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AI-Based Insights & Tighter Handoffs Between Marketing And Sales Help B2B Brands Close Funnel Gaps

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The B2B buyer’s journey is a nonlinear, lengthy process that often spans multiple channels and involves several stakeholders. For many brands, this causes a leaky funnel filled with inaccurate or incomplete account data and leads that get lost in the handoff between marketing and sales. But B2B companies such as Fiix Software, Aprimo and Okta are rising to the challenge and taking proactive steps to identify and fill funnel gaps with the help of AI-fueled technology and ongoing sales alignment.

“Funnel challenges typically start with either system design or system execution,” said Dan Shaw, Chief Revenue Officer at Fiix Software, a cloud-based CMMS and asset maintenance software company, in an interview with Demand Gen Report.“Having a full-funnel view of the processes and data is critical. If that doesn’t exist, then the people inside the system will be making well intentioned, but independent decisions and the results will be inconsistent.”

According to Demand Gen Report research, 43% of B2B marketers say they are unable to track buyer activity across stages and 50% struggle to measure impact across channels. Leaky funnels may be a common challenge, but their effects are not to be underestimated. Research from Dun & Bradstreet shows nearly 20% of businesses have lost revenue and customers due to inaccurate data and 19% say their financial forecasts have been inaccurate as a result.

“Many practitioners in this space have been at it for more than 10 years, but [funnel gaps] are still a huge pain point,” said Andrew Hull, General Manager of Perficient Digital, a digital transformation consulting agency, in an interview with Demand Gen Report. “A lot of it is that as these companies continue to grow and expand, innovate and change, and people move between organizations, all of that can create turmoil within the systems and cause you to lose track [of buyers] or things that aren’t well documented.”

B2B Brands Leverage AI To Address Funnel Gaps At Scale

Forward-thinking B2B companies are successfully improving their funnel by leveraging AI-fueled technology to help marketers enhance and sort through account data, as well as enable sales teams to accelerate deals.

Lennard Fischer, VP of Demand Generation at the identify management company Okta, uses LeanData to prioritize and route leads. By combining intent data with AI, the revenue operations platform positions Fischer’s teams to identify top target accounts and route them to the right sales representative as quickly as possible.

“Timing is the most important thing,” said Fischer in an interview with Demand Gen Report. “Leads are perishable. They’re like fruit; they’re not like Twinkies. So, the biggest deterrent to our conversion rate is time.”

According to Fischer, using LeanData has helped Okta improve conversion rates and reduce the time to close, fueling the company’s 50% year-over-year revenue growth.

Marketing productivity and digital asset management provider Aprimo also uses intent data and predictive analytics to improve funnel health. The company leverages 6sense, an ABM orchestration platform, to gain account-level insights on buyer behavior throughout the funnel. The insights are used not only for targeting and segmentation, but also to arm sales reps in the later stages of the buyer’s journey and to help accelerate deals.

“For us, marketing isn’t just sourcing leads and opportunities, handing them off the sales and then our job is done,” said Ed Breault, CMO of Aprimo, in an interview with Demand Gen Report. “We follow that process all the way through to bookings. So, while sales works on an opportunity, we’re still looking at the predictive demand on these accounts and letting our sales team know how their behaviors have changed.”Similarly, Fiix Software, relies on FunnelCake to ensure leads don’t get lost in the handoff between marketing and sales. The company uses the lead-to-revenue management system to detect any areas of risk, such as when a lead hasn’t been contacted quickly or when an opportunity has been in a certain buyer stage for longer than normal.

“With a large team managing thousands of leads and hundreds of opportunities every day, having a solution that provides this type of visibility is really valuable,” said Shaw. “The true magic [is that] our reps are notified daily when leads or opportunities are at risk or outside of SLA, and managers leverage the tool in their weekly one-on-ones to ensure funnel challenges are remediated quickly.”

Data, Processes Key To Foundational Alignment

Industry experts say addressing funnel gaps is impossible without having your revenue teams aligned around the necessary processes and data.

“The importance of alignment cannot be overstated,” said Steve Watt, ABM Strategist at Quarry, in an interview with Demand Gen Report. “True efficiency and effectiveness depend on marketing and sales thinking and operating as one team. [That means] shared goals, shared metrics, shared incentives [and] seamless partnership at every stage of planning, execution and optimization.”

To start, marketers must ensure they have developed agreed-upon metrics and goals with sales at the onset of a campaign. Experts then recommend marketing and sales teams meet on at least a monthly basis to review conversion rates and pipeline velocity and assess overall funnel health.

According to Fischer, planning and alignment are crucial to campaign success at Okta. The company’s sales and marketing teams start by outlining a plan, which includes target accounts, expected pipeline and the resources and investments required to reach those goals. They then meet on a regular basis to assess campaign status, funnel health and make any necessary adjustments.

“For me, marketing and sales are one team. We perform different functions, but we’re all on the go-to-market team,” said Fischer. “There’s a lot of back and forth and planning … I don’t think there’s a day or even half a day when I’m not talking to somebody from sales about what’s going on in the business and how we can support them better, or about what’s working and how we can replicate it.”

Alignment is also a top priority at Fiix Software, where the sales and marketing teams meet on a weekly basis to check in with one another. In addition, they meet for a half a day each month to review the health of their entire funnel. Shaw says having these check ins and a centralized view of the data enables them to quickly identify any issues and tackle them together.

“Sales and marketing alignment is a requirement for a healthy funnel,” said Shaw. “At Fiix, this starts at the top. Both our CMO and I have lived in environments where sales and marketing alignment was challenging. We vowed to do things differently.”

B2B brands looking to improve conversion rates and maximize pipeline in 2019 must first take a hard look at the health of their funnel. This means ensuring the right technology is in place to uncover and remedy any gaps at scale, and the people and processes are aligned to optimize execution.

“If there are inconsistencies [in the funnel], those need to be identified and addressed. Usually, this is done through a combination of enablement and technology,” said Shaw. “This was easy to do when we had a relatively small organization. Over time, we’ve depended more and more on data and technology to identify execution challenges in the funnel.”

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Mark Halstead

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