While many B2B marketers continue to declare the commitment to the principle “know thy marketing funnel,” others are proposing “flipping the funnel” while an increasing number are announcing the “death of the funnel.” Is the B2B marketing funnel dead? Is it time to attend the funnel funeral?
The B2B marketing funnel concept has been around for so long that its difficult to imagine what might replace it. It is the yardstick against which all marketing strategies are measured.
Know Thy Funnel
To Know Thy Funnel is to map a customer’s journey, analyze how B2B marketers are filling the funnel with new leads and how those leads convert into sales through each stage. Progression is the objective. But accelerating the progression is the new holy grail.
We all know the traditional model and reference its “existence” in all of our strategies. It has been the ultimate way for B2B marketers to visualize how they were moving buyers from awareness to a Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL).
Potential online prospects may see one of your display ads designed to generate awareness. Prospects might then visit your website (first touch) and if they download your content you are seeing engagement. They progress to become part of your email campaigns and if they fill out a form and are qualified, the funnel comes to an abrupt end and the lead passed on to the sales team.
However, this process is a little more complex in real life. There are loads more touch points in between these funnel transitions, but marketers are not always able to focus on all of them, especially when they are not using fact-based analytics. The funnel in this form is an ideal representation of a buyer’s journey, but does not accurately depict the complexity of the customer’s long and convoluted route to a purchase.
Have you Flipped your Funnel?
In 2015 we saw the arrival of the #FlipMyFunnel Manifesto by Sangram Vajre who suggested that the traditional lead-based funnel wasn’t driving real revenue. He wanted to shake up the status quo by building the foundation of a scalable community. About 1000 B2B marketers joined #FlipMyFunnel which is the home of all things related to ABM (account-based marketing).
In this community the funnel doesn’t begin with channels and broadcasting but rather identifying your target customers and engaging them with personalized content. The movement promotes social selling and social marketing to engage customers with relevant, one-on-one conversations. They also utilize ABM to reach prospects with personalized marketing messages at scale.
The Funnel Funeral
The death knell for the traditional B2B marketing funnel is the unreliable projection from leads to business value without having the data and tracking capability to really understand the buyer journey.
On average only around 1% of leads generated in this way convert to customers.
It appears that marketers aren’t doing a good job. At the end of the funnel road, marketers aren’t around to be part of closing the deal. The effort by the B2B marketers goes uncredited. The gap between marketing and sales alignment grows ever wider as both teams continue to use different funnels. Its been a good 115-year existence but sadly now the B2B marketing funnel may be dead.
What is good to know is that while the funnel may have had its last death rattle, the pipeline funnel is still very much alive. It starts at first contact and only ends at sales closed. In this scenario the sales and marketing teams are using the same roadmap and are able to communicate with each other. Success can then be measured by revenue, not leads. The focus is on the quality of the leads not the quantity.
Customers are not taking a linear walk down the old funnel path to make purchases. They have more choice. We see how the millennial generation (aged 22-35 yrs) make all of their business transactions based on social media and mobile technologies. They favor a personalized, hassle-free approach which leaves the B2B marketing funnel dead in the water for this group. A Connected Generation Is Modifying The B2B Playing Field
This is the age of the circular customer life cycle. Prospects cannot be pushed through the old funnel. They access multiple sources to assist them with their choice to purchase. They do not progress in a well organized line but jump around quickly, sometimes going back and forth a few times from one stage to the other.
Your strategy has to align with the way that customers are actually making purchases and building relationships. You need an abundance of data to know your customers. You will then be able to meet their specific needs in near real-time using fact-based analytics to offer relevant content when people begin the buying journey.
Its time to put on your best black, throw a rose onto the B2B marketing funnel coffin, give yourself a little mourning time and then witness the birth of a new way of creating your ABM marketing strategy using Behavioral Intelligence.