Marketing funnel and lead may not be the right terms

B2B marketing is tricky to get exactly right. Many businesses cater to multiple customer segments, which requires different marketing materials for each. In addition, buyers are taking more time to evaluate different options across all customer segments. B2B firms need an integrated marketing platform to handle the complex process of Internet lead generation, nurturing and closing the deal.

The revenue funnel is a commonly used term in B2B marketing. It refers to how lead generation results in a large pool of prospects, which is gradually pared down to focus on the most relevant leads and ultimately results in purchases. While this concept is common for many B2B marketers, it may not be that applicable, according to an article for ClickZ written by Richard Roberts. Although companies still start out with a big group of leads and work their way down to the most qualified buyers, the concept of the funnel doesn’t account for what happens after closing the deal. B2B sales aren’t as cut and dry as B2C. Depending on the type of solution you offer, customers will need ongoing support during the implementation process.

In addition, B2B companies can expect up to 82 percent of their revenue to come from returning customers, Roberts wrote, citing data from Demandbase. While you need to generate new business, you can’t neglect previous customers. It’s important to extend the relationship with clients beyond the sale because it could result in higher profits at a later time.

Another reason the funnel concept isn’t accurate for B2B firms is because it mainly applies to individuals, and the B2B sales process is much more complicated. Most sales representatives need to target multiple people within one business. Many companies utilize stakeholder teams comprised of end users and executives with the final decision-making authority, among others. The exact combination varies by business, making it even more difficult for sales reps to accurately target customers. Because a stakeholder team is likely involved, B2B sales teams need to update their concept of the customer journey as well. Accounting for a company journey may be more accurate.

How sales teams can get around funnel issues

While the growing complications in the sales process may make a high-quality B2B marketing strategy seem next to impossible, this doesn’t have to be the case, Emma Vas wrote for Invenio Solutions. Much of the sales process comes down to exact science by assessing the data. Salespeople need to gain in-depth knowledge of their customers on an individual level. The concept of a lead can be confusing because this can refer to a company or a single employee within this business. One of the first steps to maximizing the effectiveness of your marketing efforts is to conduct research on each lead. You need to identify the decision-maker and determine who else is involved in the process.

Getting in touch with the right person at the organization typically results in a more qualified lead, and it can shorten the time until close, according to Vas. In addition, your sales team needs to discover the best time to reach out to these individuals. There may be specific times when key decision-makers are tied up or don’t want to have a sales conversation. Assessing data can help your sales reps find this information and plan contact accordingly.

When taking a customer-centric approach to lead generation, you need to consider how you highlight the benefits of your solution. In many cases, buyers won’t care about all the technical details. They want to know how the product will solve their company’s challenges. Having a thorough understanding of what your current clients need and want can help you speak prospects’ language. For example, knowing what pain points buyers are trying to solve can help you communicate the most important benefits of your product that resonate with customers.

Using an integrated marketing platform to redefine the funnel

Marketing automation software can provide better visibility into the sales cycle, making it easier for sales reps to gain reliable access to relevant data. Better data provides two main benefits to sales teams: increased knowledge of the customers’ journey and a better understand of prospects’ needs and unique business challenges.

In general, the customer journey involves identifying a need, exploring options, evaluating different choices and finally deciding, Roberts wrote. However, this process often isn’t linear, even if sales reps approach it as a straight line. Improving visibility into individual customers’ needs and processes helps sales employees ensure they make meaningful connections with prospects. Creating stronger relationships with buyers increases the chances they will convert. An integrated marketing environment allows sales teams to better map unique customer journeys. Salespeople can then target prospects with appropriate content based on where they are in the decision-making process.