Just because it's difficult, that doesn't let B2B Marketing Communications professionals off the hook.
December 1st! How did it get here so fast? And, if it is December right now, then it will be 2011 before we know it. This is the time of year when we, as business to business Marketing Communications practitioners, must predict the future. Our colleagues are counting on us. Here's why it's difficult:
Customers (our target audience) gain access to new software and hardware. Software writers invent new ways to deliver messages. Add it all up and, today, we're not quite sure how our customers will be seeking info from us in 8 months.
Existing staff and customers may, or may not, change their communications skill set and practices. An influx of new staff (yours or your target audience's) could shift the skill set and resultant capabilities. When might such a shift occur? Who or what do you design for?
Your company's product suite is likely to receive a few additions or extensions. When? How much of a change will occur? What market segment will it affect? You'll need to know all of this to design an effective communications program to share the good news.
OUR COMPANIES CHANGE:
Either through a decree, or by evolution, your company may shift its posture or position. This may be due to direction from the top, legislation, or from competitive activities. Whatever the cause, Marcom needs to plan and budget for this possibility should you need to communicate this to the public.
For a variety of reasons (technology changes, competitive entries, new alternatives, customer preferences shifting, etc.) the prices we pay to communicate change. Sometimes the changes can be dramatic. What might have cost $50,000 last year may cost only $20,000 to accomplish in 2011. Or vice versa.
So, what do we do? Here is what I recommend:
Break your organization into logical "divisions" or segments and develop a formal Marcom Program for each. In small companies, a segment may revolve around a single product. In larger companies it may include a complete technology. Work closely with the leaders of each arena to learn the market dynamics, trends, and situations. You will need input from senior management, marketing, sales, tech support, and manufacturing.
A Marcom program includes definitions of scope, as well as fairly detailed treatments of all Marcom activities. Don't be too deep and detailed or you will never publish your program. Don't be too vague and high-level or none of it will be actionable.
Use your Marcom Program(s) very frequently. Almost weekly there will be small revelations, changes in the landscape, and new input. All Marcom Programs should be reviewed quarterly for potential "Mid-Course Considerations". Feel great about making these considerations and possible changes - they prove that you are as alive and dynamic as the markets you serve. After all ...
Change is the only constant in life ~ Heraclitus
Yes, this is really challenging and difficult. Be thankful that it is - otherwise we'd all be fired and replaced with low-paid uneducated labor. This is a hard job - suitable only for those who truly love it.