The secret ingredient for a successful marketing strategy

I’ll tell you my secret of how it’s done. How any marketer can beat their number, grow revenue, and look really smart doing it.

The secret ingredient for a successful marketing strategy
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In 2016, I joined a small startup with $480K ARR as their VP of Marketing. In less than three years, our ARR increased 10x and the company was acquired in 2019. This is where I learned the secret sauce to improving any marketing strategy. 

While that story is certainly a highlight in my career, it isn’t unique. I’ve worked in B2B marketing for 15 years as an individual contributor, Director, VP, and now a CEO of my own agency. I’ve been around and understand the drivers of growth. 

I’ll tell you my secret of how it’s done. How any marketer can beat their number, grow revenue, and look really smart doing it. 

Here’s the secret: Qualitative research.

Qualitative research answers the most important question….Why? Without qualitative research, everything from persona development to your overarching marketing strategy is a guessing game. Plain and simple.  

While quantitative data offers a bird's-eye view of customer behavior through metrics like click-through rates, conversion rates, and time spent on page, it falls short of telling the whole story. Quantitative data can tell you what is happening, but it lacks the depth to tell you why it's happening. 

Nothing, and I mean NOTHING, is as valuable as speaking with buyers/customers. 

In this article, I’m going to share five ways that I incorporate qualitative research into every aspect of my approach to marketing, and the tools you can use to make it happen. 

By combining these qualitative tactics with your quantitative data, you will develop a well-rounded, deeply informed marketing strategy that speaks directly to the needs and challenges of your buyers. And, generates a lot of revenue, of course. 

1. Conduct User Research

Let’s start with the obvious one: You have to talk to people that fit your buyer persona. 

User research is an on-going approach to understanding your buyers’ behaviors, needs, and motivations through direct interaction and observation. 

I say “on-going” because that's what it needs to be…constantly happening. If possible, conduct user research every week. Don’t wait for a set reason or to schedule your annual study. Do it now. Read this blog first, then go talk to buyers. 

Case Study - Optimizing Landing Pages

One of my most successful uses of qualitative research has been optimizing landing pages. 

During a user interview, I’ll start with basic discovery questions to uncover wants and needs. Then, I’ll pull up a few landing pages I’m using in various campaigns. 

I’ll ask the participant to review the page, think out loud, and give their feedback as they read. I’ll prompt them with questions like, “Do you understand the value proposition?” and “Does this accurately describe your challenges?”

I’ve spent countless hours analyzing quantitative data trying to figure out why a page wasn’t converting. All it took was 15 minutes talking to a prospect to finally understand. 

A secondary benefit… It works great as lead gen. After a prospect spends 15 minutes intently reviewing your marketing copy… it turns out they may be interested in your product. Imagine that. 

Methods of User Research

  • Interviews: One-on-one conversations that provide insights into the buyer’s experiences and expectations.
  • Focus Groups: Group discussions that can reveal a consensus or a range of opinions about your product or service.
  • Ethnographic Research: Observation of buyers in their natural environment to understand how they interact with your product in real life.

: For conducting user research, tools like UserTesting, Zoom for remote interviews, and Lookback for real-time user interaction recording can be highly effective.

2. Win/Loss Analyses

A win/loss analysis involves interviewing buyers after a sales cycle has concluded to understand why they chose to purchase your product or why they went with a competitor.

If on-going user research tells you why people may buy your product, a win/loss analysis will tell you exactly why they did or didn’t. 

I recommend conducting a win/loss analysis with at least 10 accounts per quarter. Remember to involve your Sales team when selecting accounts. 

Questions to Ask 


  • What was the primary reason for your decision to choose (or not choose) our solution?
  • Did your perception of our company change over the course of the decision-making process? How?


  • What was the key criteria that influenced your purchase decision?
  • How do you anticipate our solution will impact your business or operations?
  • Who was involved in the purchase decision?


  • What were the main factors that led you to choose another solution?
  • Who did you choose to go with any why?
  • Did you have any concerns about our company or solution that influenced your decision?

: Use CRM platforms like Salesforce or Hubspot to select candidates and tools like Google Meet to conduct interviews. 

3. Surveys on the Website

Website surveys offer a direct channel for gathering feedback from visitors while they’re engaged with your content. This real-time feedback can provide immediate insights into user satisfaction, usability issues, or content gaps.

Designing Effective Surveys

Short, targeted surveys triggered by specific user actions (e.g., visiting a pricing page or reading a blog) can yield high response rates. Questions should be open-ended to elicit detailed feedback but structured enough to allow for analysis.

Analyze survey responses to identify common themes and areas for improvement. This can inform website optimizations, content updates, and even product development to better meet customer needs.

Tools: Winware is a powerful tool for deploying and managing website surveys that also operates as a hook for lead generation.

4. Listen to Sales Calls

Listening to sales calls offers an unfiltered view into the concerns, questions, and objections that buyers raise during the sales process. 

Use quotes from sales calls to fine-tune your marketing messaging, ensuring that it addresses common questions and concerns discussed on the calls. These insights can also improve content creation and be indicators to start developing resources to support the sales process, such as FAQs, case studies, and product sheets.

Benefits of Analyzing Sales Calls

  • Persona Development: Listen for patterns in how prospects describe their needs and concerns, and pay attention to the language and tone they use. Do they match your persona cheat sheets?
  • Wants/Needs: Organize call recordings by themes, such as objections, questions about features, or pricing concerns and compare them to your marketing materials.
  • Ensuring Consistency: Make sure that your sales team is using messaging that’s consistent with your marketing campaigns.

: is my favorite platform to analyze sales calls. It can automatically transcribe, categorize, and analyze calls, making it easier for marketers to identify trends and key areas for improvement.

5. Listen to Customer Calls

You’ve listened to prospects across their entire buyer’s journey. Now, it’s time to listen to actual customers. 

Leverage insights from Customer Success interactions to create content that addresses specific customers needs, develop onboarding materials that ease the adoption process, and tailor marketing campaigns to highlight features or services that existing customers find valuable. 

Marketing does not end at a purchase. It plays an important role through the entire customer lifecycle and can be a major factor in upsell/cross-sell/renewal opportunities.

Benefits of Analyzing Customer Success Calls

  • Collect Feedback: Regular check-ins with customers can provide ongoing insights into their evolving needs and experiences.
  • Identify Themes: Similar to sales calls, categorize and analyze customer calls to identify common themes, such as usage patterns, feature requests, and satisfaction drivers.
  • Validate Messaging: Ensure that the same wants/needs discussed by potential buyers echoed by customers. 

ChurnZero, Gainsight, and Totango are common tools used by Customer Success teams. While these aren’t commonly used by marketers, they operate as a central source of truth for CSMs and can be used to identify accounts for research. 

Time to Get Started

Incorporating qualitative research into every aspect of your marketing strategy enhances your understanding of your target audience, allowing for more personalized and effective marketing efforts. By conducting user research, performing win/loss analyses, implementing surveys on your website, listening to sales and customer calls, and utilizing tools mentioned in this article, you will gain a deeper understanding of your customers' needs, preferences, and pain points. That all leads to more revenue. 

Start small, focusing on one or two qualitative research methods, and gradually expand your efforts as you begin to see the value they bring. Remember, the goal is to build a marketing strategy that not only reaches but also deeply connects with your target audience, driving engagement, conversions, revenue, and loyalty.

Now… go learn!

Jeff Stillman is the Founder, CEO of OneUp Growth. He previously worked in-house at successful companies like LeagueApps, GLG, and Validately. 

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