So, You Have A Problem… With Top-Of-Funnel Data, Processes & Reporting

Published: September 15, 2023

1aimesDemand generation isn’t easy — and anyone who says otherwise has never done it.

First, you must attract an audience, which means having something to attract them with (marketing) and attract them to (website and product). If you have a great product, but no marketing, no one will know about it. If you have great marketing, but nothing to deliver, you won’t sell anything. But assuming you have all that, it means you’re collecting a lot of information from multiple sources in various formats.

At the top of the funnel, you’re generally working with a marketing automation platform and you’re also accumulating information from offline activity, such as conferences, phone calls and information from partners. The upshot is the need to take all that disparate data, synthesize it and ensure that it’s actually useful to you.

This is where demand generation happens: The beginning of everything.

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Cleaning, segmenting, enriching and deduplicating your data are critical, foundational top-of-funnel processes. They set the standard for your data formats and provide the basis for everything else.

Without cleaning and segmentation, you have no way to assess the quality of new leads. Without enrichment, you aren’t getting as much information as you could. You need to ensure that you’re attracting the right people, not the most people. Ten good opportunities are better than 1,000 that go nowhere.

Duplicates are a disaster anywhere in the funnel, but especially at the top where they inflate lead generation numbers. This can result in disappointment when they don’t all pan out and doom 360-degree views of your prospects to failure because activities are fragmented across duplicates.

Even with this, you’re still not done with your top-of-funnel data and processes.

Marketo, for example, captures the UTM parameters from the first and most recent form fills. But if your prospects are filling out multiple forms, you’ll lose all the data in the middle without a UTM mapping process that collects every touch point, which future-proofs analysis and attribution down the line.

Scoring is notoriously fraught with conflicts about lead quality between marketing and sales teams. Scoring and grading projects (especially those using decay models) that enable insights by sales but don’t burden marketing with where to draw the line on handover between teams can accelerate pipeline by providing both teams with visibility into all the leads.

List loading can be another area of contention. While it seems simple enough — get the list from your event or partner and upload it to the database — it can introduce dirty data, create duplicates and otherwise wreak havoc on your database. By introducing different list loading apps and formats for different partners and teams, and providing visibility into reasons for lead rejections, you can determine which programs, partners and channels are driving the most business and where to put your budget.

There are six seemingly obscure data related projects you should prioritize to ensure a clean database:

  • Make sure your data is clean, readable and functional for your business needs — double counting, inferring incorrect program impact and splitting activities for one person across multiple records means you can’t understand the prospect journey;
  • Understand who’s driving business for you and whether or not you’re getting the right leads, and then determine the best segments to invest in;
  • Fill in the gaps of incomplete or outdated data from vendor information;
  • Collect all the UTM parameters throughout the funnel to future-proof your attribution models and your customer 360 data;
  • Score and grade decay models and transparency across revenue-focused teams to create value throughout the funnel; and
  • Create custom apps for different lead sources to alleviate manual work, eliminate duplicates and dirty data and provide you with insight into new leads.

That’s a list of things executives won’t get excited about, but here’s what they will be invested in:

  • Accurate, on-demand information about quantity, quality and sources of new leads;
  • Insight into the online assets used at different points in the marketing engagement process to determine what needs improvements or expansion;
  • Knowledge about your best lead sources, which programs provide redundant leads and which partners, programs and channels deliver the most and highest quality leads; and
  • Visibility into lead lifecycles that sales and marketing can agree on.

The top of the funnel drives the rest of the business and touches the largest number of people. Investing here can change all the outcomes downstream, leading to more business, better business and better forecasts.

Emily W. Salus is the VP Customer Success and Services at revenue operations platform Openprise. Salus has more than 20 years of experience in marketing and professional services roles.

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