Grow the B2B SaaS Marketing Funnel with Three Best Practices
- B2B SaaS marketing funnel best practices are prescriptive methods that achieve forecasted results. Industry research creates and validates evidence-based best practices that take the guesswork out of growing the SaaS marketing funnel.
- Each best practice applies a prescriptive framework, technology automation and purpose-built measurement system (i.e., dashboards and predictive analytics.)
- Research shows that the Best-in-Class software companies did not achieve the top B2B SaaS marketing funnel growth with random strategies, processes or technologies. The data reveal they excelled by orchestrating a synergistic combination of measurable processes, technologies and analytics to achieve extraordinary results.
B2B SaaS Marketing Funnel Best Practices
There's a lot to learn from the top Software-as-a-Service marketers.
Best practices to grow the B2B SaaS marketing funnel are born from research. They show what the Best-in-Class marketers (i.e., the top 15%) did to grow the funnel and outperform their peers (i.e., the other 85%). They also show how they did it.
Best practices are prescriptive recommendations that save time, increase focus, lower risk and show the most direct route to increase lead acquisitions, marketing sourced revenues, and ROI.
Grow the B2B SaaS Marketing Funnel
There is no shortage of opinions on how to grow the funnel. But opinions are just that, and seasoned marketers know that some work and many do not.
Fortunately, best practices backed with data reveal verifiable lessons of what works, what doesn't and how to prioritize time and investments for the biggest impact.
Here are three evidence-based best practices that can be sequenced to achieve streamlined processes, technology automation and information reporting that work together to grow the B2B SaaS marketing pipeline.
It's no longer acceptable to send generic messages to broad audiences.
Research findings published in the Marketing Transformation Report demonstrated that marketers who applied customer intelligence programs and applied those insights to offers, campaigns and other engagement pursuant to customer segments or personas, achieved 12% higher campaign conversions, 9% lower cost per lead, 5% higher sales win rates and 6% lower cost per customer acquisition.
The below illustration shows how customer insights can be categorized and managed in the CRM system. This makes the data easily accessible so it can be used for campaign filters and target audience segmentation.
The research found that lower performing campaigns pursued much wider audiences. Simple demand generation methods such as email marketing maximize outreach and produce plenty of lead generation metrics. However, they also incur lower conversions, higher cost per lead and are mostly ineffective in engaging customers. When email recipients mark non-relevant messages as spam the software company is thereafter blocked from future engagement.
The Best-in-Class companies did several things different than their lower performing peers. Before the first campaign was launched, they ranked buyer insights, defined their ideal customer profile and created messaging based on both their unique value proposition and their target audience. These factors increased lead conversions by just over 55 percent compared to the Median and Laggard archetypes.
MarTech brings data management, process automation, information reporting and scale to demand generation. Technology is the primary tool to reduce labor, accelerate process cycles and do more with less.
The previously referenced research ranked the five most effective technology applications as scored by marketers.
Marketing Automation Platforms (MAP) were cited as the most effective technology by the Best-in-Class marketers. These apps automate six lead acquisition processes:
- Lead tracking measures online prospect interaction with campaign offers, promotions and other marketing engagement artifacts. The highest performers use this feedback in near real-time to adjust campaign assets and improve conversions.
- Lead acquisition uses a landing page or similar form to capture prospects interested in the company's solutions. The top performing marketers consistently acquire more and better sales leads by using content marketing programs. These programs deliver the content that buyers find compelling. They shift prospect engagement from outbound, interruption-based marketing techniques that perform poorly to inbound marketing programs that educate and engage customers.
- Lead scoring measures prospect fit and propensity to purchase using explicit (firmographics, demographics, technographics) and implicit (online behaviors, digital footprints) data. The calculated lead score shows if an acquired lead is sales-ready, not yet sales-ready or not qualified for the company's solutions. The top performing technology marketers skew their lead score formulas toward implicit data. They know that explicit data only shows how interested the provider is in the prospect while implicit data shows how interested the prospect is in the provider.
- Nurture campaigns engage leads that are not yet sales-ready. These prospects are in the early evaluation stage and not yet ready to speak with a sales professional. Scheduling periodic drip campaigns helps the company stay top of mind and tracks the buyer signals that reveal when the prospect is ready to speak to a salesperson. The top marketers do not forward unqualified leads to the sales force because they know those leads will fall between the cracks and create lead leakage.
- Lead routing occurs once the prospect's buy signals reach a lead threshold score that indicates the lead is sales-ready. The prospect is then automatically routed to a sales rep. The prospect's digital footprints from the marketing cloud should be forwarded to the sales reps CRM system. This will inform the seller of the prospect's browsing history and show what products the prospect is most interested in.
- Lead analytics show which content assets get engagement and drive conversions and which do not. They show which offers convert for which target audiences and which acquire the prospects that most convert to new customers. The most effective Software-as-a-Service marketers use multivariable propensity models to show the combinations of offers and target audiences that realize the most lead acquisitions, highest lead conversions and pipeline growth.
Growth analytics help tech companies continuously improve lead conversions and grow the pipeline.
It's worth noting that the Best-in-Class marketers cited analytics as their top tool for continuous process improvements. In contrast, their lower performing peers were more often data rich but information poor.
Here are the three components the highest growth software-as-a-service publishers used to build their analytics.
- Data Transformation
Data is an asset. But to yield value, it must be converted from a raw material to a finished product of information or insight. That's done with a data transformation process.
Most of the needed data resides in the MAP. But some data will also come from additional sources such as data enrichment providers and the CRM application. When performed at scale, the transformation process converts data from an unused byproduct to a technology company's most valuable asset.
- Performance Dashboards
The most effective dashboards deliver the right information to the right person at the right time. They focus on the most important metrics and prioritize information based on what's important to each user.
But to be candid, most MAP and CRM dashboards disappoint. They display what is easy instead of what is essential. They display static data and entirely backward-looking information.
The research found that dashboards achieve up to 30 percent utilization immediately following a deployment go-live. But within 3 weeks that utilization falls to 9 percent. Over time it falls further. The decline is due to dashboards not providing real help to staff.
The key to business intelligence is to translate demand generation activities into business outcomes, measure only what matters and instrument lead acquisition performance with real-time metrics.
- Predictive Analytics
The most valuable reporting is information that can engineer future financial outcomes and the company's growth strategy. That's why predictive analytics are powerful.
In fact, without predictive analytics, the information view for every person in your technology company is entirely backward looking.
A recurring pattern among lower performing software publishers is that they are unsure of what types of campaigns or combination of offers, content and channels will maximize lead acquisitions, lead conversions and pipeline growth. So, they pursue what they know instead of what is most effective.
A better approach is to apply predictive analytics to compare led generation alternatives. This allows marketers to perform pro forma modeling, compare scenarios, see the trade-offs, and plot the shortest and least cost route to the most qualified sales leads.
The data that drives the pro forma calculations is sourced from campaign and sales history if its available or industry benchmarks if it's not. In working with software publishers to populate predictive models, we often find that many believe they do not have the necessary data. But quite often they have more data than they think, it's just fragmented and disorganized in siloes.
The research found that predictive analytics was the technology that most separated the highest and lowest performing Software-as-a-Service companies.
86% of the Best-in-Class regularly used predictive analytics, which was 65% higher than their lower performing peers. This is a significant difference that should not go unnoticed by those marketers seeking more and better leads for the pipeline.
Precision marketing, technology automation and predictive analytics are three of several evidence-based best practices that can be applied to grow the SaaS marketing funnel.
There are other best practices that can also be helpful. They include brand development, revenue engineering, strategic pricing, white space analysis, customer lifetime value, sales and marketing alignment, and product innovation to name a few.
The most helpful best practices for any given technology company will depend upon the company's baseline performance and goals they wish to achieve.
The takeaway is that evidence-based best practices show how to grow the funnel most effectively. They provide prescriptive guidance to forecasted results and share lessons that save time, reduce investment and minimize risk.