5 digital marketing red flags to watch out for

Is your digital marketing stagnant? Are their cuts coming to the marketing budget? Is your company not growing or not growing fast enough? If you answered yes to any of these questions, there are five tell-tale warning signs or red flags your digital marketing strategy is not effective and producing the bottom-line results. Let’s discuss your digital marketing strategy and some digital marketing red flags on why it is not working.

There could be many possibilities of why your digital marketing strategy is underperforming. It’s important to identify the holes in your existing strategy so you can make sure your digital marketing strategy is successful. There are certain digital marketing red flags or warning signs that pop up that you should pay attention to when developing and implementing your strategy. By identifying your weaknesses and making some tweaks, you can see the results your company want from marketing.

Between all the various digital marketing tools, it seems nearly impossible to tell why your marketing strategy isn’t cutting it. To determine where your marketing needs to change isn’t simple. There could be many holes in your existing digital marketing strategy and plan. You may see revenue coming into your company, but you don’t know how much marketing influenced that revenue. Do you know if your digital marketing efforts are directly impacting and influencing your revenue growth? And is your team continuously demonstrating the value of marketing? For example, some companies struggle to communicate their digital marketing strategy.

5 digital marketing red flags to watch for

We are going explore the digital marketing red flags or key warning signs your strategy is not working and what you can do about it. We’ll offer some relevant and actionable suggestions to give your digital marketing strategy a makeover.

1. You are not concentrating on lead generation enough

The first place to start is to find out what your sales team thinks of your digital marketing efforts. Your sales team is always looking for more leads, especially from marketing. They may not come out and say this, but it’s an important truth and fact.

Leads are where most friction happens between sales and marketing departments.

Salespeople rely on their commission checks. If new business is not coming in, it will impact their “take-home” pay. The sales team is “coin operated” because they are compensated for how many products and services they sell. Most marketing departments are not incentivized for the number and the quality of leads they pass to the sales team. If there is not a steady flow of leads being sent to sales from marketing, there could be some tension between the two groups, especially in the business to business (B2B) world. In the B2B world, sometimes this friction is between marketing and the inside sales team. Think of inside sales as the sales qualification arm of the field or outside sales team.

The lack of trust

If leads are not consistently flowing from marketing to sales, sales will start not to trust marketing. Why? Inside sales and outside sales teams will feel that they are doing the majority of the work. Sales will think marketing isn’t delivering their part of the arrangement. In fact, 15% of salespeople say that they need “more leads.”

Most salespeople say what they need most from their marketing team is better quality leads. To produce better quality leads, it requires a successful collaboration between the two departments. Sales may have a history and a deep-seeded belief from their experiences at past companies that marketing is not concerned enough with leads.

Everything comes back to leads.

Obtaining leads is the core function of the marketing team. If it is not, you have a problem. Marketing has to overcome a perception problem. Many people believe marketing is only concerned with vanity metrics and they are the “creative” team. Perception becomes a reality. This results in sales feeling they are not getting the leads they need from marketing to be successful.

The Demand Waterfall

In the B2B world, most companies use the Forrester & SiriusDecisions Demand Waterfall to describe and measure their lead to revenue marketing and sales funnel. It is a popular framework to achieve alignment between marketing and sales. The demand waterfall also brings consistency to the demand management process.

Forrester & SiriusDecisions Demand Waterfall

By defining the key stages and interaction points in the lead management process, the Demand Waterfall enables marketing and sales teams to track leads, improve processes, and drive increased revenue growth. If you don’t have this framework or something similar in place, you have a problem.

Establish a mature lead generation process

Lead generation, if you sand it down to its simple essence, is the process of locating and identifying potential customers. This may sound simple, but it is hard to implement. The process can take a while because it has a lot of touchpoints. It starts at generating leads, then moves to qualification through lead scoring, then inside sales team qualifies individually, and then finally outside sales confirms the qualification with the lead. It will take many shapes and forms. There will be ups and downs for marketing and sales. A mature lead generation process takes time to set up correctly, takes many marketing and sales channels, and takes successful collaboration between marketing and sales.

The payoff of an established and formal lead generation process results in higher revenue with more velocity. In fact, B2B companies who have a mature lead generation process generate 133% more revenue than companies who do not. An established lead generation process takes commitment, investment, and dedication from marketing leaders, sales leaders, and the C-suite.

How to concentrate more on lead generation

Beyond the Demand Waterfall, where do one start? Here are three tips.

Concentrate on thought leadership

Trust plays a critical part of today’s shaping your company’s brand perception and a buyer’s confidence in working with your organization. One of major drives of this trust is authentic thought leadership, which is where your company’s expertise is sought and rewarded. Marketers have the power to build meaningful relationships with customers and prospects with the help of thought leadership. However, the true value of thought leadership is often overlooked and rarely measured. Research from Edelman and LinkedIn found most marketers significantly undervalue the power thought leadership, impacting their demand and lead generation efforts.

Evaluate and adjust team resources to generate leads

One of the biggest hurdles that most marketing teams face when trying to execute successful lead generation is a lack of resources on the marketing team. In fact, 61% of marketers say a lack of staff, funding, and time is their greatest barrier to lead generation. With limited resources, it’s important to concentrate on what’s working to generate leads. Business (B2B) marketing leaders report say the following approaches work for them:

Establish a benchmark of where you are today

It’s important to take a snapshot of where you stand today. What are your current data points and what does your current lead generation process look like? Use this initial “point in time” to establish your baseline so you can measure and figure out the effectiveness and success of future marketing and sales initiatives. 

You’ll need a way to determine what’s driving your revenue numbers so you should be asking yourself questions such as:

  • How many leads are we generating each month?
  • What marketing channels are producing the most leads and the highest quality of leads?
  • How many marketing generated leads (MGLs) become marketing qualified leads (MQLs)?
  • What is the number of MQLs that turned in sales qualified leads (SQLs)?
  • Do we need to tweak our lead scoring to ensure we have a consistent flow of MQLs?
  • How many MQLs were kicked back from sales because they weren’t the right company or right contact?
  • Based on your SQLs, how many turned into opportunities?
  • Of those opportunities, how many did you win, lose, and turn into customers?
  • Which marketing channels are yielding the best results?
  • Which part of this lead generation management process needs to be improved?

Once you know the answers to these questions, you can evaluate your performance consistently and regularly. You’ll be able to proactively address marketing channels, approaches, processes, and identify gaps and tweaks you need to make with your lead generation efforts.

2. Marketing is not aligned with sales

Sales and marketing alignment can help your company become 67% better at closing deals. This collaboration has the potential to transform your business and improve your bottom line, increasing revenue by 209%. If marketing and sales teams are misaligned, it could spell disaster. Both teams have the same goal of driving sales and revenue, so it’s critical they are in sync. It doesn’t help that 60-70% of content produced by B2B companies go unused and 79% of marketing leads never convert into sales because of a lack of lead nurturing.

Common barriers between marketing and sales (and how to fix them)

Fewer than half of marketers would describe their sales and marketing teams as aligned. Here are some of the common barriers keep marketing and sales from being aligned.

Competing goals and priorities

If you speak to most marketing and sales departments, they feel they have different goals. Salespeople think marketing’s only job is leads, while marketers want salespeople to stick to the script. To ensure both marketing and sales have the same goals and priorities, you should first consider making your marketing team responsible for the lead to opportunity conversion rate. If there are not many qualified leads, marketing can see a problem and not blame sales. It’s also important for the sales team to provide feedback on lead quantity and quality on a consistent basis so marketing can refine processes and strategies.

Lack or unclear communication

When the sales team closes a big deal, they’ll often celebrate as though they won the deal all by themselves. Sales may forget marketing created qualified leads for sales. Also, if marketing produces a large number of leads to sales, sales complains the leads aren’t any good. If marketing hands off higher quality leads, sales will say there are not enough leads. This back and forth is why there should be an internal service level agreement (SLA) between marketing and sales. It ensures everyone is on the same page. An SLA is an agreement on what services one department will deliver to another department.

Keeping each other in the loop

Marketing may not be involved in sales meetings and decisions. They don’t know what sales needs and how to help sales meet their goals. Marketing may create campaigns and let sales know at the last minute. When sales and marketing continue to work in silos without telling the other team, they both suffer since they don’t jointly see the customer journey from a holistic picture. Feedback helps both teams do their jobs better. Make sure you meet regularly and communicate. When sales and marketing don’t talk, it’s not that they’re doing it intentionally. It’s often based on a lack of time. Make time to keep each other in the loop.

Not thinking like each other

Marketers often think the sales team is taking advantage of the technology available to help to sell to prospects. Sales should think more like marketing and start using social media to connect with tech-savvy prospects. Sales often think the marketing team is responsible for brand awareness and vanity metrics. Marketing should be measured by its ability to drive growth. It’s important to set up an attribution reporting framework and a marketing automation system such as HubSpot that is well integrated with your customer relationship management (CRM) system such as Salesforce.com.

Lack of content curation

If you can bring the marketing and sales team together, you can create the social selling curation dream team. Both teams have a shared interest in keeping clients and prospects engaged and moving through the funnel. Content curation for social selling is a shared activity that aligns sales and marketing. Marketing teams can find and recommend content for sales teams.  Marketing teams can use curated content as a source of inspiration for new original content. Curation should be a part of the overall content marketing strategy, reducing the pressure to create new content and providing ideas for future blog articles/posts and original content.

Collaboration on content creation

It’s essential the sales team is brought into the content creation stage, where content is developed with marketing’s editorial plan. For your content to be really useful, your sales and marketing teams must collaborate. It’s also important to share the results of your content marketing efforts with sales. It could be as simple as creating a monthly content marketing return on investment (ROI).

Reporting and analysis

Does marketing and sales track and measure the same things? Are they learning from each other on their analysis? It’s important for marketing and sales to learn from each other. Do they know what’s working and what’s not working when looking at the numbers?

A centralized location for resources

Marketers work hard to create marketing and sales resources such as brochures, fact sheets, company overviews, and presentations. All this content goes to waste if sales can’t find and use them. It’s important to keep marketing and sales resources in one location so sales can easily access them.

3. You don’t show up on page 1 of Google

People use search engines like Google to find information every day. If people can’t find your website on Google, you miss out on potential customers. In fact, 81% of people perform some online research before making a large purchase. Is your website helping Google help its search engine users? If so, Google will reward you with more traffic.

Your website is a living and breathing thing. Every update you make to your website helps Google understand how visitors interact with your website. It’s important that your company shows up on page 1 of Google for specific keywords. There are more than 200 ranking factors that impact your position on Google and it’s constantly changing. This fact makes things like latent semantic indexing (LSI) keywords more important. Let’s dive into what Google really cares about and how you can show up on page 1 of Google.

The number 1 goal of Google

It starts with understanding that Google has one goal: searcher task accomplishment. Google learns each time a user searches via Google. They want to give each searcher answers to their question(s) as soon as possible. They are going to reward websites that quickly help the needs of their searchers. Google is trying to go above and beyond to address a searcher’s initial question, and then they try to think ahead for the searches with what questions may come next. In other words, they want to have their searchers accomplish their search task.

Google searcher task accomplishment

Position 1 is no longer the holy grail of SEO

Google is looking to provide accurate and relevant information to your search queries in the shortest amount of time. This has given rise to position 0 or featured snippets, or zero-click searches refer to search results that appear at the top of the first search engine results page (SERP). These featured snippets appear above the normal search results. That is why they are called position 0. These snippets fall above position 1. They answer queries in-search, allowing users to find relevant information without further clicks. According to SparkToro, 50.33% of all searches are zero-click searches. It means that now more than half of all Google’s searches result in no click. Additionally, a survey by HubSpot reveals that 51.47% of users believe that zero-click searches will help them find information easier. Google aims to eliminate multiple Google search results that don’t satisfy the user.

The rise of pinball searches

As a result of Google’s featured snippets, knowledge panels, local rankings, and other new elements are changing searchers’ behavior. We now search in a “pinball” pattern. A study by the Nielsen Norman Group shows the visual weight of SERPs can influences how a user looks at the results. The study says that since the number of Google features varies from query to query, the gaze pattern is nonlinear.

pinball 37 640x600 1
A study by the Nielsen Norman Group shows we search in a pinball pattern

Answer questions searchers are asking

What does this all mean? It’s simple. The secret to SEO is to quickly answer questions with your content. It would help if do what Marcus Sheridan did. He is one of the earlier adopters of content marketing. He is known for his revolutionary marketing strategy of answering his customers’ questions.

Not concentrating on the Big 5

According to Marcus Sheridan, there are five article topics that consistently outperforming the rest. They drive the most traffic, leads, and sales. He calls them the Big 5 blog article topics. They are:

Every business should be writing about these topics. They will help you answer the critical questions your potential customers are asking Google. This information is good for organic search results but you may be saying, we can show up on page 1 with pay-per-click (PPC) ads.

Quick wins through PPC

PPC ads can be a great way to reach page 1 of Google, but they can be expensive. Since you have to pay for each ad click, it is critical to bid only on relevant keywords, and there are a lot of keywords that your potential customers can use. Companies see poor results from PPC ads because the targeting is off, searchers aren’t converting, or the cost per click (CPC) is too high. For example, CPCs can get extremely high in specific industries. While you may get some quick wins through PPC, it’s not a long-term solution on showing up on page 1 of Google. The holy grail for showing up on page 1 of Google is to show up high for both paid and organic search result pages.

4. Marketing and sales are not empowered with clean and actionable data

Data quality is one of the biggest challenges facing businesses today. In fact, according to ZoomInfo, 62% of companies rely on marketing and prospect data that’s up to 40% inaccurate, 25% of B2B databases are inaccurate, and 64% of successful data-driven marketers say data quality is one of the most challenging obstacles to success. It comes down to dirty data.

Are you cleaning your data?

Since data quality is crucial for the effectiveness of your marketing and sales efforts, bad data leads to poor marketing and sales decisions. It’s a problem that impacts nearly every business today. The cleaner the data, the more accurate your digital marketing strategy. Clean data helps you integrate your strategy with the sales team and other departments at your company. When teams work on different sets of data, they can create strategies and make decisions on incomplete information and a fragmented view.

Arm your team with data

A marketing leader’s role is to create an effective, relevant, and strategic marketing plan that aligns with the company’s goals for revenue and sales. This process starts with putting clean data in the hands of marketing team members and salespeople who are on the frontlines so they can significantly improve their productivity and quality of work.

A recent report from Harvard Business Review shows the power of putting data analytics in the hands of workers. In fact, 87% of respondents said their organizations would be more successful when workers have access to data and tools to help them make decisions in the moment. And these employees must be trained on how to act on these insights. Empowering your team with data is what separates a great marketing department from an average one. It can make or break your digital marketing strategy.

5. Marketing leaders are not clearly articulating the digital marketing strategy and plan

Marketers should continually demonstrate and communicate the value they deliver to the company. It’s a red flag your digital marketing needs some changes if your company is not hitting its revenue targets and doesn’t understand the value of every marketing investment. If you are spending money on digital marketing, you should be delivering real results that move the needle for your organization. Even on a shoestring budget, you can produce results. It’s a digital marketing red flag if your company doesn’t understand the value of digital marketing.

This brings us to an important point. Are your marketing leaders having trouble articulating your digital marketing strategy in a simple, clear, and memorable way? With all the work you put in, it’s important to effectively communicate your digital marketing strategy and plan.

Describing digital marketing in plain English

Can you verbalize all of the data in plain English so your mom or dad can understand it? If you have trouble describing how marketing provides value using common metrics such as ROI, customer lifetime value (CLV), and net promoter score (NPS), it’s time to rethink your how you communicate. A successful digital marketing strategy is simple and effective.

Clearly and concisely communicating a digital marketing strategy and plan is just as important as creating it.

Let’s face it, everyone thinks they are a marketing expert. Everyone knows what the marketing department should be doing. But do they truly understand what marketing is and how it helps your company? If marketing doesn’t communicate this well, marketing runs the risk of not delivering on the company’s goals. It can slow down progress, create an inability to profitably deliver on the value proposition, and stunt the growth of the business.

With more CMOs being elevated to chief executive officer (CEO) roles, it’s a critical time where marketing needs to get buy-in from all lines of business. It’s important to smoothly transition from plan to execution. Marketing should lead the business toward growth. If you can’t explain the value of marketing in simple terms, it’s probably too complicated.

Bringing it all together on digital marketing red flags

These five digital marketing red flags or warning signs can help you understand if your digital marketing is not working. They will help you look critically at your own digital marketing efforts and re-examine how you should best move forward. You can overcome the challenges and barriers that arise with digital marketing with some simple yet effective changes. Identify the areas of opportunity. Then realign and optimize so your marketing team can achieve long-term success. It’s important to recognize the digital marketing red flags early so you can adjust accordingly and produce the results your company wants from marketing.