Pipeline, or pipe for short, may sound banal but it is a revered concept among B2B CMOs. Although we’re not literally talking about “a line of pipes with pumps, valves and control devices for conveying liquids, gases or finely divided solids” per Merriam Webster, we can easily find the metaphorical equivalents since what’s being conveyed in B2B pipes is liquid gold – potential customers.
In fact, mastering the lead management pipeline is so important that it can easily dominate the conversation when B2B CMOs convene. Among the 50 or so CMOs I spoke with in February via CMO Huddles, over 90% can tell you their promised contribution to pipeline, where the leaks are, where the flow is bogged down and what they’re doing to optimize performance. Here are just a few of the ways marketers are engineering their pipe dreams into reality.
Priming the Pump
There is no pipeline without leads. Obviously enough, but what do you do when lead flow suddenly drops or your primary source of leads (like physical events) is no longer an option? This is the exact challenge most B2B marketers have faced since the beginning of the pandemic. Among the more interesting solutions, unique experiences that break up the monotony of “Blursday.” These highly-targeted virtual events offer a mix of education and entertainment without sales pitches while creating the opportunity for customers to do just enough selling to generate a truly hot lead.
Another pervasive means of attracting leads is content, loads and loads of content. But increasingly, CMOs are seeing content performance drop as competitors flood the market with their own “must-read” or “must watch materials. Caught in an arm’s race, some CMOs are opting for quality over quantity, focusing on creating fully integrated digital experiences backed by proprietary research. In this approach, content feels more like good old-fashioned campaigns, with all the components supporting a single meaningful idea.
While conducting proprietary research has long been a weapon of choice among smart marketers, it used to be slow and expensive. Now, thanks to polling services at companies like Pollfish, Survey Monkey and Propeller Insights, marketers can field studies amongst just about any audience, domestic and international, for under $50,000 in a matter of weeks. Or if you’ve built up your own target database, you can conduct your own studies and do so on a regular basis. Two other tips – make sure you review the questionnaire with a research pro so the results will stand up under scrutiny AND ask your PR team to write the headlines they hope the research will generate.
Seal Your SEO Strategy
If there’s a substance worth more than oil to the marketer, it’s probably organic site traffic. This is the gift that Google can keep on giving – traffic to your website that you didn’t have to buy. Earning this traffic is another feat of engineering, balancing the terms that are searched most frequently by your prospects with the terms that you actually have a chance of ranking for. It takes time (at least 4-6 months), even for the top SEO pros and it takes a combination of high-quality long-form content (like a research study) and lots of satellite pieces linking to the mother ship.
Gut the Gates
For the record, as a voracious content consumer, I hate gates. I suspect you do too. Yet most of you still throw up obstacles between your potential customer and the content you so carefully crafted for their consumption. Why? Is that captured email address worth it relative to all those who left before they could consume your well-researched, well-reasoned insights? And here’s the irony, there’s martech available (one CMO recommended Drift bundled with Clearbit) to identify site visitors. Here’s one rule of thumb we use – only gate content that is worth paying for and if you have that kind of content, charge for it.
Even the best of pipeline “engineers” have challenges. We’d love to hear yours.