Lessons from the Oscars for your B2B sales funnel
Every B2B brand is familiar with the concept of a sales funnel. In a nutshell, the sales funnel refers to the way sales and marketing teams conceptualise a lead’s journey to purchase and defines how they forecast sales.
You can’t skip the middle stages of the sales funnel.
It’s called a sales funnel for good reason. The idea is that at the top of the sales funnel you’re talking to a lot of potential leads and prospective customers, so the ‘opening’ needs to be wide enough to accommodate a large volume of contacts. Over time, however, a percentage of those contacts end up filtering out of the sales funnel. Because of this, the funnel becomes narrower as leads move towards the point of purchase. At the bottom of the sales funnel – the narrowest point – you’re left with a much smaller group of highly qualified leads, who exit the sales funnel as customers.
An important feature of how the sales funnel works is that there’s no way to jump straight from the top of the funnel to the bottom. That is to say, you can’t skip out all the middle stages and just deal with ‘winning leads’ from the get-go. The only way to separate the wheat from the chaff is to guide leads through all the stages of the sales funnel and see which ones make it all the way.
When watching the Oscars a few evenings ago, I realised that the sales funnel exists in the film industry too.
For example, I’ve been hearing about the movie Birdman for months. I’ve heard my friends talking about it, I’ve listened to interviews about it on the radio and I’ve read about it in newspapers and magazines. Obviously, the reason I’ve heard so much about Birdman is because the film’s producers have worked really hard to make sure that as many people as possible hear positive things about the movie. When I first heard about Birdman, I entered the top of the film producer’s sales funnel.
One of the key differences between successful movies and unsuccessful movies is constant communication.
Once people became aware of Birdman, communication efforts continued and endless stories about the movie were churned out in the media. These stories ranged from articles about the making of the movie to critiques that looked at why Birdman is unique and special. Every piece of content created around Birdman suggested that it was top quality and worthy of an Academy Award. Without a doubt, this constant stream of content played an important role in why Birdman ended up winning Best Picture this year.
Now, I’m not saying that Birdman didn’t win because it’s a brilliant film – I’m sure that it is. However, there were a host of other great movies that came out around the same time. These other movies were just as entertaining and interesting as Birdman. However, very few or none of these movies ended up winning awards. In fact, I can’t even recall the names of the movies that were launched at the same time. I think that one of the key reasons for this is the constant stream of Birdman-relatedcontent the media produced.
Think about it. The initial spike of content created to publicise the launch of a new movie results in a large amount of people finding out about the movie. For most movies, out of all those people who hear about it, only a relatively small number of people end up actually going to watch it. If, however, the media keeps up a consistent stream of communication about a particular movie – as was the case with Birdman – more and more people will find out about it and end up deciding to watch it.
When leads can engage with a constant stream of positive communication about a movie – or any product – the bottom of the sales funnel becomes a little wider. This means that more leads can exit the bottom as customers.
In the film industry, winning an Oscar takes care of the social vetting stage of the sales funnel.
Often, when leads are nearing the bottom of the sales funnel, they do something called ‘social vetting’ before deciding to buy a product. This may include looking at reviews on social media networks and forums or simply asking friends and family if they’ve tried the product. When it comes to movies, winning an Oscar takes care of the social vetting stage. In fact, I haven’t seen Birdman yet. Now that it’s won an Academy Award, however, I’m going to make an effort to finally watch it.
Constant communication is the key to guiding leads down the B2B sales funnel.
The lesson that B2B brands can take from all this is that constant communication is key to managing a healthy sales funnel. It’s essential that B2B brands don’t take a campaign approach – whereby a finite amount of content is only created for the launch phase – to marketing. Rather, align your marketing strategy to a sales funnel, whereby initial awareness is only the first step. Educating leads though consistent communication will increase the chances of someone becoming a customer, widening the bottom of your sales funnel.
The bottom line: more customers exiting the bottom of your sales funnel means more sales and more revenue.
Author: Graeme Wilson
Image Crredit: Huffingtonpost