Top-of-the-funnel targeting will always be a challenge for B2B marketers given the highly specialized nature of the goods and services they promote. The traditional tactic of including an inflated number of prospects at the top of the funnel doesn’t work the same online as it does with prequalified direct mail; it isn’t as effective as it could be.
Instead, B2B marketers need to disrupt the funnel by reshaping it into a pipeline that begins with the deployment of first-party data.
What’s Wrong With The Traditional Funnel?
The traditional funnel works, but only to an extent. One sign that the traditional funnel model is inefficient in its online form is that even as B2B spending is set to surpass $6 billion this year, according to eMarketer, most of the money is going to desktop rather than mobile. In fact, only about 37% of B2B ad dollars will go to mobile. By comparison, B2C marketers allocate about 70% of their ad dollars to mobile. Even at the office, mobile phones are ubiquitous.
The practical challenge of marketing to B2B decision makers on desktops means you face pushback from the IT department. Hitting the network firewalls along with blocking of cookies means you’re essentially deploying run-of-company advertising. The top-of-funnel tactic, albeit inefficient, is possibly the best option you have in these circumstances.
If you start by onboarding a list from a trade publication, for example, are you getting a one-to-one match to the person with the right title and targeting based on that title? Or, are you being granted access to an undifferentiated pool of cookies for everyone at the target company? Instead of leveraging qualified actionable leads that suppress irrelevant departments and titles, in order to reach a respectable scale of unique user coverage, account-based marketing tactics force “going wide” in what can be an unnecessary qualification process that churns through more impressions than they need to, creating a vicious cycle of waste and noise.
The Alternative Begins With First-Party Data
Unlike some online consumer campaigns, we often know who the qualified target audience is — and we know them by name. It’s only logical that each pipeline could begin with fewer prospects and a greater number of first-party qualified leads.
We think of first-party data as the data that’s collected from existing customers or compiled from primary sources. Tactics such as geo-fencing and app usage are applied to political rallies, sporting events, retailing and other point-of-interest consumer activity. With the right combination of B2B and B2C data and enough scale, B2B marketers can deterministically match a digital delivery point to a person and a title.
Signals can be matched up front from professional registration data across devices to homes and businesses to qualify the prospect lists B2B marketers typically apply at the top of the funnel. Obviously, this process will reduce waste and improve lead quality. Accuracy is important, but coverage within the qualified list also matters. Within the universe of onboarding, cookie coverage may be challenged to reach anything close to 50% of the list.
This is why it’s important to understand that first-party data at the top of the funnel means executing cross-device against deterministic and opt-in IDs to get both scale and accuracy when deploying to mobile and verified connected network-based devices.
Think Pipeline, Not Funnel
The width of the funnel is simply a metaphor carried over from the waste created by the old direct-mail, lead-gen machine. By starting with verified first-party data connected by mobile and network points of distribution at home and business, you achieve qualified reach and narrow the top of the funnel, squeezing it into an efficient pipeline with more transparency.
Changing the top-of-funnel model will require an adjustment in the quantity over quality mindset that account-based marketers currently expect. Such disruptions can be painful, but rather than pushing the enterprise to overhaul the funnel overnight, begin by exploring linking businesses, titles and the households of prospects with other qualifying data. Test it against current tactics and data. The higher quality data will immediately improve the effectiveness of the old model, and in time, the obvious efficiency gains will transform the funnel into the pipeline.
Ray Kingman is the CEO of Semcasting, leading the company in the development and commercialization of its automated targeting and data offerings since the company’s inception. As an experienced innovator in content management, analytics and data visualization fields, Ray directs the company’s day-to-day operations. Prior to joining Semcasting, Ray served as the CEO of LightSpeed Software, a content management solution built through the acquisition and integration of multiple providers in the search, analytics, content management, authoring and portal platform spaces.