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How to use funnel data to improve B2B marketing

Posted June 11, 2024
Misha Salkinder, Head of Customer Data Strategy at CaliberMind, joins our host, Camela Thompson, in this episode of the Revenue Marketing Report. Misha shares a concise summary of the difference between engagement and intent and how to think about incorporating them into your marketing strategy.

Misha Salkinder, Head of Customer Data Strategy at CaliberMind, joins our host, Camela Thompson, in this episode of the Revenue Marketing Report. Misha shares a concise summary of the difference between engagement and intent and how to think about incorporating them into your marketing strategy.

Welcome back to day two. Misha, thank you for being here again. We are going to be talking about funnel conversion and what works when. What pops to mind?

“I guess an analytical sophistication that comes with being more comfortable when making data-driven decisions in marketing and I think CaliberMind, our company, has been on this journey for a while now. We started with attribution and while it is a very useful set of models, it is a very useful tool to identify what campaigns you might want to double down on. I think the more sophisticated organizations have pushed us in the direction of funnel analytics and asking more granular questions. What works for somebody who has an open opportunity with the organization in terms of getting them even farther engaged may be different than what works for those who are getting familiar with your brand. And attribution models themselves can be tuned to look at the latter or the former and we often recommend for our customers to do so. But funnels allow you to draw lines in the marketing funnel to, essentially, segment groups of organizations by their level of engagement with your people or organizations.

‘It is interesting how you have attribution, which I think of as bottom funnel analytics and then you have engagement, which I think is upper funnel analytics. Then here you’ve got the actual structure to say, well, let’s use engagement to draw certain lines in the sand. You can call those marketing qualified, sales qualified, whatever the terminology is and then you use the mechanism of attribution or something similar to it to make decisions or to gain patterns of what happens with each one of these buckets. It’s interesting what one can see when taking this lens as opposed to what I would call an old-school campaign comparison via attribution alone.”

It is funny, I’m having flashbacks to CaliberMind, and one of the things I struggled with as an internal marketer there, was we had these great views. What I was missing and what we subsequently developed was a more segmented approach to what works when.

With attribution, if we’re doing the full path or what happened well before the opportunity was created until it was closed, you do have a pre-op and post-op. You can figure out what got people to engage with sales vs. what got the deal to close and that’s great! However, I was excited when we started layering the traditional demand gen waterfall stages because within pre-op, there is a wide range of activities that need to happen before they’ll engage with sales.

If we think about that, a good parallel might be a lot of Salesforce attribution customers. They have either first-touch or last-touch attribution. First-touch shows them what first drew someone in. Then, last touch is pretty good for knowing what tipped them over into actually speaking with sales. Those two activities are extremely different, if you’ve got the data to compare the two. I keep thinking about what we were talking about yesterday and context is everything. So understanding what works when.

Going back to CaliberMind, we had a healthy debate over when we should do digital advertising to drive in the quarter pipeline and I gave a firm no, that’s going to pay out two to three quarters from now. Instead, I pushed for a webinar. Yet, it was great because I had the data to say, this is why I know what works when and how long it is going to take. Without that, you’re possibly battling with the CEO who isn’t aware of the changes going on in the market and how things have shifted, particularly in paid advertising.

“Yeah, very interesting. There’s also a data question there that is especially attribution. It’s very tricky to build an attribution model without over-crediting the high-volume campaigns.

Yes.

“Because of the nature of splitting dollar amounts, the touch points, the more touch points of a certain type, there are ways around it, but it’s tricky. Funnels allow you to perhaps ask a more volume question or I would say, an efficiency question. The way I like to look at campaign performance by funnel stage is looking at a ratio of, we call them journeys, and you can look at them as a movement down the funnel, looking at the volume of activities that happened within a certain event or activity type that move on to subsequent stages for a set of organizations and looking at the share of those that moved or interacted with a specific campaign type. It’s all of a sudden, you’re removing the dollar altogether to do that, and that allows you to look at a ratio. It allows you to look at perhaps a much smaller volume campaign, but that seems much more efficient at moving things through the marketing funnel.”

I’m just thinking through ways to simplify this a bit. If marketers walk away with one thing, what I would want them to walk away with is sales are trained to be very mindful of their pipeline metrics. Conversion rates, and velocity which isn’t at all what physics is. I’ve been lectured on that but speed to close, speed from stage to stage, all of those things they know by rote, they can quote it off that we need X coverage, it’s going to take this long to close, and here’s on average how much we close by stage. Marketers need to be just as versed in that information and they need to add on. For example, initially, when I started at a company, we had 270 days on average from first interaction that we could track to opportunity creation. By knowing who that first interaction was with, we could tailor our website more and we got it down to 80 days and we got the key stakeholders involved a lot sooner. 

Those stats are great for the board. They’re great for your boss. I wouldn’t make a slide out of it, but they’re great talking points. But what is important is if we’re looking at the sales information and we are familiar with what sales is doing, we can get in front of when we’re behind on pipeline very early in the quarter and do something about it. Funnel, to me, means closely marrying what marketing is doing by stage in the way that sales think about it. Then what makes it a little bit easier to communicate.

“Yeah. I know we’ve gone down a rabbit hole of complexity fairly quickly in this conversation, but Camela is absolutely right. I think a marketer that is starting to think about this can and should take a step back. I probably recommend very few marketing stages or funnel stages, certainly with the leading question of are there different activities that we should be presenting, offering or optimizing in each one of these stages. One could be maybe unknown, somebody who has never interacted with your brand before and there’s perhaps a low level of engagement. Perhaps, I might even have a higher level of engagement, and then after that already opportunity stages. I think even a four or five-stage funnel could be more than enough to support sales and make the campaigns more effective and yet have the concept be simple enough to get the entire organization behind. I’ve seen organizations with twelve funnel stages. While I think it is great, it feels over-engineered since if you  cannot act differently to each engagement group, it feels like a lot of complexity and extra acronyms that you may not  need.”

I think it’s funny that sales managers often get a reputation for being data savvy, not always, but often. And they’re dealing with so much subjectivity when it comes to figuring out where someone is on the buyer journey and how close they’re to closing the sale. That’s behavioral guesswork, not data but because we collect information at scale and can use it consistently, we can actually get some useful information out of it. I wish more of us thought of marketing numbers the same way instead of this precise science. It’s comparable to a forecast soapbox moment. Sorry.

“No. I think it does. There are diminishing returns about going too deep, of course, and over-engineering your funnel, but it could be a very powerful tool, both tactically if you can, first of all, show strategically how movement through the funnel, how things that you’re doing this quarter are better than the previous quarter. But even tactically if you are looking at, let’s say your set of campaigns. Let’s say, you manage email, I bet by having this framework, you’ll notice that there are certain emails or email types that are getting engagement in certain parts of the funnel better than they are in others, which makes sense. I think if I’m engaged with a company, and if I know them really well, the things that I want to consume from that brand are perhaps different at the top of the funnel, potentially you likely want to learn about the topic area. While if I’m getting interested, then I want to know about the details, maybe what sets an organization apart, what makes them different or how can I be an expert in this? How can they help me on this deeper journey.”

Yeah. That’s a great exercise for any marketer to go through what people want to consume at each point, but to measure it? I think someone said, marketing without data is driving without a steering wheel. I like that since I see many scientists out there that are trying different things, but you’re only a scientist if you measure it afterward and have some idea of what success looks like. So capturing the data, and having it on a timeline, this is all super critical.

“Absolutely!” 

Well, this is actually a great segue for tomorrow’s topic. 

For more content on B2B marketing trends, listen to the full Revenue Marketing Report episode at the top of the article or anywhere you podcast.

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