“Demand generation” – it’s a subject that’s top-of-mind for marketing execs who, in addition to orchestrating the myriad facets of their departments, are now also responsible for getting new business and generating revenue.
And guess who they’re looking to – yep! – their marketing teams, to not just generate leads, but also to provide their business development people with qualified leads that are hot to buy.
Such is the case with your clients and most likely with your agency as well. But we all know that sometimes the shoemaker’s kids can end up going barefoot, meaning that it’s not uncommon for an agency’s energy to be so devoted to creating excellent marketing and lead generation for its clients, the team may end up neglecting their own marketing needs.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. In fact, when your agency adopts lifestyle marketing – engaging with clients during all stages of the purchasing journey – you’ll have the perfect framework in place to apply to your clients’ accounts as well, and you can use it in two ways:
- To help your staff find and close new business for your own agency
- To help your clients close a bigger percentage of their sales prospects
One of the easiest ways to visualize the buyer’s journey is to apply it to a marketing funnel.
What’s a Marketing Funnel?
Picture an inverted pyramid. The marketing process is basically a funnel of conversions through which you drive your prospects from the top, towards the bottom and the desired outcome – a purchase! This also represents the ideal process you want your clients’ customers to experience as they transition from Anonymous Visitor → Known Prospect → Qualified Lead → Customer → Lifetime Customer/Advocate.
Knowing how to work the top of the buyer’s funnel to attract prospects is something that marketers typically do very well. The components of brand awareness involve a lot of creativity, and for many agencies that’s their strong suit.
Smart agencies take it further, for their own business and on behalf of their clients. They divide their efforts to cover the middle and bottom portions of the funnel as well as the top, thereby making sure they’re communicating with prospects and customers during every stage of the customer lifecycle, and taking targeted actions to move those prospects closer to a closed deal.
- Start by attracting prospects to fill the top of the funnel. Grab attention and broaden brand awareness.
- From there, follow a specific process to move those potential customers down through each level of the funnel until they arrive at the bottom as hot leads, ready for biz dev to convert them to paying clients or customers.
- Once those prospects become your clients, continue to communicate with them to keep them up-to-date on new features, relevant news and available upgrades – thus increasing the likelihood of retention, upsells, and advocacy.
As you execute on your own retention programs, you’ll be showing your clients the value of doing the same (or, ideally, hiring you to do it).
Why Are Marketing Funnels Useful?
When a client’s marketing automation (MA) platform is integrated with their CRM, your agency can use a marketing funnel to provide them with a visual representation and easy-to-understand analytics. This helps them see clearly the flow of prospects through important conversions during the marketing-to-sales journey, from lead to opportunity to closed deal.
Funnels also help your agency define and measure the lead flow and velocity of prospects through the marketing funnel and compare results across time periods. They allow you to customize the criteria for each stage of the funnel using list profile fields, behavior, CRM data, and lead scoring.
If you’re not there already, this is your opportunity to think of marketing in a new, broader way. In today’s digital business environment, effective marketing calls for professionals skilled in segmentation, targeting, and positioning – much of which takes place in the middle and bottom portions of the funnel.
TOP OF THE FUNNEL (ToFu) – ATTRACT
Any competent marketer is good at attracting prospective customers. It often involves working on creative, colorful projects, and offering informative, compelling opportunities at the top of the funnel. You probably use a variety of methods, channels, and platforms to drive demand generation.
Five of the most effective ToFu marketing strategies include:
1. Content Marketing – According to a study by Sirius Decisions, at least “67% of the buyer’s journey is now done digitally”. People go online to gather information so they can make more informed decisions. Marketers create and distribute content that educates buyers (blogs, eBooks, white papers, infographics, etc.) to build connections with prospects that can become leads.
2. Email Marketing – In the beginning, prospects are doing research. When you’re tracking and pinpointing what links they’re clicking, it allows you to tailor the content you send them to align with their interests. And, of course, their continued engagement helps you move them further down the funnel towards a purchase.
3. Webinars – Multiple studies have proven that 2/3 of B2B marketers use webinars and online events as one of their most effective methods for generating leads and marketing to prospects and customers. These online training sessions provide you with opportunities to attract and engage with a number of potential prospects who have demonstrated their interest simply by registering.
4. Search Engine Marketing – We know the vast majority of buyers in the B2B space start their purchasing process online, which makes search engine marketing (SEM) a very effective strategy for attracting visitors. Combine the use of contextual advertising and paid placements to increase your clients’ visibility in search engine results.
5. Social Media – B2B buyers also frequently use social media channels to seek information and advice about their future purchases. By sharing relevant content with users via social platforms, you’ll catch the attention of prospects and engage more of them in conversations.
MIDDLE OF THE FUNNEL (MoFu) – CAPTURE AND NURTURE
OK, you’ve caught the buyer’s eye and even generated some flutters of excitement. You know you’re doing things right because the prospect indicates that it’s time to move down the funnel.
This is your chance to harness the power of your marketing automation platform while working the middle of the funnel, and here’s why: your clients’ CMOs are demanding data from them regarding lead generation, qualification, and conversions. The CMOs are using that data to not only augment alignment between marketing and sales by providing visibility across campaigns and programs, but also to justify their budget, not to mention their position with the company. Yeah… it’s pretty important stuff.
The middle of the funnel is the consideration phase for your prospects. Your agency’s primary goal is to encourage visitors to provide you with their contact information in exchange for your quality content. Then, once you’ve identified them, you’ll continue to nurture and intrigue them, turn them into qualified leads and then pass the hottest leads to sales to close the deals.
The MoFu’s All about Converting Website Visitors into Leads
During the two middle stages, capture and nurture, you’ll continue to use automation to engage target audiences, sort through the leads your agency has generated, filter out prospects who don’t fit the criteria you’ve set, and continue communications with buyers who are likely to buy your clients’ products and services.
MoFu tactics for your agency and your clients include strategies and assets that reach known prospects who are in your database, engaging with your brand.
Here are some of the most effective techniques to use in the middle of the buyer’s cycle:
- Email Marketing – Segment the list of prospects you’ve attracted and target your marketing even more specifically to your most interested and active audience members to increase deliverability and encourage opt-ins.
- Forms – Web forms act as a bridge between you and a prospect; if an interested person wants to cross the bridge to gain access to something of value that you offer on behalf of your clients – a webinar, premium content, a limited-time offer – they’ll agree to provide their contact information in exchange. In digital marketing, web forms are a strategic way to initiate engagement and capture information about prospects.
- Landing Pages – Landing pages are a focused and customized sales pitch, specifically designed to get your visitor to take one action. As an extension of your upstream advertising (e.g., paid search and banners), they can really help you increase conversion rates. You can accomplish the following by using the landing page feature in your marketing automation platform:
- Create relevant destination content
- Capture leads, collect signups, and more
- Generate higher click-through and capture rates with personalized pages and pre-filled forms
- Webinars – When you share useful information via a webinar, you establish trust in the brands you’re representing. When participants see that your clients have respected their time by providing useful, relevant information to enrich their knowledge, you’ve positioned your clients as being considerate, knowledgeable thought leaders that people want to do business with.Webinars are a great tool for agencies to use to showcase their expertise and attract prospects who are struggling with the demands of today’s digital marketplace.
- Nurture Programs – You can be sure that at least half of the leads you’ve attracted are not yet sales-ready. That’s why building trust and fostering relationships with qualified prospects, regardless of their stage in the buyer’s journey, is a key element to finding the quality leads that can be nurtured through the funnel. Define what an ideal lead is, identify those who qualify, and then treat them differently.
- A simple nurture program works like this: You have determined who the ideal prospect is for one of your clients. Start with two buckets – either the person qualifies or they don’t. If they don’t, remove them from the funnel. If they do, pursue the lead with further communications and strategies. If you’re just starting out nurturing leads, start with a single nurture campaign for all leads.Remember that, at this stage, the content you’re offering is still entertaining and informative, AND it begins to discuss how the brand can provide solutions to the buyers’ problems. A monthly newsletter, or a regular webinar offer, or even an occasional free white paper offer can keep you top-of-mind with prospects who are not yet ready to buy.
- Dynamic Segmentation – This strategy centers around targeting prospects by what matters to Segmentation is a terrific way to make your email messages personal and relevant to your unique audiences, boost prospect engagement, and increase conversion.
Within your MA platform, you can create tightly targeted list segments. For example, you can: Combine profile attributes (title, department), with observed behaviors (followed a link, visited a web page, attended a webinar), and a specified time frame (1 day, 1 week). If you discover you have a CXO with buying power, interested enough to attend two webinars, and engaged enough to click on three messages within a week, that’s a very warm lead, and it’s probably time to send this person a special incentive to buy now.
- Lead Scoring – Since all leads are not created equal– and they mature dynamically, at different rates – savvy marketers use lead scoring to rank and determine when prospects are sales-ready. Your MA platform’s lead-scoring system watches for online and offline buying signals, monitors interest levels and allows marketing to identify the hot leads and route them off for to sales to convert to buyers.
Lead scoring uses a points system that you will determine along with your clients. Once you assign values (e.g., the person’s industry and job title, website visits, content downloads, event attendance, form completions, etc.), points accrue over a set amount of time. The sum of these points is the lead score. By monitoring lead scores, you’re increasing your ability to focus time and effort on the most likely buyers on behalf of your clients.
BOTTOM OF THE FUNNEL (BoFu) – CONVERT AND EXPAND
Congratulations! You’ve attracted potential buyers, captured their information, nurtured them, and now you have some warm and toasty leads who are getting ready to buy. As you approach the BoFu, your main objectives are to position your client’s brand as superior to competitors, accelerate the deal cycle, and inspire confidence in their decision to buy.
Once you’ve routed them to sales, it’s up to them to convert them to customers, but that’s not the end of the buyer’s journey. You’ll follow up after the sale to continue to foster the relationship to expand it, turn them into repeat customers and inspire them to become brand advocates.
- Convert – This stage in the bottom portion of the funnel is all about sales turning the qualified leads you’ve generated into customers. In addition to their CRM, sales people can also use marketing automation-related features including reports, sales templates, website visitor alerts, and more to help them strike when the opportunity is optimal for each prospect and convert them to buyers.
- Expand – This final stage at the very bottom of marketing funnel. Increasing the value and loyalty of customers is often overlooked by both sales and marketing, and that can be a costly oversight. Your agency can turn new customers into satisfied customers who stay, and share their positive feelings with friends, business connections and the masses.
Strategies for this phase can include:
- Loyalty Programs – Customer loyalty is hugely important. According to any number of research reports, it’s easier and far less expensive to sell to existing customers than land new ones. In Emmet Murphy’s management leadership book, “Leading on the Edge of Chaos”:
- Acquiring new customers can cost as much as five times more than satisfying and retaining current customers
- A 2% increase in customer retention has the same effect as decreasing costs by 10%
- Depending on the industry, reducing your customer defection rate by 5% can increase your profitability by 25 to 125%
Obviously repeat business helps the company’s bottom line, but it also translates to new opportunities when those satisfied customers advocate on your and your clients’ behalf.
- Product & Service Updates – Technology changes rapidly, and that means the products and services your clients offer their customers may change as well. If things change too much and you’re not helping your clients tell their buyers about those changes, you’re risking leaving some of them behind at renewal time.
When you proactively reach out to customers to educate them about how to get the greatest value to achieve success, they’ll feel valued and good about the customer service they’re getting. Additionally, by educating people up front, you can help tech teams avoid being inundated by calls about new features.
Providing these updates to customers is a critical stage in any marketing program. Make sure you keep your and your clients’ customers informed. In particular, if you upgrade or change technologies and it will affect them, make sure they have the knowledge and support to make it easy. By helping to make the adoption of changes a smooth process, you’re being proactive on behalf of buyers and they’ll love you for it.
- Special Deals and Upsells – By offering existing customers price breaks on new products, features or services, you’re continuing to please them and, more importantly, you’re growing the lifetime customer value for your clients. And these are the customers who will be major contributors to the long-term growth of your and your clients’ businesses.
- Content – To increase customer intelligence and satisfaction after the purchase, start sending them content to validate the value of their purchase. You want the content to be closely aligned with the product or services they bought, challenge assumptions, and, of course, to be driven by the data you’re collecting as you continue to use marketing automation to engage and measure their responses and actions throughout the entire customer journey.
Measuring and reporting ROI is now high on the priority list for your agency and for each of your marketing clients. When your agency works the entire funnel on their behalf, it’s guaranteed to help them align with sales, boost their numbers, and fatten up everyone’s bottom line.
Use your MA platform to control, monitor and gauge the progress of clients as they move down through every stage of the funnel. It’s the most powerful and effective way to help your marketing clients boost sales, and it’ll encourage them to want more of your magic. Take a video tour of Act-On to see what marketing automation can do for you!
And remember: your clients want to look to everything you do as a best practice. Employ funnel strategy to your own marketing to win and keep clients, apply the same methodology to their accounts, and you’ll be creating a true win-win strategy.