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      Marketing Is Broken. So Now What?

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      Digital marketers are under a LOT of pressure these days. As we have always been, we're constantly inundated with fresh ideas, new platforms, and innovative technologies to take advantage of. But in addition to that, those of us working with high-flying startups, venture capital or private equity-backed firms, and six-figure enterprise campaigns are also wrestling with investor expectations, demanding CMOs, and an iOS update that has rocked the marketing world.

      Fellow marketers - I feel your pain!

      Want to know what the biggest problems are that I think marketers are facing AND the solutions my agency is relying upon to solve them? Check it out below!

      Problem #1: Attribution Addiction 

      Everyone wants attribution.  We want to know exactly what is working and what is not working, down to the last penny that each asset, campaign, or effort delivers.

      I get the appeal. Certainty about attribution means you can make decisions with complete clarity. In marketing, there's not a lot of black and white. Gray areas abound. So it's easy to understand advances in attribution hold so much promise for digital marketers. Finally, black and white!

      There has been a ton of hype about iOS14 and how much that has hurt attribution for marketing campaigns. But truth be told, attribution was broken long before Apple took our 7 day view-through window away.  

      Part of the reason attribution is broken is that it has blind spots.  It leads to a cognitive bias towards the things that we can easily track. It causes us to discount strategies and tactics that move the needle in favor of those for which we can count conversions or key interactions. We forget about the halo effect.  And to top it all off, attribution gives us a false sense of who our customers are and causes us to obsess about metrics instead of delighting our audience.  

      Here's an example:

      Let's say I run a B2B demand gen campaign for one of our SaaS customers and we drive in 500 MQLs per month. We hit our MQL goal. Yippee! 

      But what about our SQL goal? What about the quality of the SQLs that come from these MQLs? Might the MQLs be completely wrong for our product?  Honestly, they might be. 

      Because these MQLs wanted to learn more or downloaded our ebook we have assumed that we have some sort of MQL aggregate that will magically turn into SQLs and then Closed-Won opportunities if we just keep marketing to them and sticking our sales team on them. Is that really a smart assumption to make?

      We get lazy with the analysis because we are getting our job done. We're attributing our brains out and hitting our MQL and SQL goals. What else can a customer want?

      Well, here's the thing. Despite the fact that you might be hitting your goals, you have to be realistic about what our data can really tell us. The blind spot marketers face - and we all face it - leaving out key data and key activities that we either aren’t looking for or we don’t have attribution for because of iOS14, or the fact that our users were somewhere we could not track their every move.  

      Think dark funnel and dark social.  

      Think halo effect.  

      Think shortened and non-existent view through windows for attribution.

      Think about organic, user-side LinkedIn activity that does not touch your company page. 

      Think G2 and Capterra.  

      So what's the solution?

      Track what you can. The people whom you answer to are going to want this information and it does have value.

      Then, dig deeper. Connect the dots. Find patterns in your conversion and event data that will allow you to see the overall flow of what your prospects are doing. Check for patterns in your sales calls that may give an indication of what is making people want to talk to your company about your product.  

      Then there is the obvious one - obsess about your customer.  What are they like?  Where are they going to do their research?  Who influences them?  

      From here, if you track what you can and ensure that you have quality assets and answers where your customers are likely to be, and you insert yourself into sales team conversations to find out what is going on after the lead leaves marketing’s purview,  you will combine attribution, insights, and feedback to dial in your efforts and continue to prove value. 

      The only thing this doesn’t fix is the obsession that your CRO, CMO, CEO, board, and investors have with those pesky numbers.  Onto point two for this one! 

      Problem #2: Too Many Cooks in the Kitchen

      There is so much pressure on the modern marketer, so many people to please, and leaders with input about what marketing should be doing. 

      This does not even account for how woefully under-resourced so many marketing departments are and all of the marketers wearing a dozen hats because those hiring you don’t understand the depth and breadth of each marketer’s role.  

      Let’s talk about the board members and the investors first.  They, and perhaps the CEO, are going to be the most focused on metrics. This makes sense. They are not marketers. They don’t know, nearly as well as you, how things work in the wild world of marketing. 

      Leaders in these roles want to see multi-touch contact and revenue attribution.  

      They don’t want to give marketing a lick of credit for something that is not directly attributed to your ad or marketing automation platform. 

      They don’t want to hear about the awareness that you have been creating.  

      All they want to see are dollars directly attributed to your efforts.  

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      Of course, there are other cooks in this kitchen outside of high level, distant executives, board members, and investors. We also have VP's of Marketing and CMO's to please.  

      If you are working for a smaller organization, you might already work closely with these roles and they know the value you are driving. In larger organizations, this might not always be the case. This means that you have to find a way to communicate the value you are creating to them, in a far more granular way than for the executives, to keep winning the budget that you need to make your campaign magic happen. 

      That is a lot of cooks to deal with in one (often under-resourced) department!  

      So what's the solution?

      This solution here is going to sound far more simple than it is - reporting.  

      I know, not super helpful at first sight... but stay with me.  

      With reporting, we can educate and tell a story.  We can make our case while giving the other person what they want.  

      So how do you do that?  

      You tie your insights and metrics to the goals of the person reading your report.  

      If your executive does not care about your branding efforts, you have to find a better way to get that executive to care than simply trying to convince them with case studies or general metrics.  

      If you want that executive to care about your branding efforts, tie the metrics that matter to them to your branding efforts in your reporting.  Demonstrate how people who interact with your top-of-funnel thought leadership articles are 20% more likely to convert, which equates to a 30% higher CAC and a 25% lower time-to-close. 

      When you weave your metrics into a narrative that ties back to the metrics that matter to your audience, you can get them to pay attention to the points that you think matter, which will win you the budget you need to drive results.  

      Don’t let someone who is not a marketer tell you that your data doesn’t matter. You know best. You know how to tie your results to what matters to your bosses.  

      You got this!

      Problem #3: Funnel Obsession Leads to Tunnel Vision

      Wouldn’t it be nice if our leads, prospects, audiences, or whatever you want to call them moved along our 1, 2, 3, or 10-step process, one-by-one, always in the correct order?  

      It would also be nice if crafting a beautiful demand-gen or lead-gen funnel was enough in and of itself.  

      But buyers don’t buy in this fashion and your funnel, as wonderful as it may be, is not enough on its own.  

      We need to get beyond the funnel

      Like me, you are trying to deal with all of these marketing pitfalls and still keep your client, be it internal or external, happy and engaged while also trying to dial in your customer’s journey so that you can meet those attribution goals.  

      Yikes - that’s a big job. 

      As hard as it is, you have to take a step back and remember that you are a marketer. Marketing is about meeting people where they are at. Providing value. Being empathetic. 

      Nobody being pushed or forced into anything ever thinks the pusher is empathetic.  

      Empathy is not just a fluffy word we are throwing around here. Empathy makes people feel safe, heard, and accepted. Those are powerful feelings and states of being.  

      How are we going to make people feel that way if they are being asked to do something before we care to ask what matters most to them? 

      This is exactly what happens though when we get tunnel vision about our funnel. When we get so caught up in the perfect copy, graphic, attribution model, intent data set, etc. that we forget we are dealing with real people who make real decisions (just like you and me) every day.

      How many times have you perfectly followed a funnel?  Gone through steps 1-5, right on through to the big purchase? I mean, come on!

      We are human. We trust other humans. We want the advice of other humans. We make decisions on our own timelines like humans.  

      This means your idea that everyone marches in lockstep down some 30-day funnel... because that is what your CRM tells you, and your average time from lead to SQL/opportunity is an illusion. It just doesn't happen!

      Yes, the average time that it takes people to get through your funnel, as a whole, may be 30 days; but how people get through that funnel, whether you really had them on your radar when they started their awareness phase of your product or service, and what actually made them convert may be different than what meets the eye.  

      So, if we know that, why don't we analyze our data with this in mind? Why don’t we assume we have blind spots and account for them?  

      Well, problems #1 and #2 above are BIG time culprits. But what else is in play? 

      I think the lack of value put on branding and a lack of understanding of the dark areas in the marketing funnel are also to blame.

      We need to look at our own planning, analysis, and optimization practices to find ways to improve our funnels... or deconstruct them, as I like to say. 

      So what's the solution?

      Deconstruct the funnel. You have had deconstructed vegetables and have likely deconstructed an IKEA furniture piece, but this is a bit different. 

      Rather than seeing the funnel as something that moves from top to bottom, pushing our prospects in the direction of our choosing, I want you to see the funnel as a series of circles that overlap.  

      Rather than pushing our prospects where we want them to go, we meet them where they are at.  This is not just logistics, but also mentally and emotionally.  

      This goes beyond pain points and unique value propositions. It even goes beyond empathy.  

      It dips into compassion.  

      Empathy allows us to understand where the consumer is at. Compassion allows us to understand what they don’t understand. It allows us to see that not only do they have this pain, but that they don’t know what the right solution is. They may not even know that a solution exists.

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      The difference here is subtle but powerful.  Let’s run through an example.

      Let’s say you make a project management tool.  

      Empathy means you understand that your customers need to manage their burn rate, cash flow, timesheets, and tasks.  Not being able to manage these items is stressful and makes business less efficient.  

      Compassion means you understand that the decision around how to solve these problems is just as hard, if not harder, than the problem itself.  This means considering the cost issues that may arise, that friends and colleagues are referring other PM tools and solutions to them, that they have to get the buy-in of decision-makers and budget holders or overcome blockers; and then on top of it all, that they have to own their decision.  

      That is a big difference.  

      This difference will change not only your messaging but your strategy as a whole.  It will introduce new platforms and tactics.  It will bring branding and sales into the picture. It will give credence to dark funnel and dark social blind spots.  

      Now that you see the funnel as a series of circles that overlap, in each of your circles write down a pain point for the audience that you are deconstructing the funnel for and where, how, and who will resolve that pain point?  Will it be your company’s LinkedIn page? Will it be an influencer with a great podcast? Will it be on G2 with reviews and comparisons? Will it be your Facebook ads with case studies and ebooks? 

      Once you have mapped this out, give your MOPs people a ring to ensure that you close the loop and provide a wonderful experience to those prospects you met where they were at with compassion! 

      Also, consider installing Oribi to make it easy to track what parts of your deconstructed funnel are leading to your central goal of creating new, happy customers.

      Problem #4: Options Overload

      What channel should you use?

      Is intent data good or bad?

      How personalized should your content be?  

      Should you go with a chatbot or live chat?  Drift or Hubspot? 

      These questions can spin you in circles and any marketer worth their salt has been on the marketing automation merry-go-round a time or two. But we all know that while the dizzying options can be enticing, they are not always helpful.

      How do you sift through the noise?  

      How do you know what tools you really need? 

      I like to break marketing tools down into three categories: the things that we need, the things that we want, and the things we already have, be it human or technological resources.

      What do you need to run a campaign? This covers things you literally can not run your campaign without.  These are not the bells and whistles, but rather the essentials. I'm talking Hanes, not Victoria’s Secret.

      So what do you need?

      So, what can’t we run a campaign without? What are the essentials?

      You can’t run your campaign without attribution of some sort.  

      You can’t run a campaign without a delivery mechanism for whatever channels you will run your campaign through. 

      You can’t run a campaign without assets and audiences.   

      What do you want?

      These are the tools with the perfectly targeted ads that keep us up at night thinking that our marketing is inferior without them.  

       

      For the sake of consistency, let’s roll with the same examples from your "needs" above. You need attribution. You want multi-touch revenue attribution that tracks your users across channels and devices.  

      I know, how is that not a need? We can run our campaign without it and still be able to report enough data to make impactful optimizations, so I don’t consider it to be a true need.

      You need a delivery mechanism.  You want one that will auto-segment, personalize, and close every loop imaginable with precision.  

      Yes, this type of execution is better, but it might not be what you have the resources or capacity for right now. Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good. Get your campaigns delivering first and then improve them little by little. Your marketing strategy is a marathon, not a sprint. 

      You need assets.  You want 12 versions of every email to account for each microsegment, delivered dynamically via well-curated automations and tokenized content, with intent data targeting across all channels, and with gorgeous graphics that animate.  

      If you have the resources, great. Build your surge audiences. Use your smart content to your heart’s desire. Let workflows make your messaging pop. But only if you have the resources to do so. I promise, your campaigns can land and drive solid ROI without this. These are bells and whistles, which are nice, but not necessary. 

      What do you have?

      This is where we explore what we already have and how we can make the best out of it, even if we can’t buy all the shiny new tools quite yet! 

      You want better attribution? Well, what can you do with what you have?  

      Have you tagged your website using Google Tag Manager to pipe in extra data and context? 

      Have you benchmarked your organic and direct traffic to see how your ads move the needle? 

      Have you built a solid UTM strategy that is meaningful in your reporting? 

      These are all ways you can make the most out of what you already have! 

      You want better delivery - how can you make low-cost tools deliver better?  

      Zapier is one way. While MailChimp, which is one of the more powerful email tools that won’t break the bank, does not offer all of the segmentation that you may want to be more precise with your delivery, Zapier breathes new life into any system that connects to it. 

      Combine your low-cost and free tools with some creativity to get added functionality that does not break the bank.  Plug in your Google Analytics for some added fun! 

      You may not get the level of segmentation and automation of a HubSpot or Marketo, but you will be better off than using an out-of-the-box solution.

      If you have the people to do the work, the Internet will be there to show you how! 

      You want better assets - how can you get them?

      Canva.  This is a huge help for making better graphics! 

      Want personalization?  How about Google Optimize?  

      When you weave together a tagging strategy in Google Tag Manager, goals in Google Analytics, and Google Optimize, you can condition your web experience on where your audience is at in the buyer’s journey.  Cool, right? 

      Have an ecommerce store? Hook up your MailChimp to WooCommerce and personalize emails based on shopping behavior. 

      I know - these solutions are not necessarily the best ones, but they are truly good enough, and your marketing will be too if you use them! 

      In Summary: Never Lose Sight of What Matters!

      Marketing is an art. And art is only as good as the people it connects.  

      Yes, it is true, as a marketer you have to be good at so many types of art. You have to be able to connect to your superiors and your prospects on a regular basis and drive the response you want out of both.  

      It is hard, but it is also doable.  

      From my perspective, it all boils down to compassion. Compassion for the executive who does not understand your craft.

      Compassion for yourself, understanding that your attribution will not be perfect and that your tools have gaps.

      Compassion for the customer who is solving more problems than what your solution can alone offer.  

      From our perspective of compassion and acceptance of these realities, we can start to better deal with the true problems we are solving and create more alignment and harmony between all of the stakeholders on the marketing team.

      Let’s thrive.

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