Sales Pipeline

All posts tagged Sales Pipeline

Bowtie Marketing

by Steve Brown on December 15, 2017

For many years, the idea of the sales funnel (or sales pipeline) has been accepted as a core principle in formulating successful marketing strategies. But, whilst it is a valuable concept in itself, it fails to cover the full scope and nature of the most valuable interactions between a business and its customers. The approach is primarily focused at considering how new customers are acquired, without any recognition of the fact that business from existing customers is typically substantially more valuable, and invariably significantly less expensive – according to many industry experts by a multiple of seven to ten. However, another core principle of marketing is to optimise customer lifetime value (CLV), which outlines the means by which profit is earned over the duration of a customer’s relationship with a business. A new model is suggested as a more valuable analogy that combines both these elements, and which we refer to as the ‘Bowtie Marketing’ model.

Sales funnel

The idea of the sales funnel is that the people you market to move through successive stages down through a pipeline. The AIDA model explains the process well. At the outset – represented by its widest part– there is awareness amongst potential customers that they have a want or a need, and as a result of media activity (such as pay per click (PPC) advertising, social media promotion, email marketing or search engine optimisation (SEO), for instance) have become aware of your business. The next stage in the process is an expression of interest, where the customer makes contact with you in some appropriate manner, and starts to ask questions and/or request additional information, after which comes their desire to buy, which then leads to action in the form of a purchase of your product or service. And so the bottom end of the sales funnel is reached.

The entire global population can conceivably enter your funnel. However, it is normal to create customer segments and personas that allow you to target your marketing efforts towards suspect customers who display common types of demographic and psychographic traits that you feel represent your target market accurately. It is only when suspects make contact, such as by visiting your website, that they turn from a suspect into a prospect. The further down the funnel they go, the warmer a prospect they become.

The job of marketing is first to get as many people as possible into the top of the funnel, then, in turn, to persuade as many of them as possible to move through each successive stage until they make a purchase. It, therefore, starts with a marketing strategy to secure the attention of the greatest possible number of potential customers. Within the overall population, likely groups of buyers are identified through customer segmentation, and messages refined with the help of customer personas. A suitable mix of marketing tools is then deployed: an appealing website (optimised for search engine using SEO), social media, email, PR, digital advertising, conferences and exhibitions, etc., according to your organisation’s specific needs, articulated in your business plan and sales forecasts. This marketing activity might be backed up by tactical initiatives designed to be specific to prospects moving down through the various stages of the funnel.

We often talk to our clients about customer touch points – be they digital or physical in nature – that occur during the sales process, and how crucial it is to deliver a consistent brand experience at every single point of contact. The only way to achieve such consistency is to have a clear brand proposition in place so that an organisation’s sales and marketing efforts reflect its desired vision and values. This ensures that all communications encompass the right attitude and tone of voice and that behaviour is in line with agreed principles and standards.

Customer lifetime value (CLV)

Before we talk more about the bowtie marketing, let’s take a quick look at customer lifetime value (CLV)

A customer who has made an initial purchase can be thought of as an adopter. The marketing need here is to affirm their decision to buy, and perhaps to seek information that will enable the business to refine its marketing efforts further in future. It’s the perfect opportunity to request feedback about their buying experience and to try and find out what swung their decision to buy the product from your organisation. Think about how successful internet businesses such as Amazon and eBay follow up every sale with a thank you message or a congratulatory note, followed by a request for a review of the purchase and/or feedback on the brand experience. The good news is that you can do the same, easily and cheaply, using today’s modern technologies. The primary investment is in planning and set-up. After that, it is all about ongoing maintenance and management.

If adopters are nurtured, some will become loyalists, returning to make additional purchases. These could be repeat sales of the same product or service, the cross-sale purchase of complementary products or services, or upselling them to a better solution or package to suit their needs. Their loyalty could be encouraged and rewarded through offers unavailable to the broader public, such as are offered by Tesco to their Club Card customers, for example. As a result, some of these loyalists may become advocates, which means that they are happy to give favourable mentions to the business and its products in their interactions with others – interactions which are amplified enormously these days through social media sharing. At the righthand edge of the bowtie model are your ultimate customers: ambassadors. These are super-advocates who actively promote your brand, their opinions being widely shared and respected, even to the extent of going viral. They are as valuable to your business as you or any of your colleagues, perhaps more so: independent voices who eulogise about your products and services to their friends and online followers, all of whom are more likely to trust their judgement than a clever marketing campaign. You can ask your customers to provide referrals at this point in the model, as long as it is perceived to be a win-win scenario for both the referrer and the referee. As you would expect, the number of people in each group gets successively less further to the right of the bowtie knot you go. On this side of the bow, the widening out represents an increase in the relative value of individual customers.

Bowtie marketing

The bowtie marketing model doesn’t dispense with the sales funnel, nor does it disregard customer lifetime value (CLV). Instead, the funnel is turned on its side and a second funnel to represent CLV marketing is added as a mirror image. The bottom of the sales funnel becomes the knot in the centre of the bowtie, which is the point at which a new customer first makes a purchase. Everything to the left of the knot is as it was for the funnel, but to the right is a description of the ongoing relationship between you and your customer reflecting the CLV proposition.

While the sales funnel is focused on gaining and converting as many new customers as possible on an ongoing basis, the bowtie model puts equal emphasis on developing relationships with existing customers. This is surely common sense, given how much more expensive it normally is to win new customers against making further sales to existing ones. But all around us are examples of businesses who seem entirely focused on the former. How often have you seen a company offer better deals to new customers than to existing ones? In the service sector particularly, where by definition an ongoing relationship of some sort between the provider and the customer exists, rewarding loyalty seems to have gone out of the window (think car insurance or heating supplier, for example). Consumers are urged by independent experts to leave the poor value deals they’re getting from their existing provider in favour of sign-up incentives on offer elsewhere. They may check with their existing provider, to see if the better terms available elsewhere can be matched. Surprise, surprise, they often can be, but this begs the question: “Why didn’t you offer me this deal in the first place…?!”

This type of scenario is indicative of great attention being paid to the sales funnel by many organisations whilst lip service is being paid to dealing ethically with existing customers – in fact, the aim seems to be to fleece rather than to flourish. What is obviously needed is a more holistic approach, as is suggested by the bowtie marketing principle. At least as much attention should be paid to a business’s churn rate – the rate at which it loses customers – as on sales figures, to ensure that all the effort expended on winning customers in the first place is optimised down the line.

Ultimately, customers stay with businesses they trust to offer not just good products or services, but also to have their best interests at heart. Genuine relationships always transcend the mere transactional to become emotional ones, where a customer feels the brand is integral to their lives (you probably know people who profess they would cease to function without their iPhone…).

In some ways, the bowtie marketing model harkens back to the days when personal service was paramount (ironically enough, to a time when more people wore bow ties…). With the advent of mass production and mass marketing, perhaps the personal connection was lost – in truth if not in intent – and perhaps the sales funnel was the best model available to many organisations. Now, thanks to exciting new technologies, we can take advantage of CRM systems and marketing automation to genuinely connect with people as individuals. This enterprising approach to business is not just for the likes of Amazon, Apple and eBay – the bowtie marketing model is an option for every single organisation around the world – and that includes SMEs and start-ups too.

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Steve BrownBowtie Marketing

Marketing Automation

by Steve Brown on October 30, 2017

Marketing automation is vital for any business. If you’re considering growth and expansion, as most organisations are, you need a marketing plan that helps you to grow your bottom line. So, it is imperative to create marketing strategies to attract potential customers. To attract new customers, it is helpful to reach out to them at multiple points during the sales cycle – to gauge their interest, to nurture their curiosity, to peak their desire, and to encourage them to convert. The AIDA model springs to mind (Awareness, Interest, Desire, Action) when considering this process. Connecting with them at various points and on multiple occasions in appropriate ways with the right messaging becomes an extremely important factor in the sales conversion process. This is the essence of marketing automation. Of course, marketing automation works better for some organisations than others. You will need to consider a variety of factors, such as quantity of customers, volume of transactions, potential for repurchase, cross-selling and up-selling, and so on, before making up your mind if it is necessary for your organisation to invest in a marketing automation solution.

What is marketing automation?

Marketing automation is essentially a software tool that automatically communicates you’re your prospects and customers through a variety of different media, but mostly through email. It is often connected to a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system, which helps companies to build up personalised communications with their customers in order to deliver relevant offers. This data also helps to build up customer personas that assist marketing departments with understanding how to target audiences in different ways to deliver the most effective results.

What are the advantages of marketing automation?

The key advantage of marketing automation is that you can programme the software to perform certain communication tasks at certain times, and then the hard work is done – although you will still need to manage it on an ongoing basis. Also, it helps companies to improve their marketing strategy and it is a great tool for tactical lead generation and sales nurturing. It can also reduce marketing costs and it provides measurable results and KPIs for both tactical and strategic campaigns.

What are the disadvantages of marketing automation?

Firstly, it requires a lot of effort and commitment to learn how to use it effectively in order to define the target audience and the appropriate messages to communicate to them along the sales pipeline journey. Also, it can be a significant investment, and it can’t fix everything. Despite the major benefits marketing automation offers, it is not a “cure all.” This is perhaps the number one issue we have seen in the marketplace, with some clients thinking that their marketing automation software is their marketing strategy, rather than a tool used to deliver their strategy. We think of this a little bit like the tail wagging the dog…

What is customer lifetime value (CLV)?

Customer lifetime value (CLV) is a prediction of the net profit of your entire future relationship with a customer. It informs you how to allocate your efforts towards the most profitable channels and audiences, thus resulting in a better ROI. Not all customers are equal, and gaining a thorough understanding of their differences allows you to gauge how much to invest in communicating with each one. After you have segmented your audience, the next task is determining how best to connect with target customers at a personal level. Having identified which high-value customers to address, defined their lifetime value and drawn a profile of their priorities, you can then make informed decisions on which media to use. Marketing automation, when executed correctly, allows companies to market to and nurture customers with personalised and useful content via a multitude of channels.

Some useful tips

Don’t confuse your audience with poorly defined communication channels. There is an abundance of communication channels available to marketers in this day and age. Communication between you and your audience should always be a welcome event (or at least not an unwelcome one). Don’t alienate or anger your audience by forcing correspondence to happen, or by reaching out too often. Always ask prospects to opt in. Not only is it the ethical thing to do, but you’ll also be able to steer clear of any legal issues and reinforce a positive image around your brand to new prospects and current customers alike.

Don’t initiate communication on a channel you cannot use for the entire correspondence. Communication is a two-way street. If you have implemented a well-devised marketing automation process – one that accounts for incoming and outgoing correspondence between your system and your customers with an ability to listen to the other party, you will have a clear picture of their needs and be one step closer to closing the deal. Not having the capability to listen to responses via channels used for customer engagement is a failure, but it is even more so if you lack the ability and the process in-house to follow up. Align sales with marketing. If you ask questions or want responses via the channels you use to engage with your audience, be sure to have the capabilities and process in place to receive them and lead them to the next step.

Don’s smother your audience with irrelevant and unwanted content. During the process of nurturing leads, great marketers uncover a host of intimate details that paint a picture of who they are doing business with. Marketing automation then kicks in and utilises this information to serve tailored and personal content that will push leads further down the sales funnel. Sending content to prospects, especially if you are initiating the action, is quite intrusive, so if this is a part of your workflow you must absolutely make sure that what you’re sending out aligns with their needs and interests. If you don’t know what these are, take a few steps back and review your process of collecting data.

Don’t send duplicate content or correspondence. Flawless marketing automation is difficult to achieve even for the best of brands. It requires a strong top-of-the-funnel base that produces a consistent flow of sales leads. It doesn’t matter if you have to spend a great deal of time carefully reviewing your programmed workflows to automatically send out correspondence. Always ensure you’re not sending out duplicates on any correspondence.

Marketing automation software companies

There are many reputable marketing automation software companies in the marketplace for you to consider, such as HubSpot, Campaign Monitor, Eloqua and InfusionSoft. We recommend you take time to consider which one best suits the needs of your business. Read reviews from other customers to see which ones best resonate with your business needs.

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Steve BrownMarketing Automation