As most of you likely know, I’m a research fiend. I find it really interesting to learn what marketers think about their work, challenges and achievements. I’ve read a lot of research in the last few weeks – must be a fall thing – but Marketing Sherpa’s Chart of the Week displaying the most challenging marketing-sales funnel processes got me thinking.
For today’s post, I want to talk about the top and the bottom of this chart because I see a disconnect between the responses that might be part of the problem.
Top Challenge: Converting qualified leads into customers
I hear this challenge a lot. Quite often it’s because marketers are focused on the “top” or “front” end of the funnel (what I call the buyer experience). Over the course of a complex sale the lengthy middle is a wasteland, often ignored.
This can be related to a few things:
- Time constraints: Marketers are often required to produce a steady stream of prospects based on their reporting periods (monthly, quarterly) rather than based upon the buyer’s state of readiness.
- Lack of prospect knowledge: Marketers don’t know their prospects well enough to understand the depth of the problem they’re solving or what information is needed to engage them consistently over time. Without this knowledge, it’s really difficult to create content that does its job well.
- Quest for the shiny object: Marketers are used to planning short-term campaigns. They get bored with the subject matter because they’ve been talking about it for several months and they assume that buyers will get bored. So they shift to a new campaign that jolts their buyers to a new mindset and start telling a different story. It’s kind of like reading a chapter in a book, putting it down and picking up a new book and reading a chapter and then expecting to know the outcome of the first book. Relax and learn how to tell one complete story from beginning to end – your prospects will appreciate it because you’ll be adding value they need.
Lowest Challenge: Lead hand-off and management
Really? Does anyone else see the disconnect here given the top challenge?
Jen Doyle from Marketing Sherpa writes:
“Participants rated lead hand-off and management as the least challenging funnel process. CRM and marketing automation tools facilitate sending a lead to Sales, but the real challenge is identifying the right qualification criteria to determine when the hand-off should take place.”
I’d argue that’s only scratching the surface. The lead handoff is not just about the technology that elevates a lead status or shuffles it from system to system. Jen makes a great point about qualification and timing, but we’re still not quite there.
The time has passed for marketing to simply toss a lead to sales and say, “You’re up!”
When you consider how long a buyer spends researching and engaging with content prior to being willing to speak with a salesperson, we’ve got to do more. Marketers need to orchestrate the handoff in a way that provides value for both the buyer and the salesperson.
Since marketers say they have lead management in hand, then they should know a whole lot about their prospects – especially activity history. Given what a prospect has shown interest in, what’s the next step that a salesperson can expose them to that makes sense? Marketers need to set that up. Otherwise salespeople will start over, halting all the momentum the buyer has made in order to do their Q&A thing to learn what they want to know first.
I cringe everytime I get the sales survey – “So, tell me about your business…” Ugh!
Buyers don’t care what a salesperson wants to know. They expect sales to step in and add value that aligns with where they are in their buying process. They expect fresh ideas and perspective. Marketers should be positioning salespeople to do this from the transition – and provide support through to purchase and beyond.
Marketing is a cycle that never ends, it just goes through different stages. Somehow we forget that.
The point of all this is that if marketers aren’t thinking beyond the surface when rating their challenges, they may be misleading themselves about what needs to be evolved within their strategies and processes in order to eliminate these challenges.
Marketers need to start looking at the funnel (buying experience) in its entirety – as an integrated, strategic process – not a bunch of things on a checklist. Otherwise there will always be something that’s left unresolved.