The impact changes in the consumer marketplace and technology are having on the marketing funnel and how marketers can adapt were major themes in early sessions of the Revenue Driven Marketing Summit hosted by Aberdeen Group in Boston, MA.

New Technology Empowers Customers, Creates ‘Hidden Sales Cycle’

Trip Kucera, Senior Research Analyst, Marketing Effectiveness and Strategy for Aberdeen opened today’s program with an introductory talk about what marketing is experiencing today. “There are new technologies, new mediums and new targets,” he said. “You’re engaging with empowered customers in both the B2B and B2C marketplaces. “

In response, Kucera said marketers are “digitizing processes from the top of the funnel to the topline. There is much more data, and more buzz around Big Data but probably more action around predictive analytics.” In addition, Kucera said a “hidden sales cycle” has entered the traditional funnel of lead generation, lead management and opportunity management. This hidden cycle, which often occurs later in the buyer’s journey, consists of influences like social media, communities, content and peers. “You need to put your listening ears on,” advised Kucera.

Turn Your Funnel into a Pipeline

Following Kucera’s remarks, Russell Fujioka, VP of Enterprise Solutions and Business Marketing, Dell, urged marketing and sales executives to move beyond current best practices in order to reshape their funnels into free flowing pipelines. “If you’re at best practices right now, you’re probably behind,” stated Fujioka. “If you haven’t met a mathematician lately, you need to go hug those folks.”

Fujioka said there is so much data now available, tools alone cannot do enough to uncover actionable information. “Algorithms can determine cause and effect,” he said. “Some tools can’t answer why certain things work. But there are some people at MIT that probably can.”

Fujioka said that by changing its marketing model from quickly providing customized hardware to delivering full-scale IT solutions and developing ongoing customer relationships, in three years Dell has increased marketing-led revenue by 125% every six months and increased the growth of social media-driven dollars in the marketing pipeline by 20% every quarter, among other results.

Fujioka also focused on the funnel and how marketers can alter its shape from a typical “cannoli” (he gave a nod to the world-famous Mike’s Pastry in Boston’s traditionally Italian North End neighborhood) to a more streamlined “pipe.”

“The key part is the fulcrum,” he said. “What are the pressure points, amplifiers and things getting in your way? If you keep filling the left side with fuel and your win rate doesn’t improve, you won’t be more successful but will spend more money.”

In addition, Fujioka said marketers must closely analyze the right side of the funnel. “Those things that made it through got there for a reason,” he said. “Predictively analyze why they did.”

By properly analyzing what happens in the fulcrum and why some leads are converted, Fujioka said marketers can create an “aspirational” funnel where targeting is so good the lead-to-success ratio can wind up being “something like two to one instead of 10,000 to one.” And in the future, “the right side will be wider.”

Fujioka gave two final pieces of advice to marketers seeking to create an aspirational funnel. One is to create the position of vice president of customer success. “If you don’t do that, you don’t have a chance,” he said. The second is to remember that word of mouth always has been and always will be the strongest influencer on consumer decisions.

“It doesn’t matter what the audience or product is,” he said. “The difference is we now have tools to amplify word of mouth so instead of telling two friends who tell two friends, you can go on LinkedIn and pretty quickly spread the word to 25 million contacts.”