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6 Ways B2B Demand Generation Teams Can Start 2017 Strong

by Stacy Bouchard | Dec 20, 2016 12:00:00 PM

Start-2017-strong.jpgWOW! We are less than two weeks away from 2017. It’s hard to believe that another full year has passed. I feel like it was just a few months ago when we were planning for 2016.

At Imagine, as we reflect on 2016, we can pat ourselves on the back for a few things but like many of you, we’re also painfully aware of the things that didn’t go quite right or even surprised us.

In 2017, we’re anxious to get started on the right foot. We spent Q4 doing things to help position us for success but there’s still a lot of work to be done in the first quarter if 2017 is going to start strong.

Truth be told, there is no secret formula for starting the year strong. However, there are several things you can do to build a solid foundation for the year ahead. Here are six.

1. Get your SLA in order

Sales and marketing alignment continues to be a hot topic. That’s because the data continues to show that companies who achieve it perform better in many categories including revenue growth.

One way to bring your organization closer to alignment is to create a service level agreement or SLA. SLAs provide a mechanism for mutually agreed upon goals to be established. They leave no room for guessing.

An effective SLA provides:

Clear definitions – Everything from lead to MQL to SQL to opportunity should be defined in the SLA. Definitions for active, inactive and disqualified leads should also be included.

Lead classification and management protocols – The SLA should layout the process for managing every lead from the day it enters the funnel until it is disqualified or becomes a sale.

Metrics – Defining the metrics that will be tracked (not to mention how and when) creates accountability and transparency.

If you already have an SLA, great. Now’s the time to review it. If your organization hasn’t established one, get it done before the end of the first quarter.

2. Update your buyer personas

If you’re a regular reader of this blog you know that we believe strongly in clearly defining and documenting your buyer personas.

Early in the new year, it is important that you revisit your personas to confirm the information you thought you knew. It may turn out that like your organization, your personas have changed since the last time you reviewed them. Solid personas shape a lot of what your sales and marketing teams will do in 2017. Don’t skip this exercise.

If you don’t have documented personas, don’t let another year go by without them. In fact, don’t let another month go by. Get them done. If you need help, check out our workbook.

3. Review your content strategy

Are you creating content just because your plan says you need three blog posts per week and at least one new piece of premium content per month? It’s easy to get caught in that trap.

As the new year begins, take a step back. Focus on why you’re creating that content. Figure out what worked in 2016 and what didn’t. Take into account what you learned from revisiting your buyer personas.

Also consider how your content is being used. Earlier this year, I wrote a post about why sales isn’t using the content marketing is creating. If that’s a problem in your organization, dig into the why.

A considerable amount of time and energy is put into content creation…too much to take a cookie cutter approach. You’ll see better overall results in 2017 if your content strategy is strong.

4. Update your social media strategy

It’s very easy for your social media strategy to fall into the same trap as your content strategy…posting just to post.

Before you blindly continue the same approach for 2017, evaluate what social media is contributing to your goals. Is it driving traffic to your site or your blog? Are your efforts generating qualified leads?

If you’re not getting the results you need, it’s time to try a new approach. Update your strategy and keep your team informed. And if you don’t have a documented strategy, get one done asap.

5. Review your playbook

A few weeks ago Doug wrote a post called The Traditional Revenue Growth Playbook is Broken. If you haven’t read it yet, you really should.

If your company is struggling to grow, it may be because you haven’t adapted your playbook to today’s sales and marketing realities. The approaches that used to drive growth no longer do.

Before too much of the new year passes, take a holistic review of your playbook. Figure out if it’s foundation is in need of repair. If it is, start working on a path to move forward with creating an updated playbook.

6. Make a promise to be flexible

If you’re like other B2B organizations, you probably spent Q4 creating plans for 2017. Plans can be a great tool in helping you chart your path and stay focused on what really matters.

As the new year begins, it’s important to recognize that those plans are not carved in stone. Go into the year with a flexible mindset. Continue to learn as you go – in fact, look for opportunities to learn – and be nimble. Use data to make decisions and never do anything just because it is part of the plan.

The beginning of every new year is an exciting time full of anticipation of what lies ahead. By taking time to reset and review, you’ll be setting the tone for a very successful year.