Earlier in the year we sponsored the B2B Marketing Advanced Practices Handbook with MarketingSherpa and also hosted a webinar with on how increasingly complex sales cycles make it difficult for marketers to generate highly qualified leads and create targeted campaigns. The focus was geared at the top of the funnel and increasing the quantity of leads generated. We have another webinar this month with MarketingSherpa and the focus now moves toward quality, not just volume. We’ll discuss lead nurturing and best practices for managing mid-funnel prospects. This leads me to part one of a two-part blog post.
The B2B buying process has changed. Decision makers and power users have thousands of resources at their fingertips to research their potential line-up of products online long before they engage with a sales team. In a quantitative survey of 1,900 B2B customers done by the Marketing Leadership Council they discovered that on average, customers are 57% of the way through the purchase process before they allow a sales person to enter into their purchase decision.
This means marketers must now begin to decipher which of these prospects are ready to buy and which are still in the process of researching solutions. If we are too hasty in passing these potential buyers along to our sales team, we walk the thin line of scaring them off and losing potential revenue – not to mention flushing precious marketing dollars which are tightly guarded these days.
So, how do you know when your leads are ready to engage, and how do you nurture those that aren't there yet? Enter “The Funnel.” This funnel shapes the way us marketers do our job – who we start conversations with, who is simply researching (and what can we do to convince them of their next step), and who is ready to pull the trigger? The marketing funnel helps to create sales-ready leads and nurtures those are not. Obviously, these two sets of prospects have two different set of criteria that may keep them from moving down the funnel or staying put until they are ready to engage.
If you’re reading this from a marketing standpoint you understand that the top of this funnel is all about lead generation – getting volume in the top that funnels into quality at the bottom. Eventually there is the hand-off between marketing and sales when that lead becomes an opportunity (given that it has met the right set of criteria) and then sales can begin to bring the other pieces together and close the deal (if only it were always this easy).
Where the funnel tends to get fuzzy is rrrrright in the middle. Prospects in the mid-funnel are not the same as their predecessors (the mass quantity I mentioned earlier). Now it’s about beginning to build the right relationships with the right people. These leads have a few more pieces information that we need to capture – what are their specific needs, do they have a list of objections, how many of your competitors have they evaluated, what is their timeframe for purchase? So, how exactly do we do this?
Glad you asked! This is exactly what we’ll be covering in our upcoming webinar with MarketingSherpa and Eloqua next week. Our guest speakers will discuss lead qualification and then dive into scoring and nurturing strategies for mid-funnel management. Both of these obviously play a crucial role in optimal ROI for your demand generation efforts.
Part 2 of this blog will cover some of the key takeaways from our webinar and focus more on best practices for optimizing the funnel (if you have one). If you don’t, do not fret; you’re not alone – neither do 68% of organizations according to the latest infographic by MarketingSherpa . A well thought-out funnel can be a confusion-diffuser (say that three times fast). It is a planning tool that will help you to align the many facets of sales and marketing that you have to get right to close business. I hope you can join us for the webinar and take away some fresh ideas on how to update or upgrade your current approach to managing the marketing funnel in your organization!