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Field Note #1: The New Sales Funnel

Friday, April 2nd, 2010 by Client Valerie Ashe, Regional Industry Marketing Manager, Autodesk

Sometimes I’m alarmed by how much business terminology, particularly in sales and marketing, borrows from the brutal lexicon of warfare: words such as strategy, tactics, campaign, and force (as in sales force) each hearken back to Sun Tzu’s The Art of War. The field refers to a battleground, where troops use tactics to attack the enemy (a.k.a. the competition) and gain ground into the territory they are commanded to capture.

So it is in field marketing for a software company. As a field marketing manager, I ultimately report into the sales organization at Autodesk, as opposed to the marketing organization, so my role is akin to a liaison (another wartime term) between marketing, sales, and our customers. I work with both sales and marketing to determine our strategy and targets, then plug content from the marketing organization into campaigns intended to capture target prospects that will purchase our products. But sometimes marketing content doesn’t align with sales goals or with customer feedback I receive, either directly or through the sales team. That’s when it is critical to retreat (to use another fightin’ word), regroup with my contacts, and re-evaluate the content required for the efficacy of my campaigns.

So what kind of content does the field need to fulfill its sales goals? It really depends on where your prospects are in the sales cycle. Over our marketing careers, most of us have likely seen various models of the marketing funnel, generally moving prospects from a wide berth of awareness through an increasingly narrow passage to consideration, education, and finally, purchase. In my experience with both content creation and now campaign execution, I’ve found it useful to consider the marketing funnel before ever setting a word to paper or screen.

marketing-funnel

Fig. A marketing funnel graphic with social networking added to the mix, from The Conversion Scientist blog.

To really draw in your prospects with a campaign, start planning your content according to each phase of the funnel:

Awareness: Your prospects may or may not be aware of your company, your product, or your service. Furthermore, they may not know how your offering is superior to your competitors’. Of course, the first step before creating content is to ‘know thy customer.’ Conduct online surveys to understand how your prospects perceive your brand, and incorporate their feedback into your content. Then produce assets such as whitepapers and video testimonials to address their issues and bolster awareness.

Education: Often your awareness content can double as educational content, but at this phase in the marketing funnel, consider packaging it differently. For example, turn that whitepaper into an offer behind a form to both educate your prospects and also capture their information for follow-on marketing activities, such as email blasts driving to trial downloads.

Consideration: Once prospects are aware of your offering, give them tools allowing them to compare you to your competition, or to try your products or services before they decide to purchase.

Purchase: Make it easy for prospects to contact your sales force, either directly or indirectly. Include this contact information on all your content so they have a smooth path toward making a transaction with your organization.

And finally, one phase often missing in the marketing funnel is advocacy, or word-of-mouth marketing, that creates a feedback loop to awareness. Social media has transformed the advocacy phase of the marketing funnel by giving customers and prospects a way to freely distribute feedback on their experience with your company. Examples of content you can provide to exert some degree of control over the message during this phase include packaged blog posts for your blogging community (whether they are sales people, technical specialists, press, or champion customers), tweets, and LinkedIn updates for professional communities related to your product or service. Start discussions to monitor feedback about your content at each phase of the marketing funnel and improve your approach for future prospects.

I may sometimes be alarmed by the warlike vernacular in business competition, but I do know the value of aligning content with campaign strategy to produce results. Create strong content that supports each phase of the marketing funnel, and you may not only win the battle, you might even win the war.

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It’s All About the Relationship

Thursday, March 25th, 2010 by Stacy

What makes for a great client-vendor relationship? The same things we value in our friendships and marriages: trust, respect, commitment, open communication.

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In Defense of Pie Charts in the Real World

Tuesday, March 23rd, 2010 by Masha

Absolutely! I agree with our earlier post, Ideas Without Words—or Pie Charts.  Information is beautiful in charts like Caffeine and Calories. I would use this or a similar treatment each and every time the client says: “Designer, go forth with this here unlimited budget and a whenever deadline, and just… CREATE!” Alas, the world of […]

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Snuffing Out Deadly Dull Buzzwords

Wednesday, March 10th, 2010 by Chris

At the height of the dotcom era, a few high-tech journalists created “Buzz Saw,” an email filter that would bounce messages from PR and marketing people who larded their pitches with overused buzzwords. If you laid it on too thick with catchphrases like “bleeding-edge,” and “strategic paradigm,” not only did your email get bounced, but […]

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Ideas Without Words—or Pie Charts

Wednesday, March 3rd, 2010 by Alicia

Sometimes we copywriter people need to be put in our place. INFORMATION IS BEAUTIFUL does it.

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Lives by the Column Inch

Wednesday, February 17th, 2010 by Alicia

Newspaper obits describe the fabulous lives of uncelebrated people.

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Surfing Words

Thursday, January 14th, 2010 by Lucy S.

The ocean captivates, its countenance fickle. Now darkness. Cold, frothy giants pound in unrelenting rhythm, giving no purchase to board or fin. Now light. A twinkling surface throwing back the glow of sun, a glassy caress of warm water—then a clean line easily discovered after a smooth drop in. Surfing that roiling, infinitely faceted sea […]

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Fun with Newspaper Corrections

Tuesday, January 5th, 2010 by Chris

From The New York Times, December 24, 2009: “A picture caption with an article in some editions on Tuesday about continuing transportation problems after the weekend snowstorm misidentified the location of a pile of slush in the Bronx. It was on Fordham Road, not Fordham Avenue.” Anyone else share my love of journalism corrections—especially fabulously […]

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Name Brands: Not Just for Consumers Anymore

Tuesday, December 22nd, 2009 by Partner Laurel Sutton, Catchword

Have you been watching 30 Rock lately? Or The Office? CSI:NY? Heroes? If so, you probably know about Cisco TelePresence, a high-end videoconferencing system that makes it seem as if everyone participating in a virtual meeting is actually in the same room. Cisco TelePresence is a B2B brand—at least, it started out as one when […]

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Speech-Crafting Lessons from the White House

Thursday, December 17th, 2009 by Chris

Regardless of where you fall on the political spectrum, it’s hard to deny that President Obama has brought powerful speech-giving back to the White House. Much of the credit goes to Obama himself. The award-winning author is heavily involved in the drafting of his speeches—and packs a punch with his delivery. It is also clear […]

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