There are so many interesting conversations going on right now about marketing, and if you are listening in as I have been lately, the messages are important, accurate and very consistent.

“Attract your target audience into the sales funnel.”

“Transition visitors to your site from anonymous explorers to marketing qualified leads by providing content that answers a question or a need.”

“Nurture by providing valuable and engaging information (that by its nature builds trust and confidence). “

“Move them deeper into the funnel by demonstrating how what you have to offer meets their needs and convert them to sales qualified leads and then customers.”

Like water following a riverbed down to sea level. Wow. It almost seems to good to be true.

For the most part it is true.  Although to put it in more traditional terms, a lead who takes the next step, whether it’s downloading a white paper or an e-book, registering for a webinar, or signing up for a newsletter is giving a “buying signal.” And woe to the sales and marketing organization of today (or any day) that doesn’t have its ear to the ground on that one.

In our exuberance over the power of  inbound (at least as it is often being discussed today) it is important not to lose track of the role of brand-building and where it falls in the funnel-equation.

If you look, really closely look at the marketing funnel there is this very tricky moment when a living, breathing person decides if they are going to jump in.  And that choice is an emotional decision based on how he or she feels about taking the plunge.  As they stand on the edge of the funnel they are saying to themselves, even if unconsciously:

Do I recognize this organization?”

“Do I believe they are who (and what) they say they are?”

“Do I trust them enough to risk the next step?” 

“Are they worth my heart and my mind – even if it is only to spend enough time with them to see what happens next, let alone give them my email?” 

“Or, am I better off to back away?”

“Before I expose my interest and my hand?”

(And that itchiness – most prevalent in a B2B environment and non-millennial demographic – does not even include the downside of what happens when someone makes their interest known in an online environment that is not supported by an adept marketing automation program.)

So what makes someone willing to jump?  What makes a person willing to dive into the funnel and flow like water to their conversion-destination?

I am not alone in advancing the idea that it is a belief and a feeling that they have in their heads (and in their hearts) about the company’s brand.

Here is an apt description of what I mean by brand, which is differentiated from the way brands are being discussed so often today, as in “See the best practices of what brands are doing on Instagram in 2015.”

A brand is a promise:

  • Thad delivers on a pledge of satisfaction and quality
  • That acts as a collection of perceptions in the mind of the customer
  • And is the sum of the total of the entire customer experience

Put simply, a brand is a reason to choose.  Or as Robert Passikoff so correctly put it in an article for the Forbes CMO Network:

Engagement with the brand – real emotional engagement with the brand – should be the ultimate objective, since it’s the point where the consumers “see” the brand as better meeting the expectations they hold for the Ideal in the category where the brand competes. When they do that, they behave positively toward the brand, the real bottom line, because real emotional engagement correlates very, very, very highly with positive consumer behavior, sales, and profitability.” (Forbes, CMO Network, 6/17/2013 Defining Brand Engagement)

Our ability to understand and engage with customers is a giant step in marketing evolution (as are the analytics that this engagement creates.) It has allowed an unprecedented alignment between sales and marketing, which in turn – for the businesses that do it right – has lead to unparalleled business success. To put it another way, as noted in a study by the Aberdeen Group, “Companies with strong sales and marketing alignment achieve a 20% annual growth rate while companies with poor sales and marketing alignment have a 4% revenue decline.” (HubSpot Blog, 3/6/2014)

What doesn’t necessarily appear in that story – and perhaps can’t, is that the alignment between sales and marketing that drives success is not simply agreement about inbound and the sales funnel or about terminology and processes, and conversion goals.  It is also an agreement between sales and marketing about the importance and power of the brand, and a shared determination to put resources, energy and commitment into brand-building as well as lead generation.

In other words it is not just Smarketing, the love-child of the integration of sales and marketing into the customer acquisition, growth and retention processes.  It B-Smarketing. With brand promise, brand awareness and brand loyalty at the core.

Share this Story:
  • facebook
  • twitter
  • gplus

About Barbara St. Clair