The last few weeks have reinforced one painful truth for me. You can’t get through an entire marketing conference without someone comparing the B2B lead funnel to marriage.
At some point over the course of that event, you can be certain a brilliantly original marketer will compare the process of buying software, industrial machinery, professional services, or some other high ticket B2B item to walking up to a man or woman at a bar, buying them a drink, dating, and finally, marriage. Which is of course, always the end goal when you walk up to someone at a bar, right? Right…
Perhaps the analogy to a linear, increasingly intimate relationship culminating in a decision to spend the rest of your life with someone made sense at some point. But if it ever did, it most certainly doesn’t anymore. Why?
Because the very concept of the lead funnel is collapsing. Forrester reports that today’s empowered technology buyers are two-thirds of the way through their buying decision before they engage a vendor’s sales force. An IBM worldwide study showed that 75% of B2B buyers are using social media as part of their buying process.
Buying habits have changed. The process often looks more like a zig-zag than a linear journey through awareness, consideration, evaluation, and purchase. And this new reality is exerting pressure on classic definitions of lead nurturing.
Lots of today’s decision-making process is self-directed, taking place outside the visibility of your internal CRM or marketing automation systems. As a result, the lead nurturing tools we’ve historically relied on need help.
It would be a terrible mistake to turn off your email, webinar, or physical event activities. They’re still incredibly effective, when you know who your prospect is. But adding social media to your lead nurturing mix will allow you to expand your reach to those conversations that are otherwise invisible to you.
And when doing so, follow three steps:
1. Listen for what people aren’t telling you directly.
Often times, conversations signaling purchase intent will take place outside the purview of your website, corporate social media accounts, or paid media. Cast a wide net with your social listening tools, and filter traffic using keywords that indicate lead-relevant activity.
2. Seed those conversations with content that will steer them in your favor.
If you want to grow apple trees, you need to plant apple seeds. If you want to grow orange trees, plant orange seeds. But be genuine. Don’t plant an orange seed in an apple orchard and expect it to grow.
3. Engage, judiciously and in the right context.
What you might find, and how much, could surprise you. So make sure you’ve set up rules of engagement that respect the context of the channel, and that you have enough bandwidth lined up. In my experience, the same call centers that have been handling your inbound phone calls, web inquiries, click-to-chat and email traffic can be trained to be a first line of engagement for lead-relevant social media conversations.
Hopefully I’ve gotten you to think about ways to enhance your existing lead nurturing program. But I’d settle for having you join my crusade to abolish the marriage-B2B lead funnel analogy.
Follow the conversation @Adriel_S or #marketingpfft.