As the buying journey becomes increasingly complex, B2B companies need to engage with prospects at all stages of the funnel. Many are doing so by investing in data analysis, creating compelling content, investing in predictive and ABM technology, and enabling their sales teams to close deals with a variety of tactics and tools.
Those were among the key themes highlighted during Demand Gen Report’s 2016 Lead LifeCycle Series. More than 1,400 registrants attended the two-week webinar series dedicated to helping sales and marketing professionals maximize their efforts throughout the sales funnel. During the sessions, a range of industry experts provided a number of insightful strategies designed to help B2B companies hone their tactics at each stage, from the top of the funnel (ToFu) to the middle (MoFu) to the bottom of the funnel (BoFu).
Many panelists noted that today’s buyer doesn’t always take a linear route to purchase.
“This idea that you can prescribe a path that your prospects and customers are going to take to purchase is naïve and myopic,” said David Johnson, Director of Product Marketing for Oracle Marketing Cloud, in LookbookHQ’s presentation on content engagement. “You need to plan for more disruptive journeys, and you need to have systems in place that address these disruptive journeys to be successful and remain competitive,” he advised.
As a result, today’s B2B marketers are under tremendous pressure, and a traditional approach to lead gen no longer works, according to Aaron Dun, SVP of Marketing at SnapApp.
“We’re having a crisis of confidence,” he continued. “We need to rethink and reshape everything we do in order to meet our objectives.”
In his session, “How Content-Enabled Campaigns Are Improving Conversion Rates,” Dun said marketers should meet those challenges by delivering interactive and conversational content formats to drive engagement and increase conversion rates.
Dun wasn’t the only speaker who noted that today’s marketers are often overwhelmed. “So many of us get into the habit of just churning out more content, and we don’t really step back and do what we need to do to make sure that content is working for us and we’re reaching our goals,” said Hana Abaza, VP of Marketing for Uberflip. In her session, “Great Content Isn't Enough: How To Create & Optimize Your Content Experience,” she described how to maximize content by making it readable, actionable and tailored to the user.
Data Fuels The Funnel
Of course, some marketing methods can be especially helpful during particular stages of the buying journey — and there’s no doubt that building a solid foundation with customer data is crucial for ToFu efforts.
Emily Wingrove, Director of Marketing for Social123, discussed why data is the foundation of all email strategy in the session, “Use Cases For Optimizing Email Campaign Conversions.” While campaign elements such as messaging, strategy, content, graphics and CTAs are important, the audience needs to be identified first, she explained.
The session included a case study with Terminus, which incorporated email, display, phone and social media to generate 19 opportunities from 11 top-tier accounts.
Gaining a holistic view of the customer can also help marketers nurture leads left languishing in the MoFu, said Full Circle Insights’ CEO Bonnie Crater during her session, “Stuck in the Middle: Strategies for Turbocharging Your Funnel.” Joe Gelata, Head of Global Revenue Operations at Vidyard and a Full Circle client, talked about how the company has turbocharged its own funnel by centralizing its data and reporting to gain a clearer view of customer activity.
The payoff for Vidyard was significant. The video software company increased its SQL conversion rate almost 50% by focusing on measurement at key conversion points in the funnel.
Once marketers have identified their target audience and uncovered their audience’s intent, they are able to supply the right piece of personalized content to meet the audience’s needs. “This helps you better position your messaging, develop more impactful ideas and select the most effective content formats,” said Dana Harder, VP of Client Strategy at Content4Demand.
In the session, “The Key to Finding & Accelerating Your Most Qualified Leads,” Elle Woulfe, Vice President of Marketing at LookBookHQ, illustrated how enabling prospects to “binge” on content that’s relevant to their needs — and measuring their engagement — can help companies augment lead scoring, fast-track engaged leads, trigger sales alerts and route leads to specifically designed campaigns.
ABM As A Comprehensive Strategy
As the method continues to gain steam in the marketing world, ABM has evolved from more than just a ToFu tactic. It’s now a holistic mentality that impacts every stage of the buying journey, said Act-On Software’s Senior Director of Product Marketing Adam Mertz, during his session, "Why Companies Are Shifting From Tracking Leads To Engaging Accounts."
“ABM is a strategy that many only consider for demand gen, when it can really help build brand awareness and expand the customer relationship,” Mertz noted. “Ultimately, ABM can help focus marketing efforts on key target audiences to maximize ROI, while also helping to boost ‘demand and expand’ efforts.”
Nipul Chokshi, Head of Product Marketing at Lattice Engines, said in his session, “Learn How Top Enterprises Increased Conversion Rates At Key Funnel Stages,” that predictive solutions can help marketers refine their ABM strategies at each stage of the funnel by providing valuable information on key accounts.
“Predictive analytics and account-based marketing really do go well together, and what we’ve found is companies of all sizes see outsized results as a consequence of using predictive analytics, not only to get started with account-based marketing, but to scale those programs up over time,” he said.
He then described how Hootsuite saw 30% greater deal velocity by accelerating its enterprise business; how Intel Security lowered its cost per opportunity by 20% with predictive capabilities; and how CDW saw three times higher conversions by personalizing sales interactions with customer insights.
Radius’ SVP of Marketing Shari Johnston also emphasized the importance of predictive in ABM in “Take Back Control Of Your Funnel With An ABM Strategy.”
Johnston explained that “most mature companies are leveraging predictive to drive account selection. Instead of manually going through this process, really being able to use third-party data that helps with the attribute fulfillment on those key target accounts automates the process.”
Radius saw a 33% increase in account engagement in one month through personalized account-based advertising.
Marketers Provide Sales Enablement
The role of the marketer continues to evolve, and with increasing demands from the C-suite to prove ROI, enabling the sales team to close more deals has never been more important. It all starts with making sure the sales and marketing teams are on the same page.
“Historically sales and marketing have been like a bickering married couple,” said Leticia Rodriguez, Marketing Programs Manager at Everstring, in an aptly titled session, “Al And Peggy Bundy Syndrome: How To Combat Sales And Marketing Misalignment To Maximize Conversions.”
According to Rodriguez and her Everstring colleague Matt Amundson, VP of Sales Development and Field Marketing, it’s important for marketers to include the sales staff in the brainstorms, planning meetings and campaign kickoffs that happen at the ToFu. The entire team needs to agree on visible, measurable goals, they said.
That added pressure to prove ROI is another reason why content that has typically been used at the ToFu is now also deployed at the BoFu to win sales.
“Marketing is not only responsible for generating the lead; we also need to take [buyers] through the consideration phase and to the evaluation phase,” said Mark Bornstein, VP of Content Strategy at ON24. “We literally need to get them right up to the point of purchase — to that final sales conversation about pricing and contracts.”
In his session on “How To Use Webinars To Close Business,” Bornstein shared how more companies are using webinars to showcase demos, case studies, Q&As and other forms of content at the bottom of the funnel.
Check out the all the sessions on-demand here.