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Checkbox Marketing

Updated: Mar 3, 2020

When marketing is a series of tactics companies miss the opportunity to create lasting customer and business impact.

Recently, I saw a comment on a LinkedIn Post in response to a new Gartner B2B study - How B2B Marketers Generate Quality Leads - that states that it takes 24 touches (15 by marketing) to turn a prospect into a customer.

The comment by Carlos Hidalgo; Chief Strategy Officer of DemandGen, Founder of VisumCX, and author of The UnAmerican Dream; states, “I believe it is dangerous for anyone to read this and believe they need to put a 24 touch program together and I do not believe this is what Gartner is getting at. Despite what this may indicate, each business and industry is different and organizations still need to take the proper steps to conduct research and talk to their buyers to truly understand the buyer's purchase path.”

Thankfully, Gartner begins the summary of their study by saying, “Want to understand marketing’s impact? Look no further than the quality of the sales pipeline.”

What Carlos points out as “dangerous” here is the reality that companies will assume having a 24 touch program will directly lead to a high quality sales pipeline. This is the concerning assumption of checkbox marketing that many companies implement in place of a buyer-centered marketing strategy.

When corporate leadership focused on execution of marketing tactics, great results were not measured in revenue and business growth, but in terms of the number of boxes a marketer can check.

What is Checkbox Marketing?

Checkbox marketing is the easy-to-fall-into practice of doing what is “supposed to be done.”

I have talked to many founders and executives of scaling companies about marketing during high growth periods. Rightfully so, they are proud of their achievements, but almost unanimously they tell me about all of the “stuff” their marketing team did.

“We ran this cool email campaign.”

“We attended an event in LA.”

“We doubled our social posts and saw great results.”

It is this last one that continues to puzzle me.

Great results?

When corporate leadership focused on execution of marketing tactics, great results were not measured in revenue and business growth, but in terms of the number of boxes a marketer can check.

“Are we doing checkbox marketing?’

First we must recognize that even when companies are taking a tactical checkbox approach to their marketing they may still be experiencing success.

Properly executed tactics, even in isolation, can be effective. What’s risky is when disconnected tactics become the norm, the sustainability and scalability that comes with employing a buyer’s journey aligned marketing strategy is threatened.

Ask these questions about your marketing programs and pay close attention to the responses:

  • What are our marketing objectives for the next 6 months?

  • What were our marketing goals for the last 6 months and did we achieve them?

  • How does our marketing impact our customers?

  • How are we measuring marketing success?

Regardless of whether you are taking a checkbox approach to your marketing, these are great questions to ask on a regular basis.

The difference is that when marketing becomes a checkbox instead of a strategy, the responses to these questions turns out to be a list of activities rather than reflections of customer and business impact - pipeline contribution, revenue growth, deal velocity, etc.

Where to start

Moving past checkbox marketing starts by changing HOW we measure marketing impact. If marketing is measured by engagement, then the goal of marketing should be to create a steady flow and variety of highly interesting activities to build and keep an audience engaged. In this specific case - 24 activities.

If marketing is measured by pipeline quality, as Gartner suggests, then the goal of marketing should be to enable the buyers to move through the purchase path to solve their problem, as Carlos suggests in his comment.

As a result, you will not only have an engaged buyer, but also a valuable customer helping your company grow.

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