Sales and marketing teams need to adapt to these increasing demands. They have to work more closely together. While the marketing team still hands leads to the sales team at a point in the funnel, they have to stay involved to maximize customer retention and advocacy. The sales team needs to be involved early on, providing the benefits of their customer knowledge to help increase qualified leads and conversions.
Some business owners are moving away from the term “marketing funnel” because they think it’s too mechanical or simplistic to describe the lead nurturing sequence by which customers move from awareness to purchase. I think it’s still a useful way to describe a complex process and it’s a good visual to imagine the entire process from start to finish.
Suzanne Frey, an executive at Alphabet, is a member of The Motley Fool’s board of directors. Robert Izquierdo has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Alphabet (A shares), Alphabet (C shares), Apple, Starbucks, and Tesla and recommends the following options: short November 2020 $85 calls on Starbucks. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.
Getting this timing right prevents losing prospects by bombarding them with too much information or giving them the hard sell too early. This is why moving prospects through the funnel is often called “nurturing.” Seventy-eight percent of business buyers seek salespeople who act as trusted advisors with knowledge of their needs and industry. Prospects should ideally only receive the information and sales help they need when they need it.
The definitions of MQL and SQL (SAL) should be spelled out, and agreed upon, in a service level agreement (SLA). The SLA outlines the terms of how sales and marketing will work together. The SLA should define what MQL and SQL look like, as well as state the time frame and process each team must follow. For example, an MQL has reached a score of 75 through a combination of content engagement and web engagement and fits the ideal customer profile. It must be accepted by sales or sent back to marketing within 24 hours of being assigned. The SLA should be drafted together by both marketing and sales leadership and signed off on by both parties.
For different types of businesses, buyer needs at the problem/need recognition stage – top of  the funnel (TOFU) – are different. If you’re running a consulting business, for example, then your clients already realize that they’re having certain problems around your service area – like a high cost per lead (if you’re in marketing) or disorganized spending (if you’re in accounting).
At Disruptive Advertising, the marketing funnel is a key part of how we approach every client’s marketing. Getting into specifics about which tactics work best under which conditions in which stages is beyond the scope of this article, but if you’d like help setting up your own marketing funnel, let me know here or in the comments. Or, for additional content, check out this blog post.
Armed with extensive online information, a modern buyer requires different skills from a salesperson and frequently exhibits different behavior than buyers of the past. A modern buyer may get very excited about a purchase and spend a lot of time in the research phase and then abruptly stop, ending the sales process sometimes without any reason at all. Often, modern buyers want to reduce the friction of buying and using a product to make it easy for them to achieve the value.
The sales funnel metaphor is somewhat misleading; in real life, the process never goes as smoothly as liquid down a funnel. In the last decade, digital marketing, artificial intelligence (AI), and CRM have drastically changed the process of converting new leads into customers. Given this, it’s increasingly important that business-to-business (B2B) sales and marketing teams are aligned in their views on a sales funnel strategy and lead generation as a whole.
Unfortunately, the reason why we call it a marketing funnel instead of a marketing journey or marketing waterfall is that not everyone who enters your funnel will end up buying. At each stage in the buying process, you lose some potential customers, but a good marketing funnel will keep those losses to a minimum and produce the maximum number of sales from your marketing.
Define your end goal. This is the end relationship you want to have with the information you gather, and it differs greatly for online businesses. In some cases, the contact details of a person is your Internet-based goal, because it may funnel leads into a service-based business that calls its customers by phone, and in other cases, it is developing repeat clientele.
Through developing your online course, you should have the basis for some initial content to promote. Certainly, if you are just starting to create a course, then now’s the time to think about repurposing some of the content you will create. This would be blogs, guides, checklists, review articles, videos, webinars, podcasts, opinion pieces on Medium and LinkedIn and so forth. Make sure in this phase to create one or more lead magnets, such as guides, checklists, diagrams, etc. that you can leverage to collect emails later on.
As with other steps in the sales funnel process, this one can take a while, but it’s a necessary evil, or benefit, depending on how comfortable you are creating and editing videos.  You can easily start out by creating a few simple videos that introduce yourself and your course to help establish your topic authority and create some awareness.  You can create a handful of brief videos that cover a simple topic. Whatever you are comfortable with. 
Suppose your furnace goes out in the middle of winter. Your problem is obvious: you need a new furnace. And the solution is easy — you need to call HVAC providers in your area for quotes. But say you need a new car. Should you look for an SUV, a compact car or a mid-size sedan? Even vaguer still, if you’re frustrated with how much your accountant is charging you to do your business’ taxes, you might not even be familiar with all the different solutions, like cloud-based accounting services.
Traditionally, hospitals do have a funnel. They touch many people in a community and offer many interrelated services. However, speed and scale are the coin of the realm in the internet economy. So it’s no surprise that new entrants in healthcare are aiming to take the healthcare funnel to a new level—to create a funnel that is exponentially broader, more attractive, and more engaging. For these new entrants, the funnel business model is deeply embedded in organizational culture, capabilities, and strategies. Virtually every major business decision these companies make has the goal of achieving a more active funnel. For hospitals to be a competitive force at the top of the funnel, they will need to have this same strategic orientation and discipline.
If you're wondering what a sales funnel is, simply imagine a real-world funnel. At the top of that funnel, some substance is poured in, which filters down towards one finite destination. In sales, something similar occurs. At the top, lots of visitors arrive who may enter your funnel. However, unlike the real-world funnel, not all who enter the sales funnel will reemerge out from the other end. 
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