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Your guide to the new sales funnel

Your guide to the new sales funnel Kent Lewis

One of my favorite shows on television is "CSI: Las Vegas." I appreciate how the producers have made something as tedious as forensic science both sexy and compelling. As a marketer, our job is to "sell" sexy, yet we must rely heavily on data and process in order to achieve desired ROI. In an unending quest to improve the efficacy of our digital marketing efforts, I've developed a new methodology that combines the powerful analytics behind CSI forensic DNA research with the tried and true sales and marketing funnel.

Putting the "fun" in the sales funnel

Before jumping into the methodology behind fingerprinting digital marketing DNA, let us first talk about the sales and marketing funnel. Marketers of merit are intimately familiar with the traditional sales funnel: awareness, interest, intent, and purchase. In order to successfully convert a new customer, you must take them through the sales and marketing process, from initial awareness to purchase.

We rely on the funnel methodology when developing digital marketing strategies, as each step of the sales process must be properly addressed to generate customers. While there are many variations in nomenclature around the number of stages or names in the sales funnel, I've felt there is a universal weakness among them all: They don't address the customer as a marketer and sales driver.

At Anvil, roughly 40 percent of our new revenue is generated by our existing clients, in the form of new projects and referral business. That number far overshadows our other sales and marketing activities. As such, I felt the need to factor happy clients into the traditional funnel. The net result is a new, upgraded sales funnel -- one that incorporates customer evangelists, not only as a final stage but as the most important stage of the sales process.

The sales funnel 2.0

As marketers, you should focus your efforts on targeting prospects that have the greatest likelihood of becoming evangelists, then structure your efforts, and those of the business, around them. For example, ensure your customer-facing employees are properly trained to identify happy (and unhappy) customers and empower them to become evangelists for your brand. Reward employees that regularly delight customers; your business will thrive as a result.

Digital marketing DNA methodology

Now that you have an understanding of the evangelist stage, we can introduce the concept of digital marketing DNA. Essentially, every company has unique marketing fingerprints, and understanding those fingerprints provides powerful insights and opportunities to further enhance overall ROI. The "fingerprint" is created by assessing current marketing programs, both digital and traditional, across the entire sales funnel, based on efficacy. For simplicity's sake, the analysis assumes all disciplines have full potential regardless of stage of cycle.

While the process and output is not an exact science, it will provide relative insights. Each discipline (i.e. search engine optimization, social media, or mobile marketing), is assessed for overall reach and efficiency for each stage of the funnel. To ensure the best possible results, you must create rules around evaluation criteria like "reach" and "efficiency." For the following example, I used a fairly qualitative barometer of "potential reach" and "potential efficiency" of each discipline on a scale of one through four (with four being the maximum.) With definitions in place, it's time to follow the four step analysis process outlined below.

Step 1: Benchmark your marketing DNA

The first step is to benchmark your current marketing efforts. Pick as many sales and marketing activities as possible or prudent (based on bandwidth and accessibility to data). Assess the selected activities based on total investment as well as potential reach and efficacy across each stage of the funnel. As mentioned above, this is a qualitative exercise, but one that, if conducted properly, can yield powerful insights with the relative output.

In the example below, I selected a subset that represents a typical digital marketing agency like Anvil. You can see below that marketing automation has not yet been set up. Another important point worth clarifying: Search engine optimization (SEO) and pay-per-click (PPC) are not designed to create demand and generate awareness, as they require the prospect to enter a search phrase, which implies they already have awareness around a topic. The last noteworthy point is that direct response is not as effective at the top of the funnel with awareness, as it is at the bottom of the funnel, in terms of creating conversions.

In the above example, each activity was assessed on a scale of one through four, where four implies maximum reach (relative to that discipline) and efficiency (campaigns are fully optimized.) As you can see, social media marketing and public relations (PR) are the strong points for this company. The evaluation is based on overall investment in the activities as well as sales data (lead source) for new business.

Advanced marketers may take this forensic audit to the next level by tabulating scores for each stage, across disciplines (or even by discipline across stages). For example, using the one through four scoring scale as a percentage of total potential, the stages outlined above would score as follows:

  • Awareness: 17/32 (53 percent)

  • Interest: 18/32 (56 percent)

  • Intent: 14/32 (44 percent)

  • Purchase: 12/32 (38 percent)

  • Evangelism: 15/32 (47 percent)

  • Total: 76/160 (48 percent)

Step 2: Benchmark the competition

The second step is to conduct a competitive benchmark. For optimal results, consider benchmarking three to five competitors, including a mix of local, regional, and national companies. Select sales and marketing activities that can be efficiently and accurately measured. In the example below, I selected SEO, PPC, social, and PR, but you are welcome to incorporate other activities if you have the time and resources (making sure to adjust your scoring accordingly).

In the competitive benchmark example above, you can see there are slight differences between the two. Specifically, the SEO efforts are more linear (which may be due to better product page design and lead capture). Similarly, PPC efforts are rated higher based on a larger media spend on targeted keywords and customized landing pages. Social media performs better in the evangelism stage since the competitor is more effective at connecting with and engaging customers. PR is the one area where the competitor did not outperform the company benchmark, due to lack of focus or resulting coverage.

  • Awareness: 11/16 (69 percent) vs. 10/16 (63 percent)

  • Interest: 12/16 (75 percent) vs. 11/16 (69 percent)

  • Intent: 9/16 (56 percent) vs. 7/16 (44 percent)

  • Purchase: 6/16 (38 percent) vs. 5/16 (31 percent)

  • Evangelism: 8/16 (50 percent) vs. 7/16 (44 percent)

  • Total: 46/80 (58 percent) vs. 39/80 (49 percent)

For advanced marketers keeping score, the competitor outperformed the sample company 58 percent to 49 percent. Repeat this process for two to four more competitors and see how you stack up.

Step 3: Set a target benchmark

Once you've assessed your competition, you should have a good idea where you want or need to be in terms of the ideal funnel. As the old adage goes, you don't have to outrun the bear to stay alive; you just have to outrun the person next to you. Translating that to the funnel, ensure your resources are properly deployed to create the most robust and competitive DNA profile possible. The goal is to have a target of at least 50 percent potential across all stages of the funnel, including all activities.

In the example target benchmark below, the sample company has significantly beefed-up all sales and marketing activities, most notably marketing automation. The company is clearly investing more in online and traditional advertising to be more competitive. With additional effort spent on user experience and conversion optimization, all activities see improvement in the purchase stage. Also note that some activities are inherently better at creating evangelists than others (PR and social being top performers).

  • Awareness: 24/32 (75 percent)

  • Interest: 23/32 (72 percent)

  • Intent: 20/32 (63 percent)

  • Purchase: 18/32 (56 percent)

  • Evangelism: 18/32 (56 percent)

  • Total: 103/160 (64 percent)

Overall, the target benchmark for the sample company (64 percent) is a significant increase over the initial benchmark (48 percent). You may want to set a higher target benchmark for your company, but remember it's about outrunning the competition, not the bear.

Step 4: Schedule audits

The final step in the sales funnel forensic audit is to schedule additional audits in regular intervals to evaluate overall success. I recommend quarterly audits, as they offer the best balance between the need to deploy resources productively yet continue to measure progress toward the target benchmark.

  • Awareness: 19/32 (59 percent)

  • Interest: 22/32 (69 percent)

  • Intent: 21/32 (66 percent)

  • Purchase: 17/32 (53 percent)

  • Evangelism: 18/32 (56 percent)

  • Total: 97/160 (61 percent)

In the example above, the sample company has not met the (64 percent) target across activity or funnel stage, but there is notable progress (61 percent). If this were a real audit conducted over a three- to six-month interval, I would say this is a significant achievement.


The above process was designed to create a deeper understanding of the sales funnel and how marketing activities impact the bottom line. Most importantly, marketers must understand that evangelists drive your business and determine the future health of the company (think NetPromoter Score.) By following the four steps outlined above, you will gain insights into strengths and weaknesses of your current marketing mix and sales strategies and adjust accordingly. By measuring toward target goals over time, you will maximize the value of this exercise.

Conducting a sales funnel forensic audit isn't for everyone. Data-driven marketers may find the evaluation process and criteria too subjective or relative. Intuitive marketers (like me) may find the data collection and analysis elements tedious. Regardless of your personality or resources, I highly recommend gaining a better understanding of your current marketing DNA fingerprint, particularly against your top competitors, as it will help provide critical insights that will ultimately alter your activities and lead to better overall ROI.

Kent Lewis is president of Anvil Media.

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"Beautiful pin-up silhouette" image, "Smooth black satin" image, and "conversion funnel" image via Shutterstock.

With a background in integrated marketing, Lewis left a public relations agency in 1996 to start his career in search engine marketing. Since then, he’s helped grow businesses by connecting his clients with their constituents via the...

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