It always amazes me how many people assume marketing is the magic bullet to increased sales and revenue for a business. While marketing is critical and the funnel to sales, it alone does not a sales strategy make. We often talk about the 3 to 5 touch points a brand needs to make from a marketing standpoint, but it's just as important to talk about what happens before and after the marketing team does its magic.

Pipeline Development

A pipeline is the feeder to all things sales. In fact, if you don't know how many people are in your pipeline currently, and what your conversion or close ratio is, you're probably one of the millions of businesses out there that's on the sales struggle bus.

Knowing your numbers in sales is like following a good recipe. When you know the ingredients, you'll know what's going to come out of the oven. But, if you forget a few components, you'll wind up with a tasteless, flat cake that no one wants to eat. It's the same thing in sales.

Developing a pipeline can and should come from both online and offline efforts. So step one should be determining your pipeline (sales) baseline. If you're starting from zero, this should be copied directly from your pro forma as a hypothesis to be tested.

Your Unique Sales Funnel

Once you have your baseline, it's time to develop your sales funnel. A typical sales funnel looks like an inverted triangle. At the top of the triangle are visibility and awareness opportunities--think in-person events, social media, advertising, and content that drives that first point of contact with your company. At the bottom of the funnel are the big wins--that huge client or sale.

Good sales and marketing teams think not only about how to drive initial contact with a brand, but they also think about the customer journey and the graduated levels of service offerings, content, and calls to action that drive someone down through their sales funnel.

The best thing I can do is share with you our personal funnel at Elevate My Brand. At the top of our funnel, we have advertising, social media, referrals, speaking events, in-person networking, and content marketing. That's how people come into contact with our brand. Once they do that, we have several paths that engage them with our brand at the next stage of our funnel. For some, we immediately go into a consultation discovery call. For others, we offer our free marketing guide. Either way, it's important that the first level of the funnel is engaging and tantalizing. We call this the irresistible offer.

Once people go through the initial process and determine they have an interest in working with us, we bifurcate our customer journey. Some go directly to proposal mode (those are the clients with clear budgets and timelines) and others have an interim step of filling out our entry questionnaire. The detailed questionnaire not only allows us to hit the ground running and understand a brand on a deeper level, but it also shows us who is really serious about working with us and who isn't. That's the great thing about a successful sales funnel: It also weeds out those who aren't a good fit.

Once a client is determined to be ready and have the right budget and need, the next step of the funnel is hourly or project-based work. Some clients need to go in this direction because of budgetary limitations; others use it as a test to determine whether they want to develop a long-term relationship with the agency. At the bottom of our funnel is AOR, our agency of record model. This is where brands sign up for full-service experiential and digital support. That's where we are able to do our best work and best support our client brands.

Whether you're a service business or a scalable product, you have a unique sales funnel that you need to strategically develop based on your customer journey to drive visibility and awareness. When done right, that journey eventually turns into a conversion (a purchase or hiring decision). That's when the magic happens.