Beyond terms and process, one of the best ways brands can align both sales and marketing is through shared programs such as account-based marketing (ABM) and lead nurturing. In 2018, Salesforce Research found high-performing marketing organizations to be 1.5x more likely to use ABM methods, and 1.9x more likely to use lead nurturing than underperforming marketing organizations. They are “shared programs” since both marketing and sales should work together to create them. Marketing handles the technology and setup while sales pick the targets and help create the content. Sharing in the creation of the programs allows sales to feel ownership of the programs, increasing their use and overall effectiveness.
The sales funnel metaphor is somewhat misleading; in real life, the process never goes as smoothly as liquid down a funnel. In the last decade, digital marketing, artificial intelligence (AI), and CRM have drastically changed the process of converting new leads into customers. Given this, it’s increasingly important that business-to-business (B2B) sales and marketing teams are aligned in their views on a sales funnel strategy and lead generation as a whole.
As people progress through your funnel, their intent to buy steadily increases. You always lose people with each new commitment you ask for (we refer to these actions “conversions”), but the more people you can get to convert at each step in your funnel, the more sales you will ultimately produce. In marketing, we call this process “widening the funnel.”
Setting up your sales funnel is the key to creating powerful prospect experiences. It is important that you map them out ahead of time to ensure your sales process is in alignment with the customer’s journey. CRM software set up to mirror your funnel activities can then help you manage and stay focused on the most important tasks during each stage in the process.
It all goes back to lead nurturing. Moving people down each level requires the same process: education, evaluation, engagement, commitment, purchase (or “action” – sometimes they aren’t actually making a purchase, but rather taking an action like sending out a tweet). In some cases, that process happens within a single email. Other times, it takes days, weeks, or even months. To make matters even more complicated, every customer is different. While some people might make the decision to buy your $19 within a few hours of downloading and sharing your ebook, other customers might be in “deciding” mode for 6 months.
A marketing funnel is a model describing the customer journey from awareness of the product to the actual conversion. It has long been a topic of contest and conjecture. We call them funnels because the probability of sales and proceeds gradually decreases at each step. Some people opt out, some lose interest, and some choose another portal. Had this not been the case, terming it as a marketing cylinder would have been better! In an ideal situation, all leads would turn into customers – ten on ten returns. The job of the marketers, hence, is to make sure that most of the leads are turned into customers so that their marketing funnels could distort its ways and turn into a marketing cylinder.
Why is the set of steps to conversion called a “funnel”? Because at the beginning of the process, there are a lot of people who take the first step. Then, as the people continue along and take the next steps, some of them drop out, and the size of the crowd thins or narrows. (And even further along in the process, your sales team gets involved to help close the deal.)
There are also plenty of low-intent keywords that trigger ads in Google Search and this is an opportunity to increase awareness about your brand. Now, I would describe this as a fairly advanced PPC technique because you really need to have a mature paid search strategy (quality ads, landing pages, conversion rates, remarketing campaigns, etc.) and a solid lead nurturing system in place first.
Content that introduces the company and intrigues potential customers enough to move to the next stage of the buying process. For example, a Facebook post called “Behind the Scenes at Molly Marketer’s Company. This works especially well if you have a company with a corporate citizenship mission, such as selling sustainable, environmentally friendly goods.
Content piece engagement rate – If you have calls to action on multiple blog posts or other onsite content pieces, you’ll want to know which are sending the most converted customers through your funnel so that you can replicate your success by upgrading/updating that piece of content, sending paid traffic to that blog post, promoting it via email, and/or creating more content pieces like that. Tracking engagement rates on each CTA will give you this information (you can easily set up Google Analytics goals in order to see which posts drive more conversions).
Use website links that have embedded web analytic codes. You can do this through your website provider or with a free Google Analytics account. Make sure each strategy uses a different link, so you can track your most successful lead gathering strategies. Most web analytics programs will automatically mark down leads that come from major search engines.
To help you get started, we’ve created a sales funnel template you can use to create something that works for your business. It’s a PowerPoint document with prompts that you can customize based on the specific stages you feel are the best fit for your customers. This template will help you think of each stage in your customer’s journey and what should happen in each stage. It will also help you map out your own sales funnel stages unique to your business.
Now, optimally, you’ll want to add more steps to your sales funnel (more on that later), but let’s say this is your bare-bones funnel. To generate leads and collect customer information, you offer a loyalty program, where people earn points for buying pizzas that they can cash in for discounts on future orders. Then, you email them a special coupon, and a percentage of your leads will open that email. A percentage of those opens will actually buy a pizza.
Conversion rate: This is a really important metric. While your revenue and number of customers will tell you how much money your funnel is generating, your bottom-of-the-funnel conversion rate is an indicator of how effective are your tactics at converting leads into customers. How you obtain and calculate this conversion rate will depend largely on the tactic you decide to use. For example, if you are doing a product launch with an email sequence, you might want to look at the percentage of subscribers who became customers during the launch. If you want to learn how many people who visit your sales page end up becoming customers, you can use Google Analytics goals to keep track of this metric.
The marketing funnel depicts the steps of a hypothetical buyer through his decision-making process. The funnel is widest at the top and then gradually grows more narrow. The earliest models depicted a customer entering the funnel as a novice and then sliding down the funnel and through the steps of awareness, interest, desire and action, meaning a purchase.