The pinnacle of digital marketing is directed growth. It shows us what’s not working, to send better leads—and better deals—to Sales for repeatable success.
In a very crowded, noisy marketplace, we use technology, persuasion, and creativity to get the attention of the right people. We’re all pretty overwhelmed — consumers as well as Marketers, whose job it is to attract attention and interest . The digital age requires us to do more than shovel more leads into the top of the funnel. These days, the most successful marketers see their mandate not as Collect More Email Addresses but as Engage Modern Buyers.
We’re not just trying to persuade people to read an email. We’re trying to get them ready to buy. And to do that — to earn attention as well as trust — the most valuable currency of our contribution is content, content, content.
However, most Marketers are still volume-focused. Asked what they need to deliver, most CMOs will respond with brand awareness, advertising, AI, etc. Building on the age-old concepts of Marketing demand, all pointing to volume. But in the age of the modern buyer, the assumption of more at the top = more at the bottom is a fallacy.
Directed growth expands the funnel in a whole new way. Instead of accepting your conversion ratios as a constant, directed growth uses data and content to install a new lever with which we can affect revenue. We can change the shape of the funnel and increase conversions. We can understand what works best, and do it more often.
Before we begin: what is DIRECTED GROWTH?
Directed Growth analyzes lead data through the funnel to design interactive, highly-engaging programs that give your target audience — informed buyers — the content they want, when they want it.
Directed growth helps us see, understand, and layer data on top of the funnel in order to respond to our performance, tightening up our practice of Marketing to optimize lead conversion. With directed growth, we can increase both opportunity volume and velocity, converting leads more effectively with a seamless, multi-channel brand experience that responds and adapts to buyer behavior.
Directed growth is the big bang: what all our Marketing efforts should drive toward.
Directed growth is a mindset shift that will help you better understand, adjust, and track activity through the funnel. It’s not a tactical tweak. This is a whole new way of approaching how you attract and close leads. Here’s the broad strokes, though don’t think of this as a linear to-do list:
The essentials: optimize your Marketing automation platform.
Marketing automation platforms collect data and make it possible to map the buyer journey, building clear patterns of conversion, movement, and results. Most organizations using Marketing Automation (MA) today are primarily batching and blasting. Optimize the system to tap into pain points, anticipate hesitations, build trust, and engage buyers: setting up the scaffolding to collect useful data.
Populate the lead management system with rules to begin delivering insight.
Lay the groundwork for meaningful improvements to enhance data quality, increase efficiencies and improve Sales and Marketing alignment. By the end of this process, you will have a clean database with the ability to quickly and accurately target prospects with personalized messaging.
The rules of lead management code stages of the buyer journey, mapping transition points from stage to stage. This helps us understand what drives buyers— how we know what interactions or pieces of content may have moved a prospect closer to a decision in our favor.
In directed growth, the foundation of well-organized lead management data gives us the ability to understand what moves — literally and figuratively — the Empowered Buyer™. Once we can see the pattern, we can repeat it.
Track insight on lead management outcomes to make investment decisions going forward.
Integrate what you learn to optimize lead management: use attribution modeling to connect Marketing investments to revenue outcomes. Track metrics through the funnel, smoothing and accelerating the conversion of each lead by visualizing the buyer journey from end-to-end.
Once you’ve established this new insight, be ready to respond to what the data shows you no matter how it rocks the boat. Be open to accepting what you learn, and then share and act on it widely — beyond just your own team.
Dive into the details to understand why and where conversion slows. Set up additional reporting and insight to be able to diagnose and troubleshoot not only what’s not working, but why. Too many of us stay where we’re comfortable. We stick to the tactics we know worked historically, regardless of how effective those tactics may be today at engaging the informed buyer.
Technical implementation of lead management gives you the clarity to see what is and is not working. Don’t stop there. It’s only when you communicate and act on the needed adjustments that you’ll start transforming the funnel to market better and sell more.
Engineer a revitalized, Sales-focused funnel for velocity and movement.
With lead management, we have visibility. We can see conversion ratios through the funnel — which interactions or pieces of content trigger a prospect to mature closer to ready-to-buy (or drop off). We know our lead velocity — how fast leads move through the funnel. With this information, we can backwards-engineer our current performance. We are able to examine the following aspects of our Marketing:
- Why are we successful at tactically engaging prospects, but have a harder time getting them to buy?
- Is our content speaking to the questions and concerns of key buying roles?
- How might we increase conversions? Which stage has the highest drop, and what’s missing?
- How do we remove prospect obstacles to increase lead velocity and conversion?
One of the biggest questions directed growth helps us to explore is that of lead conversion — our ability to understand positive vs. negative outcomes, and the rate at which they occur, and from which campaigns/tactics/sources. Simply put, is Marketing giving Sales the right kind of leads? If our rate of movement from Sales-accepted lead (SAL) to Sales-qualified lead (SQL) is low, that means Marketing is spinning its wheels as much as Sales is. With the right data, we can dig into how many leads are being rejected, and why. Are we qualifying leads that will never buy from us? What impact might we have on the funnel if we cut out the junk leads, and focused our Marketing energy on proactively warming-up the best ones?
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Here’s a typical dilemma we can shift with directed growth. If we send a hundred leads to Sales and only two of them check out, that means Sales has to make 98 follow-ups to produce two qualified opportunities. Why is there only a 2% conversion ratio between a Marketing lead to a Sales opportunity? If we sharpened our targeting and qualification, we may cut Marketing Qualified Leads (MQLs) in half, and substantially reduce Sales qualification time wasted chasing leads that never had a chance of coming to fruition.
Without directed growth—the pinnacle of lead management—we might troubleshoot our performance with the knee-jerk reaction of We need more volume / more leads = we should feed more coal into the fire/engine. But Sales reps can only call so many people per day. Pouring more cold leads into the funnel will only overwhelm and demoralize Sales reps, not win a proportional higher number of deals. When Sales reps have to sift through a high volume of cold contacts, it’ll take them longer to surface the warm, Sales-ready prospects, losing trust in Marketing’s ability to discern buying signals. While we’re drowning in cold contacts, the real, verified great ones may drift elsewhere.
Both Marketing and Sales rightfully get very concerned at the prospect of ‘cutting back on leads’. Historically, it was difficult for Marketing to identify buying signals (that was the realm and responsibility of Sales). But with lead management — and the directed growth that springs from it — marketers are able to identify and quantify buying signals in order to cut back on volume, generating better-targeted leads and more wins. Freeing Marketing from lead quotas so they can focus on quality content for buyers means Sales is freed-up to spend more attention on the most promising contacts and win more deals.
Since the days of Mad Men, Marketing — the game of influencing people to make buying decisions in our favor — has always been an art. But now, in the digital age, we can map and quantify it. We can see exactly how many people are submitting forms or visiting the website, and we can also see how many are dropping out at any given stage. With directed growth, we can identify and replicate our most successful campaigns, content, and deals.
And that capability isn’t just lightning in a bottle. It’s an electricity we can harness.