Not all measures of success and failure are created the same, and in marketing we are often on the back foot when it comes to proving value. So how can we show impact through the sales funnel?
I’ll speak here from a B2B2C service point of view as that’s what I know best (as opposed to a company that can sell and/or service it’s products or services without a person being involved).
Marketing in a B2B services business is a hard game. Usually sales cycles are long and relationships are the main driver towards sales. Proving that marketing and communications had an influence in the decision making process is difficult but not impossible once you understand the state of your funnel:
Step One – Map out your funnel
- We have a total addressable market the size of x,
- of that we think that x% of them could be our clients (let’s call them suspects),
- of that we currently have y number of contact details on our database (warm prospects),
- and of that z number have contacted us asking about our services (hot prospects).
Step Two – Understand your current areas of focus and spend
Group your marketing tactics and budget into the stages where they most logically fit, so you can get a picture of where you are currently investing, for what outcome i.e:
- Marketplace activity is driven by content to attract attention, and it isn’t always targeted to a particular set of people – for example branding on activity like social media (Facebook, Instagram and Twitter), sponsorship in non-industry related events, PR focused on general population media (NZ Herald etc), billboards and so on.
- Suspect activity is driven by content to engage, and is focused where you think your target audience might be – social media like LinkedIn, sponsorship of industry specific conferences and events, advertising or PR in audience specific media, key word sponsorship online, promotion of website content and landing pages etc.
- Warm prospect activity is driven by content to educate, and since you have the contact’s details, this will primarily be through direct promotional techniques like website case studies and thought leadership, email newsletters, direct mailers, special offers, event invitations and so on.
- Hot prospect activity is focused on the conversion to client. This is where sales and marketing join forces to provide an edge over the competition through activity designed to build relationships and trust.
3. Understand what success looks like at each funnel stage
What is the purpose of each stage and the activities in it? For example:
- Successful marketplace activity means more suspects attracted to your brand. The measure of this includes increases in growth and reach in your social channels and increases in the number of people visiting your website.
- Successful suspect activity means more engagement with your company. Look for increases in the pages visited on your website, “likes” and “shares” on social media, engagement or interactions at conferences and events.
- Successful warm prospect activity means more people open to learning about what your company has to say, look for more blog followers and new sign ups to newsletters.
- Successful hot prospect activity means more new clients, or more requests for quotes. This could be submissions of contact forms on your website, phone calls or emails to talk to sales.
4. Understand the difference between lead and lag measures
As mentioned at the beginning, traditional B2B services can’t be bought online and have long sales cycles, so as marketers of these services, we generally can’t prove that x investment = y purchases.
But what we can present is that x investment throughout the funnel resulted in y movement through the funnel i.e we identified x more warm prospects, received y more contact form submissions (or requests for our services) for $x investment.
We can analyse and understand that an increase in one part of the funnel results in an increase in another more tangible part. For example, when we drive activity to increase the newsletter sign ups by 30%, we increase the rate of inquiry by four new requests a month.
Which means we can then monetise the investment: Our conversion rate with new business opportunities is 75%, a typical deal size is $100,000 a year, so by increasing activity to drive the rate of inquiry, we have added $300,000 to the topline for a cost of $x.
Based on your company’s operations, you’ll know whether or not the investment you made to get there is a) worthwhile and/or b) worth increasing to attract more new.
5. Live and breathe your measures
Businesses are generally started and established on existing relationships, but there will come a point where a business needs to start tapping into networks outside of their existing circles to continue to grow.
Sadly marketing isn’t a silver bullet, but it’s purpose is to move people from A to B to C to D to E. To implement healthy pipeline generation and nurturing, you need to make sure you are connecting the dots between each of the funnel stages, providing the right content to the right audience in the right way at each stage.
Once you have the ability to live and breathe your numbers you will be able to reverse engineer and apply the right levels of influence at each funnel stage, to create budgets and strategies that support and help achieve business goals.
How you grow, retain, cross-sell and up-sell your clients once they are on board is a story for another day.