9 Signs You’re Marketing Like it’s 1999

10 minute read

Upland Admin

Old habits die hard, it’s true. But for marketers, the risk of being left behind is far too great to get comfortable with a routine.

In 1999, internet advertising hit a record high of almost $2B investment. Almost 20 years later, we’re nowhere near finished peaking at $316B. If that 15700% increase isn’t enough to spark some changes in organizations, not much will.

And marketers have largely risen to the challenge. Campaigns are more personalized,  and vanity metrics are mentioned but not sworn by. Perhaps most significantly, content is becoming an investment to tailor positive customer experiences.

But with so much rapid change, best practices are still being established. And while trial and error might get you there eventually, let me spare you some time.

Here’s how you’ll know if you’re marketing like it’s 1999:

1. You Don’t Know Your Personas

Imagine this conversation on a first date:

Kayla: “So, do you have any pets?”

David: “No, I’m not much of an animal guy. I’m allergic to most of them, and I really can’t stand cats, they’re just the worst! How about you?”

Kayla: “I have a dog, a bird, and four cats…”

Womp womp. And just like that, the conversation turns south. The date is effectively over.

Now, this isn’t just proof that hypothetical David and Kayla were not meant to be. David truly didn’t understand his audience, and it cost him Kayla’s trust and engagement.

Before buyers had pretty much all the power in the market, you might have gotten away with ill-defined or—gasp—undefined personas. Now, creating an asset without tailoring the message to meet the audience exactly where they are is like shouting into an already loud auditorium in a language no one understands.

If you have any uncertainty regarding your personas—which are the most strategically significant, engage the most often based on content type, and so on—fix that now and create buyer personas that inform your B2B content strategy.

2. You Talk about Your Product First

Knowing the persona you’re talking to is a good first step. Chances are, if you’re aware of your audience, you know that they probably don’t care about your product or service.

Sure, there might be a minority who have been commissioned by their boss to compile a competitive analysis that includes your offering. Those people will be motivated to do the research and learn more.

But everyone else? Their real concern is their day-to-day life. If you can hit on the pain points that plague them or the broader solution your product offers, now you’ve actually hooked their interest.

Once your prospect is further down the funnel and you’ve educated them about the problem at hand as well as built trust and authority, now you get the privilege of giving a pitch.

Even then, it’s not about the product. It’s about what the product can do for the customer.

3. You Aren’t Tagging Your Content

So—you’re a marketing hotshot. You know your personas inside and out, you have dreams about Director Dan and Manager Molly and you understand what makes them happy, sad, angry, frustrated, etc. The content you create is geared towards them, not fixated on your offering.

But what about that webinar you just scheduled? Did you tag it with the personas you know so well?

What about buying stage, vertical, language, region, segment?

Without a proper taxonomy, visibility into content is impossible. Of course, every organization’s tags will focus on unique strategic purposes, but implementing a system that categorizes and contextualizes assets allows content to be better used and repurposed.

4. You Think Content Is a Cost Center

If you still think of content as exclusively involved in content marketing, you’ve probably developed a bit of resentment towards content. It only applies to the top of the funnel and there’s no strategic purpose apart from simply getting traffic and maybe a new name—whether or not that lead fits your customer profile.

Thankfully, content is now recognized as an integral part of marketing by leading organizations who have made the strategic transition from content marketing to content operations.

If you haven’t yet made the switch, you might be wondering what a content operation is and how it radically changes the way you think about content and solves the pain points associated with typical content marketing.

Put simply, a content operation is the tools, teams, and processes that govern the entire content process—including planning, creation, distribution, and analysis. This factory needs key strategic elements to fuel a smooth operation, of course, but the key difference is that you’re not committing random acts of content.

Wasted content, misalignment, and lack of visibility are the main offenders that have defined content as a cost center in the past. A content operation flips that on its head, breaking down barriers to success and fundamentally changing the way content functions in your organization.

5. You Assume Buyers Don’t Know Who Your Competitors Are

In the digital age, one of the biggest mistakes you can make is to ignore your competitors. Of course, competitive analysis is critical to your understanding of the market, but that’s not exactly what I’m getting at.

There is a general fear of acknowledging—or god forbid, linking to—your competitors in the digital world.

Here’s the problem with that: you’re not keeping leads from knowing their options. They already know. If your strategy is to simply be the loudest voice in the market in an attempt drown out your competitors, even if you do win deals, you end up at risk for huge retention issues.

Instead, take your competitors face on. Publish a blog about what differentiates you from them. Take control of the conversation and own your offerings strengths and weaknesses.

Educating your buyer is the newest and greatest marketing hack.

6. You Store Content in More than One Repository

When was the last time someone at your organization shared an old version of an asset? Or something that has long been retired but lived—prepare yourself—on the sharer’s own hard drive.

The fact is, keeping content in multiple locations is still a rampant problem for most organizations. Our research in 2017 found that 80% of marketers have multiple repositories for finalized content. Wishful thinking inspires me to believe that number has decreased, but it’s safe to say that this is still an issue for more than half of marketers.

If you have multiple caches of content, it’s not if someone will share an outdated asset, it’s when. Not to mention, how important will the account be? How many recipients will stop reading or get so confused that they stop wasting their time trying to understand?

Count all the repositories your organization has. Count your content management system, your digital asset manager, your internal folders of messaging. Don’t forget Google Docs.

Now, which is the source of truth? The single place to go to that assuredly will have the most up-to-date, approved asset.

If you don’t have an answer to that, you’re risking all of the work going into planning, crafting, and approving the perfect asset.

7. You Use Traffic to Evaluate Content Performance

Ah, vanity metrics. Let me be clear on what you should consider vanity metrics:

  • Traffic
  • Downloads
  • Time on page
  • Social likes
  • Social shares
  • Bounce rate

Now, before you run out the room screaming “Those are all I have!!”—don’t.

Sure, measuring engagement across these parameters is valuable. If you have no traffic, you have no meaningful engagement. But don’t confuse having high volume on traffic with meaningful engagement.

Not all engagements are created equal.

To actually track the performance of your organization’s content, you have to have a way to evaluate its contribution to funnel velocity. If that white paper you spent 30 hours on is part of the content journey of four out of five won deals, the ROI is looking pretty good! 

Conversely, if your top downloaded asset is delivering leads that are nowhere near the right customer profile for your offering, you can do better.

Maybe the leads aren’t the decision makers. Provide a link to help them bring the conversation to their bosses.

Maybe the leads don’t have the right maturity for your product or service. Hand them a CTA to a white paper that levels up their thinking.

Or, maybe the leads aren’t even close to who you’re trying to talk to. Change the asset itself to better appeal to your audience.

These are all actionable steps, but you’ll need the right insights and data points.

8. Marketing and Sales Aren’t Fighting on the Same Team

According to our newest research (to be released next week, stay tuned!), one in three organizations doesn’t have regular marketing/sales meetings.

Hold the phone. (Hah, sales jokes from a marketer.)

Over 30% of marketing teams do not meet with sales regularly.

If you are one of those folks, I encourage you to open a new window, set a meeting with any and all salespeople you can find, and fix this. Then, come back to this blog and keep reading, because I’m not done with my 1999 rant.

Sure, marketing and sales teams have a lot of potential tension. But a power struggle between the two teams that are responsible for initial points of contact with an organization simply cannot afford to be anything but aligned—and happy about it.

9. You Think Technology Is Going to Solve All Your Problems

Central to solving the main pain points around content is technology that supports the full content lifecycle. If you haven’t noticed, one of Kapost’s main offerings is a platform that does just this.

But now that I’ve officially outed myself as a technology vendor, let me be the first to say that technology is not the solution to all of your marketing pain points. Without the behavioral changes that enable your team to use said technology to its full potential, you just have a fancy platform that goes untouched.

Content transformation is about embracing not just new technologies but new models and processes. The technology will support your team, but the behavioral changes of always tagging content and campaigns by key contexts and generally using the technology as it’s intended is a huge hurdle that—though ultimately worth it—needs proper attention.

Key Takeaways

Hopefully, you read through this list and laughed at all the marketers stuck in a different century. But chances are, you’re guilty of some of these sins. Even as I stand on my soapbox, I’ve been known to use a Google Doc and belatedly sync it into our single source of truth repository.

But the good news is that we’re constantly learning—and then writing a blog to help others learn a little quicker than we did.

Next up on my to-do list: create a Facebook quiz that’s titled “What Year Are You Marketing In?” Until then, subscribe to the Marketeer to make sure you don’t fall behind.

The bottom line is that content marketing isn’t enough—you need a content operation. To really uplevel your strategy, you’re going to need more than just a (albeit, incredible) blog post. Get The Definitive Guide to Building a Content Operation:

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