundamentals strong regarding marketing.
- In startups, there won’t be an SOP (Standard Operating Procedure) when it comes to running marketing activities. No checklists, no frameworks, no workflows, no automation. All of it has to be built and tested.
- Most of the marketing team roles (if at all there is a marketing team) will not be specialized. This implies that the plan should focus on easy wins and not force the marketing team members and leaders to go too deep into things like technology or aesthetics.
- Startups have to do more with less – whether it’s budget, human capital, or tools & tech. So every aspect of the marketing plan has to be ‘lean.’
For these reasons, how you design the marketing plan for a startup is different. While many of the plan’s components remain the same, their implementation varies.
Components of a B2B startup marketing plan
First, let us lay down the components of the plan. We will then break them down to learn how to prepare each in detail.
- Business analysis and summary
- Products and services
- Breaking down the target market
- Positioning and messaging
- Competitor benchmarking
- USPs and differentiators
- Goal setting for the marketing team
- Marketing channels
- Content marketing plan
- Marketing campaigns and activities
- The marketing team
- Marketing technology
- Marketing budget
- Review mechanism
The B2B marketing plan template
Before we look at each of the 14 marketing plan components, let us first see the plan template. That will make explaining them easier. Here is the link to it.
Though this template can be universally applied to all types of B2B startups, you need to make sure that you adapt it to your business. Also, the idea of the template is not to get into the details of every aspect of marketing. The objective of a plan is to give a strategic direction. Depending on your growth aspirations in the coming years, the extent of tasks you need to perform under each marketing plan component might vary.
In addition, as you read through each of the 14 components of the plan, have the template open on the side for you to easily refer it to develop a better understanding of the ideas discussed. You will then be able to appreciate the content better.
With these in mind, let us dive deep into the components of the marketing plan for B2B startups.
1. Business analysis and summary – the first step in preparing a B2B marketing plan
There isn’t much difference between a startup and enterprise marketing plan when it comes to putting together a business analysis and summary. This is where you write down your company’s vision, mission, founding story, leadership details, and funding info.
Don’t limit these elements to 1 or 2 statements. Elaborate them in a way that clearly explains where you want to see your business in the coming years.
Also, in this section, you list the details of some of your marque customers, partners, and social media handle details.
Consolidating all these at the beginning of the marketing plan is very important. One common misconception among marketers is that a marketing plan is only about marketing. But that’s not true. In a nutshell, the responsibility of marketing is to convert business goals into marketing actions that support business growth. Given this, you need every marketing team member to know what your business is all about.
This approach also makes it easier to train new joiners in the team. Instead of using a capability or sales deck alone during the induction period, serve them with these details so that every team member is well-informed and educated on what the business is and where it is headed.
2. Products and services
Here, you do a deep dive into the products/services your company offers. This is another area I see many marketers lack. It’s either because they think understanding offerings deeply is too tough or unimportant for a marketer. Neither is true.
If you need to craft the right messaging, you need to understand your products/services almost as well as a subject matter expert.
If you need to create content that appeals to your target audience, you need to know your offerings in and out.
If your campaigns have to gain some traction, you need creatives and copy that are highly relevant to what your company offers.
Use all your internal documentation on the offerings to learn about the problems they solve, the features they come with, and the buyer persona they target.
3. Breaking down the target market
This needs no explanation. The more pointed your targeting, the higher the likelihood of building a solid pipeline of accounts with a high propensity to convert. If you have multiple solutions, you need to clearly define the target accounts for each separately.
You need to do this along two different parameters:
- Firmographic characteristics: revenue, region, industry, sub-industry, number of employees, and funding status.
- Demographic criteria: job title and designation.
Sometimes you might have to add additional criteria depending on what you are selling and who you sell to. For instance, if you are selling IT solutions, it makes sense to collect information on the IT budget of your prospects and filter target accounts based on that.
4. Positioning and messaging
Once you have the target audience figured out, the next natural step is to determine how to position your products/services in the market and communicate that unique positioning to your ideal customers (which is nothing but messaging).
I am not covering how to create positioning and messaging that stand out since it is beyond the scope of this article. But here is a blog post that covers this in detail:
My approach involves arriving at one positioning statement for all the offerings and having multiple messaging statements for each – as shown in the marketing plan template. This way, you give your demand gen managers and salespeople enough options to test with. You would also be able to gauge what messaging ‘hooks’ your audience the most. Based on this, you can come back and further fine-tune your messaging.
I found this episode on the Revenue Vitals podcast very useful when it comes to creating a narrative about a product that addresses specific customer problems. In this, Kyle Coleman, SVP of Marketing at Clari, talks to the host Chris Walker about developing message fluency. Check it out if you want to dig deep into positioning and messaging.
5. Competitor benchmarking for your B2B marketing plan
Competitor benchmarking has to be done from a business as well as a marketing standpoint. The former involves a SWOT analysis where you look at your capabilities, competitors, and market conditions together.
The latter is about analyzing your competitors to asses their marketing strength. Here, it is not necessary that you do a detailed analysis for each competitor using all the 13 elements shown in the marketing plan template. That can be done over an extended period. For the purpose of preparing the marketing plan, you can add the observations about your competitors as simple bullet points.
Doing competitor analysis from a marketing standpoint is something we have covered in a previous edition of the newsletter. Here is the link to the article:
6. USPs and differentiators – the core of a B2B marketing plan
Your USPs (Unique Selling Propositions) are the backbone of your GTM engine. They give you talking points. They help grab new customers from the competition. They help you stand out in a crowded market.
The simplest way to do this is to list down the following items for each of your offerings:
- The problem it solves
- The solution you are offering
- A brief description of how your product’s features offer the solution
- Quantifiable outcomes for customers
- Qualitative outcomes for customers
After putting together the above, the next step is to use this information to define the following:
- Elevator pitch
Many a time, merely defining USPs is not sufficient. Your marketing, sales, and customer success teams must know how to use them. This is where an elevator pitch can help. It can become the starting point of various sales and marketing-driven content and conversations.
7. Goal setting for the marketing team
This exercise has to be done at two levels:
- The CEO or the executive team working closely with the CMO or head of marketing to define the goals for the marketing team for a defined period (could be in terms of pipeline, funnel conversion rates, number of SQLs, etc).
- The CMO working with the rest of the marketing team to translate these team-level goals into individual goals (KRAs and KPIs for team members).
Here, if you have a mature marketing team with leads for each function, you can add a step in between where the CMO first sits with the leads to define the goals of their respective teams. The team leads must further communicate and distribute these goals among their team members (KRAs and KPIs for individual team members).
8. B2B marketing channels
This is always a point of debate. A cookie-cutter approach doesn’t work when it comes to choosing your channels. You need to do two things here:
- Audience research – you can use a combination of tools and techniques like social media research, a tool like SparkToro, community-based research, surveys, analyzing sales calls (say using a tool like Gong or Chorus AI), etc.
- Mapping channel preferences – based on your audience research (and all the other information you have consolidated till now), list down the channels you wish to use for a specific period. Be sure to mention the metrics you would use to measure the success of each channel.
Here is an article that will help you get started with this:
9. B2B content marketing plan
You cannot limit a B2B content marketing plan to a few lines or a small table. Also, you might already know how to use content to the best of your advantage.
I have tried my best in the marketing plan template to create a simple version of a content marketing plan. For this, you need the following:
Elements of a B2B content marketing plan
- Content type
- Frequency of publishing
- Distribution channels
- Metrics for measuring success
- What each content type can be repurposed into
These will give you a good direction to start your content marketing efforts. Following are a few more articles that will help you craft a full-fledged content marketing plan:
- B2B Content Marketing Strategy – How to Start From Zero
- How To Define A Content Marketing Strategy Focused On Demand Generation
10. B2B marketing campaigns and activities
This is where your strategy translates into tactics and action. You can plan your campaigns at different levels – depending on how your marketing engine is structured. Assuming that most B2B startups in their ‘graduating’ phase have a very small team, it is very likely that the number of campaigns is not many.
So visualizing your campaigns can be as simple as using a table like the one below:
B2B marketing campaign template
11. The B2B marketing team
This is where most of the marketing leaders and founders get confused. Questions that often arise in their mind regarding this are:
- How to build a small team that can deliver results?
- Is it sensible to get all the marketing done internally or outsource them? What are the factors to consider while outsourcing?
You get answers to these in the following articles:
Primarily, there are two things you need to determine here:
- Team structure – building a lean team, whether or not to hire specialists or generalists, how to train people, etc.
- Roles and responsibilities – defining KRAs (Key Result Areas) and KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) for each team member.
If you want to execute this right, you must think beyond the marketing plan template.
12. Marketing technology
With over 11000 martech tools (according to Scott Brinker’s 2023 martech landscape report), choosing the right ones that fit your pocket is not easy for a startup. As mentioned earlier, the key here is to stay as lean as possible.
What if I told you that building a full-spectrum martech stack at just $1260 per year is possible? Check out the below article to learn how:
13. Marketing budget
The process of preparing a marketing budget is the same in a startup and an enterprise. It doesn’t depend on the size of the organization. Only that in the case of a startup, you focus more on efficiency by cutting costs and trying to make every dollar count – as if your life depends on it.
One of the best ways to plan your budget is to categorize it into general expenses and tools & subscription cost. This will help you make ROI and budget utilization calculations easier.
Here is a detailed article on creating an annual B2B marketing budget. It also includes a ready-to-use budget template you can start using today. So go check it out.
14. Review mechanism
A marketing plan is incomplete without the right review and performance measurement mechanism. You need to analyze the performance of your marketing activities as well as your team members.
One of the common mistakes marketing leaders make when it comes to reviewing progress is that they push it too late. Rather than doing it once in a full moon or by the end of the financial year, have a proper cadence in place. Once every quarter is a good place to start. This will help you keep a check on whether you are achieving goals at a team level and an individual level.
Final words about B2B marketing plan for startups
A marketing plan is not an end-to-end marketing strategy. It can be seen as more like an action plan that will help implement the strategy. Your marketing strategy has to be defined in more detail and requires you to delve more into the details of each channel, content type, or campaign.
In addition, how much ever you try, one marketing plan structure cannot be a perfect fit for all types of startups. You need to make the necessary adjustments to align the plan with your business goals.
That wraps it up. I hope this was a useful piece. If you need help planning the marketing activities for your B2B business, do not hesitate to reach out.
About the author
Naseef KPO is the Founder and CEO of Skalegrow. He comes with rich experience across multiple areas of B2B marketing including content marketing, demand generation, SEO, account-based marketing, marketing analytics, revenue attribution, marketing technology, etc. He writes thought-provoking and relevant articles on The Skalegrow Blog and his weekly LinkedIn newsletter Elevate Your Marketing.
Prior to starting Skalegrow, Naseef led large marketing teams in multi-million dollar B2B organizations where he made significant contributions to the topline growth of the business. He has also appeared on numerous podcasts where he shared his thoughts on trending marketing topics such as the application of AI in marketing, startup marketing, ABM, and B2B content marketing, just to name a few. Being the founder of Skalegrow, he is currently focusing on helping its clients stay ahead of their competition by using innovative yet practical marketing tactics.
You can connect with Naseef KPO on LinkedIn.