Why would you even need a marketing pipeline?
Good question. To start, most leads just simply aren’t sales ready. Leads that come in through outbound cold-calling or other types campaigns might be considered as qualified leads, but it does not mean they are ready to enter an active buying cycle.
Enter the marketing pipeline. A well designed pipeline can help nurture and convert many of these qualified prospects through much more effective communication methods. Trying to keep track of prospects, lead volume, next steps, etc. can also be extremely tough to do and time consuming without some type of pipeline designed to do just that.
Timing is also a huge advantage in this process as scheduling out drip campaigns can ensure you stay in the minds of your prospects constantly (and hopefully right when they are ready to buy). During every stage of the buying process, potential customers will also want particular content and information and certain times throughout. Improving each stage along the way can drastically increase your conversion rates over time.
Attaining and retaining customers are clearly two of the most important keys for any business-to-business (B2B) sales and marketing goals. A successful marketing pipeline can help improve both areas and optimize the same over business goal -- increased revenue.
Marketing pipelines will help you get to much higher conversions from your prospects while doing much less work. This will help you work smarter and free up a ton of more time for other tasks (especially important in smaller stage startups where people are having to cover a variety of different roles at once).
A well designed pipeline can also provide details such as how long opportunities have been open and help plan for estimated close dates. We’ll go over a a few different options to help bootstrap an initial marketing pipeline on a budget but first we’ll get into some good practices. There are various different approaches you can choose to go with and being creative around your specific needs will help get the most out of each choice.
Key approaches for a successful marketing pipeline
Know when to sell to your prospects. Do not sell them in the beginning if they are not ready to enter a buying cycle. Understand what funnel they need to go through based on their behavior and needs.
Some prospects might need to be educated first on why they even need your product/service -- especially if they currently have not considered using something similar.
Those that currently use a competitor to you probably already know the value of your service or product but need to understand why what you have to offer is better (and if it’s worth their time to go enter a buying cycle to find out).
Here at Help.com, we like to separate our prospects into a vast variety of different pipeline funnels but with two very broad approaches (those who have live chat implement on their website and those who do not) before breaking them down into more specific paths.
For instance, if a company does not have live chat on their site then we might be able to safely assume that they either have not seen value in using such a tool or that they simply have not even considered it. If it’s the latter, we can take an approach to educate them on why live chat is important for their industry/goals and provide value around that idea.
Whereas if it’s a matter of them already having live chat on their site then we will have an entirely different approach involving providing them enough value to display how we are better than what they currently use and why making a switch is worth their time.
Fortunately, much of what is described above can be automated to save time using different types of software and specific prospect behavior triggers. Let’s dive into some of the different options out there to give you an idea of what can be used in your marketing pipeline arsenal.
To help automate many of the funnels and paths that potential prospects can go through, we’ll first get a marketing automation platform in place. These can range from free versions all the way up to software that costs $3,000/month per month but we’ll focus on the much cheaper alternatives below.
Email drip campaigns can be set up using marketing automation platforms to automatically place different prospects in specific campaigns based on their behavior (using precise triggers).
Leadsius - Prices range from a free version (up to a 2500 contact database size) all the way up to an enterprise level. This can be a great option to try out marketing automation for the first time with a free plan that surprisingly covers quite a bit.
Analytics and Testing
Google Analytics - Most people know about (and use) Google Analytics but some aren’t aware the testing options that are completely free. Most notably that Google Analytics gives you an effective way to A/B test landing pages and also a platform to track where your prospects are coming from (along with many other metrics that can be quite useful).
Social Media Management
Social media can’t be completely automated but using social media management software can sure help reduce the amount of time you spend on it. Scheduling tweets, posts, and everything in between can help free up quite a bit of time that can be used for more important tasks. You can also automate the practice of content curation which is sharing content that you didn’t create but that will provide value to your prospects (and current customers).
Buffer - This is what we use for social media management at Help.com and have found it to be a very suitable option. The have a free plan that allows for 1 social profile.
If you want to spring for the $10/month plan then you will be able to use up to 10 social media profiles. Start out on the free plan and focus on improving your skills on your most appropriate social media channel and then think about expanding as needed.
Email Marketing Options
Email marketing platforms can help you create and maintain all of your email campaigns (drip campaigns for specific funnels, etc.) Create awesome email templates and automate them to be sent out on your accord. There are a ton of email marketing solutions out there (MailChimp being the most known) but I’ve actually found one that in my opinion is great when trying to bootstrap you marketing pipeline on a budget.
Mad Mimi - With plans starting as low as $10 per month (and up to 500 contacts), Mad Mimi allows for users to easily create and implement a successful email marketing campaign. They also integrate with your social networks and CRM’s (customer relationship management software). Their simple design options also allow for some sleek email creations.
Customer Review Options
Another route that can help improve a marketing pipeline is setting up a steady backlog of reviews from your customers around different software and service review sites. Entice your customers to leave as many reviews across the various platforms (free month of service, t-shirts, etc.) to ensure that prospects will be impressed if they come across or are lead to your reviews. Below are a handful of sites that you can easily create pages for your company for free.
All of the above should give you a quick start and some ideas on how to create a successful marketing pipeline on a limited budget. Be sure to play around with different approaches and constantly be testing what is and isn’t working. In the end, you will find what makes it easiest for your prospects to move forward during each step of the buying process until they convert. Oh-and most importantly, always provide value to your prospects throughout the entire pipeline -- at all times.