Marketing automation and the marketing/sales funnel are like fraternal twins. They’re not the same, but you can’t have one without the other.
We could go on forever discussing the finer points of the funnel. Many very smart people have done so and there’s a lot of excellent literature out there on the subject. No two funnels are exactly alike either. So let’s not do that.
Instead, let’s work on jump-starting your funnel adventures. Here’s an “80/20” that might help.
Whip That Database Into Shape
Well this is obvious, right? Data cleansing. Yet it gets ignored or skipped most of the time. Because it’s hard to do and often no single person has the ownership or skill set to pull it off. There are many things you could do, but in the spirit of keeping it simple, try these two first.
Follow your segmentation
Segmentation is about database columns. How do you think of your customers and prospects? Do you group them by product line? By geography? By demographic? By size? Make a list of attributes you normally use to break down into segments, and keep it short. You can always add to it later.
Segmentation attributes are the columns that you should include in your database. Every record (lead) should be tagged with a value in that column. You’ve now got a segmentation-ready database.
Duplicates are about database rows. Marketing automation systems typically use email as the lead’s unique identifier. This is good, it makes your life easier. So sort by email, and either consolidate or purge the duplicates rows for each email.
That’s it, columns and rows. Yes, admittedly simplistic. I can already hear the double-opt-in crowd crying foul and they have a point. But that’s more about data quality, not about data structure.
Reasonable data segmentation, without a lot of duplication noise, is your ticket to the show.
Start Scoring From Day One
It’s easy to go overboard with lead scoring rules. Just focus on those two words, “start scoring”. Translation: avoid overwrought and elaborate rules, and get rules into your system as early as possible. Here’s how.
First, calculate demographic scores
As a starting point, consider of your demographic scoring rules as following directly from your segmentation. Take a stab at setting scoring values for each segmentation attribute value. For example, if you segment by region, then assign scoring values for each distinct region in the overall geography. If you also segment by company size, then assign values for each range of size. Lastly, calculate the sum total demographic score for each lead already in your database.
Of course, you’ll also need to set up similar scoring rules for any new leads you’ll get in the future. So define trigger rules to ensure that future leads get their demographic scores calculated as well.
Then, set up behavioral scoring
It’s helpful to think of behavioral scores as separate from demographic scores. Demographic scoring is like profiling, it’s a one-time concept. On the other hand, behavioral scoring has to do with a lead’s activity, which occurs over time.
By nature, behavioral scoring is more complicated and open to opinion from both the marketing team and sales team. So early on, keep it really simple.
Think of behavioral scoring this way: what specific actions taken by a lead would you want to capture for either marketing or sales purposes? Is it when a lead visits a web page? When they download a white paper? When they attend a webinar? When they request a demo? Those are the events you’ll want to capture.
So set up a trigger for each event. When the trigger occurs, the lead’s behavioral score will increment by an amount you define.
Quantify (and Qualify) Your Leads
Traditionally sales people talk about qualified leads. It’s a subjective evaluation of when a lead reaches a certain “temperature” in the sales cycle. That sounds like a good idea and it is. But there’s something even better: quantified leads.
A quantified lead provides a broader and more objective measure. It’s about measuring your leads across a number of different dimensions. It’s like scoring, but encompassing a variety of metrics rather than just a single assessment.
It’s kind of like maintaining a “360 performance profile” on your leads . Taken together, the various quantified measurements tell a broader picture about a lead’s interests, willingness and readiness to buy.
Again, keep it simple. For now just be aware that quantification is a direction you’ll want to develop further.
Lead scoring and quantification are at the heart of lead nurturing. It’s like granting credits to a student as they go through school toward graduation. So what is graduation? How many credits are needed? What happens afterwards?
Usually, graduation is the funnel’s dividing line between the marketing pipeline and the sales pipeline. At graduation, the lead is “marketing quantified” to the point where the sales team can begin driving qualification toward conversion, or close.
Graduation is a hand-off and it requires agreement between both parties. So together, decide on a lead quantification that represents the graduation threshold.
And again: make sure both parties agree! At graduation, accountability for that lead is being transferred from marketing to sales.
Revisit and Refine Later
Now let’s inject a dose of reality regarding lead scoring and quantification: you’re guaranteed to face a significant learning curve. There is no right answer, and you’ll have every chance to stall and get bogged down.
Don’t let that happen. Set it up, keep an eye on it, adjust continually. Your mileage will definitely vary. The trick is to start early.
Review and Recycle
No matter how good your funnel is, many leads simply won’t make it all the way through to purchase evaluation and a glorious sale. That’s OK. Maybe they weren’t ready to buy. Or maybe they just weren’t responding to the specific marketing materials you were sending them.
No worries. If a lead reaches a point where they haven’t moved forward in a while, consider pulling them back to an earlier stage in the funnel.
So review your leads periodically. If forward motion seems stalled, simply recycle them. The good news is that next time around they’ll already have a history and prior quantification. That allows you to fine tune your approach and try other marketing tactics on them.
Don’t Forget Your Customers
Most people view the funnel as ending with a sale. But customers can use some lovin’ too and often they come back for a second helping. So why not invite them to your funnel party as well? Some quick thoughts.
Customers will help you
Earlier I mentioned a learning curve, right? Well, there’s no better place to learn than among friends. Customers usually want to hear from you. They are typically less likely to opt-out of your marketing programs.
So expand your database and scoring to include your customer base. Monitor their activity, and use that experience to refine your scoring rules. Try a test campaign and see how it works. Customers will tend to be receptive to your automation initiatives, even as you’re trying to figure it all out.
Customers are leads too
Needless to say, some customers do come back for more, so just because they reached the end of the funnel does not mean they can’t be in a funnel for a different product or offer.
In fact, cross-product, up-sell and promotional campaigns are areas where your nurturing rules can become extremely sophisticated. Later on, you’ll probably want to augment your rules based on insights from analytics as well. As they say…
There is no Finish Line
But that’s all for a different day. For now, worry about one funnel.
Start small. Get it automated. Carry on from there.