It’s no secret that marketers are under constant pressure to deliver leads to sales. They typically have a set number of leads that they need to pass to sales on a monthly or even a weekly basis, and therefore need to function as an efficient, effective demand machine. For most CMOs, meeting the challenge of regularly delivering hundreds or even thousands of leads means building a strategy around marketing campaigns. Unfortunately, doing so rarely yields great results.
The problem is that most campaigns are far more tactical than strategic. The marketing teams that use campaigns tend to be focused on executing lots of random activities — emails, webinars, events, social media, pay per click, you name it — that rely on buyers being in the right place at the right time to be effective. Not only that, but if a buyer isn’t at the same stage in their journey as the content you’re offering in your campaign, you’ll have wasted money on that impression and potentially lost some credibility with that person. For example, if your lead is in a top of funnel stage, but you’re sending a product brochureware for a solution that may not even be right, you’re reaching that lead at the wrong time with the wrong information. That means that the odds of campaigns getting the desired results are pretty slim.
For these and other reasons, campaign-based marketing is usually much more of a spray-and-pray approach to generating a volume of leads rather than one that is thoughtful or focused on targeting and generating high-quality leads.
Ultimately, taking a tactical, campaign-based approach to marketing doesn’t work very well.
The Problem with Campaigns
Fundamentally, marketing campaigns are a series of activities that are intended to target very specific audiences with the goal of creating interest and engagement, and ultimately generating leads. They might be built around creating demand for a particular product or service or demonstrating your thought leadership within your industry. For example, a very simple six-week campaign to promote some new research you’ve produced might include a series of activities such as:
- Issuing a press release
- Hosting a corresponding webinar
- Sending out a series of related emails
- Promoting the research on social media
At large organizations, of course, campaigns can quickly become big and unwieldy, consisting of lots of different components and dozens of individual activities. Yet regardless of the size of a campaign, the reality is that it’s only going to be interesting to certain people who are at a particular stage of the buying process and who you happen to catch at the right time and in the right place. While you may hit some targets who fit those criteria perfectly, you’re missing out on many potential buyers who do not, and – even worse – you’re creating a poor customer experience for those who aren’t at this stage in the buying process, but could be in the future.
The underlying problem with campaigns it that they’re too narrow and simply don’t take the entire scope of potential buyers into account. Plus, they rarely consider other key questions such as, what’s the right message to deliver and where does my audience prefer to consume content? To get real results, marketers need a much more holistic approach. That approach should identify where a buyer is in their journey and include enough targeted content to ensure that you’re actively engaging all of your audience – regardless of where they are or what their particular situation may be.
Of course, that’s no small feat and something that traditional campaigns just aren’t designed to deliver. Plus, campaigns have other drawbacks too.
The Hidden Costs of Campaigns
It’s not just that traditional campaigns aren’t up to the job of delivering high-quality leads. They can also actively drag your marketing efforts down. Let’s look at some of the ways how:
- Campaigns are people intensive. Running campaigns isn’t easy. They are a time and resource-intensive exercise. As a result, marketing teams can easily devote a large portion of their focus on campaigns that wind up yielding little if any meaningful results, or that drive leads without revenue. Practically speaking, that means that the marketing teams engaged in campaigns tend to deliver a lower return on investment.
- Campaigns are inefficient. Campaigns usually run in short cycles that often last four to six weeks. When you use them, you’re constantly stopping and starting and never have the opportunity to build any momentum. Instead, you’re always pivoting in a new direction to chase the newest product release, promotion, etc. Lead delivery is erratic and creates a “feast or famine” of net new leads of unknown quality. That doesn’t align with sales’ need for a consistent flow of leads or help the company achieve revenue goals. It’s a frantic, tactical way of working rather than a strategic approach to long-term success.
- Campaigns are expensive. Marketing teams often pay for expensive tools to help support their campaigns. Marketing automation platforms are a good example. While they’re very powerful tools, most marketers pay thousands of dollars every month for a MAP, without ever taking advantage of the majority of its capabilities. Instead, the MAP is used as very expensive email delivery system. Having the right tools is important, but unless you’re using them properly and deriving meaningful benefits from them, they can be a major drag on your budget.
Ultimately, campaigns just don’t work very well. And, not only that, they can actually have negative effects on your marketing efforts by depriving them of focus and resources. What all of this suggests is that marketers need a better approach to generating leads. They need to make the critical shift from tactical demand generation to strategic demand marketing.
Making the Shift to Strategic Demand Marketing
Unlike campaign-based marketing, strategic demand marketing takes a long-term, buyer-centric approach to reaching your prospects and customers. At a very high level, here’s how it works:
- Start by understanding your audience.
To be successful in marketing, you need to know your prospects and customers inside and out. To gain that understanding you have to ask them important questions, such as what their pain points are and what issues are keeping them up at night. If they’re already an existing customer, you’ll want to know why they decided to buy from you. You should get this information by talking to your prospects and customers directly and then validating what you find with third-party research. If that’s not possible, grill your sales team or other customer-facing colleagues for information. You could even try scouring your company’s CRM for details. You also need to identify and understand the individual segments within your audience. Today an average of 6.8 people are involved in B2B solution purchases, up from 5.4 just two years ago.1 That means that you’re not just marketing to one person, but to a larger audience of both primary and secondary decision makers as well as influencers. To effectively market to this committee, you can’t take a one-size-fits-all approach. You’ve got to create tailored content and experiences for everyone involved in purchase decisions, and make sure that you’re delivering them via the best channels.
- Map out the buying process.
Every person involved in a purchasing decision is going to be on a different journey. A key decision-maker, for example, might kick off the buying process, delegate most of the work to others, and then re-insert herself at the end to make the final decision. It’s important to know what each person’s buying process looks like so that you can see where you do (and don’t) need to be actively targeting them.
- Build a content model.
A content model marries the information you have gathered about your prospects and customers with what you know about their buying journey. It should tell you who within the purchasing decision process you need to create content assets for at each step and what particular pain point those assets should be designed to address. As a general rule of thumb, content at the early stages of the process (or at the top of the funnel) should be more thought leadership in nature and designed to establish credibility and drive brand recognition. As you move through the process, you can then start creating assets that focus more specifically on your company and the solutions you offer. Not sure where to start with content? Read: Four Steps to Take Before Launching New Content.
- Create and maintain the Lead Management Framework.
The Lead Management Framework ensures that no opportunity is lost between marketing and sales — and only those buyers who are truly ready to buy are passed to sales as qualified leads. Implementation of the framework includes field mapping, synchronization between marketing automation and CRM, lead capture form strategy (including progressive profiling model implementation), and everything needed for lead qualification, scoring and routing. Final steps include key elements such as service level agreements (SLAs) and “lead status” models that govern the hand-off of qualified leads—and ensure that those leads convert into opportunities and revenue.
Why Strategic Demand Marketing Makes Sense
Although achieving a strategic demand marketing state may seem daunting, it’s worth the energy. Once complete, you’ve got a long-term program in place that you can use to actively nurture everyone in your target audience. That way, you no longer have to be in a reactive, tactical, or campaign-based mode.
To get there, we recommend embarking on a Digital Demand Transformation. A Digital Demand Transformation will align your people, processes, content, technology, and data around the buyer to create a truly buyer-centric demand program.
To learn more about strategic demand marketing read: Making the Critical Shift from Tactical Demand Generation to Strategic Demand Marketing
1 Nicholas Toman, Brent Adamson, Cristina Gomez, “The New Sales Imperative,” The Harvard Business Review, March / April, 2017.
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