Your prospect clicks on an ad. They purchase.
All B2B founders know this is something of a grand illusion and would be utopian, if this was the reality at their startup. But that’s okay, because a full-funnel growth strategy can be incredible, if executed correctly.
While a full-funnel growth engine is built around content, it’s content that is well thought-out and placed strategically at all stages of a customer journey, with the purpose of converting and retaining customers.
Over the past year, I’ve been scaling my own B2B virtual sales staffing company, Sales Kiwi, from zero to $2.5M+ ARR. What we quickly learned, was that the growth efforts needed to be well thought-out, rather than distributed randomly. There needed to be a full-funnel engine to support our leads as they came in, all the way through activation and retention. For the purposes of this column, we’ll be focusing on acquisition specifically. It doesn’t work to have paid acquisition, an automated email here, random social posts and a blog which gets updated infrequently. Instead, a successful growth program consists of a fluid engine with correct ideal customer profile (ICP) messaging, and entire funnel coverage for every contact which enters your system.
I’ve distilled what a well-oiled B2B full-funnel engine looks like, starting with identifying your ICP, setting the engine up, and continuously optimizing it. Keep reading to learn how to set your B2B startup up for success.
With my latest startup, we didn’t start to create a full-funnel strategy until we surpassed our first 100 customers. Before then, our entire focus was on finding PMF (Product Market Fit) and unlocking paid acquisition.
Below are the three stages to consider as a baseline for when to start building your full-funnel strategy:
1. Product Market Fit (PMF),
2. First 100 Customers,
3. Scaling Zone.
You shouldn’t consider any full-funnel strategy until you’re past stage one, and well into stage two. There are two major reasons for this: growth efforts should be spent finding your ideal customer profile (ICP), while unlocking PMF and a full-funnel strategy doesn’t benefit startups much, until there’s enough volume coming through the funnel.
It’s absolutely vital to identify your ICP before getting into the weeds on anything for your funnel strategy. Without your ICP, nothing will work. So, begin by identifying who your ideal customer is. Below are some sample questions to ask customers, to start building their profiles:
Sample ICP Question List
Once you have your ICP, you can correctly set up your message positioning, which then allows for a full-funnel strategy to be deployed. I’ve written an entire column dedicated to helping startups identify their ICP here, so I won’t deep dive on that in this one.
A full-funnel strategy is harmonious when set up correctly and includes many touchpoints which eventually close and retain your customer.
To distill what your full-funnel should encompass, I’ve created a sample list on the type of growth mediums and content pillars to consider:
What you don’t want to do, is to have distributed growth marketing efforts with messaging that’s inconsistent or lifecycle campaigns which don’t cover every potential drop-off point.
So, how does one create this harmonious engine? I’ve broken the process down into three easy steps:
Without understanding how your customers are moving through your funnel until close, it will be near impossible to craft your strategy. A simple exercise you should do, is to map out your typical customer from the moment they enter your Customer Relationship Management (CRM) to when your north-star metric occurs – e.g., a closed sale. Does a lead typically schedule a demo and then close after two weeks? If so, what efforts are being made to close them during those two weeks post-demo? These are the sample questions to ask yourself, when considering the touchpoints necessary to close a customer.
Example customer touchpoints prior to closed sale. Image courtesy of Jonathan Martinez.
It’s typical for a B2B startup to have a 45-day window between initial lead to a closed sale, and the graphic above depicts various touchpoints that a hypothetical customer can have prior to converting.
Example of not having a full-funnel engine in place. Image courtesy of Jonathan Martinez.
In contrast to the various touchpoints, this depicts a startup that has no full-funnel engine or content in place and is banking on lucky closes happening after a sales call. This is not what B2B startups should do and leaves an abundance of conversions on the table.
Once you have your journey mapped out, the real work begins towards figuring out the type of content needed to help push customers through your funnel. Using the sample list of the types of content, start by placing each piece in strategic/planned areas of the funnel. While you typically want to make sure that lifecycle campaigns are hitting every step of the funnel, that’s the only caveat. The rest of the content types should be leveraged only in certain areas.
I’ve created a guide below on how to think about the various stages in your funnel and the type of content which makes the most sense strategically for each step:
Top of the Funnel (Awareness)
Middle of the Funnel (Consideration)
Bottom of the Funnel (Decision)
Ultimately, the key is to align your content and medium selection with the specific needs, preferences, and behaviors of your potential customers at each stage of the funnel. This comprehensive style of thinking will help nurture your leads, build trust, and drive conversions for your B2B startup.
But the buck doesn’t just stop at placing content in the customer journey. Instead, this is when exhaustive testing should begin.
It’s important to understand that not all content will be a huge success within the steps of the funnel, even with the best strategy. With your data, it now becomes a game to understand which pieces of content are resonating well for the different customer stages. Maybe you find that blog content doesn’t work at the top of the funnel but works better in the consideration stage. Or maybe you find that video testimonial content works best when placed in lifecycle campaigns in the middle of the customer journey (i.e., demo > contract sent).
What’s important is to continuously test different mediums and styles of content to optimize your full-funnel strategy. While leading growth at Postmates, we had a lengthy signup flow for users to become drivers to deliver food. There were steps that required adding sensitive information such as the individual’s Social Security number and driver’s license. We had to be methodical on how to alleviate concerns with those different pieces of content during these steps, such as sharing testimonials from other drivers who were happy working for Postmates.
Once you close your first 100 B2B customers, it’s time to start thinking about your customer journey, their touchpoints, and the content that your startup creates to close them. A well thought-out full-funnel strategy is what will take you to 200 customers, 1,000 customers, and beyond. But without one, you’ll be leaving large pools of customers at the door.
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