We get it: the reality is, you’re faced with thinning budgets you need to stretch as wide as possible and increasing pressure to drive and meet your quarterly revenue goals. And the B2B marketing funnel, thanks to the lengthened (and now somewhat unpredictable) sales cycle, takes longer, has more touchpoints, and weighs more factors than the B2C funnel, which is often more straightforward.
But one error we too often see clients make is attempting to “do it all” with a singular asset or limited campaign. Or just as detrimental, skipping too far down the funnel. Examples of these include:
- Bypassing building brand awareness, especially for organizations that are new to the space, and therefore skipping over upper funnel activations
- Attempting to raise awareness, educate the buyer and ask for the lead all in a single promotion
- Immediately assuming you have the buyer’s trust – and perceived authority in the category
- Overlooking key channels that buyers are leveraging or looking to for their information (hint: consider channels with sight, sound, and motion)
- Neglecting mid-funnel touchpoints, where customers are actively setting buying criteria and trying to compare vendors
- Going straight for the lead, while providing little to no context on the benefits or features of a solution
While these common missteps can be tempting, there are many reasons to ensure your campaigns consider—and plan for—a “full funnel” approach.
Be Intentional When Planning Around the Marketing Funnel
Today’s buying journey is increasingly dictated by the buyer, not the company or product. It’s easy to leave gaps (or place too much emphasis on one stage) when you’re thinking through funnel stages from a siloed or non-customer perspective.
So, to help make the case for why you can’t always ask your customers to get married on the first date, here are a few reasons why you shouldn’t “cut corners” on building out your B2B marketing funnel:
Reason #1: Thinking full funnel helps you be more customer-centric in your marketing
Meaning, it forces you to consider what your customer is going through (both actions and emotions) and focus on their needs and pain points – and how to align your efforts with each of those stages. This also gives you a unique opportunity to establish a relationship with prospects by arming them with information that helps them perform better in their everyday jobs. 90% of B2B marketers say the leading attribute of content marketing effectiveness is ‘audience relevance.’
Reason #2: You might be missing out on the opportunity to educate a buyer in an area – or in their time – of need
Consider, there are only so many prospective organizations and buyers actively in-market and “looking” at a given time. And many may have no idea there is a problem. Without upper funnel activations you miss out on the chance to disrupt a prospect’s thinking and bring to light a problem they may be unaware of. By providing top-of-funnel education and insight, you can potentially help drive urgency to change or consider starting their search for a new solution.
Plus, if you haven’t laid the brand awareness groundwork, you are banking on a very narrow opportunity to get on their radar and be included in their limited consideration set. On average, only 5% of B2B buyers are actively in-market to buy, which means your efforts need to educate and get in front of them before their moment of need.
Additionally, we can’t expect customers to make this huge leap from awareness to decision on complex sales, without any support in the middle funnel to help them identify their buying criteria and compare vendors.
Reason #3: Expectation and engagement look different across the funnel. And the expectation is that brands must give before they ask
Each stage of the purchase journey presents an opportunity for a unique campaign touchpoint, as it presents a distinct “job to be done”. For each of those, your key messages should align to what the prospect/customer’s expectations are. For example, you must first help your customers identify and articulate their problem, before you can demonstrate that you know how to help them solve the problem.
Strong offers are key to moving a buyer through the consideration cycle – but which offer folks are willing to engage with changes as they learn more. Reading an article is a much lower commitment than downloading a research report, and even lower commitment than signing up for a free demo. Stealth buyers want to stay in the shadows until they’re ready to engage with sales – you can’t always force their hand. Gartner research shows that when B2B buyers are considering a purchase‚ they spend only 17% of that time meeting with all potential suppliers.
Reason #4: Different metrics matter at different times – and your measurement changes based on where you are in the funnel
Technically, there is opportunity for a conversion at each stage of the funnel. If all your content or channels only support one funnel stage, your measurement is likely to reflect this. So while at the end of the day your ultimate marketing KPI may be leads, consider all of the upper and mid-funnel stages that your audience needs to work through before you can convert them.
Plus, by defining these more granular, stage-based metrics you can track incremental progress during these lengthy sales cycles – and you don’t have to wait months for leads come in before you know your marketing efforts are working.
So take it one [funnel] stage at a time.
Each stage needs some individual attention and love, but remember to step back and look at your efforts in a full-funnel context when working on your next marketing or campaign plan. Make sure you’re putting your best foot forward at each key stage of the buyer’s journey to help educate and push them on to the next stage.
And while you’re thinking through a full funnel approach, here are a few tips to help you follow best practices when planning your media too!