1 Big Pitfall to Successful Demand Generation Digital Transformation

As marketing leaders, we sometimes inadvertently lead our teams astray. When we delegate the outcomes we want, and simultaneously drive a sense of urgency, our teams may skip important steps in their drive to achieve the outcomes.

As marketing leaders, we sometimes inadvertently lead our teams astray. When we delegate the outcomes we want, and simultaneously drive a sense of urgency, our teams may skip important steps in their drive to achieve the outcomes. Here is a classic example we see all too frequently with clients.

The Scenario

We start with the desired outcomes, of course. In demand generation, this is usually marketing-qualified leads (MQLs) or sales-qualified leads (SQLs), bookings and revenue. If this desired outcome was somehow unexpected, then a sense of urgency invariably accompanies it. So, in turn, we light a fire under our teams to quickly get some leads in the door, generate MQLs and SQLs ASAP.

The Result and the 1 Big Pitfall

We need to generate leads and MQLs? Let’s create a campaign! Yay! Design it this week, build it next week, QA and launch the end of the week, and leads will start pouring in subsequent to that. Oh, dear. If only it were that easy. Going straight from “we need MQLs” to “let’s create a campaign” means going from Step 1 to Step 8 and skipping six important steps.

  1. Generate new MQLs and SQLs
  2. Create a campaign!

Here are the six intervening steps you will want to ensure your team takes if you are to have successful demand generation campaigns and succeed in your digital transformation.

Preventing the Pitfall

Step 2. What Buying Stage Transition Are We Targeting?

Once we understand the outcome desired in Step 1, we must determine what customer buying journey stage we are targeting. Are we moving people from unaware to aware, or from aware to consideration, etc. If you haven’t defined the customer buying journey, stop and define at least one.

Step 3. What Persona Are We Targeting?

Don’t have any defined personas? Stop and define at least one. Having a clear picture of who you are targeting is a critical step to successfully achieving your outcome. Now that you have the persona selected, the team gets to review what channels the persona prefers, and the content preferences. Step 2 and Step 3 are interchangeable. I.e., there will be occasions where you perceive your funnel conversion rate from one stage to another is low, and you make the buying journey stage decision first. There will be other times where you recognize your funnel volume is low on a particular persona, and you make the persona decision first and the buying journey stage decision second. Regardless, you need to take both steps.

Step 4. What Problem Does Your Persona Have at This Stage?

The next question to answer, now that you have selected the target persona, and the current buying journey stage, is what problem do the members of it have at this stage that can be solved with your content?

For example, if you are targeting the Aware stage, and want to move them to Consideration, what information or education will trigger the buyers to sit up, realize they have been ignoring a pain in their sides that is curable, or that they have an opportunity to do something they have not done before, and they need to finally take action? The ideal content you send is most likely NOT product-centric. It will be customer-centric and it will have the buyer‘s challenge or the opportunity as the primary theme. It will be very narrowly focused around that theme.

We are looking for the trigger that will move this persona one step forward in the buying journey. We are not trying to move them all of the way to “closed won” with a single piece of content, or a single campaign.

Step 5. What Message or Content Addresses That Challenge or Opportunity?

Okay, we have the target persona, the buying journey stage they are in, the trigger we feel will tip them forward into the next stage in the buying journey. So now the question is, what content do we have that directly addresses this issue? Ignore the medium it is in for now, as repackaging it may not be hard. Focus on which Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) can or have already produced in terms of educational pieces of content that will be most effective in engaging the targets and moving them forward.

Step 6. What Is the Appropriate Medium for the Information?

All too often, we have clients ask us: “What is the hottest medium to use these days — video, white papers, webinars, slide shares, infographics, what?”

This is totally the wrong question! The answer depends on the message itself, and the persona and, to some extent, the buying stage they are in.

For example, if your target persona is a technical influencer, and uses a smartphone frequently to read email on the commuter train in the morning, sending a white paper would be silly, but a 2-minute video could work great … depending on the message you are trying to send. And the medium may also depend on the channels we pick in Step 7. Because more and more campaigns are becoming multichannel, it is likely you will end up choosing multiple media for the message, to match the multiple channels you use to engage the targets.

Step 7. What Combination of Channels Will We Use to Communicate That Content?

Next, we have to determine which channels will work for this persona. It is a good idea to use more than one channel to convey the same message to the same individuals. The results will simply be better, and the level of effort is not significantly more.

Some firms erroneously believe that paid media ads are only for top-of-funnel, new-lead acquisition. This is not true.

For instance, you can upload a list of email addresses into Facebook, or LinkedIn, match them against their data to create your new target list, and then do nurturing campaigns through those channels very economically only to your existing leads.

Step 8: Put It All Together

Now you are finally ready for Step 8. Let’s design a campaign based on all of the decisions made in Steps 2-7.  Now the cynics among you will say, “Hey, steps 2-7 are really part of basic campaign design, how can people be skipping them?”

The Pitfall You Just Avoided

Well, many firms don’t have defined personas and buying journey maps and here is what happens:

Step 1. CMO: We need more MQLs, urgently

Step 8. Team: Let’s design a campaign

  • An Email campaign, right? Blast everyone who is not a customer in our database, right?
  • 4 touches, check
  • 2 weeks apart, check
  • What offers can we put in there, a case study, an infographic, a research report and the last email is the call to action — “request a demo.” Check
  • Great, code up that campaign, we can get this out in under two weeks. Yay.
  • Count all the MQLs.


So, the message is this. If you urgently discover you need more MQLs, update your resume, not your campaign calendar. If you want to be successful in digital transformation, become more customer-centric, and approach customer engagement from the buyer perspective:

Think about what information they need first. Secondly, determine what content contains that information and then lastly, what channels and campaigns can convey that information to the recipients. And understand that one campaign does not produce a meaningful flow of MQLs or SQLs. Nurturing is a process, it requires commitment and it must be sustained over a longer period of time