This week, The Funnelholic continues its series of interviews with the industry luminaries who contributed to the Focus Experts’ Guide: Sales and Marketing Pipeline and Funnel Models. As you’ll recall, Focus.com’s book of funnels features interpretations of pipelines from sales and marketing thought leaders, providing insight into how frameworks can vary.
Steve Gershik is the CEO of 28Marketing and the blogger behind The Innovative Marketer. Steve has worked in online marketing and demand generation for 17 years for companies such as Eloqua, Nuance and TOA Technologies. As founder of 28Marketing, he’s worked with a number of B2B technology and cloud computing companies, as well as Apple, HP and Oracle.
The Funnelholic: Explain your approach to the funnel.
Steve: Often, marketing and sales depict the funnel as gravity fed – leads go in the top like meat into a grinder and eventually all come out as hamburger at the bottom. Of course, we know the funnel is much more complex than its real-world counterpart – sales leads just don’t move through in such a linear fashion.
The problem with looking at the funnel as a geometric shape that diminishes in volume as you move from top to bottom is that it misrepresents what is often in reality within the B2B firm. Frequently, you have many contacts stuck at a particular stage, but think you need more leads coming into the top to help with sales efforts. At the end of a particular quarter, you may see many more opportunities at the bottom of the funnel than you’ll see just a stage or two prior. So at 28Marketing, we try to represent the funnel by looking down into it, and seeing that leads are not static within a stage, but very often in motion, moving around within a particular buying moment, and then moving up or down as their situation changes.
A common situation at companies I work with is they have good visibility into the activities that go into the top of the funnel (“marketing creativity”) as well as a reasonable view of the deals that they expect to come out the bottom (“sales heroism”). What they lack is insight into the Intra Funnel MarketingTM, the set of activities that takes place between lead acquisition and deal closure.
The Funnelholic: Besides your own, were there any other funnels that resonated with you?
Steve: They all resonated with me in one way or another. The fact that they were all different indicates there is no one universal tool that works for every company.
The funnel that most resonated with me was the “waterfall” picture illustrated by Carlos Hidalgo. It’s a proven model first popularized by the sales and marketing analyst firm Sirius Decisions in recent years. What I like about Carlos’ model is that it presents a solid visualization of prospects moving from one stage to another, and a good framework for understanding conversion rates.
The Funnelholic: What did you learn from the exercise?
Steve: Images are powerful. Whether you depict your funnel as a classic larger-to-smaller shape or some other form of geometry, the picture you use to illustrate your funnel forms the basis of conversation between marketing and sales and the executive team. Make sure it reflects the reality of your sales situation.
The Funnelholic: If everyone needs to create a funnel to model their business, what are best practices for creating it?
Steve: Here are three good practices for companies who would like to start modeling their sales cycle:
- Face the complexity. Buying cycles are more complex these days, often with multiple stakeholders from within the company. Companies that oversimplify the real process through which their buyers come to them may be creating a holographic view of their sales pipeline, not a real picture of the actual funnel.
- Don’t be afraid to start simply. Stipulating that this is a recursive exercise, and that you’ll get better over time, will help you get started now, which is the very best time to start.
- Be sure to give your Intra Funnel Marketing its due attention. While social media and search marketing hold the spotlight for many marketers, it’s often the set of activities and processes that address the people who are in your funnel now that will determine your revenue results later.
Join the conversation: ‘Is the funnel still a relevant metaphor for the b2b sales and marketing process?’