It's early November. The air is crisp, leaves are falling, and sweater weather is back. For B2B marketers, that can only mean one thing: planning season.
Are you still there? Those two words are often enough to make marketers scatter like leaves in the winter wind. I've been doing this for a long time, and I haven't found one marketing leader who loves planning. (If you're out there, let me know.)
But despite the annoyance, marketing budget planning is an absolute necessity. Without it, you can't proceed or succeed. And unlike your taxes, you can't file an extension.
For planning 2018, here are the top 4 mistakes almost all marketers tend to make, along with ways to correct them.
1. Spending too much time and energy trying to ascend Mt. Data Sourcing
Many brave marketers have tried to get a head start on their planning journey by hurling themselves at the summit of Mt. Data Sourcing. They invest countless hours scouring data sets, trialing vendors, and merging lists. But, to their horror, they often find that the mountain of data just keeps going: There is no peak.
This year, rather than trying to bag the summit, invest your time in strategic planning. Think about the "who" part of your marketing equation, and focus resources on developing your ideal customer profile (ICP).
B2B marketers who use an AI data platform to do the heavy lifting for ICP discovery find that only an algorithm can tease out the subtle details that make all the difference in picture-perfect customer selection. Often, through this process, they're shocked to find that their customer isn't exactly who they thought—or that they have more than one ICP—because they had initially relied on insufficient data, such as firmographics.
AI-driven revelations such as those have big implications for your total addressable market (TAM) planning. Based on your new, more detailed, and vastly more accurate ICPs, you can recalibrate your targeting to companies that are a real fit for your product or service—so you can be confident in where you invest your resources.
With AI, you're far more likely to discover companies that actually exhibit a need for your product, instead of ones that simply fit a description. As the season rolls on, you will be able to optimize every piece of marketing that follows.
2. Using only basic firmo data for segmentation
Basic firmographic data might be fine for lead routing, but it will never be enough to truly differentiate good targets from bad ones. Look at how the top-line industry classifications for SIC and NAICS match up (or don't, rather) with a few companies you may recognize. How might Travelocity's team react to a nurture email offering to help them conduct better "Waste Management"? Or Amazon's team to help with their booming "Catalog" business?
AI is used by 72% of top-performing teams, according to Salesforce's 4th Annual State of Marketing report—double the rate for average-performing teams. So be smarter than the average business and partner with a provider with tens of millions of AI-derived insights, because it's only with the help of powerful data science that you'll be able to bring together purchased, crawled, user, non-Web, and proprietary data sources and then weigh, balance, and obtain insights from them.
3. Treating your sales team like a stranger
At the height of the cold war, NASA and its European counterparts raced to put together a mission to the moon. In 1969, NASA was successful, whereas the European agency's rocket blew up. The reason? According to Retired General Stanley McChrystal, writing in his management book Team of Teams, NASA had one team build everything, whereas European peers had different countries build different pieces in different languages.
The lesson? Interlock your marketing plan with your sales plan so that your revenue strategy isn't prone to explosion.
This year, put some serious time into sales enablement and treat Sales like a customer. Do some user research: Find out what keeps them from closing leads or accounts, and apply fixes.
It turns out that marketers aren't the only ones who get lost on Mt. Data Sourcing. Salespeople do, too. Help them out by bringing them the most relevant insights—not more data—saving them time and still letting them craft relevant, personalized outreach emails and calls. Just think: How much more pipeline might their team move forward if you cut down that prep and prospecting time by even a small amount?
4. Getting cold feet and neglecting to tie the knot of investment asks to business outcomes
You know what's almost guaranteed to get a frosty reception from executive leadership? Wants and needs. Everyone in the company has them and thinks of themselves as being asked to do too much with too little. Your requests for additional technology or resources will fall on deaf ears if they're simply framed in terms of "more campaign output" or "we'd like this new tool."
Instead, muster all your marketing know-how and sell your wish list in terms of how it impacts pipeline, improves sales attainment, and increases revenue.
Planning season may call for gloves and a thick jacket, but you'll get through it sure enough—especially if you turn to AI for target-account selection, prioritization, and insights to avoid these most common mistakes.
Need help planning your marketing budget? Download the e-book 4 Must-Dos for Marketing Budget Planning.