Social marketing does some interesting things to what we traditionally think of as the marketing funnel. You know - the one where we generate a lot of content and events, then keep pushing more content in front of people until we finally sic sales people on the lead. It has led to some fairly dysfunctional behavior - both inside organizations and with leads. A game of cat and mouse ensues until someone gives up. Exhausting. And expensive.
But it doesn't have to be that way. Content and social marketing has given us another option - one which, frankly, I'm pretty relieved to see. In this scenario we also produce a lot of content but in more formats, often in smaller pieces (although not exclusively), and we do it much more frequently. The majority of that content gets openly published for all to see. Prospective customers can lurk and lurk without being noticed - and engage in the way and amount they want, when they are ready. It doesn't mean we abandon email marketing and other things but the focus is on pushing content out that provides some value vs. banging on the 'buy now' drum.
This creates a pretty dramatic change to the width and the length of the marketing and sales funnel:
- All the world's a stage. Leads are everywhere but they may be close to impossible to track.
- Not tracking unqualified leads is a good thing: It is expensive and there is such a high percentage of them that are not interested or ready to become customers that companies typically waste a lot of time, energy, and money trying to convert them.
- Without tracking early leads, the marketing organization has to wait for leads to emerge and declare themselves. This will drive them crazy... but reduce overall costs. It requires a very different mindset and over time the amount of content vs. leads will be relatively consistent but... it requires giving up control of knowing exactly who will emerge and when.
- Because you are giving leads more control over when and how they engage, the effectiveness of each conversation is higher because they are ready and interested - i.e. the holy grail - they are engaged.
- Because in many cases (this is not true of all products) prospects can get the majority of what they need to make a purchasing decision without a conversation, when they do reveal themselves time to close can happen extremely quickly.
- A much higher percentage of leads that contact you proactively are ready to buy. This clarity is refreshing and efficient. And wonderfully cost effective.
- You don't end up convincing someone they need your product only to find out after the sale that it doesn't really work for them or they aren't ready for it and therefore they don't use it - both of which cause them to be unhappy and difficult, which is expensive for the company and potentially damaging in the long run if they choose to share their feelings publicly.
By letting your content be free you can increase the width of your lead funnel but you may not be able to know by how much and you can dramatically shorten the funnel. And, yes, it may take leads a little longer in the beginning but when they are ready, they are ready and you'll end up with much more constructive work to do - with customers that really appreciate what you have to offer.
Ahh - feels like a cold glass of spring water.