Everybody wants to know where their money is going. No one stays in business long if they don’t. At some point CMOs get called onto the carpet and have to explain some things. When your results aren’t justifying your budget, this can be an uncomfortable conversation.

Want to avoid that kind of meeting? Here are sixteen ways CMOs are failing at positive marketing ROI, and how the smart ones turn it around.


1 Ignoring We Are Now in a Buyer’s Market

The business landscape has changed dramatically over the last few years. Competition for sales is everywhere. The barrier to entry is low with cheap digital marketing platforms readily accessible to anyone with a product and an internet connection. Sure, quality will still win out in the end, but it is up to the CMO to prove the value of this quality to the buyer and not expect it to be simply understood.

Failing to compete for every sale is a strategic mistake which can ruin your marketing ROI in a hurry. Big budget campaigns pushed out to the public with no plan and no personalization will not result in record sales. Instead, you will see increasingly diminished returns.

2 Not Setting SMART Goals

Broad and general goals result in wasted time, energy, and money. Create SMART goals to maximize your marketing budget and get real results that align with your organization’s mission. SMART goals are:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Relevant
  • Timely

SMART goals respond to and produce clear actionable data. They encourage multiple departments to collaborate and allow for perfect alignment with organizational objectives. Even if targets are not met, SMART goals give results expressed in universally understood metrics, allowing you to learn, grow, and be better prepared for your next attempt.

3 Neglecting to Create Buyer Personas

Knowing and understanding your ideal buyer’s needs and wants is a huge advantage that must be taken. Creating a buyer persona from market data and your own customer’s histories is easy and produces significant results.

Every piece of your marketing plan should be vetted against your buyer personas. Doing this will let you stretch your marketing budget by streamlining your approach to your market and eliminating ill-conceived campaigns that could have been avoided.

4 Skipping the Buyer’s Journey

Losing sight of the buyer’s journey is a recipe for disaster in digital marketing. It is not enough to simply offer a solution and a value proposition. You must take your buyer’s hand and lead them through your entire marketing framework from early awareness, through careful consideration, and ultimately into the land of decision.

When you stray from this framework your buyer finds someone else to solve their problems. Someone who listens. Someone who cares. And, ultimately, someone who is worthy of trust and loyalty.

5 Not Using/Leveraging Data to Qualify Leads

Everyone knows how to define the term “qualified lead”. It’s any potential customer who matches well with your ideal buyer persona. But what makes a lead qualified for your company? What attributes are unique to your buyers? The answer is found in your sales data, and if you are not using it to qualify leads, you should start doing so.

Companies with a formal definition of their own qualified leads generate more conversions. When you can establish specific data points for budget, need, and timing you are ahead of the game when you launch your campaign. Wild goose chases will be a thing of the past and more marketing dollars will directly result in sales.

6 Lack of Lead Nurturing

Moving a prospect through your funnel can be very mechanical. Each step forward triggers a new layer of automated interaction and response, all carefully designed to bring the customer in. The best funnels have grown longer and more elaborate. This results in more quality content for the prospect but it also means your potential customer is spending a lot of time alone in the wilderness unless you are investing in lead nurturing.


Lead nurturing protects your investment. Touching base with prospects lets you know when they have new concerns and questions and allows you to further personalize their experience. Simply stated, lead nurturing keeps your prospects on the buyer’s journey.

7 Outsourcing Content to Cheap Outlets

It is amazing how many sophisticated and expensive marketing campaigns go cheap when it comes to content. Every piece of the puzzle needs to be of the same quality and cheaply outsourced content will not fool your discerning prospects. It will stick out like a sore thumb and derail otherwise sound strategies.

Content is the backbone of your outreach.

It is what your prospects are basing their opinion of your brand upon. Shouldn’t it reflect the quality of your products? Investing in a high-quality content partner is wise. This is the best way to show your prospective buyers you mean business.

8 Failing to Distribute Content on Appropriate Channels

Securing smart content is expensive. It can be a hefty upfront cost. But, it pays off in the long run if you deploy that content correctly.

Neglecting the channels your buyers frequent will mean your content has gone to waste. If 60% of your prospects are primarily mobile users but you don’t produce mobile marketing content, you are losing those conversions. Distributing content on channels appropriate to your buyer persona is how you win. It’s also how you stop failing at MROI.

9 Not Optimizing Your Website

Although your organization has many public faces, your website is still your primary billboard; your calling card to prospective buyers. Failing to optimize your website puts you behind in the race for relevance.

Prospects expect a complete user experience regardless of the device they are using. They expect to find you without scrolling through pages of search results. And, they expect a clean modern interface that looks like it is showcasing a professional and successful organization. If you cannot deliver these things it’s time to give your site a makeover.

Using behavioral data to optimize your website allows you to spend your budget where it is needed most. By collecting and analyzing information generated by user activity on your site such as bounce rate, session duration, and user flow you can pinpoint which pages are working and which are not. This information is invaluable to prioritizing your optimization and saving money for other features.

10 Not Aligning Web Design with Buyer Personas

Failing to optimize your website will eventually lead to a complete overhaul. This is expensive and risky. A/B testing is difficult if you need to make many changes at once and you could face serious declines in traffic and engagement if you make the wrong choices. That’s why smart CMOs who care about positive marketing ROI use growth driven design.


As your business grows, so will your customers. If you are diligent in updating your buyer personas, you will be able to track these changes and use this knowledge to inform decisions made about your sales platforms. By making changes incrementally, you will keep your site optimized and avoid having to shut down and start from scratch with a complete overhaul.

11 Focusing on Acquiring Customers and Forgetting to Give Love to Existing Ones

Once a customer has put down their money and made a purchase, what do you do? Existing customers need attention. They have run the gauntlet of your sales funnel, completed the buyer’s journey, and stayed true to your cause despite constant attack by the competition.

Personalized outreach to stay connected to existing customers is critical to securing returning business. It is understandable that new business takes up the majority of your time but from an ROI perspective servicing an existing customer makes more sense. How many prospects will you have to locate, cultivate, and land to replace the proven buyer you just let out the door? If you don’t already, spend time and resources to maintain a relationship with your existing customers and keep the feeling alive.

12 Tracking the Wrong Metrics

Most CMOs track the basics; how many leads you need to generate, how many leads you are generating, and traffic. These are good metrics but they don’t tell the whole story and they will not give you the information you need to optimize your marketing budget and increase your marketing return on investment.

Expanding the metrics you track will allow you to react in real time to performance issues and make changes well in advance of campaign failure. Focus your analytics on collecting data to specifically help you set goals, monitor progress, and measure channel and content effectiveness for best results.

13 Using Too Many Tools

Tools are nice to have and certainly make many tasks far easier to complete. Many of the tasks a marketing team accepts would be impossible without them. But with each implement you add you also have to budget time to master new software and accept more barriers to integrate the information gained.

If you are overwhelmed with a dozen or more different marketing tools, consider streamlining your approach. At some point, you are just adding to the confusion and not simplifying the task.

14 Not Playing Nice with Sales

Too often the end of the day finds marketing and sales across the table from one another and pointing fingers. Both sides can be blamed for the disconnect but a good CMO can solve the problem.

Aligning with sales will strengthen your marketing efforts and your organization’s ability to close. Sales teams are a rich resource to be mined for customer data and their observations may prove valuable in other parts of the funnel.

15 Misallocating Resources

Sometimes the marketing budget is big enough but the dollars are being spent in the wrong places. Why? Because CMOs are reacting to bad or stale information. Creating accurate customer personas, monitoring the correct metrics, and using growth driven design are all proven ways to ensure you are correctly prioritizing where you put resources and when. It’s the smart approach to positive marketing ROI, and your business deserves it.


16 Our Mistake: Not Writing this Blog Sooner

And we apologize…

There is no time like the present to make a change. Waiting to act gains you nothing and puts your campaigns, budget, and ROI at risk. Stop using old marketing concepts and strategies. Embrace what new technologies can do for you and your organization with an iNBOUND iNTELLIGENCE approach.

It’s data driven, customer-centric, and it works.