The most important step in developing a business-to-business marketing strategy is the first one: setting your goals. Why have you decided to invest in marketing? What do you want that investment to achieve for your business?

Here are the 10 goals that belong in your smart marketing strategy and why they matter:

1.    Differentiate your firm. In every industry, many companies sell similar products or services. Why is your business different? Why should customers choose you? Stake out a clear position in the marketplace that differentiates your company from others.

2.    Tell a compelling story. Marketing is how you tell the story of your business to your prospects. Create a compelling narrative that convinces prospects of your ability to serve their needs and reflects the quality of your people, products and services.

3.    Prepare to sell. Marketing plays a major role in facilitating the sales process. Equip your sales team with effective tools to demonstrate your products and services and engage in a meaningful sales dialogue with prospects.

4.    Generate leads. Everyone wants to generate new business. Use marketing to deliver relevant messages to your prospects with a great offer that will make them say “tell me more.”

5.    Nurture leads. Selling business products and services often involves a lengthy sales cycle. Marketing can help you stay visible with prospects as they make their decision to buy. Send ongoing communications, including solution-oriented content, to demonstrate your understanding of prospects’ needs, your capabilities and your interest in their business.

6.    Improve customer retention. Smart marketers build deep, lasting relationships with customers and focus heavily on bringing value to the customer relationship. Your marketing strategy should detail how you will support that relationship and remind customers of their value to you.

 7.    Cross-sell and up-sell. What else can you sell to the people who buy from you? Your marketing strategy should include offers, tactics or promotions to increase order size, frequency and sales of related products and services.

 8.    Raise awareness. Your company needs to be visible wherever your customers and prospects turn for solutions to their challenges. Develop a plan of integrated marketing tactics to increase your awareness at trade shows, conferences, publications, the Internet and social media.

9.    Capitalize on customer data. You have one big advantage over your competitors: You know what your customers buy. Use this data to tailor marketing messages to customers’ needs, and use insights from the data to identify and target similar prospects.

10.    Test something new. A static marketing plan—same targets, same channels, same tactics, year after year—is unlikely to deliver a improved outcomes. Test new channels and approaches to see if you can produce better results.

As the baseball great Yogi Berra once observed, “If you don’t know where you are going, you’ll end up someplace else.” Setting clear marketing goals will help you focus your efforts, use your investment more efficiently and make the most of your marketing opportunities.

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Jean M. Gianfagna is a marketing strategy expert and the founder and president of Gianfagna Strategic Marketing which provides marketing strategy and creative services to leading business-to-business and consumer marketers. Read her blog for more marketing tips at http://www.gianfagnamarketing.com/blog