B2B marketing funnel is dead isn’t it? Facts vs. opinions. [video]

The B2B marketing funnel is dead. Don’t you get frustrated when a buyer comes to you with a pre-baked notion of what they need and it’s just plain wrong, or at least it’s wrong in your view?

“The B2B marketing funnel’s dead, and here’s the proof.” That was the headline of an article I read recently on salesforce.com’s blog, and two principal arguments in the article. It’s a nice, short article, two principal arguments put. Firstly, that 70% of the journey is complete before the buyer wants to engage with the sales force from SiriusDecisions. Secondly, that there are multiple buyers involved, not single buyers involved, and in fact, that the number of buyers involved in decision’s gone up. Is that an argument the B2B marketing’s funnel’s dead? Well, no it’s not, and there’s a couple of reasons for that. Firstly, the SiriusDecisions’ article is misquoted, or them as a source is misquoted. Let’s go back to what we used to think a funnel was. A funnel was this basic, simple idea of run an ad, get a response, talk to a telemarketer, offer a small, simple first step, and then sales gets involved to take them further.

Happy days. Most of us lived in a more complex world than that, even back in the early days. Certainly we do now. That hasn’t changed. The journey took a long time. That really, really hasn’t changed, many people involved. Secondly, this notion that I had a large number of names, a larger still size of market. A large number of names. I had slightly fewer opportunities, fewer still proposals, fewer still sales. That hasn’t changed either. The B2B marketing funnel’s not dead, but some things have changed and we need to change with them. That’s what we’re going to talk about today. We’re also going to look at a tool that will help you manage the B2B marketing funnel. Let’s start by looking at the first assumption, or first assertion, from SiriusDecisions. SiriusDecisions did not say that 70% of the buyer’s journey was complete before the buyer wanted to engage with sales. That’s not at all.

In fact, if you google SiriusDecisions fallacy, you’ll find some great articles on this, principally from SiriusDecisions. What they did say was that 67% of the buyer’s journey was completed digitally. That’s a completely different conversation. In fact, they said, “Not just digitally, but digitally with sales.” Sales does digital too, it’s not just marketing. The first premise is completely wrong. SiriusDecisions made an important point that’s not wrong and we do need to take our mind, or take cognizance of. I don’t think many would argue that the buyer’s journey has changed quite a bit. Buyers are more willing, in fact more keen, to do a lot of research before they’re willing to engage. What that number is, I don’t know.

Certainly don’t quote SiriusDecisions and say it’s 70%. Aberdeen have a similar argument that it is. Certainly I think few would argue that the buyer’s doing a lot more homework before they engage. I think we’re comfortable asserting that. Let’s go back to Aberdeen. Aberdeen also argue very strongly that content needs to be aligned to the buyer’s journey. It won’t surprise you that I’m a big fan of that argument. In fact, when I coined the term “The Buyer’s Journey” in 2003, that was principally what I was trying to get at. Good on you, Aberdeen. I think that basic argument’s right. I do think that SiriusDecisions’ argument is right. That is that buyers are doing a lot of their thinking digitally. Again though, SiriusDecisions wasn’t saying just marketing. They were specifically saying marketing and sales. If the buyer has changed the way that they want to buy, clearly as seller, we need to change as well.

We need some tools that can help us do that. I’ll share with you those just after this break. Your B2B marketing funnel needs to be managed with the buyer in mind, not you the seller. One of the steps that you need to take is to change the name of the stages in your marketing automation systems and in the CRM, to buyer progression stages not seller progression stages. With the greatest of respect, it doesn’t matter what you’ve done, what matters is where has the buyer got to? That’s the first thing. Secondly, and on that related point, secondly build all of your content to get the buyer to a somewhere. If you’ve signposted what the somewheres are, again, you know that I call it the Buyer’s Journey till it’s now quite widely used in the industry, every piece of content should be written, whether it’s a one line email or a 60 page eBook. It needs to be written specifically to get buyers from somewhere to somewhere.

This piece of content has a narrow job. It’s not to sell stuff, it’s to get buyers from here to here. You can write that. Then you write the next piece of content. This is my third point. Put them in a flow. You write the next piece, the next piece, the next piece. Whether that content is delivered by a salesperson, an inside salesperson, an email, a webpage, a video, whatever method you use to convey each of those messages, they need to be lined up in a flow. From hello to thank you. That’s the buyer’s journey. To where content the most buy, specifically not along the journey, but from one stage to another stage. Work that out before you write the piece of content. Next thing, fourth step, is measure. We need to measure the actual progression that’s going on through the buyer’s journey. The buyer’s journey still exists, the B2B marketing funnel still exists.

What has changed, is that we need to be smarter in how we think about it, understand it and act on, to help buyers move through their journey and our B2B marketing funnel. I’ve mentioned before a tool called Postwire. My tool tip this week is Postwire, but I want to focus particularly on a little extension inside Postwire. If you haven’t heard before, Postwire is a great tool for marketing to curate content, put it somewhere in a library, and make it really easy for sales to use. One, is it’s a great library, one, is it’s a great place and a really easy place for salespeople to share it individually with their prospects, and the third thing it is, is a tool for measuring or responding to interaction. When a buyer reads the blog, watches the video, goes to the page that’s mentioned in the Postwire, salesperson gets an email. Fundamentally those three things. The little thing I want to talk about today is Add to Postwire. It’s a little extension.

I use Chrome, I’m sure that there are other versions for other browsers, haven’t checked, apologies, but for Chrome it’s an extension. What this little extension allows me to do, is when I’m looking at any content, whether it’s on my own website or on any other’s website, I can click the Add to Postwire and I can add it to the library. Now what we got in Postwire, is not just a library curated by marketing, but curated by marketing and by sales for sales to use. It’s not a place to put your digital assets for marketing to use, it’s a tool for sales to manage individual interactions and to share content that helps the buyer move through each stage. If you’re going to use Postwire, please make sure that you put the content into the stage of the buyer’s journey that you intend, or you believe that content is going to help progress to, then the salesperson knows what content to go looking for.

As you know, Funnel Plan is a great way for sales and marketing together to discuss and agree and then articulate the objectives, the strategy, the velocity and the tactics that they’re going to use, end to end from hello to thank you, to earn more sales. Clearly today we’re talking about tactics. Let’s zoom in on the tactics, and I’ll show you one small change that I believe we need to make. There’s already a lot of tactics that we have here well-aligned to the buyer’s journey. I’ve got a lot of position tactics and interest tactics now. Once we get them to acknowledge that there’s a gap, we’ve got there via a variety of means, but it culminates in a personal meeting. In that personal meeting we either use a white-board or a pre-printed meeting tool to walk the buyer through a bit of a discussion to uncover what their particular problems are that we can fix. What if we don’t get the buyer there quite in that mood? What happens next?

In this flow we’ve got nothing, and that’s where we need to add some content, and consistent with the tool tip, we’re going to add some content on Postwire. Let’s go into Funnel Plan and we’re going to add a Tactic. Let’s call it “Send additional troubling content from Postwire”, and that’s for the gap-acknowledged stage of the journey. We’ve added the tactic, but we need to add a couple of connections so that its context in the flow works. Firstly, we’re going to go from with the face-to-face meeting. We’ll go personal meeting, and that needs to go to send additional. There’s a simple connection. We’re going to add one other connection though. That connection is from the Send additional, this new tactic we just added, and we want to make sure that that flows logically to the Need agreed meeting, which again is using the meeting tool. Now that that’s saved, let’s generate a PDF and take a look at the revised Funnel Plan. See you have Funnel Plan down here.

Let’s take a look how it’s been generated. We head down to the tactics, and you can see in the tactics that after the personal meeting, to explore the costs etc., we then move on to Send additional troubling content from Postwire. The reason we’re sending it Postwire again through is, as I mentioned before, firstly, great place, great library for you to leave all your content in ordered and structured places. Secondly, it’s very easy for sales to then send individual content when they know the need is there, and thirdly the salesperson knows immediately the person’s interacted with the content, and they can contact them and follow them up immediately to get a second meeting. That’s it. I hope that helps. In next week’s show, I’ll share with you a few B2B marketing strategy examples. Until then, may your Funnel be full and always flowing.