Ask any company what they want more of and most often the answer will be revenue (aka closed deals). An uptick in closed deals means gaining qualified leads. But as B2B evolves into a more hybrid sales and marketing approach (we call it SMarketing) there’s a challenge that must be overcome.
Namely, how do we release our addiction to quantity (capturing as many leads as possible - 99% of which will never buy) to capturing the right leads (even if there are fewer of them) in order to drive growth?
The answer is pipeline marketing.
How lead generation drives pipeline marketing
In order to fully understand pipeline marketing we have to agree that “lead generation” is the process of converting strangers and prospects into people who are actively interested in our solutions. Traditionally it’s a numbers game based on the assumption that more leads in the top of the funnel equals more sales opportunities for the pipeline.
In that model, to “win” at lead capture (since quantity is the goal) marketing is forced to focus on content, social media, SEO and campaigns that entice lookers into trading their email for our content, demo, presentation, etc - even if those leads aren’t a good fit. And then using marketing automation to get them into our pipeline.
There’s a flaw in that thinking
We know that 99% of leads don’t buy even though they appear to be great leads based on company, title, and role. That’s because a significant number of people download information even when they have no interest or ability to purchase. For example they’re too early on in their buyers journey. Or think sales and marketing, we are notorious for downloading content from martech SaaS companies in order to learn and apply techniques to better our own numbers - rather than as an expression of interest. On the face of it we appear to be valid leads but really we’re not - and that’s just two examples.
Pipeline marketing, which some tout as the “evolution of lead generation,” is not tied not to quantity of leads moving into the funnel, it’s about the quality of those leads. Therefore, companies that use pipeline marketing for growth vacate the idea that lead generation is a numbers game and depend on data (emphasis on “data”) to make decisions and set goals based on what they know works for revenue generation. For example, some companies do very little digital marketing but still have massive growth because word-of-mouth sustains them. In their case, the data proves it and focusing lead generation in that direction is the fastest route to growth.
Leads are easy to count but difficult to define, which is the lion’s share of why most sales and marketing organizations remain in a synergistic but adversarial struggle. For years now, experts have been telling us to “align language” to eliminate the bickering between marketers who say, “um… we gave you leads” vs. the sales team’s opinion of lead quality. Data doesn’t lie and with it at the helm, those subjective points of view disappear.
Welcome to pipeline marketing.
Where to start with pipeline marketing: In order to drive leads based on previous revenue obtained, it’s important to understand where you found the leads that turned into customers.
- Take a critical look at incoming leads - Document which channels the leads that purchased came in from ie: social media, email marketing, networking, etc. Then track their conversion path - at what point do they move from awareness to lead and from MQL to SQL? Is it after the 10th email or maybe after a sales person connects with them on Linkedin? To determine the most followed route to sales (warning: it might be difficult to tell in some cases) document the ones you know for certain.
- Data tracking - If you haven’t been tracking data or want more data to work with, plan a few different lead generation specific campaigns over a 30 - 90 day period. Think of it as A/B testing different channels. Doing so allows for targeted data capture that amplifies your knowledge base quickly and intentionally.
- Keep track of the time (money) - Understanding the effort spent on executing each campaign ties dollars spent to dollars won when a deal closes. Knowing this makes it easier to determine not only the most effective channels but the most financially rewarding channels for lead generation.
- Analyze and adjust lead generation strategies - When marketing decisions are tied to the shortest and most economical route to pipeline, you can leverage top routes to market and use the saved time and money to experiment building other data-driven routes-to-market that garner equally great results, in new ways.
The shift from lead quantity to quality is at the heart of pipeline marketing. Intuitively it makes sense and getting started can be challenging but in the end, it’s worth the investment. Looking for more information on pipeline marketing?
Contact us, we’re here to help!