5 Ways to Improve Your Digital Marketing Programs

I’m often asked to give talks on digital marketing. At the beginning of each session I ask the audience to raise hands if they are delighted with their digital marketing programs. A hand or two may be seen, but not always – there are times when all hands stay down. So, I then ask for a show of hands of those who are just satisfied. You know the situation – the marketing programs are working okay, no big complaints but it could be better. This generally produces a smattering of hands, but in most instances no more than 30% of the audience feels delighted or even satisfied with their marketing activity.

It’s a bit of a shocker. A few years ago companies were embracing digital content marketing like there was no tomorrow. Yet, today a majority of companies are dissatisfied with the results they receive. My anecdotal findings are confirmed by a number of studies:

  • More than 70% of marketers fail to deliver the business results expected by management.[1]
  • Only 30% of B2B marketers say their organizations are effective at content marketing.[2]
  • Only 22% of businesses are satisfied with their conversion rates.[3]
  • 51% of marketers told Forrester their content marketing efforts are only somewhat effective.[4]

Most companies understand that they need to have a great website, engage through social media and share great content – but for many, they are not reaping the rewards they expected. There are many reasons for this – I’ll boil them down to five:

1. No clear strategy

Seventy percent of marketers lack a consistent or integrated content strategy.[5]  Random acts of marketing supported by wide-ranging tweets and posts do not a strategy make. The headlong rush to deploy marketing activities without a solid strategy often confuses, rather than enlightens the market.

So often I hear “…we published an ebook, but really didn’t get much response”. The adoption of marketing technologies has meant that organizations can now blog, post, tweet, share and like with great speed – but unless this is coordinated and linked to a clear strategy what generally happens is a confusing mishmash of unrelated information.

Your marketing strategy needs to align and support your corporate goals and mission. Rarely can a single uncoordinated ebook, blog or post do that.

2. Marketing in a vacuum

“Can you run an onsite workshop for the marketing team?” is a question I love to hear. When I reply that it would be a pleasure and then ask for senior management, sales, customer service and any other customer-facing roles to be present, I often hear “Oh no. This is a marketing project”.

Working in isolation from the rest of the company is one of the chief reasons marketing departments fail. It’s not enough to just touch base with the sales team when there’s a new lead, or meet with the product development group whenever there’s a new release or with senior management to deliver periodic updates and request funds.  The whole company needs to be involved. You don’t just do digital marketing – you become a digital marketing organization. Here’s how:

  • The sales team is working hand-in-glove with marketing. They are deeply involved in building personas, supporting account-based marketing initiatives, helping craft the message to market and staying on message when meeting buyers.
  • Product marketing is engaged with the marketing team from the earliest design phase right through to product release.
  • Customer service is in daily contact sharing the latest needs and concerns of customers. The marketing team uses this input to build personas and create messages to market.
  • The CEO is tweeting and posting on-message (wouldn’t that be nice).
  • And even those in finance, H/R and operations are retweeting, reposting and joining in the conversation.
  • All departments feel a responsibility for promoting and advancing the company’s brand and working to ensure that the right messages are being delivered to the right audience.

This doesn’t happen by itself. It will need organization change supported from the top.  Organizations that build company-wide go-to-market processes, establish agreed KPIs and encourage everyone to be part of the engagement with the marketplace tend to get the best results from their programs.

3. Still not building content with the buyer in mind

Today, most marketing teams see the value in using tools like personas to help guide the content creation process. But, personas cannot be built and then shelved (as I’ve often seen) and referred to only when someone asks “Didn’t we build a persona for a CFO one time?”

Personas are a process – not a one-time task. They get old fast – you never stop updating existing personas or building new personas.  And, personas need to be developed with input from many departments within the company – not just marketing.

For more on personas, check out this blog article.

4.Wrong content and at the wrong time

Marketers understand the buyer’s journey and the idea that different types (and forms) of information are needed at different times in the buyer’s decision-making process. But, in many cases, little thought is put into building a conversation with the buyer that follows a logical sequence.

I’ve seen many scatter-shot content blasts masquerading as a sequential content – a promotion of an infographic, followed by an invitation to view a video and then an offer of a product demo. Each offer being a standalone piece with little or no connection with the other offers. This is really a hit-or-miss approach.

One way to build a full content conversation that naturally reflects the information buyers need and in the sequence they need it is to list all the questions buyers are likely to ask from their earliest inquiry to a point where they’re ready to buy or upgrade. (Of course, this is not an activity market folks can do in isolation.) Group these questions into early, middle and late buyer’s journey questions and then start building content to answer these question in the sequence they’re asked.

5. Little feedback and testing

It’s almost a cliché to say that things are in constant change – but we tend to overlook this.  Marketing activities that worked last year may be out of favor today. The best marketers test, measure and adjust – then test and measure again.

Marketing is as much about listening as it is about sharing information and ideas – and that’s why I often use the term content conversation.

Marketing activities need to be agile. Marketers must be willing to explore new tactics and approaches to support the agreed strategy – and then they need to listen, measure and monitor the response. A/B testing, multi-variant testing – or just measuring the clicks and conversions – will help refine and refresh the way you engage with your audience.

Marketing has changed – and changed fast – leaving marketers adrift without the foundation, mindset and skills they need to master the dynamics of digital engagement”, so says Ardath Albee in her great book ‘Digital Relevance: Developing Marketing Content and Strategies that Drive Results’.

It’s true. Many marketers are adrift – and they will remain so as long as they continue to bring old habits to new situations and work in relative isolation from the rest of the enterprise. In my next blog, I’ll explore ways of bringing effective change management processes to your organization to ensure that you get the full-force of your company behind your go-to-market programs.

If you’d like to explore ways of improving your digital marketing activities – let’s talk!


[1] Fournaise Marketing Group

[2] https://contentmarketinginstitute.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/2016_B2B_Report_Final.pdf

[3] https://www.hubspot.com/marketing-statistics

[4] https://adage.com/article/btob/marketers-struggling-content-marketing-results/294138

[5] https://www.prophet.com/thinking/altimeter/

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