Your marketing isn’t working: The red flags you shouldn’t ignore – Part 2: Episode 19

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If your marketing programs aren’t driving the results that you need, it’s time to do something different. Because quite frankly, if you’re falling behind on revenue and you think doubling down on the marketing tactics that you’ve already been doing are going to deliver different results, you’re probably going to be disappointed. Continuing the conversation from our last episode, our team digs even deeper into the red flags that you shouldn’t ignore with your marketing programs to discuss common hurdles that might be hindering your marketing efforts and give actionable insights to reimagine your approach to achieving high growth.


[00:00] Show intro

[00:23] Building a strategy around digital ads

[05:11] When prospects don’t feel compelled to make a change

[11:10] When leads have long sales cycles and low close rates

[16:40] Once you have demand built up, you can change these red flags

[18:24] Key takeaway

[18:55] Outro

The Demand Gen Fix is hosted by GrowthMode Marketing. Visit 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 the HR tech industry.


We’re going to go ahead and jump back into our conversation that we started in our last episode.


As you’re building a strategy around digital ads, if that’s part of your plan, you also need to be realistic about what is the goal or what are you trying to accomplish with those ad programs. With a digital ad program, it is really important that you understand the level of commitment you’re asking that prospect for. So, if you are putting these ads out in front of somebody and you think that ad is a top of funnel message, I’m going to drive them to this landing page, they’re going to want a demo, they’re going to sign up right away, they’re ready to talk to our sales team. You have to think about that and step back and look at what are you asking them for. And then, you know, what level of buying intent is represented there. You’re driving someone to your page, they want to do research based on maybe that ad that they saw, but yet the only option that they have there is to sign up for a demo. I think that’s really important that you step back and take a look at those types of things as well. And just again, be realistic about what your program looks like and what you’re trying to accomplish.


When we get someone to a demo, our close rate is really high. That makes sense. If I’m willing to see a demo, that’s a very high intent indicator that I’m ready to buy, but 95% or more of companies are not actually at that point. So I think as you think about your digital advertising strategy, maybe you’re not focused on trying to capture the high intent buyers right now because there’s a lot of competition out there. It’s hard to find them. You are trying to drive more brand awareness and trust in the market for the 95% plus that are not currently in market. So, you can use digital ads a different way and it might be, okay, we’ve got this really good research report.


We’re not gating it because we want them to read it, but we want to drive them to our site to look at that content. And now we don’t know who they are yet, but we have the ability to retarget them with ads and continue to feed them very relevant content so that we’re building that audience. You know, we don’t yet know who they are, but eventually they might subscribe to your podcast, your blog, your webinar, sign up for your webinars that you’re doing, follow you on social media, but they’re consuming all that content and you’re very strategically getting it in front of them versus just using digital ads to drive demo requests. If there’s really high demand in the market and not a lot of competition, they find that those ads work very well for them. Unfortunately, in a very cluttered market like HR technology, you don’t always have that luxury. And so you have to rethink how you’re even using the digital ads.


And if you are using a lot of digital ads, and that’s your strategy, you should evaluate if this is an issue for you, how many leads are you getting from your digital advertising? Is it working in that way? You’re probably wondering why it’s not. Also, what is your average cost per lead? As Deanna mentioned, it can be very expensive to do digital ads, and if you know your conversion rate is really low, is that the best use of your funds to put into the digital advertising space? Or could you be building out content and put that money somewhere else and reduce your digital advertising spend. In the same vein, how many of those beads and people that are reaching out are actually converting into new business?


There are a lot of companies out there that when they’ve dug into digital advertising where they thought it was their best performing marketing tactic and they were getting the most quote unquote leads from, they actually find out the close rates are lowest for digital ads than any of the other marketing programs they’re doing. Data is important. Sometimes it’s hard to measure everything and you may not be able to get the insights you’re looking for easily, but if and when you can measure things like the digital advertising efforts, definitely do it because every once in a while, you find out what you thought was your best performing program actually is poorly performing when it comes to turning into actual business for your organization.


So the next red flag that I think we should talk about is when prospects don’t feel compelled to make a change. This is something that we’ve heard here and there, and I think something that probably more people than not are sometimes feel, or this is what comes up, is that prospects aren’t feeling compelled to make a change. You feel like you’ve got a strong message or case for change. So, you feel like internally the message is there, we know why prospects should choose our solution over our competitors, and we know exactly what’s going to get their attention and all of that, you find that there’s really no sense of urgency for those prospects to actually make a change. So, you’re getting this message in front of them, but whatever it is within that message just isn’t compelling enough to get them to say, yep, it’s time I changed software. I’m going to go through that entire implementation process again and I’m going to move from one to the next. That’s another red flag. I would say that comes up a lot.


A lot of our clients are very passionate about their products. They’re very, you know, they, they know that it’s better. They know that maybe it’s even less expensive, maybe it’s more efficient. There’s all kinds of reasons that people feel very passionate about why everybody should be using their product. But if you’re not making that statement known to your prospects and, and really convincing them of it, it’s not going to do you any good. You have to rethink your messaging. You can say till you’re blue in the face, it’s the best, it’s the best, it’s the best. But if your message is just not hitting home with these people, like Erica said, they don’t want to go through the rigamarole of having to change software and all the things that go with that and all of the training and everything. So you really have to make sure that you’re hitting the message correctly. And sometimes that means maybe even trying a few different ways to say it, a few different messages and testing them out.


Right? It sounds so obvious to say that, hey, if your message isn’t resonating, clearly you need to change it. The reality is for organizations, it’s not always obvious because like you said Jenni, they’re so passionate inside the organization and they believe with such conviction that we can see they need this. It’s clear to us this is why they need it. The problem is we’re not getting enough traction. I think it’s really hard to step back and acknowledge that as an organization that, hey, we’re not onto something here with this messaging. It’s not resonating the way we expected it did. And it’s okay to take a step back and talk to the market and find out how they view things, why they have no sense of urgency around it, what their priorities are, and start to test the different variations of your messaging to see what actually resonates.


And you’ve got to build the long game. So even if you have really good messaging and it doesn’t feel like it’s getting traction and you’ve had those conversations with individuals in the market, who would be your ideal customer profile and everything lines up, well, you’ve got to play the long game. It takes time to build trust and they have to hear the message over and over and over for it to really stick with them and for them to come along on the journey. And so, you just kind of have to evaluate, is our message where it needs to be? If not, let’s start testing variations of, and if it is where it needs to be, how do we get out there in the market more to get in front of them on a consistent basis? And to reinforce that message over and over and accept that this doesn’t happen overnight. It’s something that takes time, especially if you’re new to the market or your messaging is relevant relatively new to the audience you’ve been talking to for years.


I think you make a good point, Deanna, with consistency too, because sometimes you’re working in silos and you’re trying different marketing tactics or you’re doing different pieces of content and your message doesn’t say stay consistent. And sometimes you forget too to focus that message on your ideal customer profile, which is really important. Why that kind of work is done upfront so that as you build out this message and as you test different variations and you start to think about that long gain, you’re able to continue to build that consistent message and so that people start to see that same thing from your brand. And those types of things start to resonate and stick. And so that ultimately when they do identify they have a problem and they’re looking for a solution, they can remember, oh yeah, that’s right. I’ve seen something on this before. And they start to remember or think of your brand.


So if you’re having this problem where you are not getting the engagement with your prospects, try and think about what content do you have out there and are they engaging with it? And in what respect are they engaging or not engaging?  What percentage of the people that are looking at what you’re putting out there are raising their hand and saying they’re ready to have a conversation. If all of that is low, you know, if your engagement is low and your and percentage of conversions is low, that means you need to start to rethink your message and start to talk about what is our unique point of view? What is it about our company that we can say with conviction is different or better or whatever than everybody else. And just iterate, iterate, iterate. Get it out there all the time, over and over until eventually you break through the clutter.


One more red flag that we commonly run into is when leads pass to sales have long sales cycles and low close rate, that’s a red flag. And I think it’s unfortunately a very common red flag that doesn’t necessarily get addressed soon enough. Because if you look at, in a typical organization, a marketing team may be measured on the number of marketing qualified leads that they pass over to sales, it starts to become a quantity game. And nobody’s going to argue that quality doesn’t matter, but I think quality doesn’t get enough attention when we as marketers are measured on how many leads are you passing to me? And we want to meet our numbers, just like sales wants to meet their numbers. And so it becomes about, okay, this person engaged with the content, let’s flip this over to sales so they can have those leads.


Sales can feed into this too at times because they’ll say, hey, I will take anything you’ll give me, send me more leads, let me have those conversations, I’ll let them out. It’s a two-way street. We’re both responsible for ensuring that we’re focusing on the quality because quantity without quality is a lot of wasted time and effort for a company. And if you don’t put a focus on quality, you’re really missing out on the opportunity because it’s possible that five high quality leads in the end bring much more to the company than a hundred low intent leads that would be passed to sales.


We really got into this in our last couple of episodes with our guest Brett. So, if you want to listen to a really good conversation between sales and marketing, go back and listen to 16 and 17 of The Demand Gen Fix to get some good insight there.


How do we evaluate this red flag? So, leads passed to sales having longer sales cycle and lower close rates. Some of the ways that you can start to evaluate if this is an issue for your organization is what indicates buying intent of the leads that are being passed. Start to look at what buying intent is actually triggered there and what you’re seeing and how long are these sales cycles? What you know are you improving? Are the quality of these leads coming over to sales? Is it improving based on the marketing efforts that you’re doing and the ways that you’re nurturing and guiding a prospect through that journey? Or is that cycle getting longer? That can help sort of dictate some of that shift you do on the marketing end. Also, look at what percentage of leads are falling out of the pipeline or going dark.


So, this is one that as marketers drives us crazy too, is that you pass over these “ leads” to sales in hope that something’s going to come from this. Because again, as Deanna mentioned, you might be measured on the quantity of leads, the number of MQLs that you create and give to sales, you give that to sales and let’s say none or a very small amount of those leads actually convert and go into that sales process. Well, what happens to those other leads if they don’t come back to marketing to be nurtured and brought through that journey? Those people are falling out of the pipeline and going dark. We need to, you know, you need to start paying attention to those types of things. And then again, just looking at overall what percentage of these leads is actually turning into new business?


And I think this is a conversation we have often with clients as well or our prospects where you talk about what percentage of these leads is actually turning into business and start to look at that bigger picture. I think a lot of times you’ll be surprised that number may be smaller than you expect where you say, well we gave sales 2000 leads over the last quarter and how much of that turned into business? That’s something really important to be looking at and be aware of and make sure that you understand. That will help drive some of your shift in marketing as well.


If that percentage of leads that actually turn into business is low, you probably have a lead quality problem. I think it’s really easy to point the finger at sales and say you have a sales problem that is maybe sometimes a possibility, but many times that is not actually the issue. The issue is the quality of leads that are being passed over and most of them are low intent, not actually in market to buy. So of course the close rates are low because if you were handing much higher quality leads over to sales and they were able to spend their time instead of chasing a ton of leads that are never going to go anywhere at this point in time, but they were spending their time moving the needle with the prospects that are actually in market to buy now, there’s going to be a much higher success rate for the sales team with the leads that you’re giving them. So it’s really important to, before you start to point the finger and say, I’m so frustrated, we hand over these leads to sales and they never go anywhere to take a step back and evaluate, like is what you’re handing them over something that actually should be handed over to them.


So if you’re dealing with a lot of these red flags with your company, and I think that I would say probably everyone’s dealing with at least one, if not all of them at one point or another, seems as though maybe you haven’t created enough demand in the market. And that’s where demand generation really comes in. And we definitely deal with this. This is our forte. So we know that once you have demand built up in the market, you will definitely be able to overcome a lot of these red flags. And you just need to remember that most companies are not currently in the market to buy. And so it takes a long time. You have to nurture these people, you need to play the long game and really build up your brand awareness and do all of the steps it takes to build up that demand so that when they’re ready to buy, they’re going to think of you hopefully first.


It’s not very likely that you’re going to be able to convince someone to buy if they’re not in market at that time, and they’re not going to have that sense of urgency. If you’re not thinking about going back to the point mentioned earlier, if you’re not thinking about that long game, that’s really where these red flags you’re going to continue to run into these things, is you need to think about that long game and understand that you need to take somebody through the beginning. When they’re not in market to buy, you need to be out there in front of them and creating brand awareness and building trust with your brand for those prospects so that when they actually are in market to buy, you’re going to be a consideration in their buying process or their discovery with different platform software or solutions.


I think the net takeaway here of this conversation is that if your marketing programs aren’t driving the results that you need, it’s time to do something different. Because quite frankly, if you’re falling behind on revenue and you think doubling down on the marketing tactics that you’ve already been doing are going to deliver different results, you’re probably going to be disappointed. And so don’t ignore the red flags, it’s time to take a step back and, and rethink your marketing approach.


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 from more perspectives on demand generation and B2B marketing strategies. Plus give us a like, tell your friends, we’ll see you next time.

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