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Your Buyers Are Experiencing Marketing Fatigue; Here's What to Do About It

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Two stories.

Story One. I was at a large tradeshow recently. There must have been close to 1,500 exhibitors. I walked around the exposition floor and somehow managed to have my badge scanned by 25 companies. I had little to no conversation with any of the booth staff, but they were pretty aggressive and scanned my badge.

The day after the conference I received 20, "Thank you for stopping by the booth, lets jump on call" emails. The same day, l also received 10 follow-up phone calls. Over the course of the next two weeks, I received 57 follow-up calls and 224 follow-up emails from those 25 companies, follow-ups like...

  • "Did you receive?"
  • "When can we connect?"
  • "Curious to know if you are interested?"
  • "I'm just circling back to my previous email?"
  • "I am keen on establishing a conversation?"

My list of such nonpersonal follow-up examples could go on forever. We all get them. We all delete them, but marketing today is playing a numbers games, so this type of correspondence will continue to grow.

Now, to add one more layer of complexity to story No. 1, I received another 110 emails from other companies that were exhibiting at the conference that I did not even visit. Somehow, they managed to find my email, maybe by testing out our email nomenclature or going through my website to get my email. So, my official scoreboard of inbound communications from that one single tradeshow so far has been 411 follow-ups.

Story Two. I was doing some research for a new SaaS-based business simulation that my company is developing. I needed to better understand some of the business models, financial results, and challenges in the industry; so, as part of my secondary research I downloaded five whitepapers from five companies that I found as a result of a Google search. What happened next was astounding.

Literally within two minutes of downloading, I received an email from all five companies. Within five minutes of the download, I received four phone calls. I did not even have the chance to look at any of the articles or whitepapers before I was inundated with follow-up communications.

Within two weeks of downloading, I received an additional 42 follow-up emails and 17 phone calls. The scorecard from downloading five articles was 68 new inbound communications.

One tradeshow and five article downloads resulted in nearly 500 pieces of communication.

Does this sound familiar to anyone?

Buyers Are Getting Tired

As a marketing professional, I use all the tools out there. Marketing automation, contextual marketing, account-based and content-based marketing tactics... You name it, I use it. And my email campaigns the last six months have gone from a 14% open rate to barely a 5% open rate, while my clickthrough rates have diminished from nearly a 6% rate to just over 2%.

I talk to my marketing colleagues at other companies, and they are experiencing similar results. "The only thing that is working is SEO, but even that is not resulting in qualified leads for sales," I hear over and over.

With all of this influx of communications, our buyers and prospects are experiencing what I am calling "Marketing fatigue." That is, there are there just too many nurture touch points, too many pieces of outreach, too many truly bad email messages.

From what I have seen and what I have personally experienced, buyers are beginning to shut down, and that's going to present a big problem for marketers, despite all of the new and available digital marketing tools making our lives easier...

This fatigue is going to push Marketing and Sales into a panic, if it has not already happened. Marketing, to meet its key performance indicators (KPIs) and waterfall numbers, is just going to push on Marketing-qualified leads (MQL) and Sales-qualified leads (SLQ) to the next level. Sales is going to get discouraged with low-quality leads while business leaders are going to get frustrated with increased marketing costs with poorer conversion levels and most likely "fudged" data.

So, What Can You Do? Here Are Five Tips

1. Re-evaluate your KPIs

Marketing automation has provided marketing professionals with unparalleled insight into buyer patterns and purchasing journeys, from lead to close.

How are you evaluating the success of specific campaigns or your marketing programs as a whole? Are you just providing numbers back to the CEO and saying, "Look, my open rate is 10%? Look, my leads are up! Isn't that great?!"

When developing your goals, however, you need to be thinking about quality versus quantity. It's great to develop 10,000 leads; but if only 1% move to an opportunity, then it really does not matter how many you developed. I would rather have 10 high-quality leads that build the top of the funnel, than 100 poor-quality leads that leak out quickly.

2. Re-evaluate your outreach cadence

This section relates back to the first point on KPIs. Think about the fatigue that your database may be undergoing from all of your outreach. How many campaigns a month are you launching to reach your desired goals? Are you doing drip programs on every campaign?

To create a compelling reason to buy, maybe you should cut back on the overall number of outreaches and nurturing touches (see below), and instead focus on making them really good.

3. Re-evaluate the nurturing process

I know the best-practices say 6-7 touches until you close a lead, but that's too much. At 6-7 touches, you are probably hitting a point of diminishing returns and becoming an annoyance.

Part of the goal of a content-based approach or account-based approach is to provide insight, credibility, and knowledge to the prospect. When you overdo follow-up, it works in reverse and you become a nuisance.

I know we are all spending a lot of money in content development, but most of the time people are just kicking the tires. You have to slowly build credibility and trust—over time.

4. Re-evaluate your messaging and communication style

The "did you see," "did you read," "just checking in" emails really have to go. Your responses and communications have to be personal. They have to entice the prospect to wade through the 500 other emails to get to yours and read it.

Subject lines have to be relevant and interesting. Emails cannot just be boilerplate responses.

Show the reader that you care and you really are interested in their business and challenges. Make sure you are providing value or some sort of compelling reason to respond.

Also, don't be afraid of writing a long email. If you are connecting with the reader and providing value, they will read it.

5. Re-evaluate your training and development

How are you training your business development and sales professionals, and what resources are you providing them for ongoing development and sustainment?

Here is another quick story. A person from one of the companies that I downloaded the research paper from was actually able to get me on the phone. His first statement to me was "I am just calling to see if you were able to download the paper OK?" I quickly responded that I did. He stumbled for a second and replied "OK, great" and hung up the phone. He was not prepared to get through; he was probably trained to leave a message and track the results in the CRM.

If you are not providing sales-skills training, start! If you are not providing business acumen training, start! You have to provide them not only with basic selling skills, such as rapport-building, managing objections, listening, and questioning, but also with the ability to understand business.

No matter what their role, they need to be prepared to ask the questions that will determine a potential link from your solution to the prospects' business need and ultimately their financial drivers and metrics.


This is really one the most fun times to be in marketing. Technology, tools, data, information, ideas, and innovation in the industry abound. But, as a result prospects and customers are feeling massive overload.

Digital marketing needs to be more than a series of email blasts linked to some content and coupled with automated drip follow-ups to opens and non-opens. We need to be able to harness all the available tools to optimize efficiency, but we also must be able to directly connect with the target audience.

Focus on the personalization of the message and programs, not on meeting a numbers goal, because I guarantee that your buyers are fatigued.

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Jim Brodo is chief marketing officer at Advantexe Learning Solutions, which uses computer-based business simulations for training and performance improvement.

LinkedIn: Jim Brodo

Twitter: @jimbrodo


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  • by Neil Mahoney Mon Apr 24, 2017 via web

    Trade Shows used to be a cooperative effort between MarComm & Sales. Looks like inquiry-gathering has become more important than making the sale or identifying qualified prospects.

  • by Matthew Theis Mon Apr 24, 2017 via web

    Jim--excellent piece. I can especially relate to your last story about the sales person who wasn't expecting to reach you and thus wasn't prepared to have a meaningful conversation. Marketing has confused the purpose of white papers and other related materials. Just because some one has downloaded the content doesn't mean they are ready to buy.

  • by Carlos Hidalgo Mon Apr 24, 2017 via web


    Thanks for the article and I do agree that buyers are experiencing marketing fatigue, but let's be more specific in that they are fatigued from bad marketing which takes up a majority of what they receive. What makes it bad? It is not customer centric. From emails, to campaigns, to content, it is rare to truly see an organization take it from a customer-centric viewpoint and that is why many are seeing a decrease in success.

    Changing KPIs, altering the cadence of outreach and nurture will not move the needle much either. When programs are based from a customer-in perspective, rather than a vendor-out perspective, the cadence and nurture becomes dependent on the buyers interactions and behavior. When we align on the customer, we look to measure impact to pipeline and revenue.

    While I do appreciate your insights, I believe the one way B2B organizations can help their buyers from fatigue, it first take the time to develop the insights on the buyers and create content and programs that resonate and align with their buying cycle.

  • by Cindy Mullen Mon Apr 24, 2017 via mobile

    Thank you for such an amazing and relevant article. I start my day trying to find new clients and end the same way. I am crazy passionate about my work and want so much to share that with prospects. It is hard to know the line between useful product information and annoying sales lady.

  • by Rob Marsh Tue Apr 25, 2017 via web

    While you make a good point, Jim, in both of the examples you cite above, you got into marketing funnels for products that you are not interested in buying. Trade show exhibitors can be over the top, but it's not that difficult to refuse to have your badge scanned (unless you really want to win that drone or get the free t-shirt).

    I'd be more concerned about how these funnels affect interested customers. If they're turned off by the number of contacts or the message of the marketing, then yes, companies should re-evaluate. My guess is that if you were interested in the products or services being marketed, you would find the communications less intrusive and possibly engaging.

    No doubt, a lot of people get into funnels they don't belong in. Maybe as marketers we need to get better at screening them out early in the process to avoid annoying non-buyers.

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