Today, The Funnelholic wraps up its series of interviews with the industry thought-leaders who contributed to the Focus Experts’ Guide: Sales and Marketing Pipeline and Funnel Models.
Meet Sue Hay, author of the blog 21st Century Lead Generation and founder of BeWhys Marketing, a full-service lead generation consultancy with managed services. The BeWhys team has helped midsize to enterprise organizations increase revenue by creating and implementing targeted lead nurturing campaigns using marketing automation. BeWhys incorporates lead process management best practices, lead scoring, persona building, content creation and mapping to achieve results.
The Funnelholic: Explain your approach to the funnel.
Sue: The relationship between marketing and sales has significantly evolved over the past several years, as is evidenced by the Sirius Decisions research.
What has also changed significantly is the buying process. Potential buyers can educate themselves expeditiously from a myriad of channels: websites, blogs, webinars, tradeshows, eGuides, analyst reports, customer reviews – you name it, it’s out there. All to help them make an informed and intelligent buying decision. So I tried to visualize where it all starts and where it ends. And there are different factors to consider – such as people who are not ready to buy but still interested in engaging with you; prospecting specific target accounts; the opportunity to cross-sell and up-sell to existing customers – that need to be taken into account. It’s a continuous flow, yet being static picture, it doesn’t really show the movement that is predicated on the buyer’s cycle. So the funnel you see is the lead management process that sits over the top of buyers’ cycle.
The Funnelholic: Besides your own, were there any other funnels that resonated with you?
Sue: I enjoyed looking at all of them, because they come from very unique perspectives. It was fascinating. I thought Barbra Gago’s and Matt Heinz’s both touching on the community perspective highlighted the human element. In particular the evolution and creation of evangelism; that’s a very powerful concept. Funnels are just diagrams of a process, but at the core are humans, and they are our customers. We need to understand what they like; what they are looking for; how do they feel comfortable communicating; how they react, interact and engage with us, and vice versa. Ardath Albee’s buyer-experience funnel captured that thinking. Michael Damphousse’s Demand Gen Cloud was fun and rings true that buyers really do put themselves in the funnel where and when they want, and there is a lot more movement than ever before. And I also enjoyed Carlos Hidalgo’s methodical stage-by-stage process – that thoughtfully overlaid the nurturing of the relationship with the buyer, and the reality of metrics, conversions and making money.
The Funnelholic: What did you learn from the exercise?
Sue: No one funnel is right or wrong. It’s an iterative process – the buying environment can change, so your funnel/process should be flexible enough to adapt. Be open to incorporate new or alternate ideas, while simultaneously focusing on “keeping it simple.” Try not to over complicate – keep the vision clear and focused.
The Funnelholic: If everyone needs to create a funnel to model their business, what are best practices for creating it?
Sue: Mapping the process out and brainstorming on a whiteboard is particularly helpful. Having representatives of both marketing and sales in that session is essential – at the end of the session both have to agree on what that funnel looks like, the definitions of each element and what the lead management process is – otherwise it won’t work. It can be a painful process but well worth the undertaking. A few things to consider going through the process:
- Try to understand the person who might buy your goods or services. Create a persona, describe what they may look like, what they do, what they read – as well as all the typical demographic information.
- How will you begin to develop and foster a thoughtful and trusted relationship? What does that look like, how does it map out into a integrated nurturing program?
- What does the funnel look like from a sales perspective and from a marketing perspective? Identify the differences.
- Overlay a lead management process to match that understanding, so that you don’t miss any opportunities.
- What are the benchmark conversion rates at the various different stages of the lead management process?
- Identify the goals that both marketing and sales are working to achieve.
- Meet on a regular basis, once per quarter, to review your goals, conversion rates and optimize. The numbers will give you a good idea if you are on track.
- Identify the right tools and resources you need to help you achieve your goals. Marketing automation and sales-force automation tools can really help in this area.
Join the conversation: ‘Is the funnel still a relevant metaphor for the b2b sales and marketing process?’