B2B Articles - May 17, 2018

Why Do B2B Digital Marketing Plans Fail?

Why do marketing plans fail?

What causes B2B digital marketing plans to fail?

Sometimes even a well-executed marketing plan fails. When this happens, teams should dissect what went wrong to prevent failure from happening again (or at least the same type of failure). Marketers who simply move on and do not adequately analyze failed campaigns are doomed to repeat the same mistakes.

There are some common reasons that B2B digital marketing plans fail. After an unsuccessful campaign, if the reason is not entirely clear, look at some of the signs for failure below to see if one of these problems occurred.

Reason #1 for B2B digital marketing plan failure: Improper goal setting

Unrealistic expectations are a huge reason for failure in marketing campaigns. Executives, stakeholders, or clients may expect a campaign to perform in a very impractical way, and the team may not want to explain they cannot meet such outsized goals. This sets marketers up for failure. Alternatively, the stakeholder may not fully understand the function of marketing or why a campaign is run a certain way. Without full communication, which includes goal setting, a campaign is hopeless from the start.

Lead generation goals

Goals must also be numeric. If the goal is to “raise awareness of a brand,” and the marketers do not lay out what metrics are needed to attain this goal, then failure is imminent. Goals cannot be too generic, nor should they be too granular. And a huge mistake that marketers make is setting goals based on industry standards.1

Industry standard benchmarks lack context and a sense of the quality of the outcomes being measured. Marketers need to test their current state instead of taking generic industry benchmarks and making goals off on those numbers. Only about 22% of businesses are satisfied with their conversion rates, and this may be in part because companies often base conversion rates directly on industry standards. 

Download: How to set conversion goals

Improper goal setting can drown an entire marketing campaign. And marketers who launch campaigns without goals in place are even more likely to fail. In fact, marketers who set goals are 377% more likely to report success than those who don’t. Not only are organized marketers nearly seven times more likely to report success than their peers, but they also have a 414% increase in the likelihood to report success when they document their strategies.2  Goals should have context, be based on data, and be reasonable. While well-done marketing campaigns can have powerful results, clients must understand what to expect before the campaign launches so everyone is on the same page.

Reason #2 for B2B digital marketing plan failure: Lack of buyer understanding

Most marketing campaigns target a prospect in a certain stage of the sales funnel. Often, this is at the top of the funnel or in the awareness stage. However, 68% of marketers have not defined their funnel, which means they lack an understanding of the buyer journey.

Buyer personas

The marketing team should identify the buyer journey and how they move down the sales funnel to understand their intent. This helps marketers create smarter B2B digital marketing plans. Furthermore, by having knowledge about the buyer in the awareness stage, marketers can make more targeted campaigns that direct them through the buyer journey. Without this information, a campaign has no way to move forward; it’s essentially throwing out information and hoping that buyers like it and take action.

Most critically, marketers must spend time to deeply understand the needs, intentions, and challenges that motivate buyers. Pain points, business value, and institutional aspirations are key components that must be understood and documented. Buyer understanding is a crucial component that drives marketing success.

Reason #3 for B2B digital marketing plan failure: No testing and learning

Marketers need to test, optimize, adapt, and learn continuously. Without this, marketers will have no knowledge to improve campaigns, which means campaigns will likely fail. Marketers that have a process for learning, adaptation, iteration, and optimization can take the weak points of a B2B digital marketing plan and adjust them in real time.

Why marketing plans fail: no testing process

  1. Look at test variations: compare results and gain top-level insights

  2. Use Submissions & new contacts to gauge performance

  3. Use conversion rates to ultimately determine the impact of tests

Furthermore, there should be a testing process and time period so that marketers know which campaign tactics work and which do not before launching an important campaign. Agile workflow processes, like scrum or kanban, are designed to help marketers respond with rapid adjustments from their test data. In fact, the likelihood of success from agile marketers is reported to be 469% greater than that of their peers. Marketers who go into a campaign blind or who cannot quickly respond to buyers are less likely to succeed than those who can test tactics and know what works with what audiences.

Marketers that continually learn and test strategies increase their likelihood of running successful campaigns, as those individuals constantly stay on top of what methods work and what methods are falling out of fashion in the marketing world. Teams that lack dedicated individuals for testing and optimization are likely running poor performing campaigns as they are not learning from past mistakes. Teams that can learn from failures, however, and take time to realize errors can move forward to find success in their B2B digital marketing plans.


1 Econsultancy, Conversion Rate Optimization Report 2017, 2017

2CoSchedule, Trend Report: Marketing Strategy 2022, 2022

3Salesforce, Setting Up for Success With Marketing Automation, accessed 2022

4CoSchedule, Trend Report: Marketing Strategy 2022, 2022

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