The above presentation contains the full marketing plan. If you are only interested in the final plan, you can go through the presentation.
However, if you want to learn how to build a marketing plan, you should read the textual version below.
Too many times, I find people stressing on specific marketing tactics (Be it SEO, Content Marketing, PPC Campaign or LinkedIn Advertising), wasting time and money on them without having a concrete plan behind them.
Even when they try to create a marketing plan, they are not able to cover all aspects.
They use “Google” for help, who isn’t able to provide much. We get templates which are non-actionable. The marketing literature also doesn’t help much because it becomes tough to relate to these marketing terms, especially when we are just starting out.
So, in this post, the objective is to show how can b2b companies create a marketing plan by taking a real-life example.
We have chosen a real-life start-up, Leena AI, for this purpose.
Please Note: We haven’t used any internal information. All information has been taken from public sources.
We are going to follow the same approach as laid down in one of our earlier blogs: How to Build a Demand Generation Plan for B2B and SaaS companies.
We will go deep in building a buyer persona and then understanding how to use that information to create a marketing plan.
This is a full marketing plan – covering the following topics:
- About the Company
- Persona Development
- Market Overview
- Marketing Objective
- Brand Messaging
- Marketing to Enterprises
- Testing and Optimization
Hope this helps you with your own plan.
If you want a similar activity to be done with your company, you can drop us an e-mail at email@example.com.
About the Company
Company Name: Chatterbot
Product Name: Leena AI
Product URL: https://leena.ai/
Recent News: Y-Combinator (Popular U.S. Start-up Accelerator) recently invested $2 Million in Leena AI
About the Product
We’ve all been there in our corporate lives – in lock heads with the HR – their programs, processes, systems, and initiatives.
- Every time we try to reach out to them with any queries, requests, and complaints, it takes a significant amount of time for them to address them if ever they are addressed.
Key Challenge Faced by HR – HR does not have a dedicated system for managing our requests. These requests are prone to get lost in their mailbox and spreadsheets, where it is difficult to keep track of them on an employee-level.
From the HR perspective, this challenge feels even greater if we consider this fact: “50-60% of an HR’s time is spent handling employee’s routine administrative queries”
To Address this Challenge, companies have deployed centralized portals, where employees can go and search for the required information. However, it is a cumbersome and time-consuming task to find answers in policy documentation. Imagine an employee trying to understand the maternal leave policies of the organization. (We can imagine more than 2 productive hours being lost in this).
- HR also regularly reaches out to us for feedback and with multiple engagement activities, which we turn a blind eye to.
This technology has the potential to solve many HR issues with respect to on-boarding, employee engagement, query management, service request management, and employee time management among others.
The challenge, now, for Leena AI is to reach out to and convince companies to deploy this solution in their environment.
This is what we intend to address through this article.
Persona DevelopmentBuyer Persona is a research-based document which provides a semi-fictional representation of the customer.
This is the foremost step of any marketing plan. Most marketers skip it, thinking they have a fair understanding of the buyers. Many others make broad assumptions.
They may be right, but it is important to document our understanding of the audience prior to building any marketing plan. This helps us to objectively understand the needs and motivations of our target audience and align all teams towards achieving the same objective.
How To Build a Buyer Persona?
There is a wealth of theory on how to build a buyer persona. You can refer to this article by Hubspot if you are just starting out.
In this post, we will see the process of building one through Primary and Secondary Research.
The buyer persona document requires us to get answers to the following questions:
- Company Information
- Which are our target companies? What is the size of the company?
- Contact Information
- Who is our target audience? What is their role in the company?
- What are the key metrics driven by them?
- What are the current tools and systems used by them?
- What are the challenges faced by them while using those systems?
Step 1: Understand How the HR department is Structured – To understand the role of HR in an organization.
For this, I adopted 2 methods:
- Googled it – Read articles and watched videos on YouTube to understand the HR structure. This helped me with the base knowledge.
- Interacted with my HR connections and understood how does HR department work in their company.
Findings From the Research:
The structure of the HR department changes as the organization scales.
- The initial HR employees are Generalists. They might or might not be given executive assistants based on their workload.
- As the company scales, it requires HR with specific skill-sets. Hence, the HR employees are organized into Centers of Excellence (COE) (For developing policies and ensuring their implementation w.r.t. specific focus areas like Payroll, Acquisition, Learning, and Development etc.).
- Subsequently, they have HR Business Partners (HRBP) (For building a strategic connection between business and HR) and HR Shared Services (HRSS) (For having a common point for addressing employee-specific queries, requests, and complaints).
Not every organization has all 3 departments. There are many large organizations where there is no HRSS. Also, the roles differ for HRSS in every organization.
In some companies, HRBP is the point of contact for handling employee queries whereas, in others, it is the role of HR Shared Services.
Finally, there is a Head – HR, which manages all these functions, under whom there are VPs and Heads of individual departments.
Step 2: Understand the Current Tools and Systems in Place for Various HR Activities – To understand the current state of HR IT
For this, I adopted 3 methods:
- Read whitepapers and research published by of top HR Solutions and Software companies
- Interacted with employees in different companies – To understand the different ways they connect with HR.
- Interacted with my HR connections – To get insights on current tools and systems in place for various activities (Centers of Excellence, HRBP and HRSS).
Findings from the research:
Different companies were following different models:
- In some companies, there was an employee facing central portal for multiple activities: Leave and attendance tracking, payroll, travel requests, and policy documentation. These were either developed by internal IT teams or purchased from a vendor.
- In some companies, there were dedicated and siloed systems for each of these processes. Employees were required to access different apps for different types of requests.
- Some companies only relied on e-mail and spreadsheets to manage HR operations
Step 3: Map Above Information
The next step was to map all information and identify the challenges in the current set-up.
This was the tricky part and required a mix of both art and experience to categorize different scenarios and outline challenges in each of those scenarios.
- How are existing tools and systems currently being used?
- What challenges might be being faced in existing processes?
- When would HR consider buying which technology?
- What are their needs and motivations?
As a next step, I combined the information gathered earlier and mapped it along the following aspects:
- Current tools and systems
- Challenges faced in those systems
- How does an HR Chatbot help?
- What are the key metrics affected by the Chatbot?
- What are the limitations of a Chatbot to conduct this activity?
- Who are the best fit companies for this?
- Who is the best-fit person to reach out to for this?
Once we have understood each used case in detail, we need to know one additional piece of information (Since it is a technology product):
What are the Key Technology Level Challenges Faced by the Target Audience?
For this, I read various reports and HR Leader’s interviews. The following challenges were identified:
- Disillusionment about the product – AI-powered HR Chatbots are still at a stage where some expect way too much from them whereas others think that they are not useful. Some also have myriad theories around them.
- Low technology-level awareness – Majority of the HR leaders are unaware of the functioning of the technology from a business and technical stand-point.
- Lack of belief in this technology – There are people who think that an automated conversation is not a full-proof technology and hence would lead to more chaos than employee satisfaction.
This whole analysis gives us a pulse of how the target audience thinks.
By now, we have a fair idea of the challenges faced by companies and how they are being solved by Leena AI.
The next step is to understand how big the market is and what is its current scenario.
For this, I used Google Keyword Planner.
Through this, I downloaded all the keywords related to HR Chat Bot and then took a 2 Year trend. (Geography: India and US)
Here is the result:
As we can see, there is one large bump in January 2017 after which the market is increasing gradually.
There was only one event which happened during January 2017 i.e. the launch of Jinie chatbot by People Matters. However, this event wouldn’t have contributed to this bump since the branded search results for “Jinie” haven’t shown such a bump. So, this bump remains a mystery.
<If any reader knows the reason, you can comment below, and I will add it in the blog>
In October 2018, there were around 2100 searches for this keyword group in India and US. Compare it with HRMS and HRIS, which had a search volume in high five figures.Hence, we can assume that this technology is still in the “Innovators” stage, where the adoption and knowledge of this technology are restricted to only a select few companies.
We have already learned that the market is still in the “Innovators” stage i.e. there is low awareness about the technology.
Now that we know who we are targeting to, what are the key challenges faced by them and what is the current market scenario, we need to define our communication.
Till now, we were only in research mode. This is where the execution starts.
We can build our brand message across various lines:
- Product Use-cases
- Query Management
- HR Ticket Management
- FAQ / Knowledgebase
- Employee Engagement
- Employee Feedback
- Value Proposition
- Operational efficiency
- Employee experience
- Improved engagement
- Key Market Challenge
- Lack of belief in the technology
- Proof Points
- Y-Combinator funded
- Enterprise customer wins
Once these components are identified, it becomes easy to put down different communication copies. The objective is to cover as much information in as simple a copy as possible.
“Value proposition” and “Proof point” based ad. copy allowed us to capture all the used cases and address the key market challenge at the same time in this case.
Marketing to Enterprises
Once we have followed the above steps, we are clear with the following:
- Product Knowledge
Leena AI is an “AI-powered enterprise-grade HR Chatbot which helps HR leaders to simplify operations and improve employee experience.”
- Who is the Target Audience for Leena AI?
The primary target audience is HR Decision Maker from Enterprise Companies. For some use-cases, it is also solving some key challenges for the CEOs of Medium to Large Companies.
- How is the Product Helping Them (i.e. Core Challenges Solved by Leena AI)?
It is helping them to simplify HR operations and improve employee experience across various HR functions; Onboarding, Request Management, Complaint Resolution, FAQs Management, and Employee Engagement and Feedback amongst others.
- What is the Current Market Scenario?
The market is still in the “Innovators” stage where there is low adoption and knowledge about HR chatbots.
We used this information to define the:
- Marketing Objective
Build Market Awareness and Customer Wins
- Leena AI’s Messaging
Enterprise-grade HR Chatbot to simplify HR operations and improve employee experience – Powered by AI
Through all these steps, we were able to build a strong foundation.
Now, we only have to take the above information and infuse it in the marketing plan.
Based on my experience executing marketing campaigns targeted towards enterprise customers, two marketing tactics were frequently used: Cold Calling and Event Marketing.
However, in this case, we must be cognizant of the fact that Leena AI is still an early stage product (and the market is also still not mature). Hence, we must also plan steps to build the required awareness levels, both with respect to the product and technology.
Hence, the following activities were identified to achieve those objectives:
- Search Engine Optimization
- Public Relations
- Event Participation
- Community Building
- Cold Reach-out
Search Engine Optimization
While the literature says that SEO does not work well when we are marketing to enterprises, we still need to focus on building an SEO optimized website.
Why SEO for Marketing to Enterprises?
We have already identified that the market is still not mature and there is a lot of ambiguity around how this technology works. It can be safely assumed that HR leaders want to know more about it and are looking for credible sources, where they could get a good understanding of the technology.
Leena AI can leverage this current sentiment to establish itself as a key player right from the start to achieve long-term benefits.
For this, it should be discoverable for the right keywords.
What are the Right Keywords?
Keyword identification can go in multiple directions:
- Keywords around challenges (Example: Employee onboarding challenges)
- Keywords around solutions (Example: On-boarding solutions)
- Keywords around technology (Example: HR Chatbot, AI-powered HR assistant)
- Keywords around competitors (Talla, Jinie)
How to Select the Right Keywords?
This brings us back to the key challenges faced by HR Leaders i.e. low ambiguity around the technology. Hence, we can assume that they would be searching using “Technology-related keywords”.
Since we also need to be present along with our competitors, we need to focus on competition related keywords as well.
I used Google’s keyword tool to find keywords around these key themes. These were the top keywords that came out as a result:
Geography: India and United States
|Keyword||Avg. monthly searches||Competition||Low range bid (in Rs.)||Top range bid (in Rs.)|
|chatbots in hr||70||Low||122.04||1036.65|
|chat com hr||70||Low|
|hr chat com||30||Unknown|
As we can see, the above table contains both technology-specific and competition-specific keywords:
Technology keyword searches – 1140
Recruitment chatbot searches – 200
Competition searches – 580
Now that we have the keywords, we can optimize the web pages and plan the PPC campaigns and content calendar accordingly.
One of our key marketing objectives was to build market awareness, with respect to both technology as well as company.
A great PR initiative can help us achieve that objective.
Why PR for Leena AI?
As we have already assumed, HR leaders are looking for credible sources of information to know more about the technology. The top publications, through years of providing the right information, have established their credibility with these leaders.
Leena AI can leverage this credibility to establish itself as a leading company in this space.
How to Generate PR?
It can be done in 2 ways:
- Getting the product featured in top publications
- Contributing a thought leadership content
So, I started searching for top HR publications (Remember, the target audience is Head – HR), who also cover technology trends.
For this, I did a Google Search for “Top HR Publications in <India/US>”. I was able to build a decent list through the results from the first page itself.
What I also did alongside was identify their current authority (Moz Domain Authority) and their Twitter following. This would help us in prioritizing the reach-out efforts.
This is the final list:
|Publication Name||Twitter Handle||Site URL||DA||# of Twitter Followers|
|Human Resource Online||@Mag_HR||https://www.humanresourcesonline.net/||52||19,300|
|Human Capital Online||@HumanCapitalOn!||http://www.humancapitalonline.com/||39||2,298|
|Human Resource Executive||@HRExecMag||http://hrexecutive.com/||39||9,722|
|HR Tech Blog||@HRTechBlog||http://www.hrtechblog.com/||27||3,545|
|Digital HR Tech||@DigitalHRtech||https://www.digitalhrtech.com/||29||2,720|
|HR Tech Outlook||@HRtechMag||https://www.hrtechoutlook.com/||39||2,255|
Once we have our list prepared, we can prioritize which publication to reach out first.
Now, the next step is to understand, how do we reach out to these publications to get featured?
Step 1: Who is the concerned person?
First, we need to find out who covers HR tech for that publication. We can get to know that by going to that publication’s website and clicking on an HR Tech article. It usually features the name of the author.
If the name of the author is not there, we can also go to the publication’s “Contribute” page. (Though it is always better to approach the publication through the editor than through forms)
Once we know whom to reach out, we need to find contact details of the concerned person. We can use Hunter.io for this purpose.
You can find more ways to find the contact details of any contact in this article by Ahrefs.
Step 2: What’s In It for Them?
Once we have identified whom and how to reach out, the next step is to identify our offer.
We need to understand that their job is to provide quality content to their readers.
Hence, our offer should match both our’s and the editor’s objective.
Hence for Leena AI, we would focus on 2 key themes:
- A thought leadership article on the publication
- Product coverage
We need to test these themes with different publications and see which works for which one of them.
Step 3: How to Reach Out?
While reaching out, we need to keep 2 things in mind:
- Approach with a mindset of building relations. The editors get hundreds of requests in a day. We need to show that we are deeply interested in what they cover.
- Be straightforward – We need to come directly to the point
Keeping this in mind, here is the e-mail pitch I wrote for Leena AI, requesting the editor to feature a thought leadership article:
Public Relations is a great way to build awareness among the target audience. We need to support this through an in-person touch. Events provide a great platform to do that, where we can easily approach these decision makers and let them know about the product.
So, as a next step, I made a list of top events where HR Leadership would be present in India and the United States. This again was done by a Google Search.
We can find round-up posts like this where someone has already done the hard work of collating all industry events in a single place.
Also, I noted down the expected participation to help us prioritize our efforts.
|Event Name||Event URL||Country||Expected Participation|
|Nasscom HR Summit||https://www.nasscom.in/events/nasscom-hr-summit-2018||India||700+|
|World HR Summit||http://worldhrsummit.com/||India||150+|
|OK HR Conference||https://www.okhrconference.com/||U.S.||800+|
|SHRM Talent Conference||http://conferences.shrm.org/talent-conference||U.S.||1400+|
|CA HR Conference||https://cahrconference.org/||U.S.||2500+|
|HR Technology Conference||http://www.hrtechnologyconference.com/||U.S.||5000+|
|LinkedIn Talent Connect||https://business.linkedin.com/events/talent-connect#||U.S.||4000+|
How to Participate in these Events and Conferences?
There are 3 ways in which we can participate:
- We can act as a sponsor of the event. It would give us a booth space, where we can showcase the product’s capabilities. This gives us maximum exposure in the event.
However, this can be a costly affair, especially for companies which are just starting out.
- We can also apply for speaking opportunities in the event. To do that, we need to go to the event website and search for “Apply as a Speaker” tab.
If there is no speaking option available, we can just message the event owner and check if something is possible. If it fits within the agenda of the event and if he feels we are the right fit, we would get our chance.
- Finally, we can attend the event as a normal attendee and plan to engage with the right decision makers.
While it is important that we leverage credible sources to build market and product awareness, the final goal should be to build our own loyal audience.
We should be considered as a go-to source for any information regarding the technology.
Why is Community Building Relevant for Leena AI?
Some of the key challenges that we identified earlier were:
- HR Leaders were still unsure about the potential benefits of the technology
- They had little understanding about the technology
- They still were not convinced that an automated conversation was possible through a chatbot
Hence, we assumed that these HR Leaders would be searching for the right source where they can learn more about this technology.
These challenges provide us with an opportunity to establish Leena AI as the thought leader and help these decision makers to understand more about the technology and its potential benefits.
How to Build the Community?
Considering the above challenges, we need to provide content to these HR Leaders which can help them learn the following:
- Chatbot technology
- Top use-cases addressed by HR Chatbots
- How do AI and NLP work
- Meaning of key chatbot terms
At the same time, our effort should be targeted towards moving these HR Decision Makers along the buying journey.
Keeping this in mind, I identified the below content topics and lead hooks:
As can be seen, this list is a mix of thought leadership and transactional content – which is in effect, mapped to our community building objectives. Finally, at the end of the day, what matters is the number of customer wins. We only get them if we reach out to them. Yes, there might be some inbound leads. However, the majority of the enterprise decision makers face a severe time paucity. They would only consider our solution if it is readily available to them. Hence, it is important to support all other marketing efforts with cold reach out: Cold calling and cold e-mailing. The first way is cold calling. It is still the most effective way for lead generation; especially when it comes to generating enterprise-level leads. First, we need a database of contacts: we can either purchase it or hire an employee who builds it for us. Second, we need a person who does the calling. In the initial stages, it is recommended that the founder himself does it. Later, we can set-up a dedicated inside sales team for this purpose. The final step is to get on the call. The web is full of content on cold calling best practices. Based on my experience, it is about those initial few seconds. If we can establish credibility in those first few seconds, we have got ourselves a meeting. A good practice is to add in Social proof in the first sentence itself and then continuously feed in more proofs through-out the pitch. This is the cold calling pitch, I prepared for Leena AI: You would have noticed that I have inserted social proofs at every stage: Y-Combinator funded start-up, AI-powered, enterprise clients and some past deployments. This ensures that the other person on the phone listens to us. (which is the biggest tele-calling challenge) The second way is to send cold e-mails to the target list. This is a more professional way of cold reach out than cold calling. Yet both are necessary. A great practice is to first send a cold e-mail and then follow-up with cold calling if we don’t get a reply on the e-mail. First, we need to build the database – this we have already done for the cold calling engine. Second, we need to plan the campaign: number of e-mails and messaging. We can find a lot of literature on this topic. There are 2 things that I have learned and adopted: Keeping this in mind, I created this e-mail chain for Leena AI
Cold Reach Out
How to Set-up a Cold Calling Engine?
How to Set-up a Cold E-mail Campaign?
As can be seen, this list is a mix of thought leadership and transactional content – which is in effect, mapped to our community building objectives.
Finally, at the end of the day, what matters is the number of customer wins.
We only get them if we reach out to them. Yes, there might be some inbound leads. However, the majority of the enterprise decision makers face a severe time paucity. They would only consider our solution if it is readily available to them.
Hence, it is important to support all other marketing efforts with cold reach out: Cold calling and cold e-mailing.
The first way is cold calling. It is still the most effective way for lead generation; especially when it comes to generating enterprise-level leads.
First, we need a database of contacts: we can either purchase it or hire an employee who builds it for us.
Second, we need a person who does the calling. In the initial stages, it is recommended that the founder himself does it. Later, we can set-up a dedicated inside sales team for this purpose.
The final step is to get on the call.
The web is full of content on cold calling best practices.
Based on my experience, it is about those initial few seconds. If we can establish credibility in those first few seconds, we have got ourselves a meeting.
A good practice is to add in Social proof in the first sentence itself and then continuously feed in more proofs through-out the pitch.
This is the cold calling pitch, I prepared for Leena AI:
You would have noticed that I have inserted social proofs at every stage: Y-Combinator funded start-up, AI-powered, enterprise clients and some past deployments.
This ensures that the other person on the phone listens to us. (which is the biggest tele-calling challenge)
The second way is to send cold e-mails to the target list.
This is a more professional way of cold reach out than cold calling. Yet both are necessary. A great practice is to first send a cold e-mail and then follow-up with cold calling if we don’t get a reply on the e-mail.
First, we need to build the database – this we have already done for the cold calling engine.
Second, we need to plan the campaign: number of e-mails and messaging.
We can find a lot of literature on this topic.
There are 2 things that I have learned and adopted:
Keeping this in mind, I created this e-mail chain for Leena AI
The third step is to write these e-mails. Again, you can find best practices on cold e-mail writing. This is the best source I found, which could be useful to you.
The final step is to send these e-mails. We can either use a tool and automate it (Helps with operational efficiency) or we could manually send it.
Testing and Optimization
The final step is to build a testing framework.
While we have followed a detailed process for building our marketing plan, there are still a lot of assumptions that we need to test on a continuous basis. This would help us to identify what’s working – we can optimize our reach-out efforts accordingly.
How to Build a Testing Framework?
First, we need to identify the broad testing parameters. In our case, we would be testing our strategy and channels.
Second, we need to map these testing parameters with key metrics.
This is how I mapped our testing parameters with key metrics for Leena AI:
|Particulars||What metric to test?||Objective|
|Which channels are working for us – This would be based on channel goals|
|SEO / SEM|
For cold calling and cold-emailing, we can test out with different time of contact.
Finally, we need to define testing timelines. While testing is a continuous process, we should define some timelines. It helps to bring discipline and scalability to campaign operations.
Most companies prefer a 3-6-month timeline as marketing campaigns take time to show effect, especially when we are marketing to B2B Enterprises. But, we can start with as low as 15 days or 1-month also.
Hope this plan is useful to you.
If you liked this marketing plan, we would love it if you could share it with others.
Also, feel free to write to us @ firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any thoughts or queries.