Ditch the Traditional Funnel: ABM Proves Marketing ROI

David Brutman
Marketing News Weekly
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Key Takeaways

What? The marketing funnel has some serious challenges.

So what? Marketers' hard work often goes unrecognized using the funnel method.

Now what? Use account-based marketing to offer sales better prospects while recognizing the efforts and value of marketing.

Dec. 22, 2016

There's a better way for marketing to prove its value and enable sales at the same time

“What did you do for my revenue this year?”

That’s probably not the question you want to hear come bonus time, but chances are, it’s the one your boss will be asking.

Marketing ROI is a hot topic these days, especially when holiday bonuses are on the table. We put tons of effort into tying marketing programs directly to revenue. But if you’re using the traditional marketing funnel method, wherein marketing generates the leads, qualifies them and hands them over to sales, you’ve probably been frustrated a time or two when that revenue question comes up.

The marketing funnel has some serious challenges. Mainly, if the sales team doesn’t follow up on marketing leads. In 2016, more than 60% of B-to-B marketers found generating high-quality leads their biggest challenge, and 73% of B-to-B leads were not sales-ready. An industry report had another surprising stat: of average B-to-B companies targeting mid-to-large-size companies, marketing activities accounted for only 10% of the pipeline. The other 90% came from sales. This is a typical scenario if your company doesn’t have a volume business and especially if you have existing customers you sell and upsell to.

Sales says it doesn’t have adequate marketing coverage for its pipeline needs, and that the leads marketing provides are not always useful or “qualified.” Even further, most marketing leads that sales teams are able to close generate small deals, the “small fish.” Sales tends to follow the money with a targeted approach and go after the "big fish," those that fit the ideal profile, offer upsell opportunities and likely to generate the big bucks. So they tend not to jump on the smaller leads from marketing.

Other drivers include the buying process and changing of target audiences. We’ve reached the point where the old way of marketing—building a funnel of 100 leads and disqualifying 90 of them—doesn’t work. 

So what’s the solution? Kick your traditional lead generation methods and marketing funnels to the curb, and try something new: the micro-funnel.

What’s a Micro-funnel?

The micro-funnel approach is about identifying the specific customers you really want, and chasing them until you land them. 

You probably already know which companies you want: those that are most likely to have the problem your company solves, that are in your target verticals and in the ideal revenue bracket. You might even know the specific people you want to talk to. In the era of Big Data, all this information is at your fingertips. This way of generating a pipeline is typically referred to as a “target account” or “named account” strategy, or more recently, account-based marketing (ABM).

Here’s the real opportunity for marketing: rather than using traditional marketing tactics to generate leads—blasting a huge list of prospects with low-value content to entice a small percentage to show mild interest—you can flip the system. You can empower sales to pursue their own very targeted accounts or “micro-funnels.” 

How It Works

Instead of blasting a list and searching for leads, start with specific potential customers. Cherry-pick the perfect ones, and build outreach programs specifically for them. Research them, discover their pain points and business goals, and identify the right people who could be your buyers or champions. However, buyers are increasingly knowledgeable and sophisticated, so this outreach needs to be highly valuable and relevant. Your goal is to get them interested from the first point of contact, so start the relationship with the highest-value content.

Luckily, that’s what marketers are great at: building engaging, value-driven experiences, powered by content. With ABM, the marketers develop the content and strategy, and sales uses the content to send personalized engagements to key targets.

With this model, each target account is its own funnel as they all go through the process of awareness, interest and engagement. When they become a customer, the process continues with providing value, proving ROI and expansion.

The Secret to Success

For the strategy to be successful, there’re four important factors for marketers to consider:

  1. There has to be a real partnership with Sales, not the typical marketing and sales alignment song and dance. This is about marketing empowering sales. Fortunately, sales has a high incentive since the partnership will land them a better pipeline.

  2. The micro-funnel strategy means content and messaging development will evolve. Content must be heavily personalized and relevant, or it won’t be meaningful to prospects.

  3. Marketers need to be responsive to input from sales. Sales teams have intimate knowledge of customer needs, pain points and business goals.

  4. The program must be designed to work at scale since each account will be its own funnel. Marketing teams aren’t usually set up to support every individual account, but there is a growing number of tools and platforms out there that can help with scale.

About That Bonus

Marketing is being held to higher standards, and revenue is top of mind at the end of the year. With targeted micro-funnels that marketing empowers sales to build and nurture, instead of broad marketing funnels that generate leads sales may or may not use, marketing is ingrained in the process of generating revenue.

Now, marketing doesn’t have to fumble to answer the question, “What did you do for my revenue this year?”

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Author Bio:

David Brutman
David is co-founder and chief product officer of Folloze.
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