“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. It’s a nice, short article with two principal arguments. The first was from SiriusDecisions: that 70% of the journey is complete before the buyer wants to engage with the sales force. The second: that there are multiple buyers involved and, in fact, that the number of buyers involved in decision’s gone up.

But is that an argument the B2B marketing’s funnel’s dead? 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.) But to explain it properly, let’s go back to what we used to think a funnel was.

We used to think 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 take sa long time with many people involved. Secondly, this notion that I had a large number of names (a larger still size of market), 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.

When buyer’s change, sellers need to keep up

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).

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.

Aberdeen have a similar argument that it is. They 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. I think that basic argument’s right. And I think that SiriusDecisions’ argument is right too – 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.

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. If the buyer has changed the way that they want to buy, clearly as seller, we need to change as well.

Manage your funnel with the buyer in mind

We need some tools that can help us do that. But you also need the right set up. Your B2B marketing funnel needs to be managed with the buyer in mind, not you the seller. How to do this?

1.  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?

2. Build all of your content to get the buyer to a somewhere. If you’ve signposted what the ‘somewheres’ are, 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 point A to point B.

3. Put your content in a flow. You write the next piece, the next piece, the next piece. Whether that content is delivered by a salesperson, an email, a webpage, a video – they need to be lined up in a flow. From hello to thank you. That’s the buyer’s journey.

4.  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.

Marketing tools make it easier

I’ve mentioned before a tool called Postwire. If you haven’t heard before, Postwire is a great tool for marketing to curate content. One, it’s a great library, two, it’s a really easy place for salespeople to share content individually with their prospects, and the third, it 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, the salesperson gets an email.

The little thing I want to talk about today is Add to Postwire. It’s a little extension that allows me to add any content I’m looking at (whether on my own website any other website), to my PostWire library with one click.

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.

And while we’re on tools, you may 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.

The funnel isn’t dead, but there are a lot of things changing to how buyer’s interact with sellers, and funnel management needs to be able to adapt to keep up. Otherwise your funnel won’t die, but it will be pretty empty. For more help and advice on how to manage your buying stages, content, and more, reach out any time.