Natalie Adler Skarzynski
Diagnosis: Marketing (Or, Identifying & Solving Common Marketing Problems)
5 min read
How familiar does this sound? "We need a one-pager on XYZ thing. Marketing, go make it."
Not trashing the one-pager here, but all too often do businesses make this critical mistake – they jump straight to executing a marketing tactic without paying enough attention to the strategy. So how do you take a step back and figure out what you really need?
It all starts with a problem. A very wise marketer once told me, "Either you've got a traffic problem, a conversion problem, or a sales problem." And I've found that most marketing issues really do fall into these three categories, especially in the B2B world.
Let's break down these three problem areas:
That is to say, not enough of it. This could be the traditional digital marketing definition of site traffic or landing page traffic, but could also represent broader concepts of attention and awareness, as well as other tactical concerns like social followers or email opens.
Fundamentally, this is a volume problem. And there are a few different culprits to consider:
Low brand awareness
Highly competitive space
Poor search visibility
If you've got a traffic problem, top-of-funnel lead generation tactics will be your best bet. Concentrate on:
Improving your SEO
Building up your email database and social followers*
Connecting with industry analysts and other PR/AR tactics
Establishing a presence on any relevant review sites
Increasing email open rates with compelling calls-to-action and content
*I am personally not a fan of purchasing lists to grow email databases and would advise focusing on organic growth tactics instead. But don't rule out social advertising as a way to gain qualified followers.
All the traffic in the world will mean squat if you can't convert it. But your first step is defining what types of conversions bring value to your business. Is it a demo request? A content download? An e-commerce transaction? An email engagement? All of the above? Define what actions are valuable, and then focus on driving those actions.
A successful call-to-action (CTA) is relevant, compelling, and requires little effort on the part of the prospect. For example, including a CTA to download your latest exclusive research report at the end of a blog post on a related topic is a great start. Use a form with as few fields as possible to reduce barriers to action – bonus points if you can auto-fill any fields using APIs, LinkedIn account integration, and the like.
If you've got conversion problems, it's time to focus on the middle of your funnel. Concentrate on:
Developing compelling, useful content offers to entice downloads
Driving qualified traffic to your desired landing pages
Optimizing landing page elements using A/B or multivariate testing
Implementing time-savers like form auto-fill or progressive profiling
Ensuring there is a process in place for following up with people who convert (including lead scoring and defining hot vs. warm leads)
The last bullet is arguably the most important, since driving a ton of conversions will mean squat if nobody ever follows up. (Sensing a pattern here?)
This problem is perhaps the trickiest of all. And volumes have been written about sales methodologies, so I won't attempt to reinvent the wheel.
The endgame of lead generation is closed business. (Otherwise, what's the point?) There are several factors that turn leads into closed deals, including the quality of the leads (often the first thing to come under fire when sales numbers are low), and how those leads are being pursued by Sales.
The best analogy I've heard for the relationship between Sales and Marketing is a bicycle – it only works when both wheels are turning. That's why this third and final "marketing" problem has to do with the Sales wheel not turning. Dysfunction and discord within the sales process affects Marketing in a big way, because it doesn't matter how good we are at turning our wheel if the bike doesn't move forward.
So what's at the heart of a sales problem? Again, volumes have been written. In my experience, it comes down to the process and/or the people involved. Even the most talented sellers can be set adrift by lack of a defined process for moving deals forward, a process that needs to be set by leadership and supported by technology.
But by the same token, the best process in the world can't fix a lack of sales talent, or flaws in sales leadership. Poor leadership and bad hires fuel a culture of under-achievement, and that's a very hard thing to fix.
If you're got sales problems, as a marketer, there is only so much you can do. But that doesn't mean you have to throw leads over the wall and pray they close. Concentrate on:
Strategizing with sales leadership to create content to support later stages in the funnel, like product-oriented collateral
Building templates for common prospect-facing materials, like sales proposals
Identifying trends in where leads are stalling and building automated nurture campaigns to re-engage
Offering to review and refine prospect-facing materials, both for content and aesthetics
Approaching the relationship as an accountability partner, not an adversary
As marketers, it's easy to point the finger when deals don't progress. But as hard as you've worked and as well as you've done meeting marketing goals, your success will ring hollow if Sales can't execute. Be part of the solution.
Many of the marketing problems we face can be broken down into the three categories of traffic, conversion, and sales. What other categories of issues do you experience? Always happy to talk shop, so feel free to reach out to me.