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13 Demand Gen Fails Every Marketer Should Avoid

By Mariana Just

13 Demand Gen Fails Every Marketer Should Avoid

In celebration of Friday the 13th and Halloween being right around the corner, we’ve gone through the scary ride of looking back through the years and outlining some missteps in our demand gen journey. Check out these 13 scary fails that read a lot like a personal philosophy diary of dos and don’ts for demand gen success!

Fail # 1: Unclear, Unmeasurable Goals

When I think through my demand gen journey, some of the best leaders I’ve had were the ones who could set clear goals and lead their teams towards them. While there is definitely an art to getting this right, science rules here. A clear handle on your KPIs is a great place to start. For example, if one of your goals is to increase marketing’s contribution to revenue by 30% next year, you’ll need to have a very good understanding of your funnel and your conversion rates. Say you brought in 1,000 MQLs this year and your MQL to close rate is 5%. That’s 50 deals. Your average deal size is $50,000 (50x 50,000 = $2,500,000). 30% increase in your marketing’s contribution to revenue is $3,250,000. Working backwards, that’s 65 deals vs. 50 deals. That means that next year you’ll need to bring in 1,300 MQLs to hit that revenue goal. Of course, having clear goals requires a lot more than understanding your demand waterfall. This is a simple example, but it covers the basis for how you should be thinking about developing measurable goals for your team.

Fail # 2: Poor Targeting and Database Segmentation

According to the 2017 DMA Statistical Fact Book, the most effective email strategies are list segmentation and individualized messaging. Though segmentation is an overwhelming task that can be done numerous ways, ideally, you’ll want to segment your prospects and customers into different groups and then micro segment based on their needs, challenges, characteristic, etc. A formal approach to segmentation takes cross-functional effort - your product marketing and content teams as well as your marketing ops should be aligned and bought into this initiative. Bottom line is that segmentation can allow you to effectively communicate with your audience and understand their behaviors over time. This is a must for any successful demand gen strategy.

Fail # 3: Not A/B Testing

The benefits of A/B testing and experimenting are endless. I got into the habit of experimenting early on in my career. I simply caught on to the fact that it was easier to win an argument if I had data to back up what I was defending. This philosophy has paid off. It has allowed me to completely change the mindset of creative directors, heads of content and web teams. Ever since implementing my A/B test methodology (I promise to write about this at some point) I’ve never had to defend my ideas because I’ve always let the data speak for itself. Some of the benefits that I’ve seen from A/B testing include increased content engagement, increased conversion rates, and of course, increased sales.

Fail # 4: Not Optimizing your Campaigns Quickly Enough

This is appropriately right after A/B testing for a reason. An experimentation culture is only as good as the insights you gather from testing. Revenue marketing, as well as the rise of performance-based advertising are putting a lot of pressure on marketing professionals and more than ever we’ve become accountable for the dollars we spend and the impact it has on revenue. A lot of innovation in this sector has allowed marketers to measure once unmeasurable channels such as video and mobile. The availability of performance data is making it easier for marketers to continuously optimize creative, landing pages and forms. The lack of an optimization methodology would be a huge miss for any demand generation function.

Fail # 5: Not Using Data To Make Decisions

The pace at which marketing technology is changing and innovating is forcing marketers to rethink their role when it comes to revenue impact. On one end, customers expect we give them a smooth, relevant experience, on the other, we’re pressured to prove marketing’s value. Sure, we can all use anecdotal data as a way to measure how we’re doing, but your reports and the analytics should be what helps you move the needle when making decisions. According to the 2017 CMO Survey, there is a 229% projected marketing spend growth on marketing analytics in the next 3 years. Additionally, 37.5% of projects in the survey respondents’ organizations are using marketing analytics before a decision is made. Clearly, data-driven decisions are a priority for marketing functions.

Fail # 6: Failing to Embrace Accountability and Transparency

This comes down to a mindset change across marketing. Do you want to earn the respect of your C-Level counterparts? Do you want to earn your seat at the table? You’re not going to do so by being defensive or secretive about marketing’s performance. Accountability and transparency can only help set you in that direction. Why? Because it helps shed light on what is and isn’t working and it allows everyone to come together to quickly pivot, fix and move forward. This means a tight alignment with sales and your financial partners. I’m a proponent of formal accountability initiatives, including weekly standing meetings, shared dashboards, financial audits and performance assessments.

Fail # 7: Working in Silos

This touches on some of what was discussed in Fail #6, but truly, this is a problem that goes beyond reporting transparency. This is an incredible problem in a lot of marketing departments - not only with regards to how it communicates with the rest of the company, but also how it communicates amongst its functional departments (creative teams vs. content teams vs demand generation). Not communicating the goals across the organization down to not asking for help, giving or taking feedback. There are multiple ways in which I’ve seen silos break down

Fail # 8: Poor Sales & Marketing Alignment

According to Marketo, tightly aligned sales and marketing departments can help generate 209% more revenue from marketing. This is one of those things I truly believe can make or break the success of demand generation teams. In the past, I’ve introduced the idea of having shared goals (in addition to individual goals) as an interesting way to keep that alignment strong. It’s also a good way to reinforce the fact that as an organization we’re all striving for the same results: revenue growth. We’ve written a lot about this in the past and this truly is an area I take pride in saying I champion. Marketers in general should also understand that sales hold on to an exceptional amount of knowledge about prospects and customers. As noted on this post on lead scoring, “sales has intelligence that we simply don’t have visibility into. They talk to our prospects every single day and therefore know our audience [in many cases] better than we do. This is also an opportunity to improve the sales and marketing relationship. It creates a shared lead definition that everyone has agreed to. And finally, this is an easy way to establish SLAs for lead follow-up.”

Fail # 9: Not Understanding Your Funnel

Not knowing the problem means not knowing what you need to solve. The number one question CMOs ask me (after how to effectively attract and engage prospects) is how to accelerate the funnel and increase lead to close rates. Why this is such a universal issue is probably the topic for an entire post, but what I will say is, demand gen leaders need to have a very clear understanding of their funnel, that includes definitions, conversion rates, where, when and why leads are getting stuck and what programs are helping accelerate the funnel. This requires an extremely tight integration with marketing ops. Both teams need to come together and champion a tight lead management process and requirements for how leads come through and exit the funnel.

Fail # 10: Not Understanding and Tracking Your Buyer’s Journey

While the funnel forces us to look inward and focus on sales and marketing, the buyer’s journey puts the focus on the prospect. In this post, we define the journey as “a long road with several information/rest stops along the way. As the vendor, I want to be at every rest stop - meaning, I want to be part of the conversation. The stages of the buyer’s journey includes awareness, consideration, decision. Within those stages, your prospects will interact with you over a dozen different ways. Econsultancy and AdRoll’s 2017 State of Marketing Attribution Report reveals that 81% of organizations surveyed are tracking their customer’s journey, with 64% of respondents citing a better understanding of how digital channels work together. The challenge for marketers is the increasingly complex ecosystem of channels and devices. Signal Global Survey reports that only 6% of marketers worldwide say they have an adequate single view of customers and prospects across all touchpoints.

Fail # 11: Not Keeping Up to Date with Market Changes

The explosion in MarTech over the last few years has kept most of us marketers on our toes. In addition, consumers have more power than ever. The importance of keeping up with the changes in our market is imperative if we want to find, engage and close prospects. Demand gen leaders that stay up to date with technology, consumer insights and industry changes are more likely to make better marketing choices. Personally, it’s important from a career perspective to stay as current as well. Some of the things I do to keep up with the changing world of marketing include attending Meetup Groups and conferences, subscribing to other great demand gen and marketing blogs, following my favorite influencers on Twitter and LinkedIn, setting up Google alerts and participating in hands-on workshops that offer certification and courses and training.

Fail #12: Fear of Making Mistakes

Seth Godin said it best with “the cost of being wrong is less than the cost of doing nothing.”In order to grow, we must get out of our comfort zone to constantly test and try new strategies. This is obviously something that permeates through our personal lives as well. I was originally going to title this post “13 Demand Gen Mistakes to Avoid.” As I progressed through the writing, I realized that if I had avoided some of these in the beginning of my career I would have never gotten to the point where I’m at today. I’ve learned a lot from focusing on the wrong priorities, by not being as data driven and diligent around segmentation, lead management and funnel tracking. I don’t look at these as negative. If I’d continued to make these, then yes, but the fact that I’ve learned so much from them does make me realize how important it is to accept that we aren’t always going to get it right the first time. From a budget perspective, my approach has been a 70-20-10 approach, where 10% is set aside for high-risk, brand new initiatives.

Fail # 13: Not Measuring Marketing’s Impact on Revenue

Being able to measure marketing’s impact on revenue combines a lot of the things summed up in this post and it’s appropriately last because it takes a lot of what was discussed to be able to get this right. Defining the right goals and KPIs, close alignment with sales and identifying the right attribution and forecasting model for your business should all be part of this strategy. Diligence around tracking all marketing campaigns and dollars spent is imperative in getting close to a revenue marketing approach. This is still a source of struggle for many marketers, in fact this study reveals that “most B2B marketers realize shortfalls in their current ability to measure and analyze performance and impact, with 40% agreeing it needs improvement, 36% offering an average score and 9% saying it is poor or inadequate.” Follow the steps in this post as a way to get there. Outline your misses and feel free to use everything outlined here as a template for getting there.

I would love to hear some of your fails over the years and how you’ve improved on some these areas. Send us a message!


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