Is Your Lead Gen Funnel Top Heavy? White Paper

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1 Is Your Lead Gen Funnel Top Heavy? White Paper

2 Randy Brown Marketing Communications, Inc.

3 White Paper Is Your Lead Gen Funnel Top Heavy? Did you ever fill a funnel with a liquid faster than the contents can flow into the bottle? The result is usually messy as the funnel clogs, tilts and rolls to one side. Then the liquid overflows the top of the funnel, slides over your hand and puddles somewhere below (Fig. 1). What a mess to clean up especially if the liquid is sticky or colorful! For the past few years, I ve noticed a growing number of industrial lead generation campaigns are tilting with the same messy problem. Some of us are concentrating so much on filling the top of the funnel that we neglect to make sure the sales are flowing through into that beautiful bottle of new customers. That s all changing now in the world of industrial marketing and sales with the latest generation of behavior tracking, lead scoring and lead nurturing software suites. We now have the opportunity to decide what constitutes a qualified lead and to determine when to hand-off our qualified leads to the sales team. The problem is that many lead generation campaigns are still over focused on the top of the funnel numbers. Not enough strategic thought is being given about how to move our top of the funnel prospects down through the funnel to become qualified prospects that are ready for personal engagement with the sales team. In marketing and sales, it s easy to forget at times that we re subject to the same laws of physics that apply to any funnel, liquid and bottle. It also doesn t help that the success of most industrial lead generation campaigns has been historically measured based on the quantity of leads or cost per lead, and not based on the sales conversion rate. There are several reasons for this problem. The first issue is that many small to mid-size companies have yet to develop lead scoring and lead nurturing strategies. The second issue is: Many companies are not yet employing automated lead scoring and lead nurturing technologies because the technologies are still evolving or don t

4 easily integrate with existing customer relationship management (CRM) systems and internal marketing/sales processes. Figure 1. Top Heavy Sales Funnel Let s Get More Strategic With Lead Nurturing When our lead gen sales funnel is on tilt, it really doesn t matter whether our lead management software is home grown, last generation or next generation. Having the right marketing automation tools, however, makes it much easier, whether it is Act-On, Eloqua or Hubspot to name just a few of them. In any case, we still need to decide how we re going to help new prospects move through their purchase journey from the top of the sales funnel to the bottom of the funnel purchase cycle. That s where the strategy component comes into play... we need to think about how to optimize our prospect s purchase journey because the buying experience is a really important component of customer satisfaction. Depending on the complexity of our product and the sales cycle, it might be a fast trip, a slow ride or something in between. We do, however, have to know the customer s expectations and the road ahead so we can anticipate the

5 best stopping points along the way to spend time together. For easy discussion, let s think about dividing the prospect s purchase journey and our sales funnel into three tiers: top, middle and bottom (Fig 2). Your funnel might have fewer or more segments depending on your specific product and your customer s buying behavior. The point here is that we need to think strategically about how the customer wants to travel down the road to buy our product and what we say along the way. If we don t know or are unsure about our customer s purchase journey expectations, then let s ask them about their expectations with an survey. Figure 2. Sales Funnel Prospect Segmentation Top Of The Funnel Common Problems If our sales lead funnel is full, then we know how to capture the attention of prospective customers. Getting someone s attention the first time is not all that difficult, but engaging them and accompanying them through their long purchase journey is much more complex. The longer the purchase cycle is then the more challenging the task becomes. Typically, we ve sent our top of funnel prospects a personal acknowledging their initial product interest with a few helpful web site links, downloads and qualifier questions to

6 ask if they need assistance now. We ve also notified the sales team that there is a new lead of indeterminate status (unqualified at this time) in the sales database. The question then becomes, Where do we go from here? The surprising answer from many companies is basically... nowhere other than the company s e-newsletter database. There are no other strategies for top of the funnel prospects who have a future need for our product versus those with only general interest and no purchasing interest and no purchasing authority. Middle Of The Funnel Strategy & Tactics We need to create a lead nurturing strategy that helps further qualify our top of the funnel prospects so we can move them down to and through the middle of the funnel. This can be done with simple campaigns featuring effective calls-to-action using the lead nurturing system of our choice. Some of our top-of-funnel prospects are anticipating a future need for our product to support an upcoming expected project or maintenance cycle. The problem is that they don t yet have an immediate need, project deadline or budget, which makes them in the eyes of most sales people a low priority lead because the timing of the sale is unknown. What we as marketers should be doing is then engaging these future need prospects until they are ready to purchase. Their purchase need might occur next month or next quarter or in the second half or early next year. We don t know the timing, but we do know there is a possible future need and we therefore want to stay in touch. How do we continue to engage this future need prospect in a meaningful way that will be helpful? Let s back up here and think about what top of the funnel marketing asset first captured our future need prospect s initial interest. What did we offer? Was it an application guide or case study? Was it an infographic or video? The next level of engagement needs to provide a more interactive opportunity that will engage and help qualify the prospect by learning the prospect s purchase needs, budget, authority and timing.

7 In the middle region of the sales funnel the next level of contact can be as simple as a personalized inviting the prospect to a Live Chat session with a technical specialist Or why not develop a cost calculator to show the dollar savings with your product for use in a one-on-one teleconference presentation? You might also produce a webinar or sponsor one produced by the trade media and invite your prospects. Don t forget, however, that these midlevel contacts and offers must include qualifier questionnaires that help us to better understand the prospect s need, timing and budget. Gathering this information might require a mid-level prospect to complete one or more these engagement activities before they are ready to travel to the bottom of the funnel for engagement with the sales team (Fig. 3). Figure 3. Lead Nurturing Tactics By Sales Funnel Level Bottom of the Sales Funnel Tactics Bottom level tactics must include a much stronger, high value call to action (Fig 3). Such offers might include offering a site inspection or evaluation, trial product installations, discounts on accessories, expedited shipping or special maintenance programs, etc. We

8 need to provide a compelling reason to buy our product and buy it soon. When the prospect is ready to respond by accepting one of these high value offers, then the lead is fully qualified and ready for engagement with the sales team. You have successfully converted a top of funnel prospect into one that is ready to request a quote. Now is the time to notify the sales team when they can be the most productive in assisting your highly qualified prospect and converting them into a new customer. Lead Nurturing Conclusions If sales leads are important to your business, then consider re-evaluating your strategy to make sure it isn t a topheavy lead gen strategy. The implementation of a thoughtful strategy designed to move your prospects from the top to the bottom of the sales funnel with lead nurturing strategies and tactics will grow your business over time. You ll also be better able to quantify the marketing return-on-investment (ROI) from your lead generation marketing tactics. Randy Brown Marketing Communications, Inc. RB Marketing Communications Web: rbmarketing.com Tel: Fax: Address: 700 E Redlands Blvd, Ste U347 Redlands, CA 92373

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