5-Minute Whiteboard: Why You Can’t Just Crank Up Marketing to Get More Sales

CEO/Sales Leader: “Hey marketing team! We’re behind on our quarterly sales goals and only have 3 weeks left. Do some marketing why doncha?! Crank up them SQLs!

Marketer: “Yeah, that’s not really how this discipline works. It’s a long lead cycle between awareness, branding, and conversion, and…

CEO/Sales Leader: “Sorry exec team. Marketing underperformed and that’s why we didn’t meet our quota.

Sound painfully familiar? Whether you’re in B2C/DTC trying to hit revenue targets or in B2B trying to close contracts, the story’s often the same. Marketing is asked to do the impossible, with nowhere near the lead time required to win mindshare. Often, we’re forced to fall back on cheap hacks and one-time discounts. More in this week’s 5-Minute Whiteboard:


Howdy SparkToro fans, and welcome to another edition of 5-minute whiteboard.

I’m gonna tell you about an experience I bet almost all of you in B2B and many of you in B2C have had, and that is a client, your boss, your team comes to you and may say, “Hey, We need to make more sales next month this month, this week because we’ve got a big incentive, a big deadline. We’re way behind.”

And what happens invariably invariably one of two things. One, you exhaust a bunch of resources; usually it’s pricing or a special offer, or something like that in order to juice the numbers for a very short period of time And then you find when you need to do it again in two or three months or six months or nine months, you’ve burned out your audience. You can’t blast that same email list. You can’t hit that same group of people with an offer and get them to take action.

Or two, you invest in a bunch of things, marketing things you hope is gonna turn your audience into customers and it doesn’t work at all.

Why is that? Because marketing does not equal sales. Marketing is not a pure 1:1 correlated sales lever.

That’s not how marketing works. Marketing is about building awareness, earning trust, or growing an audience and eventually letting those people discover the reasons that they should buy from you. Right?

We’re all familiar with the buyer’s journey.

You’ve got your, you know, problem discovery phase. You have exploration and education where the person is learning more about what’s going on in the problem space and how they might wanna solve it. They’re learning whether products exist to solve this problem. There’s a consideration process where they actually might check out different brands in the space including hopefully yours and then an actual purchase decision where they decide to make a purchase, hopefully from you (or one of your competitors probably). Right? And they make that purchase at that time.

This process for every different company, the time that it takes is different This is no surprise, right? Obviously, it’s different. Sometimes it takes a day, five minutes. If you’re at the, you know, check out counter of SeaTac airport, you know, Hudson News and you’re buying candy bars, guess what? You’re gonna choose real fast because your flight is boarding.

But if you are buying B2B software and it requires an expense that you need to get approved from layers of organization, this process is extremely lengthy. And by the way, that organizational approval is happening down here. Problem discovery and exploration takes months before that, maybe even years before that.

Now, it’s also true that the source of influence are different for each of these phases. So if you wanna pull the lever on purchase decision time, that’s probably whatever you’re an email list or or a coupon or something that you put in the checkout flow. Maybe a special that you put on the website and you hope that people see it and and buy it. But if the demand doesn’t exist yet, then that’s not gonna have the impact. All true motivating factors for each of these phases change and being able to leverage each of them is not possible.

Some things you can change, but it’s almost certainly the case. Right? You can change your pricing. You can change the availability. You can change the messaging that you’ve got. But you can not change whether other brands exist in your space. Oh, last year we had no competition and this year we have a bunch of competition.

Oh, jeez. You know, that’s a completely different story, and and you’re not gonna be able to impact it the way you used to.

Your ability to impact these factors is something that you can control only in certain circumstances and marketing as much as I, you know, love say marketers have control over their marketing. It’s not entirely accurate and certainly not all the time. So there’s only one solution.

The only solution is proactive, right kinds of communication, honestly telling your customer, right, your client, your team, your boss, what you can impact how much when and what is out of your reach. You also have show what you can and can’t measure.

Hey, we can measure what’s happening in this consideration process by, you know, looking at numbers like our search visits, you know, visits that come from search. We can look at, maybe Google Search Console and we can see whether branded search traffic is coming up. Traffic to our home page, how many of those people are making to the pricing page, how many people from our email list are opening up the special that we sent them. Right?

Those kinds of things that can be measured and things that cannot be measured. How much interest is there in our competitor? Has interest falling in our space overall are people not having the problem that they used to have? Right?

When the COVID lockdowns ended a ton of offline activity and digital first companies found that, oh, the demand was actually falling because people were not as obsessively and constantly online as they used to be (similar to how live performances found that suddenly there was a whole bunch more demand and that’s not something either of them an impact unless they, I don’t know, it can impact, people taking the vaccine).

And don’t neglect. Last but not least, don’t neglect the top of the funnel. If you are exclusively working over here in these sectors and you’ve been ignoring this stuff, stuff that affects problem discovery, stuff that affects exploration and education, brand, gonna have a terrible, terrible time when it comes to actually selling to people, and you’re gonna you’re gonna run out of audience to sell to.

So like I said, marketing is not sales. Yes, it can impact sales. But if your team doesn’t understand this, if your sales team’s coming to you and they’re saying, I need more qualified side leads. Your CEO is coming to you and they’re saying, hey, I need you to juice the numbers.

You gotta show them this video because it’s it’s just not not realistic and not possible. There are things in your control. You should talk about those. There are things out of your control.

You should talk about those too.