Marketers are under attack

It’s too subtle for most to see, but…

We just got back from this year’s Inbound event with a radically different takeaway. 

Nope, not about AI. 

A very prominent voice in B2B revenue leadership was on stage saying that roughly 70% of go-to-market challenges are rooted in pre-sales issues. 

So what does that mean? 

Well, pre-sales typically translates to awareness in these conversations. 

Now let’s couple that with one other observation: 

Virtually everybody believes in some version of “the marketing funnel” and most businesses are actually built around it. 

Leadership teams come up with growth targets each year and model it all out in spreadsheets. 

“Alright, so in order to increase ARR by X% next year, we’ll have to…” 

Funnel thinking. 

How many buyers do we need to get in front of in order to move enough of them through a pipeline and ultimately convert? 

Goes right back to awareness. Oh, sorry, pre-sales

And who’s on the hook here? 

Marketing, that’s who. So with more than two thirds of GTM challenges supposedly being awareness marketing issues, who gets the blame when the company doesn’t drive enough growth? 


“Hey Marketing…” 

In fact, virtually everything will look like a marketing problem

It will soon become evident that Marketing is under attack. Yeah, it’s that serious. If it isn’t already happening in your company, please be prepared for it to happen. 

So what can we do to combat this? 

Honestly, not a whole lot in the short term. 

But if there was ever a time to recalibrate our approach to annual planning and strategic discussions at the Leadership level, this would be it. 

We don’t have to go all “Wartime vs. Peacetime” like Ben Horowitz’s classic CEO breakdown (although it would be fascinating to explore what a Wartime CMO would look like), but here’s some immediate truth for us marketing leaders: 

If we don’t go on the offensive now, we’ll end up on the defensive soon. It’s that simple. It’s binary. 

(More on offense vs. defense in marketing leadership here.)

Or, put differently: 

If we don’t plan for 2024 with this in mind, we’ll make ourselves more vulnerable than we’ve ever been. 

And what exactly is “this” again? 

We’re talking about companies relying on Marketing to keep delivering enough top of funnel – at a time when categories are more competitive than ever before and channels are more saturated than ever before. 

Where customer acquisition costs are going up while budget and resources have gone down. 

Friction, which the funnel freakin’ feeds on, is making more and more buyers drop out. 

Not to mention the fact that a funnel approach never gets you to compounding results. 

And while B2B Marketingland loves to talk about the misalignment between Marketing and Sales, the real issue in most companies is that the Leadership Team is not aligned on how the company is actually going to drive most of its growth next year. 

That’s the conversation you as a marketing leader must drive. 

The opportunity here is to get ahead of the conversation about 2024 goals. 

It’s as simple and as hard as this: 

We have to understand our buyers and our product really well. Then we have to influence the company goals based on our understanding of the market dynamics. And then we have to map our marketing goals to those company goals. 

THEN we can start talking about marketing

What’s the primary way we’ll get in front of our buyers to help them develop habits of consuming our content and messages? So that they can get to those aha moments. 

Not that old “let’s test everything and do more of what works” crap. That’s not a strategy. 

Oh, and one more thing to set yourself up for success going into 2024:

Question the funnel with the rest of your Leadership Team. 

Just question it for now. Please. 

Do these spreadsheets with assumed conversion rates for each stage still serve us? 

Are they realistic? Does the amount of leads or, excuse us, demand needed inspire the right marketing behavior? If not, will we eventually run into a wall? 

It all starts with an honest conversation.

These are tough times. And it will get tougher before it gets easier. The situation calls for courage, honesty and leadership. The good news? If you’re reading this, we bet you have all three. 

Go get em!

- Your partners in growth at Elevate Demand

PS: For the football fans out here, this is perhaps the most meaningful interview with a football player from a “mastery of self” standpoint, which we can all learn from and apply to both our personal and professional lives: Geno Smith on the Power of Self-Belief (Finding Mastery)