Optimizing the B2B Upper Funnel

There’s no question that automated marketing systems are delivering results for brands. Implemented well, prospects receive persona-specific content dripped to them in reasonable intervals. If the content mix is right, prospects will be exposed to a host of messages, a few of which might stick, turning interest into demand.

Slide1This approach to demand-gen is also extremely measurable, and as such, it poses challenges for marketers who advocate a holistic approach to marketing, incorporating top-of-funnel tactics that are not as easily measured, such as social media and PR. It can be tempting to deploy more and more resource to the conversion engines the brand is building, and at the outset, improved results may affirm that decision.

Inbound lead flow is the fuel for those engines, however, and dialing back upper funnel activities will soon reduce the number of qualified leads, causing conversion numbers and revenues to dip.

The challenge is this: the higher up the funnel you go, the more difficult measurement is, leading some to lose sight of the importance of awareness building social media and public relations programs. For marketers who build social media and public relations strategies designed to support buyers journeys and fuel inbound attention, content marketing to capture and hold interest, and automation on the back end to nurture and convert leads, developing measures that justify upper funnel programs can be a bear.

  • Early stage and persona-level qualification: Upper funnel, awareness-building activities have a profound impact on the generation of qualified leads and ultimately, the efficiency of the marketing engine. Over time, as your social teams build and refine audiences and brand traction grows, lead scores from the upper funnel should improve.
  • Audience building: Contrary to popular belief, social media isn’t a wild and wooly universe. There is an inherent degree of organization, in which people and topics are woven together by relationships, keywords and hashtags. Brands that take the time to build persona-driven audiences deliberately can quickly find themselves seated at the table, amongst their core constituents. In addition to developing direct connections with key groups that have the potential to drive qualified leads, this audience also carries another powerful benefit: amplification.
  • Amplification: When you’ve built a relevant audience for your brand messages, you’ve established an amplification network that will generate additional power for the brand. When you share content the audience values, you’ll see immediate benefits in terms of follow-on social sharing by your audience. However, these benefits are not ephemeral – they continue to accrue as your message ripples across the connected peer network owned by your audience. This amplification delivers two important outcomes to the brand:
  1. Relevant traffic to and exposure for the message that was shared
  2. New audience acquisition, via a credible introduction to the brand.

The strategic upper funnel is a crucial driver of success for a number of marketing initiatives, including demand gen, search and content marketing. Success in this quarter is predicated upon the brand building authentic and credible social presences and then fueling those presences with rich and useful content.

From a measurement standpoint, things become much clearer when the upper funnel is aligned with the brand’s larger goals. While the web analytics will never be perfect, marketers can measure the effectiveness and efficiency of their upper funnels by correlating outputs and audience growth with traffic (especially to target URLs), search rank, lead quality and on-page conversion rates. A heads-up organization will assess campaign success by looking up the funnel and reverse-engineering the results, and then applying that learning to future campaigns.

Author Sarah Skerik has decades of B2B marketing & sales experience, with emphasis on content marketing strategy integrated with social media, demand gen and public relations. Follow her on Twitter at @sarahskerik and connect on LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/sarahskerik