Mad-Men-style boardrooms filled with executives in suits ready to be dazzled with nothing but a “big idea” are nearing extinction. Campaigns are built around hard and fast KPIs, and CMOs are pressured to prove results — quickly.
This has offered incredible opportunity for marketing leaders to prove their value. Over the past decade, marketing has grown from a necessary expense to the strategic force behind the entire customer experience — much in thanks to the shift toward data-driven marketing.
But this current shift has also created problems. With marketing leaders responsible for growing budgets and pressured by the expectation to back every idea with quick value, some are seeing the loss of experimental freedom.
Here are three warning signs your marketing strategy might be blinded by less-than-helpful data measurement tactics.
#1 Your metrics are all “marketing-centric” — and you have a challenging relationship with your sales team
With prospective customers engaging sales later and later in the customer journey, marketing is more connected to the selling cycle than ever before. Yet, in many organizations, you wouldn’t know it.
Show us a team with excellent marketing and sales alignment, and you’ll undoubtably show us a team with better results — and a healthier corporate culture. Building materials only to have sales throw them in the bin isn’t driving leads, let alone sales. Worse, it discourages both sides and encourages a blame-focused culture.
If your marketing team thinks sales is lazy, and your sales team thinks marketing is clueless, you know what this feels like.
When marketing shares responsibility for sales metrics, campaigns and internal teams perform better. Prioritizing audience needs over your own organization’s promotional goals is more common among higher-performing marketing organizations. Co-created campaigns with prospect-focused strategies allow sales a chance to offer input — and buy in.
Sales can make your personas come to life for you — they can tell you what customers are worried about and asking for. They can also help you quickly test your theories with small groups of customers.
In other cases, low campaign performance has little to do with the quality of materials and everything to do with buy-in. Gaining that buy-in from your sales team will come from aligning goals and keeping regular communication. If your metrics are all marketing-centric — return on advertising spend, form fills, marketing-qualified leads, and social impressions, etc. — it’s time for a change.
#2 Your strategies and campaigns rarely run for longer than three months
The most successful marketing leaders we work with have found a way to balance a love for creativity with a love for marketing analytics. Longer running campaigns — built on big ideas and regularly refined by data — offer many organizations the greatest opportunity to enjoy that balance.
Imagine this scenario: You have a big creative idea. It’s different from what your organization
or any of your main competitors have done before and it solidly fits your well-established buyer personas. You talk with sales right away and get their input. With a few tweaks, a campaign is born. You send out an email, launch a handful of paid ads, put up a landing page optimized for SEO — and perhaps most importantly, you put it in sales’ hands to personally give it to customers at the right time in their journey. Three weeks in, and your metrics are falling flat. Six weeks in, leadership tells you to cut it off.
Clearly, the idea didn’t work. The idea wasn’t on track or the content wasn’t well executed. It didn’t meet the need you thought it would. Or maybe … those metrics were just the initial indicators of what needed to change.
… Maybe one of those ads was quite promising. It ran long enough for only a dozen clicks, but they were just who you were looking for …
… Maybe one of your verticals showed a lot of interest, but they brought questions to sales about the more specific factors they deal with in their industry …
… Maybe the keywords you were going for didn’t get traction, and you think using more specific language from the promising ad might work …
Marketing is often a trial-filled endeavor. You need big ideas. You also need metrics. And, you need the time and support to put your collected data into practice. If you’re only ever pushing your learning to change the next campaign and not spending time and energy to refine the ever-so-promising current campaign — the ideas your team spent valuable time to develop — this might be a warning sign that you’re letting data collapse your marketing strategy.
#3 Your best content is all gated
It’s the great debate: to gate or not to gate. That’s a nuanced question in itself, and we’re not one to argue for an absolute. But here’s what we can tell you: If all your best content is behind a gate, you might want to rethink your strategy.
We’re seeing a shift from “content marketing” to “content publication.” The line between marketing organizations and media companies is blurring, and providing valuable content isn’t always about generating an immediate lead.
Marketers report 67% of the content they create is meant for top-of-funnel views — to those prospects who may be hesitant to fill out a form. So how do you balance content creation with the need for data? Here are a few data-savvy techniques we love that don’t require any gating:
- UTMs. Building a UTM strategy takes some diligence, but it isn’t difficult. Paired with data from Google Analytics, your CRM, and your marketing automation platform, you’ll be able to piece together quite a bit of information about who is finding your content useful.
- Paid Social. Awareness campaigns — specifically through LinkedIn — give you immense control of who you’re reaching. Pair a highly targeted audience with UTMs and interaction metrics, and you have a recipe to reach exactly who you’re looking for — even if they’re not ready to tell you who they are.
- Sales Data. 52% of B2B buyers say they’re “definitely” more likely to buy from a brand once they’ve read their content. The best way to know what made a big impact: Encourage sales to ask customers and report back (it’s one of our favorite ways to collect first-party data). You can do this through your CRM, an easy-to-send customer success survey, or an email template ready for sales to tweak. Of course, you’ll never get a large set of data this way, but even a handful of insights into the content that’s making the difference can go a long way. If that sounds impossible, it might be time to put more energy into your relationship with sales.
Interested in putting these ideas to work? If you find yourself tied to vanity metrics, short-run campaigns, and a myriad of forms with questionable follow-up, our Content Strategy Workshop is a great place to start. We audit what you have, discuss the gaps, and brainstorm ideas to build content that will make the greatest impact in your organization.