Right Message, Wrong Target – A Field Guide


Share on LinkedIn

I would like to introduce a scenario that many B2B organizations face.

In a never ending pursuit of new business, a marketing team has launched both inbound and outbound marketing programs to target a new market segment.

Something has gone awry. The message to this segment has proven successful with other segments but the results for this program are disappointing.

The response rate is weak: the number of inbound responders or MQLs (marketing qualified leads) is lower than average and the outbound telesales team is spending more time trying to generate SQLs (sales qualified leads) from MQLs and from their own outbound efforts.

Something is not working but what?

Like a social butterfly, many organizations get stung by the pain of rejection, end up dismissing this segment outright and move on. The philosophy of ‘grass is greener’ continues until the organization runs out of resources or markets or both.

What if marketing and sales are communicating the right message but to the wrong audience?

This can be one of the more difficult challenges to gauge. One of the best groups to help in understanding the buyer is the sales team, specifically those who generate and qualify leads.

Sales can help refine targeting and explain why the message is failing.

Here is a field guide to interpreting the feedback from a sales team:

The pricing question

For most enterprise B2B solutions, questions on pricing cannot be reliably answered early in discussions. Given a complex solution that is customized with services and configured to enterprise requirements, pricing questions are asked by inexperienced prospects or procurement staff. Alternatively, this may be an account that is too small to afford your solution and below the revenue threshold.

Upshot: the target market criteria for this segment and buyer personas should be revised to reflect this learning. If the segment is narrowly defined, future outbound programs should be rifle shot focused.

The sketchy or curt answers

Prospects who do not respond to open end questions from sales are either rushed, unwilling to share information or don’t know the answers. Judging by their digital or verbal body language, sales may conclude that the prospect does not play any role in evaluating or recommending solutions.

Upshot: sales should try to solicit any helpful information fromt the prospect and leverage this insight in targeting other contacts at the organization. This prospect should be nurtured by marketing.

The misunderstanding or unwillingness to refer

A prospect does not know what to make of your solution, does not understand industry terms related to your solution and is unwilling to refer to anyone else in the organization. This can also arise with latent pain and early stage markets.

Upshot: sales is speaking with the wrong contact and should pursue other contacts in the organization.

Discussion of pain but no future consideration

Although a prospect admits pain that your solution can address, there is no interest or consideration for further discussions. The prospect is hazy on when it would be best to pick up the discussion. The prospect only agrees to accept collateral or opt-in to nurture marketing.

Upshot: this contact requires nurturing by marketing and should not be contacted by sales until interest is expressed through activity or a high lead score.

Wrong industry or not a viable target

Similar to targeting prospects that are too small, target organizations that are in industries outside of the target market can play havoc with results. Add-in competitors, students, consultants and service providers and a substantial portion of responders may be poor targets.

Many organizations cannot evaluate new solutions because the business is insolvent, being acquired or is a branch or subsidiary with decision-making centralized at head office.

Upshot: review how these outliers have been funnelled to sales and determine the best way to preclude these prospects through data cleansing and appending, qualification forms, lead scoring and target market criteria.


Marketers are always testing and refining programs. A weak program may reflect a lack of potential in a segment or that the wrong companies or contacts have responded. By digging into sales conversations and overlaying insight from digital marketing, a marketer can make better decisions on programs. Marketers need to ensure that enough responses from best-fit organizations and contacts are generated before conclusions are drawn.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Robert Lesser
I am the founder and President of Direct Impact Marketing, a provider of a sales productivity solution and consulting services to technology organizations. Prior to stepping out as an entrepreneur, I held a number of marketing positions at Dell, IBM, Reckitt Benckiser and Loblaw Companies.


Please use comments to add value to the discussion. Maximum one link to an educational blog post or article. We will NOT PUBLISH brief comments like "good post," comments that mainly promote links, or comments with links to companies, products, or services.

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here