About 67% of B2B marketers said they either weren’t meeting or didn’t know if they were meeting the demands of their sales pipeline. That’s according to a survey conducted by BtoB magazine. Generating sales leads is a key reason for marketing’s existence, especially in B2B. But in emphasizing lead generation, many B2B marketing departments place too much emphasis on bottom-funnel tactics, such as their email newsletters and search marketing.
These tactics, of course, can be highly effective. At the same time, they could be more effective with the implementation of a true full-funnel marketing program. B2B marketers are using search, email, and other bottom-funnel tactics to communicate with a pool of prospects that is growing increasingly shallow. To deepen that prospect pool, B2B marketers must reach prospects in top and middle funnel – not just in the bottom funnel.
The buyers’ journey has changed. Forrester Research, in fact, reported that the buyers’ journey is as much as 90% complete before a buyer picks up the phone to call a vendor. The Internet enables potential customers to get information about purchases via recommendations, social media, bloggers, corporate websites, and advertising – without ever contacting vendors.
If your company is not in the consideration set when a prospect starts visiting search engines, it’s too late. You need to keep your brand in front of prospects during the long timeframe when they’re not ready to make a decision – not just when they’re in the transaction phase.
A full-funnel marketing approach can get your brand and your products and services in front of prospects throughout the entire buying cycle. Here are five simple steps to building a full-funnel marketing program:
Make sure your objectives align with the funnel.
In the top funnel, marketers aim to increase brand awareness. For this goal, marketers should use social media, public relations, blogs, and display advertising. In the mid funnel, marketers want to educate and engage prospects. For these goals, marketers should deploy webinars, white papers, email, and display advertising. And in the bottom funnel, marketers want to generate leads, create conversions, and increase revenue. To realize these objectives, marketers should use search, email, and retargeting.
Select the proper metrics to measure impact at each stage of the funnel.
In hockey, you don’t measure a goalie’s performance the same way you measure a forward’s value. Goalies are judged by saves; forwards are rated by goals scored. It’s similar in marketing. Top-funnel tactics are best measured not by click-through rate but by brand lift or traffic increases. Mid-funnel tactics must be judged by engagement metrics, such as increases in page views per visitor. And bottom-funnel tactics should be judged, for example, by Web conversions and cost-per-lead.
Branding isn’t just for B2C marketers.
The automakers provide a good template for B2B marketers. The buying processes are similar: Both B2B buyers and car buyers can spend a lot of time out of market for these big, considered purchases. But even when car buyers are out of market, the automakers continue to send brand messages to them, as any time spent watching television will attest. The car brands know that they have to be in the considered set when their potential buyers begin Googling for a new car purchase. B2B marketers should be engaging in the same sort of branding efforts for their prospects, even when those prospects aren’t in the bottom of the funnel.
Ignore display at your peril.
Online display advertising is a versatile digital tactic. It brands and boosts awareness in the top funnel. Display can boost content marketing vehicles, such as white papers, in the mid funnel. And, in the bottom funnel, retargeted display ads can convert prospects who have previously engaged with your website.
Upgrade your attribution model.
Too many B2B marketers rely on last-click attribution, which can provide an inaccurate view of what marketing tactics are working. Last-click attribution gives too much credit to the marketing tactic (usually search or email) that last touched the buyer. A more sophisticated attribution model also gives proper credit to tactics, such as branding efforts, that initially attracted a prospect to your sales funnel.