Nine Signs Your Demand Marketing Is Broken

The past year has challenged companies in many ways, but perhaps the greatest challenge has been a precipitous drop-off in sales and the resultant impact on the ‘top line.’

Said differently, everyone has a demand problem at this point. Everyone either needs to re-start their pipeline, or get it flowing at pre-pandemic rates. Yet amid this type of environment, the macro-level situation can make it harder than ever to assess what is actually uncontrollable market conditions vs. what is truly broken in your go-to-market approach. This can make it hard to fix problems and hard to refocus your efforts.

So how do you figure out what is and isn’t working with your demand marketing? And how can you drive rapid transformation to ensure your demand engine gets back online as soon as possible?

Our team at ANNUITAS has been diagnosing gaps in companies’ demand marketing for more than a decade. We help companies course-correct and move to a more strategic demand marketing state. Across all of our clients, we see consistent trends that have emerged over the years. These are nine of the telltale signs that indicate your demand marketing is broken.


Here are nine signs your demand marketing isn’t quite doing what you need it to do:

1. You have built target personas and target account lists, but you struggle to actually engage with contacts in those personas, at those companies.

It is a rare case that ANNUITAS engages with a company that does not have persona definitions built out. Most companies know who they want to target, but the subsequent persona work typically looks at the basis of how that target will interact with the company’s product or service. It is equally rare, however, that these established personas actually dig into the customer journey and subsequent content consumption during a buying process.

The same thing occurs with so-called ‘account-based’ approaches. Companies define the accounts and market segments they want to go after, but they have no idea how to intersect individuals at those companies that are engaged in a buying process. This is a typical and fundamental disconnect – and speaks to an inherently ‘inside-out’ demand marketing approach, when in fact the approach needs to be more ‘outside-in’. Demand marketing needs to put customer journey at the center of marketing and sales activities. Moreover, demand marketing must be built on a Conversation Track Architecture that ensures you can scale interactions with target personas at targeted accounts. And demand marketing must ensure that customer experience is enhanced – not harmed – by go-to-market activities.

2. You have world class marketing and sales technology, yet your systems operate as islands, and your data is a mess.

Technology is not a solution, yet the 8,000+ current ‘martech’ software vendors out there convince companies every day that by purchasing their software, they will be able to achieve ‘best-in-class’ sales and marketing results. The so-called ‘ABM’ vendors are perhaps one of the worst offenders here. They target specific sales and marketing pain points, encouraging you to buy ‘more’ software titles over time to solve an increasing string of problems. If this is your approach then your demand marketing is broken. Your technology stack is actually getting more fragmented over time, when in fact you need to take the opposite approach. Effective demand marketing focuses on a core set of technologies, integrated as a holistic ‘total’ stack and really double-down on how these technologies work together around a customer value chain. This helps technology become the underpinning of a true, repeatable lead-to-revenue process, with a 360-degree view of the customer at every stage of this process.

3. Your senior leadership (including CEO, head of sales and head of marketing) claim they are ‘aligned’ on go-to-market vision, but at the individual marketer and seller level, there is a complete lack of cohesion, and all around there are lots of random acts of sales and marketing.

There is a significant difference between building a go-to-market strategy and operationalizing this strategy. The problem comes down to this: Senior executives excel at envisioning a seamless engagement with their target customer and vision for delivering to that customer of a compelling product or service and they build solid business plans and line up venture dollars to support their thesis. Yet, when they go to hire and organize their teams, they take the same functional organizational model that has been adopted for decades. They have an events person, a content creator, a marketing automation specialist, a demand generation manager, and on and on. There is no holistic and ‘connected’ motion and usually no customer stewardship. This type of organizational structure is fracturing your demand marketing. Instead, these organizations desperately need to apply a process-driven view of their sales and marketing organizations – rationalized around customer journey.

4. You are generating ‘qualified leads,’ but they rarely (if ever) convert into pipeline opportunities and Closed Won deals — meaning, demand marketing does not provide measurable ‘lift’ to pipelines.

Shame on SiriusDecisions. They got everyone hopped up on an MQL but no one ever took the time to really break down what it means to be ‘qualified’ or to realize that following the SiriusDecisions model means that “98% of your MQLs will never result in closed business.” Demand marketing is broken when a lead is marked as ‘qualified’ because it reacted to a marketing interaction, when in fact a more comprehensive set of indicators are required. To be qualified, a lead needs to have had some sustained interactions, not just a single interaction, it must fit your ICP (or account-based model), and the lead (and their organizations) should be exhibiting lower-funnel interactions. It also is not sufficient to mark someone as qualified just because he or she has downloaded your demo/freemium software. You need more. For example, at ANNUITAS we have found that ‘content hand-raisers’ – i.e., people who consume content AND fill out a contact-me form – convert to an opportunity at a 40% greater rate than that of a typical hand-raiser only.

5. Each time a prospect or customer visits your website, engages with your emails or talks to one of your sellers, it’s like the first time.

This is a big warning sign that your demand marketing is broken. Where is the customer journey orchestration? There are multiple reasons for this problem, but the core is that your demand marketing doesn’t drive the customer experience across the customer journey. It’s a lack of organization, content, and systems working together to deliver on this vision. At the most basic level, marketing automation and CMS must be working together. Too often ‘nurture’ is envisioned as a drip email activity. Instead, nurturing should be a holistic activity, and when a prospect moves from an email to your website, nurturing should seamlessly move from an outbound to an inbound mode. This reframes the concept of personalization – which is often very poorly thought out. Effective personalization must be about underpinning a customer journey by supporting it with the right content at the right time. Getting there means you need to envision the end-to-end journey, build content to support different Conversation Tracks across this journey, and integrate your go-to-market technology stack in a way that it tracks customer journey and ensures that regardless of where a prospect lands, where they are in their journey is acknowledged and supported. This includes sales team interactions, where sales enablement should focus on giving a seller insight into where a prospect is in his/her customer journey, AND enabling the seller to effectively support forward motion through this journey.

6. You have lots of stats on your marketing and sales activities, but you have no idea what leads to a Closed Won deal.

Organizations need more than merely to ‘close the loop’ and they definitely need more than mere ‘attribution.’ Your demand marketing is broken if it can’t enable a repeatable Demand Process. Optimizing this process requires tuning the points of interaction during the customer journey. Every content interaction, every channel interaction, every sales touchpoint. But most importantly, the analytical framework should be built around the concept of being able to slice and dice these interactions any way necessary – i.e., not having preconceived concepts around groupings of interactions, such as through ‘campaign’ designations. There should be a central concept of multi-interaction tracking, and this data should flow through your CMS, marketing automation, and CRM, and marketing automation should be the primary correlator (not your CRM). Such a continuous flow of telemetry – when compared to Closed Won outcomes – gives the only objective way to truly figure out the ‘critical path’ that consistently leads to successful Closed Won outcomes. It also enables an objective look at how to optimize demand marketing ROI.

7. You describe demand marketing as being about ‘building a brand’ or providing ‘air cover for your sellers.

Demand marketing is actually very simple. It’s about two things:  1.) Orchestrating customer engagement and 2.) providing lift to pipelines. Effective demand marketing subsequently comes down to the very ‘un-sexy’ activity of customer journey enablement – the arbitrage opportunity of closing the gap between what a prospect needs and what you have to offer by better aligning to the prospect’s acquisition and customer education process. It is a daily, repetitious, bottoms-up activity; whereas, so-called ‘brand building’ and ‘air cover’ are about un-targeted and typically unhelpful brand advertising that does little to improve customer journey alignment and enablement. You know when someone has this focus then their objective is not lift to pipeline.

8. Your solution to building demand is to buy lists, have outbound callers reach out and then spam your prospects with ‘sales cadences.’

Somehow the last few years have built and supported an entire mythology around the ‘goodness’ and effectiveness of ‘sales cadences’ – a super-low-performing outbound demand activity devoid of a sense of duty to customer experience. ANNUITAS ran some benchmarking for a SaaS software client, analyzing the performance of all of their acquisition channels against Closed Won outcomes. The worst-performing channel was their outbound SDR group with a 0.07% elasticity – i.e., that when an SDR reached out to a contact, the probability that interaction would turn into Closed Won was 0.07%. And this company was a major proponent of sales cadences. The other problem with this line of thinking is that it perpetuates an approach where sales and marketing are ‘un-integrated’ in their go-to-market approach, when in fact the two should be working together around enabling customer journey – and where organizations such as inside sales should rationalize their role not simply around ‘outbound calling’ but around being a strategic bridge between upstream marketing and downstream selling activities.

9. Demand marketing is a ‘campaign’ not a perpetual activity.

You know how you get here. You ask your demand marketing to capture ‘low-hanging fruit’ and/or to ‘pivot’ … endlessly. You are constantly ‘duct taping’ your demand marketing and so your demand marketing is broken. The problem with this POV is that it leads to a growing group of interruptive, random acts which has a low effectiveness (because they are largely shooting in the dark and never get optimized), and the minute you stop ‘campaigning,’ your leads stop flowing. The fundamental shift that organizations need to make is from such a ‘tactical’ demand marketing state to a true ‘strategic’ demand marketing state. ANNUITAS has found that organizations that make this shift typically see a 4-10X improvement in lead-to-revenue performance.


What all nine of these ‘signs’ have in common is that they all speak to challenges organizations have in actually ‘operationalizing’ their demand marketing strategy and subsequently in ensuring that demand marketing delivers consistent and repeatable sales lift.

Companies can envision the targets and need for their demand marketing, but they can’t operationalize it, and so it falls apart in execution.

So how can you turn the boat? How can you ‘transform’ from a tactical to a strategic demand marketing state?

The starting place is to re-think your fundamental concept of a Strategic Demand Marketing Plan. This whitepaper provides just such a blueprint – helping you start to tackle not only the symptoms from above, but also the underlying problems that are their root cause.

The other element is ensuring you drive Demand Marketing Transformation in a phased approach – ensuring you ‘do’ get near-term lift and tackle ‘low-hanging fruit,’ but without doing it in a discursive and haphazard fashion.

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