How B2B Marketers Can Build Pipelines With Less Fiction And More Fact
Can a marketer really start from scratch and build a list of qualified prospects when there’s little or no data?
Influ2, a Sunnyvale, CA-based marketing platform for B2B organizations, claims it can help B2B marketers by “…creating a sales pipeline that didn’t previously exist.”
I recently asked Influ2 CEO Dmitri Lisitski to fill us in on how this works.
Paul Talbot: Precisely how does your platform work?
Dmitri Lisitski: Influ2 is a person-based marketing platform that serves ads to key decision makers and buying groups via display and social networks. It allows marketers to personalize their campaigns based on relevance to persona and company role.
Talbot: What does a B2B marketer need to know to build a pipeline from scratch?
Lisitski: Get together with your sales team to define the accounts that you want to go after. When defining your ideal accounts, consider prior success and leverage intent data. At the end of the discussion, you should be 100% clear in terms of the list of the accounts that you want to go after, what process to follow and how often to update.
- Define personas.
- Focus your marketing effort to engage the buying groups defined earlier.
- Establish the right hand off process, and make sure you hand off the buying groups to the sales development team in a coherent way.
- Continue to provide air-cover beyond the hand off moment.
Talbot: When first-party data are in short supply or non-existent, is there a workaround?
Lisitski: B2B marketers can choose to use an ABM platform that runs campaigns without first-party data. For example, my company recently rolled out a capability for marketers who only have a vague ideal customer profile (ICP) and need a list to be developed from scratch.
ABM and companies are moving in this direction, especially in light of the cookie deprecation and increased restrictions around first-party data.
Talbot: Bad data can sink ships. So can flawed assumptions. How are these commonplace flaws best avoided?
Lisitski: The most common advice given is to test your data with small budgets and evaluate as early and often as possible so that you can avoid large mistakes from bad assumptions. However, this advice is flawed because with a six (or more) months sales cycle in a multi-touch marketing campaign, it can take up to twelve months just to optimize an ABM program - let alone running the whole cycle of ‘develop-test-learn-repeat.’
That’s why it’s best to deconstruct assumptions and try to test them separately. Don’t expect immediate success with your freshly baked marketing program. Devote 12-24 months to get it fully optimized and truly successful.
Talbot: Pipelines can sometimes report more fiction than fact, or list inflated hopes. Other than attentive and informed management, what can be done to keep the pipeline from turning into a wish list?
Lisitski: To avoid turning your pipeline into a wish list, don’t focus too much on the number of marketing qualified leads, or accounts, as your key metric.
It’s best to use engagement metrics and weigh the pipeline against chances to convert. For example, we use our proprietary scoring model and know that accounts scored ten or more have five times higher chances to convert, so these leads are five times ‘heavier’ in our pipeline. Whatever scoring system you use, try to measure your pipeline against the expected outcome.
Talbot: Identifying a solid prospect is one thing. Following strategic steps to create a customer is another. Where does this process typically go off the rails?
Lisitski: Many businesses fail to understand that a prospect and a potential customer are very different, and they need different types of communication. Salespeople often share communication that doesn’t speak to where the other person is coming from and doesn’t resonate with where they are in the sales pipeline.
A prospect sits at the top-of-the-funnel (TOFU), and in this stage, it’s important to build trust and introduce them to your product and brand so that initial level of interest is established. This type of communication needs to be both general and engaging.
A potential customer is in the middle of the process and needs more granular information, such as sharing success stories and how to best implement the product. This communication should be driven by a fundamental question: what type of information does this person need to invest in my product?
If the communication is not driven by that question, then the process often goes off the rails and the potential customer is not convinced to close the deal.