Why B2B Companies Need a Written Marketing Communications Plan

What gets written down gets done. 

A 1979 Harvard study on goal setting asked their MBA graduating class if they had clear, written goals for their futures, as well as if they had made specific plans to transform their fantasies into realities.

The result of the study was that only 3 percent of the students had written goals, along with the plans to accomplish them, 13 percent had goals in their minds but hadn’t written them anywhere, and 84 percent had no goals at all.

The 3 percent who had written goals were earning, on average, 10 times as much as the other 97 percent of the class combined.

The Harvard study proved that the power of putting goals down in writing is profound. Marketing is no different. Companies who set goals have a 429% greater chance of reporting successful marketing campaigns, and 81% achieve their goals, according to ConvinceandConvert.com. Unfortunately, over half of B2B companies lack a formal marketing communications (marcom) plan with written goals, strategies, tactics, etc.

There’s hope though. A marketing communications plan that outlines how a company is going to get its message out to the world doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Marcom plans come in many shapes and sizes. Here’s one easy-to-understand approach:

Part 1: Market/Customer Analysis

A combination of primary research (e.g., focus groups, surveys, and interviews with current and prospective customers) and secondary research (using sources such as trade organizations and business journals) will provide data to make informed decisions.

Part 2: Marketing Goals

A goal is a broad primary outcome we’re hoping to create. Your marketing goals should support your broader business goals.

Part 3: Marketing Strategies

A strategy is an approach you take to achieve your goals. Working with your marketing team, determine strategies that are aligned with your goals and supported by the insights gleaned from your research.

Part 4: Marketing Tactics

A tactic is a tool used to pursue the objective associated with a given strategy. Whether it’s a billboard, a social media post, a sponsored search result, or a trade show promotion, meet your audience where they are, with a message they’re most likely to act on.

Part 5: Team Plan

It’s time to determine who will form the marketing communications team responsible for carrying out the plan’s tactics. Depending on the size of your company, your marcom team might include some combination of CEO/owner, vice president of sales and marketing, marketing manager, and even HR.

Part 6: Integrated Marketing Calendar

A one-year marketing calendar allows you to schedule tactics (e.g., social media posts, email campaigns) in such a way that your audience will hear from you on a regular basis to ensure that your message is being reinforced consistently across multiple channels.

Part 7: Budget

How much should you budget for marketing? Small businesses with revenues less than $5 million should allocate 7-8% of their actual or projected gross revenue to ongoing marketing efforts, although this number can be as high as 20%, depending on the business.

Part 8: Messaging and Positioning

Using research insights, identify what you do that other companies simply cannot and create a branding strategy that focuses on these capabilities. Successful brands make authentic claims that can be demonstrated with evidence. It inspires trust when the delivered products and services make good on the promises made.

Part 9: Metrics of Success

Attach SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, timely) goals and Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to the tactics you’ve included in your plan. By analyzing the data (opens, likes, qualified leads, sales), you’ll know what tactics work and what don’t, and you can do more of the former and less of the latter.

Part 10: Reporting

Now that you have your new brand and marketing tools created, you’re just getting started! You need a plan for ongoing interaction with your audience and continued growth. Monitor and analyze the results of your tactics and make any necessary adjustments to keep your plan on track and working toward your goals.

Taking the time to develop a marketing communications plan that aligns with and supports the company’s broader business goals can pay a huge dividend. Marketers with a documented strategy are 313% more likely to report success, according to coschedule.com.

There’s no doubt about it – putting your plans down in writing works. If you’re looking to reach new customers, launch a product, or attract the right type of employees, there’s no better investment than a written marketing communications plan. It doesn’t take a Harvard grad to figure that out.

Jason is a Partner and the CEO at Revel, a B2B marketing agency. He is a diehard baseball fan who loves his Detroit Tigers. Family vacations often revolve around seeing games in different MLB ballparks around the country – they’ve been to 21 so far and counting. Connect with him on LinkedIn or Twitter.

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