I plead guilty to enjoying a cold beer or two, and I’ve watched with amazement as the decade-long bull market in the craft beer industry shows no signs of abating.
When the holidays come around, there’s a standard soundtrack of 80s holiday hits: John Lennon, David Bowie, Bing Crosby, and Wham! fill your ears practically all of December. But when holiday bonus time comes around, there are only two songs on the playlist, at least from your boss’ perspective: Madonna’s Crazy for Youor Janet Jackson’s What Have You Done for Me Lately?
If you’re the marketing VP at a B2B-focused company with average deal sizes of five figures and above, the answer to which song your boss will be singing when your check gets signed depends on one thing: if your approach to marketing has kept pace with your buyers’ changing approach to buying.
New Leads Aren’t Everything
A SiriusDecisions report surprised marketers by showing that at the average B2B company targeting mid-size to large companies, marketing activities account for only 10 percent of the pipeline. The sales team actually generates the other 90 percent.
B2B audiences have fundamentally changed. We’ve reached the tipping point at which the old way of marketing – in which you build a funnel of 100 leads with the goal of disqualifying 95 of them – just doesn’t work anymore.
The new way is to identify the customers you want to have, learn about them, engage using a “value first” approach and build the relationships until you land them.
Sales teams call it “named accounts.” We call it “account-based marketing.” And when you backstop this approach with marketing’s strategic know-how, you change the game.
The key cognitive shift lies in is what I call the microfunnel approach.
What Is the Microfunnel Approach”?
First, picture your traditional marketing funnel. You blast a large number of prospects with low-value content to entice a small percentage of hand-raisers to show interest. Then you send slightly more valuable content to the hand-raisers, looking for further signals of engagement. Rinse and repeat until the hand-raisers cross an arbitrary threshold and you pass their names to Sales.
Seventy-three percent of all B2B leads are not sales-ready. No wonder sales isn’t in a festive mood.
But with the microfunnel approach, there’s a strategic shift:
You start with specific potential customers in mind. You and your sales team name specific businesses that you want to convert – the ones in the right industry, with the right business challenges, in the right revenue bracket – and you build laser-focused programs to reach them.
You multiply your funnels – and shrink them. Instead of having one big funnel, you have a number of small funnels – one for each customer you want to land, customized to the specific needs of each one.
You turn your funnel upside down. Instead of removing people from your funnel, you start small and strategically add people into your funnel. The more contacts you make, the more you’ll understand the company’s true needs, and the more likely you’ll find your sales champion.
You start the relationship with the highest-value content. Your goal is to generate trust from the first contact. The best way to do that is to demonstrate the value you can deliver from the very first moment.
How Marketing Strategically Supports the Approach
The microfunnel approach requires very different assistance from marketing. That’s because you need to support one-to-one sales relationships at scale. To pull this off, there are three critical elements that are necessary for success.
Peace on Earth and Good Bonuses Toward CMOs
As marketers, we talk a good talk about “bridging the gap between marketing and sales.” A few brave marketing teams are actually living this philosophy by supporting the efforts of the sales team to do what comes so naturally to them.
My organization recently partnered with a large software company to help them adopt an account-based approach to marketing. This led one sales team member to close a six-figure annual deal. For him, marketing provided content support, interests tracking and personalization – but the salesperson led every touchpoint.
In another partnership, a field marketing team fell in love with marketing-powered micro-funnels because it’s far easier to trace the ROI they generate to specific marketing activities. You can do it, too. Imagine marketing helping to close deals, literally.
The next time holiday bonuses are on the line, your CEO should be hearing about how marketing supports the activities that sales does best (building relationships) by doing what marketing does best (building engaging, value-driven experiences that are powered by content).
Your CEO likely won’t be fully listening, though. She’ll be busy humming Madonna to herself and gladly thinking about your bonus check.
David Brutman is the Chief Product Officer and Co-founder of Folloze, an account-based marketing sales platform. In his previous role, David was a senior director of marketing at SAP, overseeing mobile apps. Learner at heart, he has been an advocate of selling by education rather than selling by persuasion, and he has given talks and written about the topic. Prior to that, David was in product and engineering leadership roles, bringing innovative products from ideation to market adoption