Your 8 Point Marketing Guide for Small and medium-sized B2B-Companies

A kick start From Zero to Hero

Disclaimer: What this article is NOT about.

Hey, great to see you’re interested in a marketing guide for small- and medium-sized B2B companies. To make sure you will get what you want, here’s a small list of things I will NOT talk about in the following chapters:

  • No hacks for instant growth.
  • No recommendations for the perfect marketing channel.
  • No 1-to-1 guide to success.

You get an entirely realistic view of starting marketing when there is an altogether green field. Our goal is to build a stable base to create sustainable success, even if your team is small and your budget is even smaller. Let’s go!

No time? [TL;DR] Read Summary

Your 8 Point Marketing Kick Start Guide for Small and medium-sized B2B-Companies

Category: Case

Written by: Torben Fangmann

Reading Time: 12.7 min

Updated: 24. July 2022

3 Key Topics this article covers

  • Build a marketing system without big resources.

  • Win internal and external stakeholders for your cause.

  • Use the individual strengths of small and medium-sized companies.

My first day in the new company

Imagine a young marketer who wants to make a name for himself. My first day in the new office was full of enthusiasm. I wanted to get started. I tried to implement all the great marketing stuff I learned: just me, a blank sheet of paper, and my big chance to show everyone.

Then, there was still this blank sheet of paper on the second day. I just didn't know where to start. I learned incredible things about Content Marketing, Customer Experience, and Social Media. But no one told me how to get the ball rolling.

Slowly my mind turned from "Yeah, let's do this!" to "How the hell am I supposed to do this?".

Torben Fangmann on B2B Marketing World

Torben Fangmann, B2B-Marketing Manager at LMZ © T. Fangmann

The big learning: Use your strengths!

Today the ball rolls. Today I can implement my ideas around Content Marketing, Customer Experience, or Social Media. But the start was far from easy. There were many moments when I compared us to big companies and thought: How will we manage what they do with their fifty-people-teams and million-dollar-budgets? But this isn't the right way.

My most central learning in this time was: Use your strengths! Don't focus on the things you can't change anyway. You won't have a fifty-people-team, and that's okay. You won't have a million-dollar budget, and that's okay. I learned how to use our strengths as a medium-sized mechanical engineering company.

It can be summarized in eight essential steps:

  1. Make marketing a management topic.
  2. Unite the people.
  3. Set the right benchmarks.
  4. Give it a face and a personality.
  5. Generate quick wins.
  6. Use your network.
  7. Grow organic.
  8. Work for the process.

1. Make marketing a management topic

My most excellent marketing lecturer always used to say: "Marketing is Management. That's everything you need to know." He was right. If you want to create an impact for your company, marketing has to be a management topic. This means that the management board also has to deal with marketing. Why? Well, there are several reasons for this:

  • Common understanding of goals: alignment of corporate goals and marketing goals.
  • Direct contact to show the relevance of activities and get budgets.
  • Support from the top will help you motivate other employees.
  • Especially in small-sized companies, the company, and the brand are shaped and embodied by no one more than the management board itself. You'll need them for good marketing.

Your strength: In small and medium-sized companies, you usually have much better chances to reach the management level directly with your requests. Give it a try. In my first week, I was able to fix an appointment with our CEO to present my thoughts and ideas for our marketing to him. It wasn't about topics, formats, and channels. It was mainly about how I envision the collaboration between marketing and the other departments so that we would get a working marketing system up and running. After the meeting, I had synchronized my plans at the highest level and was ready to prepare a kick-off meeting. PS: I'm pretty lucky. It doesn’t have to be the CEO in all cases. Have your view on which persons make sense for you to present your ideas.

2. Unite the people

Time jump: We are in the marketing kick-off meeting. Who is sitting at the table? I had a simple plan: Bring together a group of people, as diverse as possible. Starting with customer-facing colleagues like sales engineers, project managers and programmers, and mechanics.

Your strength: In small and medium-sized companies, you usually have a much more direct line to the various departments, even if you don't work directly with them.

I'm sure some of my selected colleagues were wondering what they were doing in a marketing meeting. The reason is quite logical: Every person at this table somehow has contact with our customers. Some more than others, that's true. But every person is a touchpoint for the customer. Every person interacts with the customer. And every person has their own customer knowledge and experiences that need to be brought together. One of the biggest problems of large companies is bringing together customer knowledge within their complex structures. So let's take advantage of our manageable company size.

But a "knowledge hub" wasn't my only goal. Even if I was the only full-time marketing manager, I knew that marketing only works as a team. I'll need help every day - sometimes in the form of feedback, sometimes in the form of technical know-how, sometimes in the form of a person for a video shoot.

The problem is that marketing is not particularly popular in many hardcore B2B companies. The only way to create a sort of intrinsic motivation in the people is to let them participate. They need to understand the goals and the reasons.

LMZ Meeting

The team of LMZ is working on a strategy for 2022 © Torben Fangmann on LinkedIn

3. Set the right benchmarks

I had built up a small, interdisciplinary marketing team step by step. We had a rough strategy and a filled pool of ideas of what we could do to achieve our goals. However, I didn't want to take random steps and then hope that any of it would work. What I needed were benchmarks - suitable benchmarks.

I often see people setting benchmarks that have almost no relation to their own business.  The industry giant, the digital pioneer, or at worst, some marketing gurus on social media who have nothing to do with your industry at all. As I said, we are a medium-sized mechanical-engineering company. Perfect benchmarks and best practices are not waiting at every corner. But it's worth looking for them.

After extensive online research, I found a couple of good websites, YouTube channels, blogs, and LinkedIn profiles. These were not exceptional companies, but they did certain things very well. And in one thing, they were all the same: They were tangible. That was extremely helpful in visualizing the journey we can make in marketing.

4. Give it a face and a personality

As I'm sure you've already noticed, I put a lot of effort into bringing the entire team along for the journey. It's an extra effort that pays off in the long run because your colleagues are the ones who give the company a face. The days when the marketing department alone was responsible for corporate communications are long gone. As I said: Mostly everyone in the company is a touchpoint to the customer. This means that everyone is building the essential currency in B2B: Trust.

Who do you think customers trust more? Some engineering company, or the engineers and the programmers who personally care for their needs?

LMZ Video

LMZ Case Study with project manager on YouTube © YouTube

Mockup: Background vector created by rawpixel.com - www.freepik.com

Your strength: Personal, direct service has always been part of the DNA of small and medium-sized companies. Often locally grown, companies still advertise with customer proximity. Your opportunity is not just to promote it but also to integrate personality into the customer journey. Doing instead of talking.

A CEO who is a direct contact for prospects via LinkedIn. Or a project manager who proudly presents his new customer project on YouTube. There are a variety of ways to put a face to your business.

5. Generate quick wins

It's a hard truth that every B2B marketer must admit: Sustainable marketing takes time. That's okay. You have all the key stakeholders on board. You can establish realistic expectations. Nevertheless, quick wins are enormously valuable in keeping motivation high even after initial enthusiasm.

Your strength: You can score quick wins very well if you start at zero. We celebrated our first 100 followers as if we had just won the Social Media Championship. Of course, this is only a small step. But it is a significant step in the right direction.

Online and social media channels are predestined for quick feedback. You can use this to communicate quick wins within the company early. Don't forget: People often put a lot of passion into their work, especially in technical professions. Now imagine how thrilled they will be when their results receive their well-deserved applause externally as well.

For example, a very innovative customer project of ours was published in the blog of a partner company. The reach was not only very valuable from a marketing point of view but was a well-deserved award for the entire project team.

Torben Fangmann on B2B Marketing World

Torben Fangmann and LMZ celebrating first 100 followers in a LinkedIn-Video © Torben Fangmann on LinkedIn

6. Use your network

Marketing is teamwork, and you have a much bigger team than you think. Collaboration applies not only within your company but also beyond the company boundaries. When I talk about "network", I don't necessarily mean a vast contact list on LinkedIn. Instead, I target each company's purely organic business network: Customers, suppliers, partners, and other stakeholders.

Your strength: Even if you are a small company yourself, in most cases, you work with a select range of small, medium, and even large companies. All of these companies are potential members of your marketing team.

Honestly, I learned about this gamechanger the hard way. Despite all the quick wins, our reach to relevant target groups quickly came up against its natural limits. So I asked myself the simple question: Who benefits when we do good marketing? I'm sure that you and your company also have stakeholders who benefit from your marketing success. It's worth talking to these people.

Importantly, sustainable marketing collaborations are, of course, a give and take. But what can you bring to the table? Well, quite a lot! First of all, there are many good ideas and incredible commitment to put these ideas into practice. You'll be surprised at the doors this fact alone will open. After that, transparency is critical: you don't bring big budgets or reach the collaboration. But you do get things like execution power or a second perspective, which can sometimes be the deciding aspect of turning good content into great content.

When collaboration works, cross-company content pieces or campaigns can be your tool to take your marketing to the next level.

7. Grow organicly

It can be frustrating. You're working hard on strategy, quality content, and your marketing channels, yet you don't seem to be getting forward. Every marketer is at this point at some time. Now one thing is incredibly tempting: paid media.

Don't get me wrong: Paid media is an essential part of a well-functioning marketing guide. But you shouldn't make your success too dependent on it because the big downside to paid success is that it will be gone just as quickly as before if you stop paying.

I follow the philosophy: Focus on your own channels first. You can push them with paid media, but the end goal must always be to grow your own media. Then, if you do a good job, you will gradually achieve the king medium: Earned Media.

That's the order I follow. So if your paid media helps grow your organic reach and, in the best case, generates earned media, then it's worth it in the long run - not just for the pay period. Because the fact is: You will never be able to hold a candle to the big players when it comes to payment alone.

8. Work for the process

When I initially presented my thoughts to our CEO, I set the stage: We weren't talking about this or that KPI; we were talking about a working marketing system. From the beginning, it was clear. The process is our success. Every step that further develops our marketing guide is a success.

Of course, we will not achieve every marketing goal. We will miss more goals than we achieve. But we will learn something from every step we take. Fail fast, learn faster. Looking back, the steep learning curve was the highest good - for me personally, but especially for us as an organization.

Your last strength: As a small business, you'll find it much easier to set up agile processes in marketing. You don't have to break up old structures and turn dusty processes upside down. Use that by actively driving agility in your company - with daily meetings, regular retrospectives, and everything else that goes with it. Then you can fail fast and learn faster.

Honestly, this is the most crucial step because all the other tips I hopefully could give you in this article came from this learning process.

Last but not least: my Marketing Guide summary

If these 8 marketing guide steps seem super smart to you, that's what I wanted to achieve, of course. The truth is: behind every bright tip is at least one fail and one big learning. If you create an e-book that gets 10 downloads, that hurts. That doesn't feel good when you put out the first social media post and get 35 views.

So my most important message to you is: Stay tuned! We - the B2B marketers in small- and medium-sized B2B companies - have an enormously important task, called: the big, green field. We have to work with what we have. And let me tell you: it works.

Make marketing a management topic. Unite the People. Set the right benchmarks. Please give it a face and a personality. Generate quick wins. Use your network. Grow organic. And work for the process. You have everything you need if you use your strengths.

All that is left for me is to wish you every success and, above all, fun on what is sure to be a fascinating journey.

Trust me; it will be worth it.

Written by: Torben Fangmann

Updated: 24. July 2022

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