What Funnel Flipping Means to Me

I attended the Flip My Funnel conference in San Francisco today, which was exciting in that it was the first conference I have attended that was completely dedicated to Account-Based Marketing (ABM) – a topic I am very passionate about. There were a lot of people talking about their experiences around ABM, a few folks trying to shoehorn their solutions into an ABM box, and a genuine interest in this rising B2B marketing trend focused on identifying and then targeting the companies that you think are most likely to actually become customers of your products and services.

In case you are new to the ABM trend, I have written a few blog posts on account-based marketing and you can find the event organizer’s explanation of the ABM funnel-flip here. In a nutshell, however, Account-Based Marketing moves away from a focus on generating a large volume of individual leads, which are then sorted in order to identify interested individuals from companies that might buy your products and services. Instead, B2B marketers decide which companies you think have the highest likelihood of buying and trying to generate interest from multiple potential buyers at those companies.

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The entire event was highlighted by having the speakers provide their definitions and examples of how they “flipped their funnels,” focusing their marketing efforts on select accounts instead of traditional lead-based marketing. I am mostly on board with the “flipped” funnel, but with a few exceptions and adjustments…

At the top, you have “Identify,” which is really the heart (to me) of account-based marketing. The creation of the target account list is the first, vital step that you need to take in order to succeed in ABM. As I wrote in a blog post called What Sales is Really Asking for When They Want More Leads:

Take a look at your best customers, and identify what they have in common. Are they all from a select group of industries, with certain minimum revenue thresholds? Are they all using the same CRM system, or ERP? Did they just receive a round of funding, or report earnings that were in line with expectations? Identify their common ground, and then search for more companies that share similar characteristics to build your target account list.

That account list will drive everything you do, and if you have not spent the time on creating the right list you are stuck in that same cycle of generating leads from companies that are never going to become customers.

Next up you have “Expand” and “Engage,” although to me these might be better served by reversing their order in the funnel. These steps signify the difficult process of generating interest from the accounts on your target list, but not just from individual leads at those accounts. The most effective Account-Based Marketing campaigns take the entire buying committee into consideration. B2B buying decisions are so rarely made by individuals, and true ABM needs to account for large buying committees, create and serve content that serves the diverse and different needs of every member of the committee, and then work to connect with multiple contacts at every target account. You need to expand beyond that initial engagement with a singular lead from an account and expand your engagement across the entire buying committee.

The next stage in the Flip My Funnel diagram seems a bit premature to me … “Advocate.” I’ll be honest, I’m a little confused here because I so routinely associate that advocate stage with existing customers, getting them to become so invested and excited by your products and services that they tell others. In reading the definitions on the Flip My Funnel blog, they definitely seem to be talking about creating customer advocates … but in the context of my “flipped funnel” I feel like we haven’t even closed the deal yet.

In the context of Account-Based Marketing, there could be some definite pre-sales applications of this “Advocate” stage. When you try to cast a wide net across a single account, engaging them with content that appeals to every member of the committee, then you may create those pre-sales advocates that will share and spread the word across the buying committee. If that happens, you are really doing something right.

All in all? A fun event, an exciting topic, and some great speakers. Interest in Account-Based Marketing is on the rise, as more vendors are trying to figure out how to best serve the needs of marketers looking to focus on accounts instead of leads. Check them out at http://flipmyfunnel.com/roadshow/.

Author: Jason Stewart @jstewart_1 Vice President, Strategic Content for ANNUITAS