Many small and emerging mid-market businesses can become paralyzed when it comes to developing a strategic marketing plan. What makes it so immobilizing?
- Trying to create a comprehensive plan that represents every aspect of the corporate mission and vision, i.e. trying to boil the ocean.
- Leading with messaging and content around the biggest revenue generators, rather than potential growth areas.
To get started in a pragmatic way, business owners must find something to rally around. Whether selling to the government or to the private sector—THE PIPELINE is king.
Pipeline marketing is the application of content marketing and lead nurturing to your sales funnel. It considers FIRST which customers you are actively selling to and what they are buying. (In contrast, most corporate marketing plans focus on what you want to sell, not what customers are actively seeking.) Next, pipeline marketing considers what stage of the sales cycle the customer is in and helps your organization align sales and marketing messages, content, tactics, and channels to support or accelerate the buying cycle.
When you market to the pipeline, you need to consider a few things:
- When is the best time to create a pipeline marketing plan? The best time to invest in this approach is just after annual revenue planning. Once your firm identifies where its sales will be coming from in the next 12-18 months, you should then focus your efforts on marketing to the specific opportunities.
- How often should a firm revisit its pipeline marketing plan? Business leaders should revisit their pipeline marketing plan when they regularly clean up their pipeline. I can’t tell you how often even the biggest companies say they can’t market to the pipeline because they can’t trust the pipeline data. To have a solid pipeline marketing strategy, firms must first have a solid pipeline with good hygiene. Once business leaders realize that marketing will only support opportunities in the pipeline, it is amazing how quickly the data in the pipeline becomes reliable.
- What are the Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) for pipeline marketing? A great leading key performance indicator for pipeline marketing is the advancement through stages in your sales funnel, although the ultimate KPI will be sales and win rate. Overtime, firms can compare length of sales cycle and no bids/ losses with those opportunities that were marketed to in the pipeline and those that were not.
Once a company commits to a pipeline marketing philosophy, there is more focus on generating sales and growth than impressions, page visits, and leads.
The risks of NOT employing pipeline marketing for the 2018 calendar year?
- In the public sector (B2G), a firm may have a large revenue base with a specific agency, but if that work is already sold and doesn’t re-compete for another three years, then the firm may be missing an opportunity to apply its scarce resources to increase PWIN on opportunities that will close in the next 12-24 months.
By marketing to the pipeline, B2G firms can stand out with target agencies and focus their messages specifically on work they are actively bidding.
- In the commercial sector (B2B), a firm may have a focus on demand generation marketing. However, if there isn’t a deliberate strategy to push those new leads through the sales funnel, they may not convert to sales. If a firm’s KPIs are centered around lead goals, the focus is on the top of the funnel—which often emphasizes quantity over quality.
When B2B firms focus primarily on lead generation and forgo pipeline marketing, it can lead to misalignment of sales and marketing.