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Is Your B2B Company’s Marketing Department Top or Bottom Heavy?

Not thinking about the funnel could be the issue weighting down your growth efforts.

170412-b2b-marketing-content-funnel-by-marketriToday’s strong marketing and sales efforts are typically aligned around the notion of a funnel. Many leads enter the top of the funnel, and as they continue to engage with the company’s marketing efforts, they’re qualified and eventually passed to sales for contact. The notion is that out of the bulk of leads that enter the funnel, only a select few will make it through to sales. But those sales will be highly qualified, and more likely to buy.

A few years ago, most marketers didn’t make a strong distinction between top-of-the-funnel and bottom-of-the-funnel marketing. But as I’ve structured and restructured more and more mid-sized B2B marketing departments, I’ve found that attention to both TOFU and BOFU marketing is essential to achieving a measurable return on investment.

For mid-sized B2B companies to generate optimal growth results, the marketing function ideally should align with the sales funnel, from cold contact to red hot prospect. The reality? Marketing is typically skewed towards the top or bottom of the funnel based on the skills and preferences of in-house marketers. This imbalance almost surely results in unrealized opportunities. If you are underwhelmed by the ROI on your company’s B2B marketing program, it’s time to take a hard look at the “weight distribution” of your marketing efforts.

Top-Heavy Marketing Departments

Lead generation is the goal at the top of the sales funnel. Today, leads are typically generated digitally through Inbound Marketing, which is sometimes referred to as marketing efforts that people don’t hate. Instead of spamming B2B buyers with unwanted ads, snail mail, service brochures, and PowerPoint decks, Inbound Marketers attract them into the funnel by providing insightful, relevant content that helps to uncover latent needs, solve work challenges, and identify potential solutions.

Inbound Marketers, who hover around the top of the funnel and “don’t have time” for the bottom, typically are:

  • Uncomfortable with the idea of selling.
  • Highly gratified by educating and helping buyers.
  • Skilled writers capable of clever blogs, insightful e-books, and eye-catching infographics.
  • Marketing automation junkies.

Top-heavy marketing departments are delighted when their content drives new contacts into the sales funnel. Unfortunately, more often than not, these “leads” hang out at the top or inch their way into the middle where they relax, put their feet up – and settle in. Many sales teams – even those starving for fresh leads – never get access to contacts “stuck” in the funnel unless those contacts happen to call or fill out a contact form, two actions we know are not the norm.

When leads are passed to sales, Inbound Marketers often believe their jobs are done. But they are leaving sales closers without the necessary support and materials to drive movement to the bottom of the funnel and on to the closing table.

Bottom-Heavy Marketing Departments

Bottom-of-the-funnel marketing involves the creation of various types of ads, newsletters, direct mail, sales collateral, and presentations used to catch the attention of ready B2B buyers and convert them into customers.

B2B marketers working at the bottom of the funnel typically have:

  • Better than average graphic design and PowerPoint skills
  • The ability to craft sales-oriented messages about the company and its products and services
  • No issues responding to last-minute requests for needed marketing / sales materials
  • Little to no knowledge about Inbound Marketing

They thrive on helping with the close and are beloved by the sales team. Not surprisingly, bottom-heavy marketing departments tend to have high close ratios. This may sound great at first, but the problem is that these departments don’t generate very many opportunities to close. The top of the pipeline is anemic because marketers haven’t been focused on the early stages of a buyer’s journey. A few good closes mask the fact that most Prospective B2B buyers don’t want to be sold to until they’re good and ready.

Without a robust lead generation / Inbound Marketing program to back them, sales departments are left to rely on leads that are few, far between, and not nurtured in ways that promote long-term customer loyalty.

Top-to-Bottom Marketing Departments

All B2B companies want leads and lots of them. They also want to convert those leads into new business and generate company growth. Yet so many companies struggle in large part because of marketing / sales funnel misalignment. To avoid what can be a debilitating problem, here’s some advice…

  • Identify your problem area: Lead generation, closing new business, or both. If it’s lead generation, you need more or better marketing at the top. If it’s closing new business, you need help at the bottom. If it’s both, reevaluate your marketing and sales teams because neither one is serving you well.
  • Tap outside resources: If you don’t have experienced marketing talent in-house, hire a strategic marketing consultant who understands the B2B buyer of today. He or she can assess a marketing department and suggest how that department can be restructured or refocused to better meet a company’s needs.

Building a balanced, top to bottom marketing department takes time, knowledge, and a little faith. I’ve crafted quite a few, with positive and measurable results. My clients will tell you that it was definitely worth the “weight.”

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