How to Direct Growth with Funnel Optimization

Funnel Optimization provides a lever for growth by specifically focusing on the activities that you already do to drive increased revenue.

When faced with the challenge of improving performance, marketing teams rarely think about the leads that they already possess. 

It’s easy to fall back on old, familiar solutions when trying to increase revenue. Sales asks for more leads, and marketing teams typically respond with more ads, better messaging and creative. Getting more leads, however, may actually be distracting your marketing team from the real issue – why aren’t your existing leads converting? Is it your message, delivery, or timing? How do you improve what you are already doing?

Funnel optimization is an innovative approach to revenue growth that often gets overlooked, and it’s easy to see why: there is no single team in the organization accountable for doing it. Marketers generally play a creative role, attracting interest at the top of the funnel; sales waits at the bottom for qualified leads that are ready to convert. Leads that don’t convert are left by the wayside – without anyone responsible for handling these leads, valuable revenue opportunities are lost. 

When we optimize the funnel, we target sub-par leads and improve them systematically by determining what made those leads drop out of the funnel, and problem-solve accordingly. As a result, marketing directs growth, passing leads to sales that are better qualified, more interested, and motivated to buy.

Getting Started with Funnel Optimization 

Funnel optimization is a collaborative effort taken on by Marketing and Sales teams: alignment from both sides is essential to making it work. A lot of revenue growth is already driven by the overlap and collaboration between marketing and sales, working to improve downstream activities in the funnel rather than bigger inflow at the top. But most often, misalignment persists when leads are rushed along too quickly, cool off from a lack of follow-up, or there isn’t enough clarity over which job titles or interactions indicate a strong lead. No matter what the source of misalignment, greater conversion can’t begin until we identify patterns of lead mobility in the funnel. Once we start looking, we can start strategizing.

Your teams can start productive conversations about the funnel by looking into your marketing and sales automation systems, which provide visibility into what’s working (and what’s falling short). Your marketing automation system – which is likely used mostly to run lead management campaigns – should be harnessed to its full capacity to sharpen performance. Use the data, and let that information drive your optimization process.

Let’s take a look at some strategies your marketing team can take to optimize your funnel.

Troubleshoot the Funnel

When your marketing data sends out red flags, it’s important to troubleshoot the funnel and ask key questions to facilitate greater alignment with sales. Let’s illustrate the process of collaboration between Marketing and Sales within the context of funnel optimization through this short case study. 

Mini Case Study: ACME’s Conversion Drop

ACME company’s marketing team takes a look into their data and notices that conversion from a marketing-qualified lead (MQL) to a sales-accepted lead (SAL) has dropped. The marketing team develops a couple of theories to explain the drop in conversions, and creates a set of questions to structure a meaningful conversation with their sales counterparts.

When marketing and sales teams have a structured, intentional dialogue focused on problem-solving the funnel, the results can be astounding. Develop a framework to understand how every campaign, tactic, and asset impacts the buyer at each stage – tech giant Samsung did exactly this to achieve remarkable results. Their marketing team was able to increase funnel conversions by 267%. This resulted in a 183% jump in their contribution to the pipeline, and a 60% jump in contribution to revenue.

Instead of pushing more leads, push for more leads that are ready to buy. Prioritize the quality of your leads instead of the quantity, and you will see the results in your revenue. 

Optimize the Top of the Funnel 

Marketing teams can facilitate the process of funnel optimization by checking data and managing leads at the top of the funnel. We can check website data to see what percentage of visitors take a step by reaching out for more information—attending a webinar, signing up for a whitepaper, or filling out a contact form—and what the bounce rates are like. This could point to a need to make calls-to-action more prominent, or offer more useful, more valuable content that creates more of a draw.

We could also streamline our forms to encourage follow-through on submitting, knowing that only 5-10% of people who land on a form fill it out. We want to make it as easy as possible for people to land on a form, and then opt-in for either more content, or a contact. The fewer clicks, the better. And the higher up on the page the form is, the better. And of course, we want to connect that form to something that motivates the right people to fill it out.

Tweaking entry points at the top of the funnel can direct revenue growth significantly. Return Path, a global data solutions provider, optimized a Contact Us form: conversions between Visitor to Inquiry funnel stages were improved by 30%, yielding an additional 1,000 leads per year. The ROI of this optimization was a staggering 6,397%.

Enhance your Content 

Optimize your funnel by paying closer attention to the content you have produced for your buyers and make sure that it speaks directly to their role in the purchasing journey. Take a fresh look at the buying team you are targeting, and critically reflect on how they might interact with your marketing. Here are a few questions you might ask:

  • How do different decision-makers or influencers discover information, and what do they need to complete their part in the process? 
  • How can we as marketers develop better content that helps them succeed and feel confidence in their contribution—especially to a decision that lands on us as the winning option? 
  • When does each particular role enter the discovery process, and what do they need? 
  • How can we enable them to complete their stage of the evaluation process, keeping forward momentum on their due diligence?

Set Expectations With Sales 

When you have established regular rapport with Sales around conversion optimization, set processes around checking data, and enhanced content at every stage of the funnel, ensuring both teams maximize their efforts and Sales picks up every lead. Consider a service level agreement (SLA), as commonly used in operational teams such as support—a documented commitment to follow up with leads within a specified time frame, with clearly defined rules for optimal conversion.

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Where That Leads Us 

Funnel optimization is a process that improves the quality of leads through data-driven troubleshooting and iterative improvements and enhancements to the funnel. Start by asking questions that demonstrate marketing as being in the service and interest of sales success: What do you need? What’s a good customer look like? What do you want to see in the data attached to each lead? What will help you? 

Then, work on improving and streamlining your messaging to highlight customer problems and make information accessible. 

Encourage a spirit of standardization on both ends: in the nurturing of leads, and in the follow-up. There’s a wealth of sharper, more proactive tactics in that shared middle-space. Funnel optimization begins here: by turning patterns of drop-off into patterns of winning.

When tasked with growth, Funnel Optimization provides a lever for growth by specifically focusing on the activities that you already do to drive increased revenue. Quality always wins.

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