It’s Time To Rethink The Funnel

What if you knew that prospects at the top of the funnel were worth nurturing all along? It's time to rethink the B2B marketing funnel entirely.


The problem with inbound marketing isn’t anything strategic or tactical – the problem is the funnel. That downward spiral of “Attract, Convert, Close, Delight” assumes a large percentage of loss at every stage. How do you know that the 100 percent who engaged at the “Attract” stage aren’t interested? Would it be so expensive and difficult to keep them engaged somehow? That buyer who appeared “unqualified” wasn’t ready to take the next step after watching your first video. But, they could be in-market six months down the road, and you’ve already effectively cut them loose.

What if you knew that the prospects engaging at the top of the funnel were all worth nurturing along? It’s time to turn inbound on its head and rethink the marketing funnel entirely. If marketers had the tools and data to be sure that every person who engaged with top-of-the-funnel content was a potential buyer worth building a relationship with, they’d be less willing to let them fall out of the funnel. They’d find ways to continue to build that relationship.

The Flawed Funnel

I know we all talk about the customer journey, but many B2B sales organizations still look at the old funnel. The “Attract “stage is usually supported by marketing activities that cast a wide net-primarily, search-optimized content, along with social media marketing and events. These are all designed to reach and pique the interest of the broadest possible audience and encourage them to take the next step, which will show that they are at least somewhat interested in the product or service advertised. Maximizer puts the conversion rate from this stage to “marketing engaged” at only 5.5 percent – meaning that 94.5 percent of leads are being lost at this early point. Does a 5.5 percent success rate seem “good” to anyone else?

The idea that reach and scale are more important than quality early on is what makes that low rate seem acceptable. If you’re reaching 100,000 people, 5,000 conversions may be just fine – but how much of your time, energy, and budget have you wasted reaching all those unqualified users? If marketers start by narrowing their prospects at the beginning, campaigns will be more efficient, particularly in terms of budget, and conversion rates will be higher.

B2B marketers, especially those engaged in inbound marketing, should know their buyer personae. If they’re working closely with their sales teams, they’ll also know the company, the exact role, and probably the name of the person they’re aiming to reach. If the target list for every campaign can be this specific from the start, everyone who enters the funnel is now a potential customer. If they don’t engage immediately, they’re just not ready yet – but they’re still qualified and should still be nurtured.

With this kind of thinking, marketers will never settle for a 5.5 percent success rate. However, with this kind of targeting, it’s unlikely they’ll need to.

Mixing Outbound with Inbound

With inbound marketing, marketers are waiting for prospects to come find their content, hoping that those buyers will come in and register or take a cookie, so they can continue to be exposed to targeted content even after they leave the site. Outbound puts targeted content directly in their path, whether they come looking for it or not – right at the moments they’re most receptive to it.

B2B data has reached that critical mass today where marketers can see that potential buyers are in-market for certain products. Using this data to fuel content marketing campaigns empowers marketers to get relevant content in front of prospects when they’re researching for a request for quotation (RFQ), or even when they’re ready to make a purchase. Customers who engage with content leave enough data behind that they can be engaged again and again with content that brings them closer to conversion.

The key to success here is using that data to understand what each stakeholder’s role is and then to tailor the content they see to the problem they’re aiming to solve. A CRM solves one problem for a salesperson, another for a marketer, and still different issues for the call center and CRO. Is the content you’re putting in ads diverse enough to address the concerns of each of these stakeholders?

If you’re an inbound marketer, chances are you are deploying content for each of these groups on your site, blog, or social channels already. With third-party B2B data, that content can be leveraged to effectively reach the right buyer in the right moment on the right device. This type of targeted outbound marketing is so powerful, it allows marketers to drive better results, even with far less content.

In conclusion, if B2B marketers employ better targeting from the start, they can launch campaigns with the confidence that every impression is likely to be a lead worth keeping. By combining targeted, data-fueled outbound with their usual inbound marketing tactics, marketers dramatically increase their odds of keeping every lead that enters the path to purchase – even if the sale doesn’t happen for years.

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