It’s your living and breathing treasure map.
If revenue is your oxygen, the strategy is your lungs. Your strategy is the framework, the architecture, the details, and the flow of how the business operates - or is set to operate.
The sales and marketing strategy is no less than the part of your lungs that gets the oxygen in for the lungs to get fulfilled.
This oxygen routing sales and marketing strategy for a B2B brand is a detailed plan of how ideal customers are reached, turned into paying customers, and, eventually, into advocates to maximize new business growth and CLTV (Customer Life-TIme Value).
The plan includes:
- what kind of a brand is created to earn the target group’s attention
- what is the target group or niche
- what problems do they have
- how, when, by whom, where, and with what resources the brand solves those problems
To answer all those questions, aside from brand and niche building, the sales and marketing strategy focuses on how the brand positions itself, what kind of an offer penetrates the target group, and in what stages and channels the offer is delivered - before, during and after the ideal customer becomes a paying customer.
In the strategy, all these activities can be narrowed down into daily tasks, resources, and responsibilities when zooming in to the strategy. All of this is visible and transparent for analysis in real-time to continuously monitor and improve the plan on the go. So, the sales and marketing strategy is not a static document but an always evolving treasure map that keeps moving on the go.
Sales vs. Marketing
Still, we see that sales and marketing are often viewed as separate detailed and static strategies as a smaller part of the overall high-level business strategy.
Sales strategy is often about funnel management, sales activity targets and types, sales pitch, objection management, sales documents, sales team structure, and the good old revenue growth plan.
Marketing strategy is then usually viewed as a two-fold strategy. First, it includes slightly more static context, such as market, buyer persona, competition analysis, and brand identity. Then it also includes recurring and timebound marketing activities such as content and social media calendars, event plans, SEO work, and paid advertising.
I’ll go through a bullet point list of things you want your sales and marketing strategy to include in a bit.
At this stage, I just wanted to summarize what they typically include briefly. They are way too often separate static strategies and too often excluded from the main business strategy. The ladder is especially true when it comes to marketing strategy.
This is frustrating since, given how difficult getting through the endless noise of digital content and being able to advertise resourcefully is these days for B2B companies, sales, and marketing strategies need to be tightly integrated with both short-term and long-term business objectives.
First, sales and marketing strategies and their respective plans must be aligned together in B2B organizations. Decision-makers expect seamless omnichannel experiences and want to consume content, take action, and generally proceed with their evaluation process and later in their customership on their terms when and how they like. Thus sales and marketing activities and resources must be in absolute sync throughout the customer lifecycle.
Second, if your business is looking to grow now and in the future, it requires a sustainable, consistent and scalable brand, a forever evolving content library, and constantly improving customer experiences.
Most customer touchpoints, including comparisons between your business and competitors, take place online, so sales and marketing strategies must lead the main business strategy, not appendixes.
What do you need for your sales and marketing strategy?
Simply because for the sales and marketing strategy to make sense, it needs to be aligned with the main business objectives. Whether your company uses OKRs or some other form of goal setting and tracking, your sales and marketing need to be up there.
Whether your company is looking to increase brand awareness, grow sales, launch new markets, hire more, level up CLTV, or get investment or exit, you won’t succeed without having sales and marketing metrics being among the business key metrics.
Also, if you don’t have buy-in from other executives when the dirt hits the fan, and you run into trouble with meeting your sales and marketing goals against the allocated resources, which will happen, you won’t have the required support to stay the course.
What is your purpose, and who are you trying to serve? Your sales and marketing positions, tactics, and activities stem from this.
Goals (short-term and long-term)
Once the mission is defined, we set clear, realistic, and time-bound goals and milestones for long and short timelines. Long-term goals usually span one, three, and five years. Short-term goals can go as short as weekly.
Understand the market
By understanding the market, we want to understand the trends, shaping technologies, problems, and solutions - aka competition in the ideal and potential geographical and otherwise defined targets.
Here we want insights into where the market is and where it’s going, not how it is currently being served. In other words, we don’t want to focus on competition.
Don’t believe us? Maybe Mr. Jeff Bezos can assure you. He once said, “If you're competitor-focused, you must wait until a competitor is doing something. Being customer-focused allows you to be more pioneering.”
Customer dreams and fears
When it comes to your ideal customer, you want to aim for knowing something they don’t even know yet that they need. You want to dive deep into both what their dreamland and fear land looks like.
When talking about your ideal customer, we want to emphasize going niche about it. So let’s not aim for the whole world, but the more niche of a niche we can define, the better our chances are creating communication that will feel like directly built for them and no one but them.
We like focusing on the customer, not the competition. But the sales and marketing strategy is a great place to do a quick, although also thorough, competition analysis to ease your way to building communication that is new, fresh, and different.
Who do you need or your team? What skills, competencies, technologies, and expertise must the team have to communicate effectively with your niche? Do we have these people, or what do we need to do to get them?
An interactive tool
Our sales and marketing strategy is not a static document. Pdf briefs are fine, but the daily work, tracking, analysis, and communication need to happen somewhere dynamic and interactive.
The good news is that you don’t need to spend time developing such a tool. The world is full of good, easy, and cheap options to implement in a heartbeat. At Norders, our go-to tool is Asana, for its good integrations, intuitive user experience, and good options to make work seamless with internal and external stakeholders.
What’s the sales and marketing strategy for a B2B technology brand?
The sales and marketing strategy comes in many shapes and sizes. Some like it one way, some the other way. Different markets, industries, and eras might have specialized marketing gurus vouching for very different strategy frameworks.
This is fine. When you scan through a few open tabs dealing with the topic, you can see that the fundamentals are all the same.
Some nuances do and should, of course, occur, though. The good old digitalization, globalization, and changing consumer trends give their spin on how marketing strategies also need to evolve.
I’ve been building marketing strategies for B2B technology brands in the SMB sector for a decade and a half, and that’s what I’ll focus on here.
The sales and marketing strategy for a B2B technology brand we’ve developed over time has ten stages - ten distinguished but interconnected parts. We’ll cover them in more detail, but now let’s review the list.
This is what we’re covering here. Lungs for your oxygen.
What kind of a future is your company envisioning?
3. Niche and position
What is your target group, and how are you unique to them?
4. Offer and ROI
What does your customer get, and how will it concretely affect them?
What tools are used to execute, manage, and analyze everything?
How is your value proposition communicated visually and in a written format?
What content, such as videos, blogs, ebooks, podcasts, and others, is needed to communicate the brand?
In which channels is the content used to reach the niche?
How is the content distributed in the chosen channels?
How is the niche guided from getting to know your brand to become advocates?
We don’t discuss the solution, technology, or features in detail here. All that can go to the product roadmap strategy.
But your beloved product will be present in all stages of the sales and marketing strategy, as we want to closely tie all of your niche's problems with the solution your product or service offers.
This goes from defining the niche to setting the sales activities in place. We truly believe in product-led marketing, although this strategy is not to define the product itself but to be steered from it.
How to make a sales and marketing strategy?
Workshop it fast
Don’t get us wrong; we’re big fans of workshopping but very much against workshops for the sake of workshopping.
You need a workshop in the strategy phase of building your operating system to bring all your internal stakeholders, especially the main influencers and decision-makers, together to get the required backing and ownership to align your sales and marketing plan with the key business objectives. You want reserved focus time to define a truly unique vision, niche, positioning, and offer - for which workshopping is a great way to accomplish results fast.
Fast is the keyword here. We’re talking two, maximum three, a few-hour workshops, and then clearly defined individual work between these workshops. Your sales and marketing strategy workshop phase shouldn’t take more than three weeks.
As stated, you want all your internal influencers and key decision-makers, especially the C-level input, in the strategy work.
One of the biggest mistakes we keep seeing is a small internal team doing all the strategy work in isolation. Often, the marketing team, in most cases, does a tremendous job in building a detailed marketing plan without the key business people. When it’s time to execute, we’re stuck with office politics on getting budgets, and even creatives approved.
But remember, it’s not democracy either. If you work in an organization with more than 50 employees, or if people across different divisions are very invested in all aspects of the business, it can get dangerous to ask everyone’s opinion. All of a sudden, we’re wasting time in comment rounds and trying to please, sorry to say, a sales and marketing-wise uneducated accounting staff member with our channel plan. Someone always needs to take the lead, and it must be decided early on who can make the final call.
Dare to focus
Invest time, aka focus on the strategy work. You can have a partner, like our team at Norders, helping you facilitate, guide, and help build your sales and marketing strategy, but you can’t outsource the hard work.
Only you understand your product and solution and market the best. You need to be more than hands-on, with a diamond-like focus on executing the strategy work, or the work will go to waste.
Build a (realistic) timeline
Such a cliche to say, but Rome wasn’t built in a day, now was it. Your business is not as complex as the city of ancient Rome, and digitalization has come to an extraordinary length to make life’s work so amazingly smooth, but don’t assume you will map out a timeline to execute all the parts of your strategy in a month or two.
You and your colleagues still have a day-to-day business and the fires that come with it to run and put down.
Make sure to reserve time, preferably a bit too much, in your plan to execute all of the work and activities in the timeline part of your strategy.
How to execute a sales and marketing strategy
Ok, so you have your sales and marketing strategy coming together. What’s next? Let’s execute, shall we?
“Ideas are easy. Execution is everything.”
said a legendary investor and the father of OKRs, John Doerr.
So what do you need for success but also smoothly executing the strategy?
Real-time performance and results tracking (more about this later)
Another classic quote, “only what gets measured, gets managed,” by all-time management guru, Peter Drucker suits this one.
We like to set up dashboards for your sales and marketing plans well before the first date of the plan is near. Using a work management platform like Asana, you’ll have ready-built dashboards to track your execution performance and results in real-time.
Allocate time for management
It’s incredible how these digital tools, combined with good planning, can smooth strategy execution, but don’t be fooled. You still want to dedicate those pretty eyes of yours to analyzing and managing the execution of your strategy.
If it were easy, robots would be doing it, but the emotionally intelligent human touch, and good old management, will ensure success over the short and long term.
Understand and accept that failure is part of the process (also in execution)
It’s not only the creatives, the ads, the target groups, and whatnots to be learned from. A/B testing, no matter how sexy it sounds for learning, is just the tip of the iceberg.
Execution is hard. Staying systematic is hard. There will always be unpleasant surprises. There will always be shifts in the market, your team, and your product. You can’t predict.
It’ll take time, and failures, to learn to execute a strategy well. But when you approach it as a good thing, you allow yourself and your team to learn from it. To get stronger from every lesson.
It’s a wrap
This was the blog in the Norders OS series. In the series, I'll go through the ten parts that create a modern, future-proof sales and marketing strategy operating system developed for ambitious B2B technology and service brands.
Now let’s hear what you think!