Transformational Lead Generation Strategy & the Science Behind It

 

Talk to someone about themselves, and they’ll listen for hours.

– Dale Carnegie

 

This famous quote is as true today as it was in 1936, and it applies to many areas of life in general and business in particular, including lead generation. Talking to your valuable prospects exactly when and where is more convenient for them, about their goals and needs (rather than going straight for the hard sell), puts you in a much better position to introduce your product or service to willing ears.

The question is: How do you get to begin that conversation?

The approach set out in this article enables agile and efficient lead generation, with higher marketing ROI, better use of resources, and more high-quality leads.

There was a time when businesses would place ads in newspapers with different phone numbers to track which generated more leads. Those were the early days of data-based marketing. In fact, many of the most popular marketing tactics are surprisingly old. Advertising appeared in Italy in the 1600s; cold outreach can be dated back to 1864 – the earliest recorded use of telegraph for mass unsolicited sales messaging; segmentation is over a hundred years old; and Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software was born in the 1980s.

In the 2000s, companies were used to what could now be called, from the dizzying distance of the 2020s, the ‘traditional’ outbound approach – cold calling and emailing. Then came inbound marketing with its declaration that ‘content is king’ and the message of if you write it, they will come. It sparked a whole inbound versus outbound debate. Proponents of the former argued that the latter was outdated, pushy and ineffective. Meanwhile, Team Outbound would point out that email, advertising and account-based marketing remained far more effective for lead generation. And that producing a constant stream of quality content able to break through the information overload of the average 21st century consumer was a costly and time-consuming feat.

Which side was right?

To an extent… both.

The winning strategy is proving to be a custom blend of the old and the innovative.

In other words, a strong lead generation strategy is a happy marriage between science and creative solution-finding, between time-tested tactics, quality content, the latest AI, automation, and the specific nuances of a company’s solution, resources and target audiences.

It comprises five key elements:

1. Integrated multi-channel strategy
2. High-quality content
3.Effective marketing automation
4. Advanced lead scoring and automated analytics
5. Human touch at the right time

 

1.  Integrated multi-channel strategy

Consider the following:

  • Top-performing salespeople see the best leads coming from marketing activity1.
  • Account-based marketing is one of the most effective B2B marketing tactics.
  • 78% of salespeople engaged in social selling outsell those who are not2.

It all begins with the opportunity to start a conversation. You do that by

  • understanding your target audience personas
  • being where they are
  • offering something they care about
  • nurturing them through their buying journey with targeted content
  • presenting solutions that are focused on improving their business and/or their career.

Ticking these boxes calls for a multi-channel approach. For example, cold outbound marketing in the form of an email or call is much more effective when combined with content, outreach and engagement on social media, robust data management, and sophisticated analytics.

Let your prospect choose where and how you have your conversation. For instance, instead of buying an expensive, static contact list and wasting resource cold-calling everyone on it, look at AI powered SaaS platforms that can provide you with the most up to date business contact information.

Create highly relevant quality content in the form of a downloadable article or a webinar that will both introduce your brand and build your reputation.

Promote this content via digital ads to a list of your target audience and link to it from your outbound and nurture emails. The goal is to build trust in your brand, show your target audience you understand them, educate and move them closer to a point where they’re ready to have a sales conversation.

Then, depending on the number of downloads of your lead generation content or webinar registrations, reach out to these prospects on the phone or enrol them on a well-crafted, personalised nurture email campaign that provides more value upfront, thus strengthening the company’s brand in their eyes.

Prioritise your calls (no longer so cold) according to who has engaged with this content the most, perhaps opening the email several times, clicking on a link or spending more time reading it.

This approach serves as a useful way to identify the more engaged prospects, as well as to confirm the topics and messaging that resonate with your leads. Moreover, it generates momentum and allows you to continue that conversation, because, even if a lead doesn’t become a client today, the relationship you build has the power to motivate them to get in touch with you tomorrow, or to be much more receptive next time you pick up the phone.

2.  High-quality content

This is imperative. A lead that’s lost to an unsuccessful phone call, a webinar that ends up being a forty minute sales presentation or downloadable content that doesn’t quite fulfill its promise, is much harder to reconnect to.

High quality content isn’t just a well-written piece. It is well-researched, useful, engaging and targeted writing that leads the reader to a desired action. It shows prospects that you understand their business needs – perhaps better than anyone else in the market.

For most companies, that will need to be a combination of several content categories – more strategic pieces for the C-Suite and more tactical and technical content for the end-users and operations teams. Furthermore, it is important to address the many layers of the B2B buying journey – from identifying a problem to reaching internal consensus in favour of a supplier.

Cooperation between sales and marketing teams is, therefore, another essential element of success. Content that targets key customer pain points and frequent bottlenecks in sales conversations will considerably improve the lead generation and sales processes.

The contemporary buyer journey has become a loop rather than a pyramid or a linear string of events3. The number of brands considered in the research and evaluation phase often increases rather than decreases4. Yet, as much as we seem to crave them, too many options can actually paralyse decision-making5.

When your lead generation is based on high-quality content – from blog and lead magnets to emails, landing pages, and ad copy – you’re well-positioned to overcome this obstacle in the sales process and position your company as the optimal choice.

Focus on quality and value is key in this process. Nurture your audience by first helping them articulate the problem, then by presenting different potential solutions and their respective pros and cons. Make sure each piece of content is specific to its target audience, from their needs and challenges to their job position and industry. Finally, inform prospects of everything they need to consider to adopt the solution that will be the most beneficial to them.

That way, the chances of a lead coming to you when they’re finally ready to buy are considerably higher. If the content you offer is notably better quality than your competitors’, they might not even feel the need to consider other brands altogether.

3.  Effective marketing automation

Marketing automation should bring in more sales by allowing you to achieve more with less.

How? By creating an integrated platform for marketing and business development.

Though your competitors may have content for each stage of the buyer journey, too, the key is getting the right piece of content in front of the right people at the right time – much like with a cold, fresh lemonade on a hot summer’s day. You wouldn’t be very successful trying to sell it at 8.30 in the morning, but place your stand outside an office building at lunchtime with a banner emphasising its energising qualities, and you’ll soon wish you had brought more.

Integrating your marketing activities with CRM and sales processes will enable you to do just that – to nurture your target audience from the awareness stage through to becoming an evangelist.

A highly effective B2B lead generation tactic is combining LinkedIn, email and telephone. Reach out to prospects on LinkedIn first. Then, depending on their reaction (or lack thereof), message them on LinkedIn or use marketing automation to enrol them on an outbound email marketing campaign. Advanced tools like HubSpot can track the status of leads, highlight which parts of your communication prospects engage with more and adapt what they receive based on these preferences – whether that’s more nurturing content on a specific topic or the next step in the buyer journey.

Moreover, since all your data is together in one place, you can constantly monitor and adjust your campaigns as necessary.

4.  Advanced lead scoring and automated analytics

How do you define the most opportune moment to call a potential customer?

Qualifying a lead should cover more than looking at separate data sets from social media, email and website analytics. In order to identify the best sales opportunities, you need to see ‘the full picture’ and automate an overview of the entire buyer journey. That includes knowing

  • When and what their first interaction with your brand was – whether a download, a blog article, a cold email or a post on social media
  • What the email open and click rates are
  • If and how they have interacted with your website, what pages they have visited and how much time they have spent consuming your content. (It is worth making sure the website analytics set up provides you with a clear overview in relation to your business goals.)
  • How and if they have interacted with the brand on social media
  • A lead’s historic responsiveness
  • As well as lead scoring based on campaign-specific criteria. For example, in the case of a webinar, you could integrate the chosen webinar software with Hubspot to include questions like:
    • Did they show up to the live event?
    • How long did they stay?
    • Have they watched the webinar recording?
    • Have they looked at any of your content or sales pages following the webinar?

The moment you have all this information together, you can start noticing patterns, identify engaged leads and the ones most likely to buy. You have the power to make data-driven decisions and prioritise your sales activity.

A good CRM platform will help you to measure the quality of your lead scoring criteria and the impact of your sales methods and processes. AI can further facilitate this process by evaluating leads against closed deals and identifying behavioural patterns of those most likely to buy. It is also a valuable tool in managing customer relations, calculating customer lifetime value, as well as identifying opportunities for upsell.

Furthermore, effective use of marketing automation and CRM can prove paramount to more than your lead generation process. A thorough marketing automation set up lets you track your interactions, manage relationships, evaluate previous campaigns to inform your content strategy for the next quarter, and maximise business opportunities by ensuring salespeople call a potential customer at the right time.

It is a path towards more efficient and agile operations across the company.

5.  Human touch at the right time

Research shows that data-empowered sales decisions and digital practices at strategy level can lead to five times higher revenue growth6. This does not, however, eliminate the human touch. Quite the contrary, B2B buyers want both digital and human interaction, and they want it to be a consistently positive experience.

What they are looking for the most is speed, transparency and expertise7. This indicates that digital operations and integrated systems will be crucial elements of future business growth – something that an increasing number of market players recognise, including Deutsche Bank in its announced radical transformation8.

Companies that master the interconnect between digital and human achieve eight times more operating profit than their peers9.

The goal is to make sure that every part of your marketing strategy works together. The result will be a quality lead, a positive customer experience, and a sales team that knows exactly when and whom to call, which topic is more likely to resonate with the prospect and what angle to approach the sale from.

The science behind an exceptional lead generation strategy lies in the integration of tools, activities and communication channels, as well as teamwork and creative solutions that improve your understanding of prospective customers. It helps you to adapt your content and lead generation strategy to the needs of the specific campaign.

More often than not, this ends up being a transformational process that optimises the resources at hand, saves time for your teams, and introduces agility and efficiency that inevitably lead to higher profitability.

 

  1. Hubspot Marketing Statistics 2020
  2. Ibid.
  3. Gartner, The New B2B Buying Journey
  4. McKinsey & Company, The consumer decision journey
  5. S. S. Iyengar, M. R. Lepper, When Choice is Demotivating: Can One Desire Too Much of a Good Thing?
  6. McKinsey & Company, How B2B digital leaders drive five times more revenue growth than their peers
  7. McKinsey & Company, The secret to making it in the digital sales world: The human touch
  8. Deutsche Bank, Deutsche Bank announces radical transformation
  9. McKinsey & Company, The secret to making it in the digital sales world: The human touch

 

Sales Funnel Complete Guide

In this article, we outline the basic formula for a sales funnel, as well as some cool technology you can use to boost its overall performance. Then we will get into the nitty-gritty of what sales funnel variations you can use to create the perfect B2B sales funnel recipe.

What is a sales funnel?

Technology has evolved, and the sales funnel has changed along with it. This article will take a look at the basic recipe for the sales funnel, as well as its most notable alternatives. We will then explore how adopting the benefits of each variation means the sales funnel can remain alive and kicking.

The sales funnel is a visual representation of the process a potential buyer goes through on their way to becoming a fully-fledged buyer. The sales funnel stages depend on a business’ interpretation of the funnel and their own sales model. However, it often adheres to three main sections; the top, middle and bottom.

The traditional Awareness, Interest, Desire, Action (AIDA) sales funnel, was the vision of American advertising and sales scholar, Elias St. Elmo Lewis, all the way back in 1898. The AIDA sales funnel outlines that as leads move through the stages; they learn more about your brand and develop positive feelings about your product, which compels them to act. The sales funnel aims to help companies identify “how and when to communicate during each of the stages. Consumers use different platforms, engaging at different touchpoints and requiring different information throughout the stages from various sources”.

Another essential part of the sales funnel is understanding the definition of a Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL) and a Sales Qualified Lead (SQL). A qualified lead is the crucial handoff point between marketing and sales, so the teams must agree on the terminology. Every company’s definition should reflect a combination of traits and actions that indicate a lead is both a good fit for your company and ready to talk to a salesperson.

What are the sales funnel stages?

Each stage of the sales funnel should attract relevant customers and then filter them down to the goal of purchasing.

Top of the funnel:

When your lead first becomes aware of your product and brand. Brand Awareness is the “extent to which a brand is recognised by potential customers and is associated with a particular product.” At this stage, your marketing team is creating content to boost your brand awareness. While your sales representatives educate potential leads about your product/service, rather than pushing a sale.

It would help if you researched to figure out whether your audience is online or offline. This research will influence what content you are creating for your customers and what channels you use to grab their attention. Just keep in mind that the B2B buying journey is more extended than B2C (business to customer). Not everyone who engages with your company is ready to buy or move through the funnel. However, top of the funnel marketing helps capture people who aren’t prepared to buy today but might be at a later point in time.

Middle of the funnel:

Your lead now becomes a marketing qualified lead. You can engage and ask questions that help you prove your product is the right fit for them.

At this stage, your lead understands their problem and is looking for a solution. The potential customer discovers more about your services and the benefits of purchasing from you. If they do determine you’re the right fit for their needs, they will then proceed to the next stage.

Remarketing is a useful tactic at this stage. It targets customers who previously visited your website and pushes them to make a purchase. Remarketing can also target people who have already purchased from you, encouraging them to buy again. Qualified leads can highlight their interest by filling out forms, signing up for an account or subscribing to your newsletter, in other words, voluntarily giving you their personal information.

Bottom of the funnel:

Both marketing and sales teams should work together to snare the lead’s interest and make sure that their engagement remains high enough to commit to buying.

In B2B sales processes, leads can also commit to online purchases with minimal contact from sales. Low touch sales are where a brand can build and market a product with automated sign-up, payments and invoices. So there’s minimal, or no sales support required.

When your prospect has completed a purchase, this doesn’t mean your engagement with them should be over. Staying engaged with customers after they exit the bottom of the funnel is what turns one-off buyers into repeat customers. You convert existing customers into advocates for your brand, where they’ll then recommend your brand to others.

How to create a sales funnel

1. Define your goals

It makes it a lot easier to work on your sales funnel if there is a clear vision for the business; do you want to grow? What products do you want to sell? Is the aim to diversify your clientele? Once you have figured out what your primary business goal is, you can begin to plan out the rest of your sales funnel strategy.

2. Outline your buyer personas

Buyer personas are fictional, generalised representations of your ideal customers. Creating an analysis of who you think your customers will be, will help you generate relevant content, product development and frame future engagements. Buyer personas will help you tailor your sales and marketing strategies to the needs and desires of a specific group of people.

3. Analyse your customer’s behaviour

Customer behaviour analysis is a review of how customers interact with your company. Customers are separated into buyer personas based on their common characteristics; then, you observe them along the customer journey to record how they engage with your brand. Organise your research around questions such as; what problems are your customers trying to solve? What channels are used?

4. Create marketing collateral

The next step is to create a place where potential customers can research and purchase your service. Marketing collateral describes a compilation of different media types, helps to improve the sales of your product or service.

Collateral includes ads, websites, landing pages, sales emails, pitch decks, PDFs and downloadable guides, case studies. Marketing collateral runs parallel to your brand’s primary advertising and contains a call to action; a line of text or image which urges your customers to take action. Your content should focus on outlining the details of your products and services, while also compiling reasons why your customers are making the right choice by choosing you.

What content should you use for a sales funnel?

Now you have the foundational framework for your sales funnel; the next step is to create content. It’s essential to create content with relevant keywords for your buyer personas as well as considering which tactics and channels are best for each step.

Top of the funnel:

Content can connect your customer to the company, and help customers feel confident in choosing you. 68% of consumers feel more positive about a brand after consuming content from it.One way to draw in attention is to use your knowledge from researching your audience to create tailored, high-quality content that will answer their problem.

This can involve:

  • Blog posts: creating regular, relevant posts will help educate website visitors and encourage them to learn more
  • Ebooks
  • Infographics
  • Video walkthroughs

You want to show your lead: why your solution matters to them, how they can use it, and what positive outcomes can be delivered if they do.

Middle of the funnel:

Now you can foster a relationship with customers, creating content that emphasises you’re can provide solutions to their issue. Companies with a refined middle of the funnel engagement and lead management strategy see a 4–10 times higher response rate compared to generic email blasts and outreach.

The middle of the funnel may be the most important, as customers will remove companies from the running if they don’t appear suitable.

The most effective types of content in the middle stage comprise of:

  • White papers: of the top three content requests from B2B buyers, a white paper comes in first with 78% requesting this type of content.
  • Case studies: these prove the value of your brand because they show how someone else has benefited from your service.
  • Webinars: these digital seminars can showcase your expertise in a specific area while offering valuable information to potential clients.

Bottom of the funnel:

The bottom of the funnel is when it’s necessary to reaffirm customers purchase through action-oriented content. This type of content needs a clear message and be tailored to the customers’ unique problem.

This includes things like:

  • Trial offers
  • Demos
  • Discounts

Creating a varied and robust content library will ensure you have the resources to attract the right customer personas and move them through the sales funnel.

Lead nurturing tactics for your sales funnel

Surprisingly, there is more to the sales funnel than just content, SEO and an excellent framework! Lead nurturing is the process of building relationships with your buyers at every stage of their buying process (and your sales funnel). According to Forrester Research, prospects wait until they are 65% to 90% of the way through their journey before approaching a vendor.

The top of the funnel is about generating leads. The middle is where you nurture those leads, and the bottom is about turning leads into concrete sales. If each stage is successful, then a lead will proceed to the next section. Your nurturing campaign should use all the research and information you gained through audience research and creation of your buyer personas. These reports will help you tailor your interactions with customers and ensure you are delivering a high-quality level of engagement.

Trying to deliver unique and specialised content to everyone who passes through your funnel would be mission impossible for anyone. Instead, this is where segmentation comes in. Segmentation is the process of defining and subdividing a broad audience into identifiable segments with similar needs, wants, or demand characteristics. Throughout your nurturing campaign, tracking interactions and measuring how and when you’re successful, this will help your business to decide what works best for you (and your customers).

Effective lead nurturing tactics include tactics like content marketing, email marketing, telemarketing, ads, and using social listening to understand what your customers are talking about. Adapting your lead nurturing tactics is all about being inquisitive and working to understand why leads behave the way they do, how your marketing affects them.

How technology has changed the sales funnel

The evolution of the sales funnel can be attributed to the fast-moving influence of technology. Modern marketers become successful because they understand that the customer journey is changing and they recognise the pressure to adapt their strategies in response to new technology.

The sales team is no longer in control of how, where, and when customers access brand information. Instead, marketing teams must also work to provide customers with the relevant content, on the right channels, at the appropriate stage – which is not an easy task! However, that’s where new marketing and sales technology can come in handy.

Artificial Technology and Marketing Automation

Artificial Technology (AI) has the potential to impact the customer journey and success of your sales funnel. AI software is an efficient solution to spot trends in customer data without human subjectivity. It can score leads more accurately and automatically, enabling sales to focus their attention on qualified leads. AI software also frees up the time of the marketing teams so they can engage with potential customers and gain a deeper understanding of what their target audience wants.

AI chatbots are another practical application and can complement your sales funnel process. Your sales team can talk and qualify potential customers efficiently. Intercom found that leads coming through live chat were of higher quality and 82% more likely to convert. ASOS, a fashion retailer, saw a 300% increase in sales after investing in Messenger chatbots. Most customers, including B2B customers, would prefer to use instant communication rather than email or phone. For example, research from Twilio found that 90% of people in North America, Europe, and Asia want to message directly with businesses.

If you’re going to stay relevant and ahead of your competitors, you need to rethink your current digital strategies. Start thinking about how you can facilitate customers to reach you through a multitude of channels.

High-level marketing personalisation; adapting your message and method of engaging with customers is now a necessity. Modern customers expect a personalised and tailored sales response and over 91% of consumers say they are more likely to shop with brands that recognise them and provide relevant offers. Marketing automation can complement your personalisation strategy, by freeing up time spent on small repetitive tasks. An automated CRM can send personalised emails and follow-ups, while behaviour-triggered emails, send a real-time email reaction based on how your customers are using your website.

Technology can assist in creating a clear sales funnel where you know where your prospects are every step of the way. So, you have a clear idea of what content and engagement they need to move to the next stage.

Six Variants of the Sales Funnel

Now let’s dive into the depths of six key sales funnel variations. Each adaptation presents an innovative solution to how we can improve the sales funnel, but the traditional sales funnel can remain relevant when taking influence from these new variations.

AIDA Sales Funnel

Let’s start with the ‘traditional sales funnel’ created by Elias St. Elmo Lewis, based on his formula for a successful advertisement;

The mission of an advertisement is to attract a reader so that he will look at the advertisement and start to read it; then to interest him so that he will continue to read it; then to convince him so that when he has read it, he will believe it. If an advertisement contains these three qualities of success, it is a successful advertisement.”

This motivation to make a purchase relies on:

  1. AWARENESS of a product or service
  2. INTEREST in the product’s benefits
  3. DESIRE for the product
  4. ACTION purchasing the product

Awareness Stage 

The top stage of the funnel is when your lead has a specific problem and is looking for trusted providers of the relevant information.

Interest Stage 

The interest stage revolves around keeping your prospects attention and building interest around your product or service. You are also encouraging your prospects to inquire further about the benefits you can deliver. Your prospects now understand their problem and are searching for a solution.

Desire Stage 

The transition from a prospect becoming ‘interested’ in your product, to them developing an emotional desire to purchase from you, signifies the desire stage. Marketing Qualified Leads now turn into a Sales Qualified Leads and are handed to your sales team for them to encourage a purchase.

Action Stage 

The action stage is the ‘call to action’ phase of the funnel; this is when your prospect purchases your product or service.

The traditional sales funnel is the main reference point for developing new innovative strategies on how businesses should frame and monitor their sales process.

Sales Flywheel

The sales flywheel has resurfaced as a new innovative way to think about your sales and marketing processes. Invented by James Watt over 200 years ago, the flywheel is a wheel or disc on an axis. The amount of energy stored within depends on how fast you spin it, how much friction there is, and the composition of the wheel itself.

The flywheel marketing framework is a process which allows you to research, plan and reach customers in all stages of their customer journey. The cycle structure means that one thing impacts another and keeps the process of spinning and building momentum going.

Attract

Attracting is about using your brand expertise to create content and conversations that start meaningful relationships with the right audience.

Engage

Engaging is about building lasting relationships with customers by providing real solutions that align with their problems.

Delight

Delighting is about providing an experience that adds value, empowers them to reach their goals, and then become promoters of your brand to others.

(Source: HubSpot)

So, how can the sales funnel learn from this process? 

The flywheel places potential customers at the centre of your business while marketing, sales and services revolve around them, not the other way around. It challenges brands to shift the way they think about success and has empowered customers to choose companies who will provide the most value. The flywheel helps to emphasise that even once a customer purchases from you – that is not the end to their journey, there should be no ‘exit’ or ‘bottom’ for them to fall out of. So when using the sales funnel, this perspective encourages you to remember to keep nurturing leads, long after converting.

Consumer Decision Journey  

McKinsey & Company presented an innovative new take on the sales process, using their findings from empirical research with 20,000 businesses in the US, Germany and Japan. McKinsey recommended a loop model instead of the usual straight-line approach to the customer journey, but the process was broken down into four stages:

Consideration

Customers consider several brands while on the search, believing that one can fulfil their needs and provide solutions to their problems.

Active evaluation

Customers then evaluate the brands by researching more about them. Brands are removed from the running, depending on their pros and cons.

Buy

Customers decide to go for the one brand that meets their needs and commit to making a purchase.

Post-purchase experience

This stage explains what happens after the customers complete the purchase. If they are satisfied, they rate and recommend the product to others. This word-of-mouth marketing forms the core of the loop within McKinsey’s Customer Decision Journey.

The sales process isn’t just about having an informed salesperson, an efficient call centre, or a great site. As David Edelman and Francesco Banfi from the McKinsey & Company argue ‘it’s about having ALL of those things working together like a relay team handing off the customer from one touchpoint to the next in a smooth way. If you are not thinking about that complete customer journey, it’s hard to understand your customer.’ The way that customers research and buy from brands is always under transformation, and the shift in consumer decision making means that brands also need to adjust their sales strategies.

So, how can the sales funnel learn from this process?

The change in customer thinking is an opportunity to develop your own sales funnel and your understanding of your target audience, allowing your brand to be in the right place to deliver high-quality information.

Customer Journey Hourglass                                                                                                 

Transforming the visual representation of the sales funnel is another method of approach. Rather than a funnel that tapers and ends once a customer makes a purchase, the hourglass framework continues after the purchase, helping to strengthen your relationship with customers.

Top Of The Sales Hourglass

Step 1: Prospect engagement

As with the sales funnel, the first thing will be to generate your leads. Then you can start learning about your prospects’ problems. You’re listening more than talking and taking notes of how you can help your potential customers.

Step 2: Solutions alignment

As you move toward the centre, you can start to bring in experts and customer success managers to engage with your potential customers. They can ensure that your solutions are aligned with your prospect’s budget and needs. 

Bottom Of The Sales Hourglass

Step 3: Implementation

This stage is vital for the goal of long-term customer retention. Yet traditional sales funnels risk letting new accounts fall into the void. 

Step 4: Adding Value

The bottom of the hourglass is the perfect place to ensure that you’re adding value for your customers. Focusing on customer success creates cross-sell opportunities as your customers turn to you for help with solving other problems.

(Source: Forbes)

So, how can the sales funnel learn from this process?

While the sales funnel appears to end as the customer purchases, the hourglass visualises beyond the purchase. Highlighting how the journey of the customer extends into the additional stages of engagement. Incorporating this into your sales funnel will produce a structure that acknowledges the importance of engagement with customers, even after converting. 

Marketing Funnel 

The marketing funnel, nicknamed the ‘new’ sales funnel, presents an alternative take on the collaboration between the marketing and sales team.

Today’s marketing team still has the primary responsibility for creating interest among the company’s target customers in the awareness stage. However, marketers must also help customers consider the product’s best attributes and encourage their intent to purchase. This small change on the traditional AIDA sales funnel represents the impact that technology has had on the sales funnel. According to CEB, the modern buyer’s journey is now 57 per cent complete before they even encounter your products or services, all due to the easy access to online research. Customers now have the freedom, access and inclination to check out competitors and gather as much information as they can.

So, how can the sales funnel learn from this process?

The role of both marketing and sales have to play within the customer journey should influence the real-life mechanisms of your sales funnel. In this digital age, it makes sense that marketers should have a deeper understanding of buying trends and work together with sales to help customers progress through the stages.

Lifecycle Marketing

The lifecycle marketing model is based on the customer. It considers the entire customer experience, rather than focusing in on just the sales-oriented approach. The model includes how customers first became aware of your brand, their interest/investment and their loyalty and retention.

Awareness 

The first level of the lifecycle marketing structure follows a similar process to the sales funnel. It focuses on when customers discover a brand and if they decide to research more about their problem. Create high-quality content and link customers to documented research, which can help them choose your product.

Intent

The intent stage uses one-on-one customer interaction over apps and free trials. Live chat or video chat is preferred as this can be more informal and build a stronger relationship with customers.

Decision

The decision stage revolves around the customer purchasing from you. They’ve decided to choose your brand based on the awareness and engagement you’ve nurtured. 

Loyalty

Those customers in the loyalty stage are hopefully on their way to become return customers. Unlike the funnel methods, the lifecycle marketing structure looks at the customer’s overall experience. Follow-up emails containing exclusive access or discounts to new products should be promoted to customers at this stage.

So, how can the sales funnel learn from this process?

There is already some overlap between the two processes, although the names of the stages might be different, both have a heavy focus on retention and conversion. If you take the customer focus and the intense attention the process gives to the customer journey, you can create a sales funnel that is the best of both worlds. A sales funnel that allows brands to make strategic plans and create unique marketing goals while also keeping customer satisfaction and retention in mind. 

Conclusion

The process customers go through on their way to purchase is no longer a simple path from awareness to conversion; it’s much more complicated. Understanding the different ways that the sales funnel can adapt and change means you can create a seamless journey for your customers.

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