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Creating a Business Unit Strategy Brief

June 01, 2014

Each business unit should provide sales and marketing teams with an annual go-to-market plan for its offerings and target markets

When preparing for long-distance races, elite runners analyze physiological data (e.g. lactate threshold, VO2 max) to understand their current fitness level and set their expectations. They also use this data to plan a strategy for achieving individual race goals.

Many b-to-b organizations begin their annual business and marketing planning processes by analyzing the strategies of their business units. With this input, which is organized into business unit strategy briefs, corporate marketing (including the campaign team), regional marketing groups and sales teams can develop campaign plans that align with each business unit’s objectives and product launches. In this issue of SiriusPerspectives, we provide a three-part outline for a business unit strategy brief.

Business Unit Strategy

ONE: MARKET DEFINITION

To create the business unit strategy brief, the head of marketing for the business unit should assemble an annual planning team that includes participants from market intelligence, product/solution management, portfolio marketing and regional product management (if available). Include the following components in the strategy brief:

• Market segmentation and size by region. Identify the segments the organization will target and the size of each (ideally at the addressable market level). Illustrate which current offerings meet buyer needs in each market segment and region.

• Demand type. Assess the current demand type for the organization’s offerings in each market segment and region. For example, offerings whose demand type is established market in one region could be considered new concept or new paradigm offerings in another market. This type analysis will inform campaign teams’ strategy for each offering.

• Market dynamics. Describe how market segments are changing and how external trends are impacting buying decisions. If a new concept or new paradigm offering is targeting a market segment, describe whether the innovation is being endorsed by opinion leaders and gaining traction among buyers.

• Audience needs. Indicate the key audiences for each segment, and provide updates on any changes to buyer needs. Incorporate findings from buyer persona research, and highlight changes and regional differences that may impact marketing planning.

• Competitive update. Provide competitive and market intelligence reports analyzing competitive dynamics for accounts and prospects in each region. This analysis should inform priorities and ensure that sales, marketing and product groups can agree on where the organization can win. The competitive update should also inform competitive strategy in reach region, and facilitate agreement on what competitive sales or marketing tools are required.

TWO: BUSINESS UNIT STRATEGY

The strategy section of the business unit strategy brief should include the following components:

• Business unit priorities. Identify priorities in terms of market segments as well as offerings. Describe three to five critical business or market objectives (e.g. product launch, entry into a new market, solution selling, building awareness in a new market, improvements in brand perception). Note which functions or departments are accountable for the achievement of each objective.

• Product roadmap and offering modifications for the year. Include an update from product groups on offerings that will be launched during the year, covering the offering’s target markets, positioning and value proposition. List which products will be retired and replaced, as these activities are expensive and time-consuming. Additionally, list any planned price changes, because they will impact annual planning for marketing and sales. Describe key offering modifications that should be showcased by campaigns.

• Product strategy. Based on the segmentation analysis completed earlier, plot the newest offerings for the upcoming fiscal year by segment. For each key offering, provide a one-page summary description of the offering, targeted buying centers, buyers and influencers, the buyer need and value proposition, and the availability date and pricing.

• Offering forecast. Even if the financial plan for the business unit’s offering portfolio is not yet finalized, indicate the most recent business unit goals for key products or solutions (including those that cross multiple business units). This forecast can help drive agreement between business units and sales leadership on unit placements (e.g. by country and sales channel) and set the stage for discussions on lead generation requirements to ensure go-to-market investments are aligned and sufficient to reach goals.

THREE: LAUNCH STRATEGY AND CALLS TO ACTION

This section provides more information on new offerings, including required marketing assets, especially if a key offering will be launched early in the year. While the campaign team provides many marketing assets, business units typically provide thought leadership assets that can be used to help nurture opportunities and close deals. This section should include the following components:

• Buying cycle. For each new offering, assess information requirements during the buying process, based on demand type. For example, a new paradigm offering may require thought leadership content assets that encourage buyers to question their current solutions.

• Launch plan recap. For any products scheduled to launch in the coming year, provide a recap of launch plan objectives and strategies by audience (e.g. customers, prospects, sales, thought leaders, internal colleagues). Indicate some of the content assets that should be created – by either the business unit or central marketing – to support the launch. If possible, classify the content assets by key buying and selling personas at each stage of the buying process.

• Regional calls to action. The business unit should state actions that each region must take or results it must achieve (e.g. increase consumable burn rate to 900 square meters per month, decrease churn by 10 percent in the first quarter). While these calls to action are linked to business unit priorities, they tend to be more tactical.

THE SIRIUS DECISION

During annual planning, variations between the types of information provided by business units can make it difficult for businesses to plan. Each business unit should use the strategy brief template to provide a consistent set of information to facilitate investment decisions and campaign planning. Use the same strategy for other annual planning documents from sales and marketing. A process leader should provide examples of the expected depth of analysis for each template, if possible.