Some call it a “funnel.” Some say “pipeline.” I’ve even heard “martini glass” thrown into the mix. There are about as many words to describe the marketing and sales process as there are companies. And it only gets more complicated when you look at how they break down the specific stages within that process.
But often, sales and marketing organizations create their funnels, pipelines, and martini glasses then attempt to stuff the buyer’s journey neatly into its confines. Ultimately, this approach can be more harmful than helpful. Why? Because it needs to start with the buyer.
CEO Carlos Hidalgo and his team at ANNUITAS established their demand generation strategy by first developing detailed buyer insights and delving into the ideal buyer’s challenges and purchase habits. Based on these insights, ANNUITAS views demand generation programs as “three discrete, yet linked” phases: Engage, Nurture, and Convert.
Under Hidalgo’s leadership, ANNUITAS has had success working with clients to develop content strategies and demand generation programs driven by the specific interests and needs of their buyers. And although “engage” is considered the first phase, it seeps into “nurture” and “convert” as well. The ANNUITAS approach develops content that informs and engages interactions at every stage of the marketing and sales process.
The Content Marketeer caught up with Hidalgo recently, and he offered some dos and don’ts for building successful demand generation programs that resonate with buyers, nurture them through the buying process, and measure conversions at each phase of their journey:
DO develop detailed buyer insights.
At every stage, decisions must be made from the perspective of the buyer. How can this be done without knowing who they are? If your content is going to inform and engage, you need to have an idea of what the buyer is looking for. Hidalgo suggests asking yourself these questions: What are the key challenges the buyer faces? What pains are they trying to solve? How do they buy? What does their buying process look like?
DON’T view the buying process and the funnel as the same thing.
Hidalgo warns of a danger in making this common assumption. We have our funnel, our process, and that may not sync up with the buyer’s process. “I think first you have to understand that buyers do not view themselves or their buying process as funnel stages,” he says. So, how do we justify the two? Well…
DO allow buyers to drive interactions.
Whether your interactions with buyers are personal or automated, your nurturing of prospects should be behavior-based. “I see too many organizations who set up nurture programs where the buyer gets an email per week,” Hidalgo says. “What happens when a buyer responds four times before that email?” If your strategy is behavior-based, they will get four interactions that nurture a sale.
DON’T get caught up in tactics.
Hidalgo does not mince words on this point: “I see many organizations talk about an email nurture campaign or a telemarketing nurture campaign. This focus on tactics is what is killing marketers today. Determine the program strategy, the content that will need to be developed and then worry about the tactics you will use to deliver the content.”
DO measure results beyond time spent and shares.
When measuring results of efforts in the funnel, don’t focus on metrics like time spent reading content, social shares, opens or clicks. These do not offer the business insights you need. “The most valuable metrics are those that show if your content is helping convert buyers through the stages of the buying process.” This is done by measuring content consumption, engagement with that content, and conversion rates from one stage to another.
DON’T target bad fits.
There is no standard definition of a “qualified lead.” Each business has to do this for itself, and there may be categories of qualified leads. “It is vital that organizations not only define a qualified lead, but they must define every stage of the qualification process – starting with response all the way through defining what a closed deal is.” Hidalgo sees account segmentation as a collaborative process with marketing and sales. “Account segmentation helps focus your organization, making sure you have the right account targets. There is no use in targeting contacts in accounts that are not a good fit for your offering or targeting accounts that will not have a budget for your solution.
The overall point? Whichever metaphor you choose – pipeline or funnel – should be defined by your particular business and buyers. Know what their purchase process looks like, cater to their needs, and understand how to track their progress. Once you’ve established a solid demand generation strategy that covers those bases, grab a martini (not the metaphorical kind). You deserve it.
Want more insights on the funnel, err the pipeline? Carlos Hidalgo will be talking about “Middle of the Funnel Distribution: How to Drive Demand with Content” during the Content Marketing Bootcamp Boston. Registration is now closed, but you’ll be able to find his presentation and more on Kapost’s Content Marketing Resources page after the event.