B2B marketing leaders consistently tell us that marketing strategy ranks high among the processes they would most like to improve. Yet how exactly to go about this is another matter entirely. In some cases, there’s a lack of clarity about what marketing strategy means. In other cases, critical inputs to strategy formulation are lacking, keeping marketing out of step with other revenue-generating functions and the overall business objectives.

At a time when many companies are trying to regain their footing or establish new footing, having a clear, comprehensive marketing strategy that supports the business’s strategic vision is critical. We’ll look at four common misconceptions that can get in the way of developing such a strategy. Do any of these sound familiar?

1. Confusing marketing strategy with annual planning

Some marketing leaders treat these terms as synonymous — the term “strategic plan” speaks to this confusion. By “marketing strategy,” we mean a set of decisions and investments planned over a three- to five-year period that will create and sustain a future market advantage. “Annual planning,” on the other hand, lays out the actions to take in the upcoming year to advance the marketing strategy. Without a sound marketing strategy, annual planning becomes virtually impossible.

2. Misinterpreting what the business needs from marketing

When attempting to formulate a marketing strategy, marketing leaders sometimes go it alone in interpreting the overall business strategy — whether because they lack the inputs they need or because the business’s overall strategic vision is unclear. As well-intentioned as these efforts might be, the result is that marketing likely won’t be able to deliver on what the business truly needs. It also will be difficult for marketing leaders to clearly communicate marketing’s value to the overall business.

3. Developing a marketing strategy independently

To develop a successful marketing strategy, marketing leaders must be closely aligned with sales and product leaders. This alignment ensures that the revenue-generating functions are working in lockstep to advance the business’s overall objectives. Marketing, sales, and product leaders should start by agreeing on a vision of where the business is headed in the next three to five years, addressing questions such as how the business will grow, what it will be known for, and how it will reach the market. As marketing leaders translate that guiding vision into strategic priorities for the marketing organization, they must stay in tune with sales and product leaders to keep efforts aligned.

4. Failing to provide ongoing guidance

Sometimes, it isn’t misalignment between marketing and other functions that complicates strategy development. Another culprit is lack of guidance within the marketing function itself. When portfolio, demand, and other marketing subfunctional leaders don’t understand what the long-term strategy means for their own teams, they formulate their own individual strategies. The result can do little to advance marketing’s contribution to the business objectives.

Preventing this from happening — and ensuring that there’s consistency and alignment from the overall business objectives down through each marketing sub-function’s strategy — takes a methodical approach. Our marketing strategy content series can help you achieve just that. It explains how to build a clear, robust marketing strategy that aligns the team on execution and delivers on the business’s strategic objectives. Check it out — and reach out to us if you’d like to learn more.