Allison Thomas
Allison Thomas

61 percent of marketers believe that securing high-quality leads is the hardest part of their jobs. They’re not wrong. Marketing is tough. There are millions of businesses competing for customer attention, and your competitors are hungry, dedicated, and passionate about securing customers in your vertical. To win, you need to lean heavily on your funnel and leverage best-in-class strategies and processes to secure downstream leads.

But what if your funnel is set up wrong? Here are 9 funnel mistakes that every marketer should fix right now.

1. Poorly Established Analytics

Analytics are the backbone of hyper-effective marketing funnels. They fuel decisions, help you score leads, and give you the insights you need to create more effective, holistic, and target-driven campaigns. In fact, Google suggests that industry leaders are 1.7x more likely to measure marketing campaigns against common business goals, and they’re 1.4x more likely to leverage a variety of metrics to drive their campaigns. In other words, businesses that win with marketing, win with analytics.

But simply leveraging analytic tools isn’t a salve to your marketing woes. Using analytics incorrectly can actually hinder your campaigns and impact your downstream ROI. Not only do you need to track analytics across all channels (potentially leveraging them to create multi-touch sequences across those channels), but you need to standardize and share your analytics in a way that resonates with both sales and marketing.

This is harder than it sounds. Each channel has its own unique KPIs, and you’ll certainly need to put emphasis on different metrics for different channels. But you can’t let your channels become silos. Customers take multiple journeys before the reach your sales pipeline; you need to measure across all of those journeys while still leveraging a layer of standardization that bridges everything together.

2. Top-Funnel Obsession

At some point, the term “content marketing” became synonymous with top-funnel content. Social media posts, blogs, videos, podcasts, and other rich, universal content types dominate the marketing space. And you need bottom-funnel content. It’s important. But it’s not the only type of content. You have three layers to your funnel. Each of them is critical.

The average customer will engage with around 5 pieces of content before they worm their way into your sales ecosystem. Do you think they want to engage with the same type of content? Of course not! They’re on a journey. Once they read your blog post, they want to learn more about your product or service. They’re moving through your funnel. Unfortunately, 86 percent of companies primarily product blog content. While blogs are amazing sources of organic, value-driven traffic; they aren’t always capable of helping customers in the consideration and purchase stage of the funnel.

Bottom and mid-funnel content (think eBooks, webinars, case studies, demos, comparisons, etc.) are a core component of the customer journey. You need to create content that speaks to all three, four, five (however you organize your funnel) layers. Otherwise, you’ll end up with a ton of customers discovering your product, but very few making their way to the purchase stage.

3. Lack of Marketing-Sales Alignment

Marketing and sales should never share a budget. But they should absolutely share a goal. That goal is conversions. Companies that align sales and marketing boost their revenue by 3x, and they also enjoy 36% higher retention rates. Unfortunately, marketing-sales alignment is one of the harder funnel mistakes to fix. It requires strategies, business model changes, and plenty of collaboration. Luckily, the rewards are tempting: shorter sales cycles, higher revenue, better lead scoring, and higher conversion rates.

Time for a dose of truth: most companies silo sales and marketing. 30 percent of CMOs lack any marketing-sales alignment strategy. They treat them as disparate departments that are bound by their own logic, rules, and activities. So, it’s not all-too-surprising that 76 percent of marketing ignore sales enablement, and only 44 percent of companies leverage lead scoring.

Bridge the gap. Make sure that everyone is on the same page, chasing the same goals, and helping each other generate tangible conversions. There needs to be a shared responsibility for conversions. To be clear, you still need two different departments. Marketing is focused on attention and nurturing. Sales is focused on the end game. But those two processes are intrinsically linked, and failing to align your team leaves a visible pit between nurturing and conversion.

In other words, marketing and sales need to have a level of independence — since marketing primarily focuses on attention and nurturing and sales focuses on converting. But they each need to exist in a collaborative, customer-driven ecosystem that promotes full-funnel conversions.

4. Poor Targeting

Every marketing team should come to the table with three things:

  1. A target audience
  2. An Ideal Customer Profile (ICT) or Buyer’s Persona
  3. A well-understood buyer’s journey

Targeting happens across all three of these documents. Your target audience helps you understand broad targeting, while your buyer’s persona lets you get granular. The buyer’s journey helps you target the right people at the right stage in the marketing lifecycle. Here’s the problem: many marketing departments use gut feelings to create these documents. In fact, 76% of marketers fail to use behavioral data for ad targeting. Many just, well… guess.

That’s a problem. Gut feelings may help you forge your first persona. Data is what helps you perfect it. Every click, campaign, and conversion feeds more data into your big, bold marketing ecosystem. And each piece of data helps you create more accurate targeting. This is becoming increasingly important. With Apple and Google on the data privacy warpath, targeting customers is getting more and more difficult. Succeeding requires deep data insights and pitch-perfect strategies.

  • Ad placement and audience targeting are the top ways that advertisers drive more demand. (HubSpot, 2020) (Source: https://www.hubspot.com/marketing-statistics)
  • 76% of marketers fail to use behavioral data for online ad targeting

5. Not Segmenting by Audience

Targeting and segmentation go hand-in-hand. Segmentation is the process of dividing your audience up into likewise groups, so you can deliver hyper-personalized and experience-driven content and campaigns to them. Obviously, it’s unfeasible to deliver campaigns on the user level. Even the most niche B2B brands that solely operate on account-based marketing need to segment. While this segmentation may be less robust than a less niche B2B company, it still helps you drill down personalization and avoid blowing your entire budget on individualized campaigns.

In fact, the average marketer has around 3 audience segments. The more the better. But, obviously, time and resources are a handicap. The goal is to deliver personalized content — which makes customers 80% more likely to purchase your product). To be clear, segmentation isn’t optional. It’s a borderline requirement in today’s marketing environment. It lowers costs, boosts campaign effectiveness, and scores precious conversions. And there’s a good (almost certain) chance that your competitors are using it. You have a variety of customer types looking to purchase your product; they deserve different marketing strategies. Segmentation lets you deliver personalization at-scale and on-budget.

6. Paying Attention to Superficial Metrics

89 percent of leading marketers use metrics to measure campaign effectiveness. But not all metrics are built the same. Vanity metrics (i.e., metrics that really tell you… nothing) are some of the most commonly used types of metrics in the marketing playbook. And they can smudge your strategy. The three most common vanity metrics are:

  • Clicks
  • Likes
  • Views

These metrics mean nothing. In fact, they’re not even great for measuring exposure, since views and clicks don’t tell you if someone actually read your post. At best, these types of broad metrics can inform about SEO effectiveness, but they don’t actually tell you if the end content is convincing or converting. Stay away from poorly-informed metrics and focus on holistic and universally-telling metrics.

7. Failure to Constantly Optimize

Marketing isn’t a race: it’s a marathon. At TAM, we believe in failing early, fast, and constantly. Here’s the truth: you don’t know what’s going to work until you try. Don’t be scared of poorly performing campaigns or content that doesn’t tick the right boxes. Be scared of not fixing the issue. To be clear, marketing has been (and always will be) a guessing game. Sure! You can bump your chances of success massively with data, targeting, and segmentation. But you will, inevitably, fail. When you do, you shouldn’t pack your bags. Instead, you should optimize.

No matter how poor, good, or great a marketing strategy is, it could always be better. Optimize everything. Every campaign should go through a battery of A/B tests, and each successful iteration should be leveraged to grow. Never stop improving. Once you decide “this is the perfect strategy,” you risk becoming obsolete — fast. Remember, marketing is glued to customer appetites, opinions, and behaviors. Humans are always changing, evolving, and moving. Your campaigns have to flexible and fluid enough to meet them at that next goalpost.

8. Focusing on Sales > Branding

Sales are great. Branding is better. A sale is a one-time blip that ever-so-slightly boosts revenue. Your brand is a never-ending juggernaut that consistently and constantly produces value. According to Walker, “brand” has now overtaken both price and product as the key differentiator for businesses. Unfortunately, most marketers still focus solely on sales. That’s a mistake.

Want to know where most conversions come from? So do we. So does everyone. But no one knows. According to Hubspot data, the vast majority of leads come from… “other”. People are complex beings. There isn’t a straight-line path towards conversion. People consume tons of content, engage in thousands of tiny micro-moments, and reflect on purchasing decisions internally, with friends, and with colleagues. You can’t account for all of these spaces with campaigns, content, or ads. But branding can. Branding has nearly limitless reach. It touches emotions, digs into peoples’ brains, and creates trust, openness, and meaning between products/services and customers.

So, don’t put all of your eggs in the sales basket. Sure. You want those bottom-funnel conversions. But you won’t get them unless you focus on your marketing strategy holistically based on brand excellence.

9. Not Creating Effective Content

We have truth serum. Take a sip. The single most effective type of marketing is content marketing. Nothing else comes close. You need a lot of content (websites with +400 blog posts get 6x more leads than those with <400). But you also need engaging content. If you show someone a slide show, around 5% of them will remember those juicy statistics. If you give them a story with the slideshow, 63% will remember. Your customers want to be engaged and emotionally-connected with your content. This isn’t only for B2C brands. Google surveys show that B2B buyers are 50% more likely to purchase (and 8x more likely to pay a premium for) services that connect with them on an emotional level.

Create content that’s compelling, personal, and emotional. Don’t just slap a bunch of sales-oriented words on a page and expect conversions. Sure. More content is better. But better content is also better.