A Simple B2B Marketing Framework

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.

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.

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.

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.

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). My next posts will dive deeper into the topic and also pick up where I left off with the post “5 Steps to B2B Marketing Success”.

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


Christian A. Maurer said...

I am mostly focused on B2B Sales and Marketing alignment. Defining Strategies and Tactics in tight connection with the customer buying cycle works best for me. Your model considers this aspect in one layer. For my taste it is still too much inside out oriented (i.e. what do we do, instead of what help do customer when buying). It is though a big step forward from teh pragmatic fraework you mentioned.

Holger Schulze said...

Christian - Thanks for your comment. You are absolutely right about the outside-in, customer-centric perspective. While the layers incorporate the buying process and personas during planning, creation and execution of marketing programs and engagement, they don't map out the buyer's perspective in detail (i.e. it is "hidden" in each of the boxes if you will). Any suggestions you have to better incorporate the customer perspective would be welcome. My next posts will dive deeper into the components of the framework and discuss the buying process and how it maps to marketing efforts.

Darryl Praill said...

I think you've done an excellent job in expanding these definitions. As Christian has indicated, it can be challenging, to create a framework that considers both inside-out and outside-in however both are critical and essential. Most Marketers in fact do miss the outside-in POV and accordingly never achieve the results they hoped for. While April's is more Marketing friendly, I find yours more detailed and specific; well done. I will definitely be using, and refining, your framework in my client discussions. Will you be sharing your framework artwork at all? Of course, you would be properly credited. Thanks for this contribution. Not enough work is done on the actual Process side of Marketing.

Mary Conley Eggert said...

Like you, Holger, I find it easier to grasp complex subjects with pictures, and I like the way you started with an analysis of the buyer's needs (currently labelled "market knowledge").

I agree with Christian that this is a great improvement over the other framework.

If you want to take it a step further, you could change "Market Knowledge" to: "Customer Buying Process," as that is basically what you have denoted with the fields.

I am reminded of the sage advice of of my favorite Samaraibizgrp.com sales trainers:

"People love to buy, but they hate to be sold."

Marketers who focus first on the customer buying process will become the future "revenue marketers," systematically nurturing leads and building trust that yields long-term, satisfied clients.

Again, nice work, and I would also love the slide when you feel like sharing. :-)


paul smith said...

"People love to buy, but they hate to be sold."

Marketers who focus first on the customer buying process will become the future "revenue marketers," systematically nurturing leads and building trust that yields long-term, satisfied clients.

Again, nice work, and I would also love the slide when you feel like sharing. :-)

Anonymous said...

I believe that the area between marketing and sales in the comple sell B2B world i.e. Inside Sales is becoming critical. Are we employing the right mind sets and incentives to those people who have a difficult job on their hands with this wave of new technology and information about prospects that Linkedin... provides. Inside sales person needs the knoweledge of marketing, aligning correctly, the ability to research a company to make it the right targeted approach, understanding your own company's sweetspot, the ability to explain the product or services in a way that the customer wants to know more and normally within 3 - 5 minutes, understand mass marketing technology tools that are being pushed at them which goes from being your own marcoms manager to a trend analysis wizard and to understand a sales methodology to have the mind set of sales person so that you don't hack them off if they go and see a customer who isn't properly qualified or likely to meet their critera of an easy sell! Plus you are supposed to make many phone calls to decision makers. These frameworks are great but someone has to use it at the sharp end, just because it is there doesn't mean everyone is using it wisely in inside sales. Unless you train them correctly and reinforce it continually it is just another set of layers defined by, should I say this Marketing experts!

Jeff Ogden said...

I like what you did with these, Holger. I especially like the focus on the buyer and insights. Of all the diagrams, your's is the cleanest and simplest. I really like it.

Jeff Ogden, the Fearless Competitor
Find New Customers "Lead Generation Made Simple"

Holger Schulze said...

Thanks Jeff - appreciate your comment. I am now working on version 2.0 of the framework to incorporate a stronger focus on market segments, personas and buyers journey, and place it at the core of marketing strategy and execution (all the great stuff I learned from your blog).


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