While the retail world is busy decking the halls with Black Friday sales and holiday creative, Metric Theory’s B2B account managers have their sights set on the New Year. Because when ecommerce businesses are busy wrapping up their Q4 sales, B2B businesses are getting ready to ramp up for the Q1 rush. So with January 1st right around the corner, ‘tis the season for 2019 planning! If you haven’t begun your planning process, start with these 3 steps for a successful start to the year:

1) Take Time for Reflection

When you reflect on 2018, some clear wins and challenges should emerge. Identify these for your business, learn from them, and implement changes in 2019. Here are some common wins we’ve seen in 2018:

Wins:

LinkedIn Advertising: whether you’re using Linkedin’s ABM functionality, job title targeting, or selectin market segments by company size, you should have leveraged LinkedIn to grow your customer base in 2018. While CPCs are generally higher on LinkedIn than on other platforms, so is the quality of incoming leads. We’re willing to pay the premium to stop spending valuable ad dollars on less relevant leads.

Account Based Marketing: whether you’re using a provider or a homegrown system, the world of ABM is developing and enabling more effective use of advertising spend.

Detailed Demographics: more and more, B2Bs are moving their offering to enterprise only, and now we can target by company size and industry on Google!

Custom Intent Audiences: competitor CPCs too high on Google Ads? No worries. Let’s target them on the GDN instead.

Challenges:

Upper-Funnel Investment Evaluation or Attribution: these kinds of strategy shifts can be difficult to track, especially when optimizing toward a down-funnel KPI. Our advice? Figure out measurement & assessment in advance, especially if you’re planning a net increase in mid or top of funnel investment. Figure out how you want to evaluate success and even build some hypothetical reporting that you can use once efforts are under way.

High Cost of Enterprise Leads: acquiring enterprise leads, or leads from target accounts, can come with a premium price tag. Our advice? Be specific with your channel allocations and react quickly to changes you’re seeing in the data.

Rising Costs: more players in the space, or acquisitions by larger tech companies, impact everyone in your market. Our advice? Focus on conversion rates & quality score to win as many leads as possibly while keeping CPCs under control.

Capterra & Similar Sites – As competition increases in your market, a paid ad on a popular review site like Capterra can help you stay top of mind as potential customers compare you to the competition. However, review sites will likely also bid on your brand keywords, driving up CPCs and directing brand clicks to review pages where you can’t control the messaging. For that reason, you’ll need to consider the holistic cost of running ads on review sites and the impact on SEM when deciding whether or not to buy ads on these sites.

2) Plan for Success

Goal Setting

Before you can begin planning your tactics for the coming year, you must develop a barometer against which you can measure success. Do you need to hit a certain percentage growth compared to last year? Are there revenue targets that you’ve received from your board of directors? Is the focus new customer acquisition, moving upstream, or retention?

Once you land on a primary goal, you can then reverse engineer lead targets for your marketing channels. Remember to consider conversion rates across the sales funnel, average CPC inflation, and expected market changes (e.g. the mix between SMB and Enterprise opportunities). This will ensure that the lead targets you set align with your overall business goals for the year.

Consider New Ad Tech and Testing:

Q1 is a great time to test new channels or technology that have been on your wish list for a little while but haven’t made it into previous budgets. Overall traffic & intent increases in Q1, so achieving proof of concept will likely be easier during this period than any other time. We recommend testing LinkedIn, ABM targeting, and new strategies on existing channels. Within existing channels, think about refining your retention tactics to incorporate changes to other marketing channels. For example, if you are launching ABM campaigns for the first time, make sure you have remarketing audiences set up to capture and convert traffic from this channel.

Budget Allocation

Now that you’ve set goals and planned for new ad tech and testing campaigns, you’re ready to allocate budgets. Working backwards from your goals, assign investment targets to the tactics and channels that are best aligned with those goals.

With that in mind – don’t forget about the channels that fill your marketing funnel! It can be tempting to cut funding from programs that don’t close deals, but remember to consider how prospects are introduced to your brand. Check out our post outlining Google Analytics reports to use that will help identify which channels and campaigns are at the frontlines driving initial awareness for your business.

3) Make a Commitment

B2B New Year’s Resolutions: This is your year. Make a commitment now that you will carry with you throughout all of 2019. Our recommendations:

Decrease Time Between Lead and Outreach: this will improve down funnel performance. If you operate in a highly competitive space, don’t let your competitors beat you out based on responsiveness. We live in a direct response world – take advantage of it.

Reporting Tools: Make sure reporting tools are ready to help you identify success before you make the change your strategy. If you’re considering a shift to ABM, or testing a new top of funnel strategy, make sure your front end and backend systems are prepared to gather data on high-touch interactions that signal first-time engagement with your brand. Choose KPIs that are appropriate for each channel, and accept that you cannot use the same KPIs to define success across all tactics.

Develop the Appropriate Assets: Users being exposed to your brand for the first time behave much differently than those who have already visited your site a dozen times. So you can’t use the same ad & LP assets for remarketing and prospecting. Consider where in the purchase funnel each of your visitors is and market to them in a way that helps move them one step down the funnel. For example, you might drive traffic to your site by promoting a blog post on LinkedIn about the five biggest problems that your product solves. Then you should remarket to blog readers with an ad to schedule a demo. Finally, you can remarket to users who completed the demo with an ad about cost savings your product will produce.

Educate Your Sales Team: It’s great if your new ABM strategy drives lots of qualified first-time visitors to download an asset on your site. Not so great if your sales team calls them twice and then, having received no response, marks them disqualified. A user interacting with your brand for the first time will need more time to conduct research before committing to a sales conversation. Make sure you have a solid nurture and remarketing program to move these quality leads down the funnel.

While your competitors hit the gym for one month and then bail, use these suggestions to be the rock star with a six pack on December 31st, 2019! Special thanks to my colleague and digital B2B goddess Barbara Munin for her help with this guide.