From constantly fighting fires to doing tactics because you’ve always done them to trying to be everything to everyone with your marketing – we’ll dig in to talk about the pitfalls that commonly trip up marketing teams.
[00:00] Show intro
[00:24] Today’s topic: common marketing mistakes
[01:10] Doing reactive marketing
[07:37] Doing what we’ve always done
[13:54] Trying to be everything to everyone
[20:33] Not building an audience
[26:33] Wrapping it up
The Demand Gen Fix is hosted by GrowthMode Marketing. Visit www.growthmodemarketing.com to learn more about us.
Hey everybody, it’s Jenni from GrowthMode Marketing. You are listening to The Demand Gen Fix the podcast where our team of GrowthModers and our guests discuss the ins and outs of demand generation and why we believe it’s the key to long-term sustainable growth, especially in HR tech industry.
Hey everybody, welcome to the Demand Gen Fix podcast, episode number 14 with GrowthMode Marketing. Deanna, Erica and I are going to be talking about common marketing mistakes that may kill your growth potential. I think we’re all here because we’re interested in marketing, right? That’s why we’re listening to this podcast. That’s why we’re talking about these marketing things, and we all know that a smart marketing strategy can create the catalyst for high growth, but we also are aware that there are a lot of common mistakes that all of us make and have made in the past that we should talk about and address so that we can prevent those from happening in the future. To get started, we’re going to jump right in and talk about one of the big mistakes that we’ve hit on before, but it’s really important, so we need to keep hitting on it. Doing reactive marketing is something that we all do. All companies do it. Marketing agencies do it. We’re all trying to put out fires rather than preventing them. Some days you feel like all you’ve done is put out fires. There are a lot of things that fall under this category, the first one I can think of is the putting out fires. How about you guys? What kinds of things can you think of when you think of reactive marketing?
One major contributor here is just plain not having a strategy. So your marketing team or marketing person operates without a strategy. You just do these different pieces, or maybe you see something you’re like, Hey, that might work for us. I’m going to try that. Or you get a request from someone on the team and you’re like, sure, I can do that, or I can create that piece. There really is no strategy upfront, so you don’t have a plan or a roadmap to refer back to throughout the year or the quarter. Another thing is, maybe you have a strategy, but you forget to refer back to that strategy or you don’t stick to it. At GrowthMode Marketing, if our project starts with building a strategy for you, that’s our job, to continue to refer you back to that strategy.
And that’s something that we all run into throughout the process. As an agency, we’ll continue to look back to that strategy and keep you on track and keep things moving forward based on what we originally decided was the plan. But on the client side too, just at the beginning of the year, maybe that’s an exercise where you and the team build out your strategy. Will you get buy-in from the rest of the organization? Then you never revisit that document, it hasn’t been open since January and now it’s September, and you’re wondering why some of the results aren’t there that you originally anticipated. You may or may not have a strategy, if you do, you’re not following it, I think that is a huge mistake.
It seems so obvious. As marketers, we should have a strategy. I highly doubt anyone listening is like, that’s a brilliant idea, we should have a strategy. I’m surprised how often we come across companies where they don’t actually have a marketing strategy. Or they created a strategy but they’re not actually following it. And I think this is a mistake. I’ve been around the block a few times when it comes to marketing and that happens. Any size company everywhere, from a marketing department standpoint, there could be a few out there that are so hyper focused and really good at not being reactive. But it’s really hard because we are being pulled in 500 different directions. You’ve got all these people coming to you asking for ad hoc work. We like to call it random acts of marketing. It’s a real struggle, especially if your CEO comes to you and says, hey, I have an idea.
I think we should do this. It’s really hard to say no to the big guy in charge, hopefully the big lady in charge. But sometimes you have to be able to say no, because reactive marketing and some of these other mistakes that we’re going to talk about, ultimately kill a company’s full growth potential, which is so anti-marketing, right? The whole reason our department exists is to help move the business forward, to create brand awareness to help the bottom line of the company. It’s really frustrating as marketers when we step back and we know we’ve worked really, really hard creating a lot of stuff to move the business forward. And ultimately if you start to poke holes in it, it may not have followed the strategy, it may not have supported the ultimate mission, it may not have been the highest priority to move the needle that you should have been working on, and that’s a big miss.
And so, we call that out and raise our hands like, yep, we’ve been guilty of it in past lives too. The struggle is real. Another thing I think that can be very reactive from a marketing standpoint, it’s not just getting ad hoc requests and managing to those, but lacking the patients to see programs through to results if they don’t produce quick wins. And sometimes from a marketing perspective, we may have the patience to see it through, we may know it takes time, but it’s really hard when you’re getting pressure from your sales team, from your CEO, from your board of directors, your investment group, that they’re not seeing results quick enough. Lack of patience is a huge growth killer for organizations. How do you manage both short-term type of marketing activities with the long-term strategy that you need in place to ultimately create that catalyst for growth?
I think that the examples that you mentioned, you know, the CEO coming to you with an idea because they saw some other company try something and so they want to try it. I’m not seeing the results, I want to see right now, so let’s try some things. What ends up happening is you’re trying so many things to just see what works and what can move the needle that you have no priorities, and you have no focus. And again, you’re not sticking to that strategy that you started with and so you’re basically just throwing spaghetti at the wall and that just doesn’t work.
The key takeaway for this mistake is you need to develop a plan and stick to it because those random acts of marketing don’t drive meaningful results for your organization. If you take a step back and you look at what your plan was and what you actually accomplished quarter over quarter, a lot of organizations will actually realize, we didn’t stay on track the way we were supposed to. It’s a good gut check to continually ask yourself the things that we’re doing, is it moving the needle for us? Is it driving us towards the end goal? Or are we getting distracted with a lot of work that isn’t the right work to be doing?
A lot of marketing departments and agencies say, it’s April, it’s time to do the spring newsletter, it’s June, it’s time to do the summer event. Just doing things you’ve always done because you’ve always done them. It’s like you’re on a calendar, you’re just automatic and never really taking the time to look at those different marketing initiatives and ask yourself, are these even working anymore? Is this relevant anymore? Are we doing this just for the sake of doing it because we always have or have things changed? Are people still engaging in these marketing initiatives or are people dropping off? Because the way that people interact with content, the way that people are buying these days, everything’s changed.
That’s a really good mistake to bring up that we see often too. I can think of a bunch of examples off the top of my head where it’s, we’ve always done this or our customers expect this from us, or our team expects this to go out. A lot of times this is something that in the past you might have gotten some feedback on different activities that it’s nice that you guys send that out or it’s nice that you do this, but if that’s your driving factor, and these things don’t point back to what is your larger plan or what are the things that you’ve identified are really going to move the needle and make a difference and ultimately drive that growth.
When you’re doing these random things that you’ve just always done and you’re trying to fit the pieces in the puzzle that don’t fit, you continue to see those random acts of marketin. When you look back at all of these really disjointed efforts, you’ll say, yeah, that newsletter didn’t contribute back to anything else I was doing. And that event that we took all these resources and time to do that didn’t contribute back to my ultimate goals. All of those disjointed efforts really don’t equate to much in the long run. You’re going to look back and you’re going to be dissatisfied with the results of these things and you might not even be able to put results on them. It’s just kind of bucketed in the things we do.
At times as marketers we feel that we need to do this because we’ve always done it and our clients expect this newsletter or this webinar series or whatever it is. But, if you stopped it, would anybody notice? A true test would be to skip it, see what happens. Does anybody raise their hand and say, whoa, what happened to that newsletter or what happened to that webinar series or event we’ve always participated in? Or is it crickets? And if it’s crickets, that’s very telling that your perception may have been, it was the expectation, but from a client or a prospect perspective, sadly they didn’t even notice that you stopped doing that particular tactic.
Also looking at what another company’s doing or coming from another company yourself and going to another one and thinking, well this tactic worked really well at my last company, or I saw it work really well for that company, so it should work well here too. Sometimes that’s true, but a lot of times what worked there isn’t going to work where you are because one, marketing always needs to be evolving and things that worked in the past, we know they’re not working the same way that they used to, but also different organizations that have different audiences and different needs, they’re not necessarily going to consume things the same way, not going to engage with your content the same way. They’re not going to react the same way.
So you can’t take a blueprint of what worked really well at your last company or a different company and necessarily apply it to the company you’re at now because it may not work. I’ve seen many marketers get very frustrated by that because they’re like, this is something we have always done. It has worked at my last three companies and I am getting zero traction here. What am I doing wrong? Have I lost my touch? The reality is the way buyers buy has changed significantly, they’re not reacting the same to marketing tactics as they did in the past. You have to evolve the way that you’re doing things and you have to think about, should I do this because we’ve always done it, or should I do it because it’s going to drive results? Obviously, the answer is you need to do it because it drives results. And if it doesn’t, you need to rethink how you’re spending your time and effort building out marketing programs.
I’ve had specific conversations recently where it’s an aha, that newsletter or those PPC ads, those types of activities don’t necessarily make the most sense in your specific use case right now. But that doesn’t mean you can’t still use the different topics or the ideas or the content that you’re using behind that. Just think of other vehicles and other ways to sort of get that message out there. You need to be adjusting to the way that your prospects are buying and looking for their information.
We’re not saying that you should never do a newsletter. We’re not saying that you shouldn’t be doing any of these things because they’re not working. We’re just saying that you need to evaluate and don’t do things just because it’s the way you’ve always done it. Do things because they’re making a difference and evaluate and analyze what you’re doing.
Another mistake is trying to be everything to everyone. I’m sure all of us can relate, the mistake there is just trying to be everything to everybody and to appeal to too broad of an audience and really not being able to. What happens then when you’re doing this is all of your marketing efforts and all of the content, you’re creating is so generic and high level that your messages really don’t resonate with the right audience. You haven’t identified who that right audience is.
If you get way too broad with your messaging and with your audience, everything’s just watered down. You have this huge message and this huge audience and it’s just going nowhere because there’s no target, there’s no definition on what your message is and who you are talking to.
This is a really common mistake and I think a lot of organizations and marketers would hear this and be like, well that’s not us. We can sell our product to many companies, and we’ve really dialed our messaging in and we’re going into the HR tech space. We’ve used this example before, but the reality is it’s a very crowded market and you’re competing against a lot of other companies in the HR tech space. If you are in a different space, sometimes we run across companies where their total addressable market is literally 200 companies. That’s a little different. But if you are have a really, really broad total addressable market and you are trying to compete against a lot of other vendors, that’s where trying to be everything to everyone is really an issue because you are blending in with everybody else.
It’s like a sea of sameness. If I’m purchasing HCM software and I’ve got 50 options out there and every one of those vendors is marketing to me, it starts to all sound the same, which nobody wants to hear because every company believes they have these differentiators that make them better, that make them unique, that make them the right choice for the person they’re trying to sell to. But from the buyer perspective, if they’re not seeing those big differences or seeing what they consider meaningful differentiation, that’s really hard to break through that clutter. You need an ideal customer profile to focus your marketing efforts. And that doesn’t mean you can’t sell to people that are not in your ideal customer profile. It means you’re marketing specifically to attract those right fit clients because you’ve got to focus somewhere on your marketing, or you sound like everybody else. Narrowing down your audience and narrowing down your messaging, the whole point of not being everything to everyone is that you start to have a more meaningful message that breaks through the clutter and resonates with the right companies instead of all companies. Because it’s really hard to resonate with all companies
And people may think, you know, listen to that and say, no, no, no, we need to just talk to everybody and then the 1% of customers that we get out of that is worth it. But you have to also think then how much time, how much energy, how much money are you putting into all of that kind of stuff. When if you really narrowed down who you’re talking to and what your message is, you’re going to get a much higher percentage of quality leads and quality customers and your, everything is just so much more efficient.
And sometimes I think we hear well, we’re hesitant to narrow down the audience too much because we don’t want to deter people, we want to focus on hospitality, but we don’t want to deter people within the manufacturing industry. That’s not the goal necessarily. But the goal then is just to get that focus so you can start to build your pipeline of ideal prospects within hospitality. But that doesn’t mean manufacturing companies wouldn’t come to your website and then decide, yes, this might be a fit as well. I think that’s something we hear a lot is there’s hesitation there. And that’s kind of the whole point of this piece of the conversation here is you have to identify and narrow down your message in order to really target that audience and build your pipeline with that ideal customer.
When we start working with a client, we will recommend identifying one ideal customer profile and building the marketing story around reaching out to them and being hyper-focused. But if you get really good at doing that and you’re building up that client base, you could absolutely develop another ideal customer profile and start to develop marketing programs and your unique point of view and your content around that as well. So, it’s not that you’re locked into one and all of a sudden, we can sell to everybody, but we had to go niche because GrowthMode Marketing told us we had to pick a specific audience. Master that one then go ahead and add another one if that makes sense for your business. But the point is, if you’re selling to say hospitals or you’re selling to manufacturing, you shouldn’t be talking to those two very different types of companies or organizations the same way because it’s going to resonate better with each of those markets if your content is very specific to the unique needs that they have around managing that employee base and shift differentials and the whole hiring process and all those things people want to buy from companies that understand them and understand their company’s challenges and their industry.
That’s the whole point of narrowing down. You’re not trying to be everything to everyone, you’re just trying to have a conversation that’s relevant to each group of people. So you can always expand, but my advice would be get really good at that first ICP before you start adding more to the mix.
Another mistake that we see a lot is not building your audience to follow along and continually engage with your content. If you’re not putting your ICP and the right content out there and continually updating it and making sure that they’re engaging and following it, what good is it? What good is your ICP and what good is your content if you’re not engaging them?
It’s really important to build an audience. If you’re building out a demand generation engine, you’ve got to continually fuel it with more content. The whole reason for that is because you want people to follow along. Because we know on a normal year, 95% of companies are not in market to buy when the economy is bad. More than 95% are not in market to buy because everyone’s pulling their budgets back. You’ve got to build that brand awareness and trust with those companies long before they’re ready to make that purchase, especially considering the fact that nobody wants to talk to a sales rep anymore. And if you don’t believe me, go talk to sales reps and sales leaders in the B2B space right now because I’ve had lots of conversations with them and with marketing leaders who have said, this is really hard right now.
The things that worked in the past aren’t working. People are avoiding having conversations with us. I just had a conversation with a leader yesterday who nailed it on the head when he said, prospects don’t want to talk to us until they’re ready to sign the contract. That’s the reality of what we’re living in and what we’re dealing with as marketing and sales leaders is they don’t want to talk to us, which makes that content you’re putting out there really, really, really important because that has to be your best sales rep. If you’re not putting content out on a regular basis, if you are not building an audience to follow you and you are not creating content for each stage of the funnel, you are not going to be shortlisted. They’re not going to call you when they’re ready to sign that contract because they found that information with a different vendor.
Really building that digital footprint is what it comes down to. And when you know that people don’t want to talk until, they’re deciding, if you are the one out there without content available to help drive somebody through their buying journey and help guide them through these different stages of the process and make these things readily available. If somebody could get their hands on this virtual demo or if they could get their hands on this report or this white paper, that’s going to be their deciding factor. Don’t put a gate to prevent somebody from accessing that kind of information and helping them make that decision and moving towards building trust with your brand. I think that’s a huge miss here and an opportunity to improve as well as you build out content. If you’re always thinking about it in that way that this is building out my digital footprint, am I creating this content to add to that content that our prospects can access as they’re trying to make decisions and before they ever come to us? Or are you creating content that’s so valuable that you can’t bear putting it in front of them for free?
My thinking has changed over the years. I used to put gates and forms in front of everything because that was the way we collected names, right? So that we had someone to market to so that we had names, leads to give to our SDRs and our sales reps, so they had somebody to follow up with. My thinking has changed on that because the way people buy today, the way they’re not willing to talk to a sales rep. If you created really good content, why the hell would you want to prevent somebody from seeing it? If that’s something that will make them think more seriously about purchasing from you? But companies are doing it all of the time. I’ve had conversations with marketing leaders who have said, this research report is really good and if we can just get people to read it, it really makes them think about what they’re doing today and how our solution can help change that. So, we put a gate on it and we’re collecting names and now I’m wondering why I’ve had a thousand people come to my landing page and I’ve only had five people submit their name because it’s something we’ve always done.
We were all trained as marketers that this is what you do. You put forms in front of that content, and you collect that name and then you chase after it. From a sales perspective, that doesn’t work anymore. All you’re doing is deterring a lot of people away from reading the content that you want them to read. So free the content, give it away, let them consume as much as they can if it builds that trust in your brand. Because if and when they’re in market, if you are giving them really good content and you’re giving them a reason to engage with your content and continue to follow along and consume your content, when they’re in market, guess what? They’re going to raise their hand. They’re going to say, I really like what you guys have been saying. I’ve been following around your content. It resonates with me. I’m looking at making a purchase. Let’s have a conversation. Those are good leads. Who doesn’t want those leads?
Exactly. I think today we have just hit the tip of the iceberg on mistakes that people can make in marketing. There’s a lot more that we can cover. So we will continue this conversation next week with a few more of these common mistakes and how you can avoid them and prevent them and what our recommendations are to correct them.
Yeah, there’s, there’s so much we could talk about. We’ve been there, we’ve done it, we’ve made the mistakes ourselves. We see it happen all the time with other companies, and we want to help you prevent those mistakes so that you can have higher growth for your company.
Thanks for joining us on The Demand Gen Fix, a podcast for HR tech marketers brought to you by GrowthMode Marketing. We sure hope you enjoyed it. Don’t forget to subscribe for more perspectives on demand generation and B2B marketing strategies. Plus give us a like, tell your friends, we’ll see you next time.
At GrowthMode, we combine the unique discipline of growth marketing and the evergreen principles of traditional marketing to develop integrated strategies and measurable programs that help businesses drive growth where it matters most to their vision. We help our B2B clients focus on their specific goals and ensure that their investment is aligned with their broader strategic vision.