May 26, 2021

How to Fix a Flawed Marketing Foundation

For a marketing strategy to be effective, it needs to be built on top of a strong foundation. Your target audience, brand, website and operations all need to be in alignment with each other and with your company’s overarching goals.

However, sometimes as companies grow and evolve, changes don’t always get reflected in the marketing foundation, leading to misalignment that can create roadblocks for further growth.

So, if your marketing strategies aren’t driving the results you predicted, revisiting your foundation is a good starting point for turning your strategy around.

The two most common marketing foundation flaws are:

  1. Misalignment between marketing strategy, product value and sales strategy, which can cause poor persona targeting and siloed efforts that lead to a disjointed buying experience 
  2. Incomplete funnel progression even though you’re targeting the correct audience

Based on which issues are most pressing, there are various tactics you can leverage to stabilize your marketing foundation.

Align Marketing and Sales

“It really doesn’t matter what your foundational marketing struggle might be, you need to make sure you are aligned with sales,” says Senior Inbound Strategist Mike Garris.  “If marketing is not aligned with sales, you do not have a cohesive revenue team. You have two teams working in different directions, which means if you grow it’s going to be inefficient. But, more likely, you’re not growing the way you want to.”

Symptoms of marketing and sales misalignment include feedback from sales that leads are low quality or a lack of feedback accompanied by a high drop-off rate from MQL to SQL.

“Sales should be dictating who you’re targeting. Marketing dictates how you target and how you message to them,” Mike says. “If marketing feels that they’re the ones who should be dictating who you’re targeting, you’ve lost the plot. Ultimately, sales needs to close those deals. Marketing needs to bring in qualified buyers to start those conversations with.”

Conduct a Funnel Gap Analysis

“If you’re trying to address the marketing foundation that you have and want to understand what you could be doing better or why you’re struggling to see success, the first thing anyone should take a look at is holistic funnel health,” Mike says.

Look at your conversion rates throughout the funnel:

  • What is your session rate-to-MQL rate?
  • What is our MQL-to-SQL rate?
  • What is your SQL-to-opportunity-to-closed-won-deal rate?
  • Where do gaps appear?

“You want to take that initial funnel gap and really diagnose what might be causing that by taking a closer look at what opportunities you’re presenting to the people at that stage and the action you want them to take and why they might not be taking it,” Mike says.

For example, if you have an extremely low conversion rate at the top of your funnel, multiple factors could be at play:  

  • Your website might lack effective conversion points
  • The majority of your sessions could be from current customers, so you’re not seeing that many net-new visitors who can convert for the first time
  • You might be attracting the wrong type of person with your content.

Once you have an overview of gaps, the real challenge can start when you begin looking for fixes. For many marketing challenges, there isn’t a single correct solution. So, even knowing exactly what’s wrong won’t always enable you to understand how to fix it.

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Additive Fixes vs. Revisions 

The way to address an unstable marketing foundation will depend on what the underlying issues are. Some corrections are easier to implement than others. 

For example, it’s easier to add middle- and bottom-of-the-funnel conversion opportunities to your existing strategy than it is to re-do your messaging or majorly shift the audience you target.

“When you’ve assessed that you have a strategic problem at your core go-to-market strategy, it’s obviously a much more complicated solve. You can’t just add a pop-up form on your site. You have to re-think you’re messaging entirely,” Mike says. “But it’s not like you’re going to turn off your website and replace it with a ‘coming back soon’ message. You’re just going to change what you’re doing going forward.”

For example, say your messaging is targeted at the wrong people so you’re not generating qualified leads. To start pivoting toward new, better-fit buyer personas, there are two primary criteria you need to start with:

  • Does my solution address the problems of this person?
  • Does this person have purchase authority?

Then marketing and sales need to get together and flesh out who the buyer personas they actually should be targeting are.

Once both teams are in agreement about who should be targeted, the next question marketing needs to ask is “Are the tactics we’re producing reaching this persona?”.

“Let’s say you want to talk to the manager of IT, you need to be talking about pain points and value props that they are inherently going to find valuable,” Mike says. “If you’re talking all about how to improve marketing performance through paid strategies, you are completely misaligning your talking points with the person sales needs you to court.”

However, adjusting your marketing strategy to target a new audience doesn’t mean you need to throw out all your existing content and start from scratch.

“It’s very rare that all of your content is unusable,” Mike says.”The content you built is going to be based on the solution you offered and the themes of the industry you operate within. Your content still has foundational value. So it becomes a matter of messaging pivot.” 

Consider asking:

  • Do we have an up-to-date audit of our content?
  • Do we have a list of ways we can reframe content to resonate with our new target audience? 

“The problem that a lot of people get into when they’re trying to message to personas is having trouble thinking about buyer mentality,” Mike says. “It’s not just about the value proposition you present. It’s about thinking about that buyer’s mentality based on how they move through their role, how they’re evaluated and what their state of mind is when they’re researching because ultimately everything they see from the very first paid messaging, very first website messaging, is a pitch — and you need to make sure you’re talking to them in a way that they’re going to gravitate towards.”

Going back to the earlier example, IT managers tend to be change adverse. Trying to sell them on a proactive change isn’t an effective angle to pursue. However, pitching the same value proposition through the lens of risk mitigation can be a lot more successful, because they can see that as a more immediate need. 

So, if you have a blog called “5 Reasons You Should Change Your IT Infrastructure”, you could reposition it as “5 Risks Your Current IT Infrastructure is Exposed to.” The bulk of the information wouldn’t need to change, you’d just have to position it slightly differently.

Similar adjustments can be made to other in-flight strategies so that you don’t have to completely scrap the work that’s already been done. 

“Updating your messaging is a phased approach,” Mike says. “The first is existing significant content. What can we change, what can we repivot to be more appropriate? The next is content that is upcoming that maybe you’ve done some legwork on. How can we change the intent of a piece, the wording of a piece, the positioning of a piece that we’ve already researched to be more appropriate for our audience so we can still use the source material we’ve put time into. And then, once you’ve gone past that point and are looking at maybe a quarter from now, that’s when you can make the really big changes, the thematic changes.”

Connect Tactics to Strategy

“Remember, every element of your marketing is supposed to work together as a system,” Mike says. “A lot of times when we’re dissecting flawed marketing programs, it stems from tactics being disconnected from the strategy.”

Whenever you plan a new campaign or implement a tactic, you need to consider not only the goal of that individual effort, but also how it will contribute to the broader company goal of nurturing leads through the buyer’s journey and closing good-fit customers.

For instance, if you’re doing a partner marketing campaign with the goal of increasing website traffic, you need to have a strategy in place for converting that new traffic into leads. If you’re launching a paid campaign to generate leads, you need to have a plan to nurture those leads into MQLs and SQLs. 

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What to Do When Your Marketing Foundation Has Multiple Issues

Funnel construction follows a linear progression, and you should follow the same progression when prioritizing what issues to address.

First, it’s always important to understand:

  • Who are you talking to?
  • Why are you talking to them? 

“Before you’re even talking to leads in the funnel, who should be in that funnel?” Mike says. “You need to make sure that’s really dialed in. So if you’re lacking a clear understanding of who should be in your funnel, you need to rebuild that mentality so everything else you do can be successful.”

Then consider: 

  • How are you attracting people to your content? 
  • How are you making that content engaging? 
  • Is your top-of-the-funnel content building brand awareness without aggressively pitching your product?

Lastly, confirm:

  • Are you providing follow-up resources that further tell the story of the value you provide?
  • Are you guiding prospects toward a division-making perspective where they’re ready to talk to sales? 

“It’s all about following the progression of your funnel and then using that to build prioritization,” Mike says. “So, if you don’t have a good strategy for attracting users to your website, you shouldn’t be focused on how you’re converting them when you have them on your site or how you’re passing leads on to sales because that’s solving a problem you don’t have yet.”

The Takeaway

Over the course of their development, companies can outgrow their marketing foundation, and that’s not necessarily something marketing needs to feel stigmatized about. 

“The reality is that companies are in a constant state of evolution and growth,” Mike says. “Identifying a crack in your marketing foundation is often correlated to an evolution of that company that marketing just didn’t keep up with. And, there are a million reasons why that could happen.”

However, for the continued success of your company, it’s important to address those flaws before they get worse. The best thing to do is to regularly revisit your marketing foundation so that you can catch these cracks before they’re fully formed and ensure there’s nothing stopping you from reaching your full potential.

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Quinn Kanner

Quinn is a writer and copyeditor whose work ranges from journalism to travel writing to inbound marketing content.


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