Working the funnel and staying away from the sewer

Just got off the plane from the East Coast and thought I would share some thoughts about lead generation. Seems like every technology company I talk to today tries to figure out how to intergrate social marketing into their lead gen efforts.

When I talk to the big digital agencies, they actually have very little experience in this area. And when I search on the web for some ideas about and insight into in this area. (I am sure several of you will want to debate this). More theory than case studies or concrete tactics. Obviously, there are some exceptions, but it’s late at night, so let me generalize a bit.

So, I will jump on the bandwagon and share some theory. First of all, Social Media, can add another INPU into the top part (or the left hand side) of the funnel. Like SEO or SEM, it can be just another ‘lead’ input into the funnel.

The only big difference is that leads no longer have to be thought of as an action taking place and/or a person being qualified your site. You no longer have to get a person to go to your site and download a white paper to determine how hot a lead they are.

In fact, these days, your ‘leads’ might never visit yor website.

All the wining and dining of the lead might take place on another site, like on Facebook or on a blog. Below is a chart I recently found on the research group’ Forrester’s website:

The upper diagram shows traditional funnel and the bottom one is what the funnel might look like today. Well, at least according to Forrester Research. I know that I am not a pure traditional marketer, but I have been around the block a bit, and to be honest, I can’t relate to the bottom chart at all. It looks like a bunch of sewer pipes to me. Sorry to pick on Forrester, but I have seen sewer diagrams way too many presentations recently.

Why not just stick with the metaphor that is almost universal. A metaphor that every marketing person has learned in used at least once; A traditional funnel that sometimes is depicted as vertical, sometimes horizontal. Once someone raises their hand and travels into the funnel, there’s plenty of opportunity to have employees, customers, prospects and other users in your ecosystem to provide them with guidance, information, etc.,  helping them either go to the next level of the funnel or to actually transact. Imagine for example, if someone raises their hand to get a white paper and then they could ‘ask others’ what they thought of the white paper. Or what how they used the white paper’s ‘tips and tricks’ in the industry. If the white paper is on CRM, for example, then a person selling widgets might use it’s information differently from a person selling life insurance (a service)

So, what’s the point of all this:

  1. Don’t complicate the lead gen process with new metaphors, such as a bunch of sewer pipes (diagram 2)
  2. Know that Social Leads can start at the top of the funnel, but can also happen anywhere in the process
  3. Ask yourself what’s the best way to get people (not necessarily from your company : ) to help users move through the funnel
  4. Realize that the end game no longer has to be to drive people to a shop cart on your site (Even Amazon is now selling direct on Facebook.com. See it’s Soap.com and Diapers.com properties on Facebook)
  5. Start mapping a lead gen process that involves your site and one that involves other sites or social networks
  6. Quantify each step, so that you can implement a continuous improvement approach, consistently trying to improve your numbers
  7. Give someone ownership of this end to end process
  8. Share your learnings with your team — especially those who will use the leads, such your sales force (in fact, get them involved in the beginning when you are designing the program)
  9. Institutionalize the information, so that when you leave the company, others can easily find the information and learn from your wins and your mistakes
  10. Stay away from Sewers! (diagram 2)
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