6 Ways your Marketing Plan is set up to fail in 2024 – and how to fix it

How to fix your agency 2024 marketing plan

Okay so if you’re writing your marketing plan for 2024 now you’ve perhaps left it a little bit too late. However, if you are working in a small agency or service-based business you also won’t be the only one either!

After running over 20 GTM’s for agencies and B2B service-based businesses in the last 12 months alone, here are some of the common core problems we come across and more importantly how to fix them:

1. Lack of understanding of Ideal Customer Profile (ICP)

This is the BIGGEST challenge by a mile. Most companies assume knowledge of how their customers buy. It’s not until you get into the detail that you really discover whats important to them and where/how they discover new potential suppliers.

How to fix it
Capture qualitative insights through spending time with your ideal customer and/or regular feedback meetings with your sales team and account managers who frequently speak with them. This should also be reviewed regularly and isn’t a set-and-forget piece of work.

If you spend time doing the research first, it will help shape your entire sales and marketing plan (more on that later on!).

2. Lack of focus in the Marketing plan

The truth is a lot of marketing plans are either non-existent or have a distinct lack of detail from the key points outlined within this post. This leads to plans being full of all-filler no-killer ‘bau’ content placed on the wrong channel and not aligned to the ICP. There is also little to no focus on commercial alignment to answering key pain points from your ICP, considering the customer buying journey and working closer with the sales team when creating the plan.

How to fix it
Use the ICP research and points from this post to create the foundation for your marketing plan. Remember, that at least 95% of your audience is not in-market so you need to build a blended plan that:

  • Creates the demand for your product/service – essentially thought leadership content on the right channel. Go channel first then for the right type of content rinse and repeat across less popular channels to maximise the value.
  • Ensures you are visible when they are trying to solve a pain point or are in-market and looking for your service – this can be channel activation such as SEO/PPC however be mindful to understand exactly how your ICP research and the terms they search for as a lot of interviews we conducted didnt even use google in the research process.
  • Converts customers – think about having the right content and collateral to aid conversion, for example, sector-specific landing pages, case studies or testimonials
  • Retains customers – new customers are hard enough to find, so dont forget your existing clients! Reinforce why you are leaders in the space, share things that help make their day-to-day work lives easier.

Remember to balance your content with enough focus across conversion and capture content. Finally, make sure its realistic to deliver – its easy to fill out a plan but ensure you and the team supporting it have sufficient resource to produce it.

3. Lack of clarity on positioning

Specialist agencies and service-based businesses are winning. Why? Because not only are they experts in the service they deliver but can also offer sector-specific insight which is critical in today’s market.

How to fix it
Start by segmenting your existing clients looking at monthly revenue, volume of clients, win rates, average sale cycle, conversion rates and lifetime value. Categorise these into market sectors and review the data remembering to consider the collateral you have within that sector and the competitors within it!

Find the niches that stand out and use these to focus a percentage of your marketing efforts and plan for a pilot campaign across the first quarter/half of the year.

4. Attribution & Budget Allocation (resource and cash)

Little or no recorded attribution data on where a customer originated from is a significant challenge. The next is either channel in-fighting by reporting on a last click model, an arm-wrestle between sales and marketing, or pre-filled dropdowns for ‘how did you hear about us’ (no prizes for guessing which option is most commonly selected).

This ends up rewarding the wrong channels with more budget and taking away budget and resources from whats actually working!

How to fix it
We’ve seen and conducted a lot of ICP research this year. The majority of won business comes through a referral of one form or another with people trusting their peers as one of the first sources they turn to.

This usually resorts in a branded search where SEO or PPC claim the victory for the lead whereas its ‘dark social’ that created the referral. This is impossible (or almost impossible) to measure so more often than not, it’s best not to overcomplicate it.

Simple adjustments such as rather than pre-filling a text box on your Contact Us form, leaving it as an open text field then re-categorise within your CRM accordingly (with a fixed field). Or ensuring your SDR/Biz Dev people capture ‘how did you hear about us’, getting as specific as possible.

Its hard to build a defined plan and assign budgets without this data, but capturing it in 2024 and 2025 will look a whole lot different in terms of where you place your focus.

5. Tech stack and set-up

Everything from running your new biz pipeline in a spreadsheet to under-utilised variations of hubspot or tools that cost the earth and don’t provide any evidence in delivering ROI.

How to fix it
Depending on your business model and resources depends on the level of set-up required.

  • If you are moving from a legacy spreadsheet or trello board, try to find a CRM that has enough features for now and in the future too. Hubspot is clearly the CRM of choice for a lot for good reason.
  • If you are wanting to carve out some budget for new tech, work out the minimal viable tech stack and run a pilot to be sure its worth it!
  • If you are more advanced, audit your existing tools reviewing if its helping with efficiency or delivering ROI.
  • Look at what can be automated such as simple workflows but be mindful not to automate too much as you still need to have an element of human interaction for those qualified target accounts and ensure relevance within your messaging – you might only get one shot!

6. Measurement and framework

The age-old model of Marketing teams being responsible for generating downloads from ebooks and whitepapers, before passing the MQL to a Sales Development Rep (SDR) to chase a meeting into forcing meeting volumes on the assumption that volume of meetings will equal more opportunities is DEAD.

I remember back in 2016 when Zazzle had just sold to Stickyeyes and the group CEO had us spending hours working out how many MQLs to meetings, how many meetings to opportunities and how many opportunities to closed won deals.

Guess what, we missed the projeciton by a mile in terms of MQL volume but hit sales target still, clearly people didnt buy like it then and they certainly don’t buy like it in todays environment.

There are also numerous challenges around measuring intent and how that intent data is then used to try to move intent into action.

How to fix it
(a very top level overview)

Having done your ICP research, you’ll soon work out that the majority of your high-converting inbound enquiries come from referrals or dark social. That coupled with the fact that 95% of your audience is not in market to buy requires a different approach to what I outlined above.

As mentioned, consider a model that looks at demand creation, demand capture, demand conversion and retention and set success metrics against each of them.

Review at what point you classify a ‘lead’, for example, a lead shouldn’t be an MQL thats downloaded X amount of content pieces from you as all that will do is lengthen your sales cycle and cause SDRs to chase cold leads. I’d suggest using a declared intent signal as this helps measure your sales cycle length more accurately.

In regards to intent and how to measure it, there could be another separate post on this but in the simplest terms separate out 1st party intent data (from your website) and 3rd party intent data (from software such as Bombora).

Focus on 1st party data to begin with and look for signals of clear hand rasing such as visiting several pages, case studies and then a pricing page. Create a nurture and remarketing plan for these before moving on to lower intent leads and then review whether 3rd party intent data sources are useful to you are not (I’m yet to be convinced).


So there you have it, there are plenty more too but these are the 6 common themes to watch out for.