Why Did My B2B Tech Marketing Campaign Fail? – In Discussion
In conversation with Nick Horton and Jeremy Balius, discussing all things Go-to-Market for B2B tech companies.
Topics covered include:
- Why didn’t previous campaigns work?
- The importance of allowing enough time for B2B campaigns
- BDR teams have a different role and time to impact than marketers
- Expectation setting in the context of marketing investment
- Lengthy campaign planning increases risk
- Comparing limited marketing investment with actively limiting SDR capacity
- The challenge of starting a small advertising campaign to see how it goes
- Why does so much MDF go unspent?
- The challenge Channel Partners face balancing MDF across vendor partners
- The internal challenges B2B tech marketers face
- The need for role definitions between sales and marketing
- The need for lead definitions across buyer lifecycle stages
- And so much more!
Click play to watch the discussion or read the transcript below.
Transcript of Nick & Jeremy's discussion on "Why Did My B2B Tech Marketing Campaign Fail?"
Nick: Why didn’t my campaign work? It’s something that we hear sometimes from new clients who’ve said, oh yeah, we’ve worked with agencies before and my campaign never worked, or, we didn’t feel we got the best value for the investment.
So we thought it’d be great just to take the opportunity to unpack that topic a little bit. We think there’s two aspects or two perspectives that we can look at this topic.
The first is for clients maybe that have worked with an agency before, they’ve been spending their own marketing funds or some MDF funds, and they really didn’t get the results that they were expecting. So we’ll go into that first of all. And then secondly, we’ll look at it from the perspective of a client that’s maybe more experienced but is facing challenges internally, getting pushback from different parts of the business, getting pressure from their sales teams to deliver more leads or whatever it may be.
That’s the other aspect or the other perspective that we want to investigate today anyway. But let’s start, first of all by looking at that that client that says, Jeremy, Nick, I used to work with this agency and our campaigns didn’t work. We invested, what we thought were what was good investments into the campaign, and we just didn’t get the results that we’re looking for.
Jeremy, what’s usually behind that sentiment or what’s usually happened when you hear someone say something like that?
Jeremy: It’s a really interesting topic, Nick, because the exposure that businesses have had to marketing support is important to look at, to understand.
In what ways has that swayed their decision making sense Then, And so when they talk to us about how their previous campaigns didn’t work, or marketing doesn’t work for them, it’s really important to unpack. What is behind that and what actually happened, and to what degree did they have support and what Budget was allocated and how much time was given to those activities.
So if we look at any of those specific areas, what we see was that an agency was engaged that generally didn’t have experience in the technology sector, much less even in the B2B tech sector. And the advice tends to have been what normal marketing campaigns. R, which is to run paid search to run LinkedIn ads, perhaps to send emails via an email marketing campaign.
But generally speaking, it is the. Type of marketing that you would see in any business. And as we know, B2B tech is so specific and unique, and the sales cycles are so long across so many decision makers in a buying committee type scenario, that generally speaking, the type of agency that was engaged probably wasn’t the right fit for them.
So that would be the first aspect. And is that something that you’ve seen?
Nick: Yeah, no, I think that’s really interesting because you are right about the specificity of the industry of the sector and as you say, those buying committees or even if it’s not a formal buying committee, there’s usually a number of different influences on any decision.
I think what we’ve found to go into how we start to address that is by looking at account-based marketing campaigns that gives us the ability to say what’s the, what, what are the firms in the sector that you’re interested in? And what are the types of roles that you want to be speaking to that you want to get a message in front of?
And then building campaigns around trying to have impact across multiple roles or multiple identities within the the target clients that you identify. So I think that’s one of the things that I think we find successful that maybe. It’s clearly becoming more common but maybe it’s not as widespread in its use in other sectors.
Jeremy: Totally. And another factor that we see driving this disgruntlement with previous marketing exercises has been the aspect of time. We talk a lot about time to impact and how much time is required to even get someone’s attention.
Yeah. Then eliciting trust over time, ensuring that this person on the other end has some form of known pain point, that you have a solution for that pain point, that they recognize that you have the solution and they understand that when they go to research that you should be one of the considerations.
Yeah, that takes time. Yeah. Yeah. Meanwhile what we find is we unpack the disgruntlement is that time wasn’t allowed for or given to a campaign. Yeah. The, there is a pressure to drive revenue. As fast as possible. Yeah. These listed companies need to drive revenue on a quarterly basis as they’re publicly reporting or private companies need to drive outcomes immediately as part of their internal cycles.
It has to happen fast, and yeah. Yeah. The approach that gets taken is what is gonna make an impact right now they. They know that digital marketing can do something for them, or they want it to do something for them, but they’re applying the time. The rapidity of what can happen when you’re picking up the phone and calling in a BDR team to Find people who already are searching for solutions to their problems that you can book meetings straight away.
That happens instantly. Yeah. They’re trying to replicate that in digital marketing. Yeah. And so when results aren’t achieved within weeks or the first few months, there is an immediate internal psychological switch off that this campaign has failed. Yeah. Yeah. Because the right success metrics and the right expectations haven’t been set as to what’s even possible.
Nick: And I think that’s really interesting, the point you raise about looking at the results from a, for a BDR team versus looking at the results from a marketing campaign. And to me, the. I guess the binary nature of how you’ve presented that and how that’s been reflected to us is part of the issue because both sides have an important role to play.
A BDR team should not be calling a completely cold list of prospects. They will be far more successful if they’re calling a list of prospects. It’s been exposed to a number of different messages from your brand that have expressed an interest through some sort of. Maybe a content download or attending a webinar or a, or another event.
So they’re warmed up. And that’s really the role of the, the marketing demand generation to get those warmed up leads to the BDRs. Conversely we would not want marketing We would not wanna be spending marketing demand generation money on warmed up leads.
That’s not our role. Once a lead has been qualified from the marketing perspective, that needs to go to the sales team, they need to then kick into gear and complete their actions, have the conversations, close the clients. Marketing’s role must be for the colder leads. Further up the funnel where we’re starting to introduce the brand, starting to introduce the solutions as a a way to solve the problem that the business has and starting to talk about why you are the best provider of that service warming that lead up.
Then handing it over to the BDR team. Anyway, I’m digressing a little bit there, but I just think it’s really interesting, that it’s seen as an either/or, whereas to me it must be a. Together are both if possible is the best way, is the best way to run it. I think the other thing that I think is really interesting, and I’d love your opinion on this is, we talk to clients and prospects about search engine optimization, SEO, creating organic leads to your website.
People I think intellectually understand. Why you want to do that, why it makes sense, but are often hesitant to invest cause of maybe some of the time factors that you’re talking about. How do you have that conversation?
Jeremy: It’s a really interesting one, particularly as we segue out of the discussion of, I need leads now.
Optimizing your website being your most critical and important marketing asset out of all of your marketing collateral or strategies or tactics. And there’s. Plenty research out there to say that the website is this most critical. It’s not up for debate anymore, that your website is your core to everything that you’re doing.
The optimization component and the need for medium to long-term outcomes is the result of the volume of competition. In search. Why would we want to compete in search? It’s because we want to be found. And I think this is a really important conversation to have with business leaders who potentially don’t have marketing background or are, haven’t been exposed to this concept because it can seem like dark arts to them.
But when you unpack rationally what it means, To be found over time and what that can result what that can impact your your sales cycles internally by having having your solutions. Found by people who already have known pain points and are already searching for solutions to those and have used your collateral and your content online to enable them to move along a buyer life cycle.
Moving from research to decision making. Having that happen without a discussion from your BDR or sales team, and have it happen entirely digitally. Yeah. Is the benefits, the compound, the you have shorter sales cycles As a result you have an increase in lead influx as a result of not having a direct correlation between your advertising spend and your lead pipeline.
The benefits are there. The I think the blocker is the amount of time it takes to compete with those who have already been investing in this over time. Yeah. In some cases for years or over decades. But understanding that it’s an incremental investment and looking for strategic investments within it to potentially outperform where competitors have either underperformed or not invested.
Can lead to more short-term benefits but it is a bigger picture, long-term investment that drives results over time.
Nick: Cool. No, thank you. And speaking of investments when we think about the budget that gets allocated to marketing campaigns or to demand generation activities more generally one of the things that I find is that there is a.
A mismatch or a maybe a conceptual gap between what your investments should be expected to achieve. And, when we are talking about demand generation, should your investment drive leads straightaway, should your investment be measured on something else? How you know? When I’m having that discussion, I’m focusing on what are you trying to achieve?
If you’re trying to achieve X number of leads, then let’s do the maths backwards from there and work out, How many visitors you need to have to your website? How many people need to in interact with a certain p piece of contact content? How many people need to attend a webinar or watch a training video or some similar resource like that?
Before and by, by doing that maths back then you can actually start to say what is the budget that we need to invest to. Get that throughput through your funnel. Is that something that, that you find as well? How do you have those conversations?
There is a disparity amongst those who have not invested proactively into marketing between what they expect their outcome can be and their actual investment.
There is something that happens within people where the amount of time it takes to make a decision to invest in marketing, be it content creation, be it overhauling their website to optimize it, be it. Digital advertising to reach new net new prospects and pull them into a funnel. The amount of time it takes them to make the decision to invest is so long that they need outcomes immediately.
And it tends to be by way of investments that are unrealistic to achieve those expectations. Yeah. There is either not enough education in the marketplace either. There’s not enough education within businesses or enough exposure to have an understanding that it’s expensive to reach people’s attention to get on their radar because you’re competing with everyone else.
And in B2B tech, it’s again removed because you’re trying to get attention In the first instance for a sales cycle that might be 12, 18, 24 months. And so it needs to be a sustained attention grab over time again, which requires investment. I think we’re on a mission to dispel the myth that there is a magical source of leads.
That the, that with the right strategy, a minuscule budget can achieve outside, unlocked, proportional lead flows. It’s But this belief exists and is widespread that if we just had the the secret unlock that we could achieve our marketing goals by under investing in it
Generally speaking, those who have not invested in marketing before tend to not want to start. Or when they do, they want to trial and tiptoe into it. Yeah. Whereas they wouldn’t do so with sales placements. So it’s continued education required.
Nick: Yeah. And because let’s face it, there is a minimum that you’re gonna need to spend to actually have any impact at all.
I think we see that on digital advertising. We see that on content creation campaigns. We see that across anything. It would be, to, again, to use the SD R example that you brought up. Having an S D R who can only call for half an hour a day. They are by definition you are inhibiting their ability to be successful.
You need to have someone calling for the whole day or half a day in doing, lead generation or some other activity the other half day, whatever it may be. But it’s their idea that, oh, let’s just start a LinkedIn campaign spending, I don’t know, $50 a day and we’ll see how that goes.
And then if it’s working, they’ll spend more money. It’s never gonna work, is it?
Jeremy: Not only is it never going to work, it’s not even, if we pull that thought process apart. Tiptoeing into it to understand the results. Even if there were results, those results will never be large enough for a business leader to then say, we should double, triple, quadruple our investment.
To get that much more leads. It’s implausible and impossible. Yeah. Therefore, the campaign will fail. Regardless. Yeah. Because expectations cannot be met.
Nick: Yeah. You’re setting yourself up for failure straight away. The other thing that I find interesting about this before you close off the section is the idea of coming back to that point you were making before about the slowness of decision making and maybe the reluctance to actually make an investment, is that we’ve seen we’ve seen partners and clients who are actually.
Not spending kind of the free money that’s been given to ’em, that they’ve been allocated some money through a marketing development fund program and for whatever reason, whether that’s their own internal unease at investing in marketing or just their inability to make a decision, they actually leave.
Tens of thousands of dollars on the table. What can we do about that? How can we help those clients actually spend that money and build those successful campaigns?
Jeremy: There’s some very clear inhibitors that prevent people. And I think some of them are psychological. Yeah.
And some of them are just being unaware of how much is being left on the table. The, in, in the first component, I think they’re the, some of these inhibitions revolve around the particular vendor who might have MDF available most. Tech businesses that we work with or that are in the B2B tech ecosystem have somewhere in the range of eight to 12 vendor partners.
Yeah. On average. And I, if any one of those vendors is unlocking, offering, enabling access to MDF support, it immediately triggers a crisis within the business. Because if they are. Going to market favouring a vendor. There is there’s a deer in the headlights paralysis of, are we only going to be known for this?
And it prevents them from doing anything because they haven’t been and cannot, therefore, because there’s a belief that suddenly that they they only offer. Pen testing. Yeah. Or cloud computing or some type of security offer. And their service catalog is broad and ultimately they want, if it’s an msp, they want to handle everything for their end user clients.
And they don’t want to be known for any one thing. So it prevents, at the end of the day, it’s a blocker.
Nick: Yeah. But at the end of the day, you can start with one service and then expand within the client when you show that you’re doing a great job. I would’ve thought.
Jeremy: That is, that’s the rational answer.
But there’s a belief because they have not been communicating, there’s almost a belief that if we start communicating that our reputation will instantly be only that. And there’s a misunderstanding that no one is out there waiting to hear from you. Yeah. Yeah. Which is also really hard for them to, to take on board.
Nick: But I guess that’s, that sort of comes back to the point you were making earlier as well, is if you were to only invest your marketing funds against a single vendor for two years, then probably you would be known as the, the pen testing M or whatever it may be.
But actually, If you’re doing a campaign for a quarter, that’s not gonna happen. And, in the same way you were talking about the demand generation activity takes time to have an impact. It’s exactly the same thing, isn’t it? So they’re almost hamstringing themselves through an over lia on a certain way of thinking, which is, if I spend money, things must happen straight away.
And actually they’re really defeating the purpose of investing in demand generation
Jeremy: A hundred per cent. There’s another challenge here in that they have a suite of vendor partners or alliances, but they as a result of not having grown marketing talent in-house or having access to it externally by way of an agency.
They are unable to understand how they can apply MDF support and resources available to them from different vendors in a way that satisfies vendor MDF Acquittals. Yeah. Or their partner program tiering systems, but at the same time is structured in a way where they have their their own unique.
Brand with their own values and principles that is going to market in a structured and sustained way, bringing services and products to market, reflecting their own brand powered by these vendors, but not leading with products and services, but coming from a point of view of being trusted advisor and and enabling and unlocking resolutions to end user pain points.
They don’t have that internal advice to be able to structure that. Yeah. Which blocks them again, because the paralysis sets in of. We’re only going to be known for one or two things and therefore we should do nothing. Yeah.
Nick: Because there is a great credibility isn’t there, from co-branding your marketing activity with a vendor partner.
They inevitably will be a significantly more recognizable brand than you will be. And you are getting credibility, you’re getting gravitas from from that association it says to prospects. If, if vendor X trusts us, then maybe you should as well. So I think that’s something that’s maybe overlooked and when that paralysis sets in.
Jeremy: It’s a such a good point. And at the same time, we need to be Empathetic or even empathic towards partners because there is also a fear that the the vendor brand will either out outshine or that they are somehow beholden to the vendor in a way that they don’t want to be. And this is where I. Deeply appreciate the work that you’re doing with our clients and vendors is getting the balance right, of leading with partner brand.
And and displaying their value proposition in a way that is. Supported by the vendor and leads to outcomes that satisfy the vendor, whether it’s increase of consumption or sales of more widgets or Yeah, or increase of lead pipeline. That can be satisfied, but it needs to be from the point of view of partner brand because that needs to.
That needs to be the leader in the story because ultimately they’re the ones that are going to be trusted on the end user side to, to have whatever best practice and best in market solutions regardless of what the vendor brands are. And once there’s an understanding on the partner side that this is possible and achievable in partnership with their technology alliances without it being detrimental to their own brand and their own sales motions. Yeah, they can radically compound over time. And that’s where I think the true unlock is for partners.
Nick: Yeah. Yeah. No, great. Thank you. And thank you for the complimentary words as well. I think it’ll be great now to look at the second aspect of this.
Why did my campaign not work, which is about. More of an internal thing within the client, that alignment between marketing and sales. So as I was reflecting on this topic I really thought that it would be interesting to examine it. Examine the, why don’t my campaign work not work from this perspective?
Because this is something that we know that our clients, the marketing manager, the marketing director, hears from their sales team, their management, their leadership, and I thought it’d be great if we could just unpack. A couple of topics here. Maybe one around expectation management. Maybe one around clear allocation of responsibilities and maybe one just at more base, at a more base level at understanding.
You know how that lead generation, that demand generation process fits together? How do marketing and and sales work together? Because in my experience the most successful sales teams are the ones that are integrated most tightly or efficiently, if you like, with the marketing teams.
Conversely, the most successful B2B marketing teams are the ones that understand that the output of their actions is creating. Great leads for their sales team to chase up great opportunities for their sales team to chase down. So that’s, I think that’s we all know that’s the goal, but often sometimes it breaks down.
For instance, when does a lead pass from marketing to sales? This is something that I think if we asked our clients, we’d get, 20 different answers as to, to that question. And of course there’s always gonna be different processes at work within different different organizations. But fundamentally, I don’t think that’s something that’s well understood or maybe well communicated.
Within a lot of within a lot of commercial teams go to market teams within businesses. Where do you think that line or that, that transition should be, and you know how. How does it work? When it really works well,
Jeremy: There are a number of scenarios that we come across. One of the most common, I believe, has two core aspects lacking within an organization, and it is a concise definition around what is the role of marketing and what is the role of sales?
Those concise definitions. Or the lack thereof generally means that there’s an adversarial culture. Yeah. And there’s been a lot of finger pointing over years and it means that they’ve gone their separate paths and are working in silos within a company.
And this is really common. This isn’t criticism at all. It’s something that we need to be understanding of, and. And aware of how this has occurred over time to find a pathway out of this. It usually means that the sales teams have not had what they thought was the support that they should have had.
And therefore are doing their own thing. And whether it’s the usage of MarTech tools for sales functions now, or taking control of their own campaigns or doing their own outbound prospecting. That’s all fine.
And then marketing tends to have a a traditionally have KPI set on it that a certain number of qualified leads needs to be generated on a monthly or quarterly basis.
That KPI there drives decision making that tends to not be to the best interest of the company because it lowers the bar on what is a marketing qualified lead. What most often occurs is that a single action. From a prospect, some form of recognition or registration of interest or intent immediately signals that this is an MQ l ready to buy sq.
We had 50 downloads of our white paper. Yeah, K P I met. Yeah. Yeah, yeah. Yeah. And. If the white paper was written in such a way to be compelling and addressing pain points that doesn’t register anything other than someone possibly thinking about something or being interested in something.
But because it’s been so driven in the way that it has been, the, they then think that person should be called. Yeah. And so that person gets a call nowhere near ready. To engage in any way because they’ve just downloaded something and, yeah. Yeah. And therefore, disgruntlement increases and you get the adversarial “marketing doesn’t do anything for us because we get all these junk leads because they’re not ready to talk to us or they’re not ready to meet”, the disparity increases, the gulf between marketing and sales increases.
Nick: I love your point about the sales teams actually operating the MarTech tools, operating the marketing CRM. We had a client who we’ve worked with them on a new service launch. And as part of that we’d done the launch activity and then we’d started to look at some demand generations.
So building some demand generation funnels within their tool. Scripting out emails, creating content that would be to be interacted in with and obviously progress the prospect through the funnel. Gave that all over to the client. They had the tool, they were implementing it.
About a month later, they came to back to me and said, Nick, my campaign’s not working. And I was like, oh, what do you mean it’s not working? W where, what, where are the gaps? What’s going wrong? Oh no one’s really responding to the emails that we are sending out. And I was like, oh, that’s strange because, we, we have pretty well established Metrics in terms of open rates and click rates and things like that.
And they just weren’t hitting any of those at all. And so I had access to that tool, went into the tool, and what I observed was that they hadn’t used any of the emails that we’d developed. The sales team had gone in and written emails and had just been sending them out to the database. And of course the sales team, when they write an email, first of all, there were some grammar issues which kind of makes you look unprofessional and makes you question whether you actually wanted to be interacting with this company.
But more than that, the sales team there focus in the email. Don’t forget, this is a cold outreach email to a database. The first email was click here to book some time in my diary.
It was straight from the top of the funnel. You’ve never heard of me and you dunno who I am to. Okay let’s sit down and chat and I can take you through our offer, all them on email.
And they’re surprised that’s not working. I don’t think I was surprised that it’s not working because there should be a lot more of a process that happens in between the, you’ve never heard of me and let’s sit down and chat.
I think that’s a great example of where it’s, and it’s probably come from sales thinking they’re doing the right thing. They’ve got this great new tool, why don’t we utilize it? But maybe also a bit of frustration with the marketing team that marketing is saying, okay, we need time to build the demand generation and then you’ll get your leads.
The expectation management, I think is another theme that we see popping up quite often. Is that something that you’ve had experience dealing with and how do you manage that?
Jeremy: It leads into the second most common scenario in that. There aren’t lead definitions agreed on by everyone.
And so the mismanagement of expectations generally comes from the inability to define what even is a lead and how do we categorize that and how do we understand. Using data to show us that this is a lead at a particular stage in what we would call a buyer life cycle.
So if we’re thinking about strangers out, out there, Finding us and or us finding them and they become prospects or subscribers or they somehow come into the database. Yeah. And over time they transition to leads and somehow they’re qualified by marketing.
They become marketing qualified leads and in time, then sales qualified leads to become opportunities, and then they close to customers.
That whole life cycle generally isn’t tightly defined. And so the expectation we most commonly see is that it’s not that sales want more leads to qualify and nurture sales wants marketing to deliver “buy-ready leads” who are ready to close and have conversations now. And that’s not anyone’s fault, that’s just a belief that occurs.
And so in a process of defining those lead stages, what is absolutely fascinating is you get agreement on that. And then you deploy marketing to deliver that against those tightly defined lead stages.
Once you are delivering from a marketing perspective, delivering on what you agree on, and have metrics around the marketing qualified sales, qualified leads that are in the system and how they’re flowing in through different campaign motions.
Then what it opens up is. We’re getting all these leads, why aren’t we closing them? Yeah. Yeah. That starts a different conversation. Okay. Yeah. It, the first instance that we see is it’s a lash out against marketing. Yeah. And that’s fine. We just have to take it. Marketing gets blamed for most things in companies.
But, the reality then tends to be is our guys aren’t used to nurturing. Yeah. Or they’re not used to chasing, they’re unused to having probing conversations to lead people down. A process of qualifying them on the sales side because there had been, to date, a belief that I walk in.
They already have a known issue. They already know what we need, how much is …
Nick: gonna cost, how long to implement.
Jeremy: I’m just gonna, here’s the menu of everything that we offer. And what do you need? It’s normal. It’s common. But once, once you have the definitions then you can start having the harder conversations, which get more esoteric and qualitative because, they’re not the right kind of leads.
They fit all the metrics, but they’re not the right one. You can have all those challenges, but at least there’s data then. And you can have leadership teams or even managing directors or CEOs then step in and make a call as to what’s gonna be going forward.
Those tend to be the two major issues. You’ve got the lack of definition around leads across all stages, and the lack of definition around the roles across the teams who are all working to support the same mission in a company. Yeah.
Nick: Awesome. Thank you. So that’s been a great discussion on why didn’t my campaign work.
Jeremy, I really enjoyed our conversation. Thank you very much for that. I guess just one message to leave everyone with is, maybe we are looking at this the wrong way. Maybe “why didn’t my campaign work” is actually a success factor.
We only learn by making mistakes. We only get better by trying things that don’t work, so that we know that when we try something that does work, we’ve got something to compare it against.
So maybe we need to be looking at my, why didn’t my campaign work? That one didn’t work, but probably the next one will cause we’re gonna learn what happened.