We often accuse salespeople of pitching too early: “I’m ready to sell – I hope you’re ready to buy”. But it’s much the same with Marketing. We make offers designed for buyers who are ready to choose between options, but many buyers aren’t there yet.

But unless your tactics move buyers through their journey, you are likely to fail.

Your tactics need to:

  • Identify buyers who meet your target profile

  • Position your brand on their list and get their attention

  • Get these buyers to accept that they have the problem you solve best

  • Have them accept your solution as valid, then to prefer it and be willing to promote your proposal to other decision makers

  • And then be willing to contract

You will lose some buyers along the way. They will fail to progress from one stage to the next. If you get 5 per cent all the way from the top of the funnel to the bottom you might be pleased. But what do you do with the 95 per cent who failed to progress?

When buyers leak, you need to nurture them back into the funnel.

Let’s start at the top: Identifying buyers who meet your target profile might be as simple as buying a list of names from a reputable list broker.

But what if you don’t yet know who to target? In immature markets, it is not always clear what type of businesses you should be targeting. So you will need to use flushing tactics – tactics that can reach a broad market, but the way you execute them has a narrowing effect. You might place an advertisement in the general business press, with the copy specifically isolating the exact person you are seeking.

The big issue is how to position your business with these buyers.

Many marketing textbooks are written for consumer markets rather than business markets. They tell us we should communicate our point of difference. But often this is the exact opposite of what we should do.

It doesn’t matter what they think about you, if they don’t think about you at all.

In order to get these buyers to think about us, we can use well-proven positioning tactics, such as advertising or public relations, or position through the effect of our other tactics.

Here’s how it works. Every tactic needs two aims:

  1. To try to get the buyer to make the progression you seek (download the white paper or accept an event invitation to hear about the problem you solve)

  2. For those who don’t accept your invitation, at least have them acknowledge that you are in the business of solving that problem.

The problem is a key part of this.

Few businesses will buy if there are no consequences of not buying.

In other words, what will it cost them to do nothing? The pain of action includes your price, implementation time and disruption. But what will it cost them if they don’t act – the “do nothing” option? If they believe that the pain of action is greater than the pain of inaction, they won’t act.

And so a buyer who has a need, but not a problem, won’t act. While they may need your product and want your services, if they don’t feel the pain of future inactivity, there’s no sale!

Marketing’s role is not to tell the world about your products and services, but to create a market keen to hear about them.

The journey for your buyer takes time. This is frustrating and may tempt you to push them to move faster. This is dangerous. You may find ways to help them progress faster, but you can’t skip stages.

One of the best ways to speed the funnel up is to unblock it.

If a buyer has taken longer than is normal for one of the progressions, the probability is that they have already leaked. Our measurement work with clients has shown that it takes longer to lose a deal than to win one.

So if you find a buyer who has stalled, take them out of your sales funnel and have Marketing ‘nurture’ them for a while. Free Sales up to work on buyers who are ready to progress. Marketing doesn’t have to restrict itself to the top of the funnel. Nurturing stalled buyers is a great contribution for Marketing to make later in the process also.

Tactics need to be selected to progress buyers:

  • Target buyers that meet your profile, or flush them out if you don’t yet know who to target

  • Select tactics that progress buyers through their journey

  • Position with them through repetition

  • Use marketing tactics to trouble buyers, and leave it to Sales and Pre-sales to tell them about the solution

  • Make your funnel flow faster (but don’t skip stages)

  • Save money by recycling, and encourage your blocked funnel to leak.