The marketing funnel has been a mainstay for B2B marketers seemingly forever. In fact, we’ve even written about it with some regularity.
It was a great way for B2B marketers to organize and visualize how they move potential customers from awareness to MQL. First, you use marketing channels like display, social, and content to create awareness. Then, you create consideration and interest with even more content, search, and retargeting. And then you convert visitors into leads through gated content (ebooks, webinars, etc.).
As soon as the marketing efforts successfully get the visitor to fill out a form, the funnel ends. That’s where the lead is passed off to the sales team and marketing is no longer responsible for the engagement. After MQL, the marketing team wipes its hands clean.
The marketing funnel gives a clear and straightforward goal for marketing strategy and tactics: leads. Without the data and tracking capabilities to go beyond this, tracking to MQL can be a good shortcut for tracking business value. While the projection from leads to business value is notoriously unreliable, it’s certainly a step up from not tracking anything.
But because the marketing funnel typically ends there, marketers are disconnected from the closing of the deal and the ultimate revenue decision.
Some marketers think this is actually a good thing because the funnel’s limitation removes revenue accountability. Unfortunately, that also means that it removes revenue credit.
The B2B marketing funnel is dead.
The marketing funnel is bad for marketers
The existing B2B marketing funnel is keeping marketers from receiving the credit they deserve. Of course when marketers are evaluated based on the number of MQLs they generate, they optimize for MQLs. But as we mentioned earlier, the projection from leads to actual business value is unreliable. On average, just 1% of those leads convert to customers. Reporting on a number that, on average, produces success 1 out of 100 times isn’t very meaningful, nor is it very actionable. Executives aren’t impressed, and marketing just looks like an unfortunate means to the sales teams’ ends.
It’s also bad for the company...
Even worse is that the marketing funnel’s limitation is not just bad for marketers, it’s bad for the company’s bottom line.
Marketing and sales needs to be aligned for B2B companies to be successful, and that can’t happen when marketing is using one funnel and sales is using another.
Marketing could generate tons of leads, but if they’re not very high quality, they’re useless. The marketing funnel will look good (tons of leads!), but business results will be bad. That’s the problem when marketing is focused on a goal that is misaligned with what the rest of the company needs.
The health of the marketing funnel alone doesn’t represent the health of the company’s pipeline, and ultimately the health of the company.
With the B2B marketing funnel, goals and incentives are misaligned.
The B2B marketing funnel is dead; the pipeline funnel is alive.
The pipeline funnel starts at first contact and, unlike the marketing funnel, it ends at sales closed. It gives the marketing team and the sales team the same goals and the same language to communicate with each other. Success is measured by business goals, not marketing goals; revenue, not leads.
Marketers, with the pipeline funnel, focus on generating more MQLs, more SQLs, more sales opportunities, and more deals. It’s about using the entire pipeline to achieve business goals. When marketers are connected to and can see all the way down to the deal, they are able to see that if they generate higher quality MQLs and SQLs, more deals happen. Marketers are incentivized to look at quality, not just quantity.
It changes the marketing team’s mindset to be aligned with the rest of the organization.
When the marketing team reports on the pipeline funnel and is held accountable for revenue, they’re speaking the same language as everyone else, and it gives them legitimacy.
It says, We’re all in this together.
So when you come across content that promises lead gen growth or demand gen growth or anything else that focuses on just one part of the full pipeline funnel, don’t ignore it outright -- think about and assess whether the tips and tactics they lay out help drive the most important funnel metric: revenue.
The pipeline funnel is alive.