Throughout your marketing career, you’ll work at any number of companies in different roles at varying levels – but they will all have one thing in common. Your success will depend on a proper foundation in order to execute quickly and correctly. I’ve identified seven critical elements that need to be in place before you can truly make progress. You might think that budget would be the #1 key to success, but it’s not. Sure, it can buy you some of the things on this list, but the real keys to our seven critical elements are think-through, creativity, and strategy. Let’s take a closer look.
- A website that Marketing owns, operates, and updates. You must have control over your main marketing channel, and that’s the website. Websites almost always convert better than any other channel, so make the most of it! It seems obvious, but I am still amazed at how many sites are overly complicated and hard to read. Ensure that there are no typos, that links work, and the site is easy to navigate. Learn how to use the CMS!
- Brand identity guidelines, logo & style usage. Got a logo? Great! Now, do you have guidelines on how to use it that you can give to partners, vendors, and printers? In other words, what are your rules about keeping the aspect ratio locked, how the logo renders on dark backgrounds, and how the tagline displays in different formats such as data sheets versus display ads? A good designer can create identity guidelines for you, and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve referred to them over the years.
- An editorial style guide, including (but not limited to) brand pillars, differentiators, your unique selling proposition, and clearly defined features, advantages, and benefits. Style guides also identify which dictionary is the go-to resource for the company, which manual of style is preferred (Chicago, MLA, or AP for example), and defines common as well as company terms, and trademarked names, among other things.
- Access to design resources to extend the brand into collateral, advertising, and other assets. Just because you know how to use Photoshop does not make you a designer. Hire design resources to create a standard look and feel for everything from online data sheets to physical trade show properties to display ads, all of which ideally coordinate with the visual properties of your website. Think: consistent usage of fonts, color, and pattern throughout the entire portfolio of your company’s marketing assets.
- The right DNA on the team. Do you have the skills you need on the team? Where can you backfill by outsourcing? If you outsource, do agencies or freelancers make more sense? And we’re not just talking about marketing skills like SEO, bid optimization, or messaging, but also meta skills like:
- Do you need fast thinkers or slow thinkers?
- Do you need generalists or specialists?
- Do you need people who can think three steps ahead or look back and see trends in historical data?
- The proper proportion of programs and people. If you have one person on staff (that’s you), and 90% of your entire marketing budget is programs and tools, you are probably not doing it right. That’s just too much for one person to handle. Historically, I’ve seen anything from a 50-50 split to 70% programs/30% people. The right model is the one that works for your organization.
- A properly instrumented tool set customized to your unique environment. How’s your technology stack looking? 30 years ago, that wasn’t even a question in Marketing, as a martech stack simply did not exist. Today, at a minimum, you’ll need a CMS, marketing automation platform, CRM, and analytics – all integrated and passing data correctly.
So those are the seven things I look for in a B2B marketing foundation. If something is not working properly within your program, it may be because one of these elements is out of kilter. I’d love to hear what your foundational elements are!
About the author
Kim Ann King is the author of “The Complete Guide to B2B Marketing: New Tools, Tactics, and Techniques to Succeed in the Digital Economy.” She has helped launch and build several pioneering Internet companies and writes frequently about artificial intelligence, marketing technology, e-commerce, and cybersecurity.
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