To maximize marketing effectiveness, you need to have a clear understanding of your entire sales process—from the moment a prospective customer first hears about your company until well after they make a purchase.

Unfortunately, many small- to mid-sized businesses focus narrowly on one to two key numbers such as how many demo requests they’re receiving from their website or how many people are signing up for their e-newsletter instead of looking more broadly at their entire sales pipeline. This is something we see all of the time when meeting with prospective clients and it’s often what’s keeping them from generating more conversions.

By spending the time to better understand prospect engagement and your sales pipeline, you will be able to build a more cohesive marketing strategy while also improving your return on investment—we’d say that’s worth the effort—wouldn’t you?

Where to Start

The first step is identifying your starting point. Typically, this is when customers first become aware of your product or service. This could be social media, your business blog, LinkedIn, event marketing, etc. At this point, prospective customers are early on in their decision making process and likely gathering information to help them as they move closer to making their purchasing decision. The goal here is to gather contact information, drive registration for an upcoming event, etc.

When we work with clients, this is typically a really big “ah ha” moment. Instead of only focusing on those one to two key numbers we mentioned earlier, they start to see their marketing more cohesively and how everything fits together. Instead of fixating solely on social media, we start to explore the best mix of online and offline tactics for their target audience based on their insights around consumer needs, pain points, and desired outcomes.

From there, we move to nurture marketing—leveraging information gleaned from that first point of contact to start building deeper relationships. This usually includes a mix of targeted emails, educational webinars, customer testimonials and success stories, etc. The goal here is to peek their interest and increase the likelihood that they’ll want to buy from you.

After that, we’re in the active sales cycle. Here you generally have more one-on-one conversations and communications with prospective and existing customers. The goal is about earning their business. When you’re successful, you have a new customer and the sales pipeline typically ends. However, that’s where we start to enter the conversation about customer retention.

It Doesn’t End With The Sale

With a bowtie sales pipeline, you don’t just stop when the customer makes a purchase. Instead you continue to nurture those relationships to generate referrals and repeat business. Of all the missed opportunities we see when we’re working with companies, this has to be it. These are people you’ve won over. You’ve already done all of the heavy lifting.

When we work with clients, we spend time upfront learning about their sales pipeline. If they don’t have one in place, we take them through the process step-by-step. Once we have the framework in place, we can then start to develop an integrated marketing strategy that aligns with their sales pipeline based on clearly defined key priorities. This allows us to have bigger picture conversations and identify breakthrough objectives that usually aren’t possible when you’re focused on more granular marketing metrics.

Digital and online marketing and the rise of the connected customer continues to add layers of complexity for organizations of all sizes. Successfully engaging current and prospective customers requires having a holistic view of your entire sales process—from the moment they first learn about your business until well after they make a purchase. As you think about your marketing strategy going forward, be sure to spend some time understanding your sales pipeline so you can start to draw more of a straight line between marketing and conversions.