3 Common Top-Funnel Demand Gen Ailments You Can Fix

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When it comes to demand marketing, a single issue can be a symptom of multiple problems. For example, if website visitors aren’t converting to leads, this can be a targeting problem, a content problem or both.

The right diagnosis often requires more than identifying single issues in a vacuum – you must analyze a wide range of unsuccessful (and successful) efforts holistically if you’re to diagnose the real problem and treat it effectively.

Below are fundamental problems I see demand marketers commonly face. While far from a comprehensive list of symptoms and treatments, it’s a good starting point. Once you start thinking about the causal relationships between all your marketing efforts, you’ll start to see patterns, identify more nuanced problems, and be able to fine tune your programs more effectively.   

AILMENT: Ineffective audience targeting

It’s pretty obvious: if you’re targeting the wrong audience, your content won’t resonate, your media spend will be wasted and you simply won’t generate the right demand. Understanding your target personas and accounts is arguably the most important aspect of B2B marketing. If you don’t get this problem fixed, you have a low likelihood of hitting your demand goals.

Look out for these symptoms:

Low website and landing page visitation – If neither inbound nor outbound marketing initiatives are generating much traffic to your website and/or landing pages, this likely means your targeting is off (or you’re targeting the wrong audience – there’s a slight difference). There’s a chance that it’s not the targeting, but rather ineffective content that’s causing the issues, but if you see the next symptom too, it’s a targeting problem.

Sizable volume of off-target leads – If the few visits you are getting are generating leads that don’t match target personas (titles, roles, company types, etc.), this is a very good indication that you should beef up or adapt your persona profiles.

Treatment:

Develop or revise your target persona profiles (and possibly your target account profiles for ABM). Reviewing and revising personas regularly is a good idea – markets, economies, industry needs, etc. all change rather rapidly, so your personas will need to continually evolve with them. You can glean persona intel from myriad sources, but some of the most useful will include:

  • Database analysis (marketing automation and/or CRM)
  • Customer and prospect interviews
  • Customer and prospect surveys
  • Peer conversations (webinars, conferences, dinners)
  • Research firms (SiriusDecisions, Forrester, Gartner, etc.)

AILMENT: Content strategy falling flat

It’s possible that your personas are on point, but your content and/or the strategy behind it just isn’t resonating with your audience. As the currency with which most B2B marketing teams buy customer interest, content must be helpful, engaging, trusted and timely – hitting all four isn’t easy without a comprehensive strategy.

Look out for these symptoms:

Low website and landing page conversion rates – In other words: failing inbound marketing efforts. It’s often the case that your basic content may be good enough to spark initial interest, but not strong enough to influence prospects to take the next step. This is a clear sign that your targeting is accurate, but you need to back it up with better content.

Only a couple pieces of content are performing well – Again, if some of your content (blogs, ebooks, white papers, etc.) are actually doing okay (via owned or paid media/content syndication), but the majority isn’t converting, it’s a sign that you should revisit your content strategy.

Treatment:

Well-written, interesting content is half the battle – the other half is making sure it’s used at the right time and in the context of a cohesive strategy. Devise a quarterly content strategy that integrates key themes, initiatives and events. Start with your key themes or programs and think about how each is related to the other.

Then map out all the content needed to develop the narrative for each theme from the top of the funnel through the bottom. You’ll find that many pieces will work for a number of key themes, which will increase the efficiency and effectiveness of your efforts. Create a calendar that coordinates the development, publication and social promotion of each piece.

AILMENT: Media isn’t driving results

According to a 2016 B2B Marketing Benchmark Report by Forrester, B2B marketers spend 13% of their budget on digital media – more than twice as much as what they spend on marketing automation (6%) and four times as much as they spend on analytics (3%).

In fact, the only line item in which marketers spend more on than digital media is in-person events (18%). Yet, too often digital media is an afterthought, neglected for these other initiatives. The result: millions of dollars wasted annually. The demand marketing teams that focus efforts on optimizing media effort are often those that make the biggest, quickest performance leaps.

Look out for these symptoms:

Low click-through rates (CTR) – Don’t just check your paid media (e.g., display ads, content syndication, etc.), also analyze your website, landing pages, social profiles. If both are failing, you need to immediately evaluate targeting and the content you’re using. If owned media is working, but paid media is failing, it’s a media problem.

Media partner-generated leads aren’t converting – Content syndication is often the turbocharger demand marketers install to boost their content marketing performance beyond initial inbound wins. Done right, your sales pipeline will quickly and significantly scale. Done incorrectly, you’re in the CMO’s office explaining why all those leads you paid for aren’t converting to opportunities.

It’s important to understand that content syndication as a tactic isn’t the problem. The problem is typically one of two things:

  1. You selected the wrong partner for the wrong audience and/or offer. There’s no clear-cut way to pick the right partner the first time; instead you should have a test plan in place and let the data decide the best-performing content syndication partners.
  2. You’re lacking a lead nurturing strategy and non-qualified leads are sent directly over to sales.

Treatment:

Widen your net and test new channels, tactics and partners. I fully understand that this is easier said than done – even advanced, enterprise demand marketing teams often limit their number of media sources and partners simply because managing them all is so taxing on time and resources. For this reason,centralizing media/prospect data sources is crucial; it enables you to quickly and holistically analyze performance by partner/data source, which in turn allows you to increase the number of data source that fuel demand. And with more lead/prospect data source at your disposal, you can test and adjust budget to invest in the best performing media channels and partners.

Secondly, and I can’t stress this enough, you should establish and continually refine your lead nurturing strategy. I’ve seen some very bright B2B marketing teams do everything right to generate quality top-funnel demand, just to see much of it wasted because they glossed over the importance of lead nurturing. Your nurturing strategy should be developed in concert with your content strategy.  

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