Welcome to 2017!  Now that we are done celebrating the New Year, it is time to get down to business and hit the ground running.  Marketers know that if you start the year behind, it is often hard to catch up.  So, now is the time for B2B marketers to ensure they have tuned up their strategy and are leveraging all of the available tools to ensure success in the year ahead.

Marketing leaders at midsized and rapidly-growing B2B companies face a unique challenge. They survived the scrappy startup days where everyone wore many hats, and now need to formalize budgets, tactics, people and plans to compete in their space.

Working with limited resources, successful marketing leaders at these companies are laser-focused on developing a modern B2B marketing organization which includes reliable lead volumes, quality leads that your sales team will pursue, efficient and effective lead generation, and measurable results through metrics, KPI’s, and dashboards.

So, as we enter the New Year, let’s make sure you are making the right moves and setting up you AND your organization for success in 2017.  Here are my five key ideas to consider at you begin your year.

#1: Account Based Marketing Could be the Ticket

Persona based marketing is so 2012.  The reality is the ABM used to only be a strategic option for large organizations.   But, today, even mid-size B2B companies can begin leveraging account focused marketing to drive new success.

Most purchase decisions are driven by multiple personas in an organization, think tech influencer, key decision maker, functional leader, etc.  I like to think about ABM as your strategy to surround the account.  Your tactics should work to hit as many of the key influencers and decision makers at a target account, in all of the unique ways that each consumes information.

Marketing technology also plays a key role in your approach to ABM.  Traditionally, the magic of your MAP is around cookies and leveraging lead scoring to let you know when the activities of a lead make them worthy of more attention.  ABM focuses instead on IP address.  By mapping your marketing program to IP address, you can serve up ads that are customized to an account, across multiple platforms.  And, all of this can be fine-tuned to be nearly real time if you employ the right marketing tech platform.

If you have begun using ABM, try expanding where you have seen success.  Have you been successful with new account acquisition, then maybe this year focus on driving additional business from existing accounts or dormant ones.  ABM is becoming less optional and more core to successful modern B2B organizations.

#2: This is the year that sales becomes your BFF

In a well-functioning B2B company, marketing and sales work together to build an effective sales conversion funnel, with both groups feeling responsible for the revenue the funnel ultimately generates. But, as a wise friend once said to me, “says easy…does hard.”  It doesn’t have to be.

Marketing must own the top of the funnel, creating the campaigns that target specific types of customers and turns them into prospective leads. But, it is a mistake to believe that sales doesn’t have a role here.  The “quality” of the MQLs that marketing passes to sales must be agreed upon in advance.  Conversations up front about what a good lead looks like, as well as why leads are being disqualified must be understood by both sales and marketing. 

A key component of great leads making it to sales is lead scoring.  Let me make this clear:  marketing does not own lead scoring solely.  Both sales and marketing must own the lead scoring model.  There should be consistent feedback and revisions to tune the model to deliver the results that both marketing and sales consider successful.  Eliminating the sometimes adversarial relationship with between selling and marketing must be on your New Year’s resolution list.

#3: Metrics and KPIs are two different things

I often speak with marketers who use the term “metrics” interchangeably with the “key performance indicators,” or KPIs. That’s a mistake. Metrics are specific measurements of tactical success: think page views, click-through rates or cost-per-impression — micro-indicators that marketers should be measuring on a regular basis.

Key performance indicators measure the overall health of the sales conversion funnel. These are macro-indicators, like marketing customer acquisition cost (CAC), CAC to customer lifetime value (CLTV) ratio, or MQL to SQL conversion rates.

Metrics roll up to and affect KPIs, but it’s important to differentiate between the role that each plays in creating an effective marketing organization.  This year make sure your organization is being held accountable to the right KPIs and that your functional marketers are focusing on the right metrics for their area.

#4: Are you integrating your tactics?

It seems like marketing 101 to drive integrated plans.  But, the reality is that with so many digital channels at your disposal, it sometimes is difficult to see the forest through the trees.  As you think about how to nurture your leads, it is important to develop a thoughtful plan that includes the right tactics deployed at the right time.

We all are short on time, money, and people.  So, think strategically about where to deploy your precious resources.  Email remains the #1 tool in your arsenal.  So, make sure you are keeping your tactics fresh, testing constantly, and ensuring high deliverability rates.  As well, your content marketing needs have the right content and you should be leveraging it across multiple tactics, including infographics, podcasts, and video.  Have you updated your content recently?  It is a good time to review what you have that is working and what is getting a little stale. Ultimately, integrating tactics across the customer journey and ensuring have the best tools in your arsenal are important steps to take as the year begins.

#5: Think a Quarter-at-a-Time

Annual marketing plans are helpful in providing an overall picture of what the department plans to accomplish in the coming year and the potential budgets you need to execute on the plat. But, your tactical plans need to be refreshed more frequently — for some companies, every 90 days. 

B2B marketers should begin with their organization’s sales goal and work backward to build specific targets around the sales funnel. For example, if the goal this quarter is to drive $1 million in sales from 100 customers, the marketer might apply past performance to know that will need 800 prospective leads entering the funnel, which will convert into 400 sales-qualified leads, 200 free trials and eventually, 100 paying customers.

To be effective, each quarter should have fresh planning to take into account the most current information on sales effectiveness, shifting organizational goals, and how marketing campaigns are performing.  This type of “micro-planning” will create a more agile marketing area and drive effectiveness.

Here’s to successful marketing in the new year!