You’re likely familiar with the concept of the sales funnel. There are various iterations of this model, but the basic idea is to utilize marketing and sales fundamentals to attract as many prospects as possible, capture as many leads as possible, then convert leads into customers. The wider the funnel gets at the top, the more customers will fall out of the bottom. Simple physics, right? Unless, of course, there’s a hole in the funnel.
While a good visibility strategy or marketing campaign can greatly increase the number of potential customers entering your company’s sales funnel, not all entrants will be ready to buy right away. This is where many companies encounter a significant inefficiency in the marketing effort – the gap between marketing and sales. The marketing team tends to be focused on making the top of the funnel wider, while the sales folks are focused on the leads that are ready to convert. Unfortunately, many great prospects drop out of the funnel during the transition from marketing exposure to sales follow-up, or simply get neglected because they’re not ready to buy right away.
A good Lead Capture system minimizes the number of leads lost or neglected. Here are a few key things to consider for closing the gap between marketing and sales.
Expand Inbound Marketing Strategy
Inbound marketing strategy involves an additional layer of Web content aimed at capturing sales leads. This additional layer frequently includes higher quality content items like whitepapers, e-books, webinars, podcasts, workshops, and informational videos. This layer of marketable content is designed to capture the leads who might not be ready to consume right away, but who are still interested and qualified. Capturing these leads and classifying them according to their level of content engagement allows companies to expand their lead database and capture more value from their marketing investment.
Integrate Outbound Communications
A focus on visibility and inbound strategies does not mean an abandonment of outbound marketing efforts. However, it does require that all outbound materials integrate with and support inbound efforts. Companies should use traditional, outbound marketing methods to highlight the valuable content available on their online assets, and tie them together using campaign-specific URLs, social icons, QR codes, hashtags, and other integration tools. This maximizes each outbound tactic’s ability to move prospects into the lead database.
Nurture All Leads, Not Just Ready-to-Buy Leads
Once a lead has been attracted through visibility strategy and captured through an inbound content piece, it needs to be nurtured until ready to purchase. A good lead nurturing plan will “drip” on interested prospects by automatically sending additional content items and invitations. Once a predetermined level of content engagement is achieved, the lead can be passed on to sales for direct contact. If the lead database is doing its job, this will be a warm lead with clearly indicated areas of interest, based on the content the lead has already consumed. This will create efficiency for sales people who can then focus their efforts on leads who indicate a readiness for next steps toward consumption.
By helping marketing people recognize the value of an expanded inbound campaign and helping sales people realize the value of nurturing more than just ready-to-buy leads, the hole in the funnel can close and the entire process can become more efficient. Best of all, with the right tools and processes, much of the hole-filling work can be automated and systematized, so it doesn’t need to add significantly to anyone’s existing workload.