In just a couple of weeks, it will be that time of the year again. The time which some of us are waiting in anticipation, while some may already experience panic-like symptoms. It all depends on how the business has been doing, but most likely the people in the marketing department will be in the first mentioned group, while those working in sales end up in the latter.
This is not about the office Christmas party, no matter how virtual that is going to be. It is not about the New Year’s bash either, even though so many of us is desperate for 2020 to go away for good.
It is about the start of a new fiscal year. The somewhat contradictory moment in companies when the marketing budget is full and unused while the sales figures are showing a big fat zero. In Finland, we have this saying “The years are no brothers to each other”, meaning that no matter what has been achieved, however much over the budget we ended up, on January 1st we all go down to Ground Zero and begin the climb up from scratch.
The end of the sales funnel
The time has come to roll up the sleeves and once again get to the beginning of that traditional sales funnel. Time to hunt and farm leads, time to work prospects and close deals.
Except that it does not have to be that way. Actually, what HubSpot’s CEO Brian Halligan claimed at the Nordic Business Forum’s New Normal event in September, it even should not be that way.
“If companies have done systematic inbound marketing, they have gained assets such as backlinks to their site, social media followers and even customers who advocate for their brand. Those assets have the power to build momentum, attracting new visitors and leads to come in and even referring new business.”
The changes are huge, but at the end of the day, Halligan believes companies still want to thrive instead of just surviving. The smart thing to do is to lean into the inevitable changes and to make the most of the opportunities they create. Momentum is the keyword, and Halligan has already replaced funnel with flywheel in the way he looks at how inbound marketing can work most efficiently for the benefit of the company.
“Increased site traffic, new leads and customers, free sign-ups and the enthusiasm of existing customers create leverage and momentum. The more you can create that kind of force, the faster the flywheel spins. On the other hand, you have to be able to minimize the friction in order to maintain efficiency and to keep the flywheel spinning.”
HubSpot’s CEO Brian Halligan.
The new faces of marketing
Before the era of digitalization, the sales reps had a lot more information about both their products and the alternatives in the market than the customers. They were in a key position as information providers and trust builders. The more sales reps a company could afford, the more outbound tactics it could employ.
After the turn of the millennium, the power shifted and marketing established a bigger role. Now that the customers were in position to go online and get pretty much the same information as the sales reps, the competitive advantage went to marketers that were able to create relevant content that managed to pull prospects in.
Marketing has evolved from product marketing to experience marketing; the ability to create an experience that surpasses the competition plays a key role in any company’s success story. In the quest of keeping that flywheel spinning at an accelerating speed, the way a product is marketed, sold and served to the customer is today at least as important as the product itself.
The more satisfied customers you have, the faster the flywheel spins. The lower friction it has by being self-serving and on the market where people actually want to buy, the faster your business can grow.
“The momentum is shifting again”, Brian Halligan emphasizes. “Now, delighted customers are the biggest new driver of growth.”
Brian Halligan concludes by saying that it is really hard to get that right, but deep down, it is one of the best ways to gain competitive advantage. The competition is tougher than ever, and the customer has an endless supply of choices. To stand out, you have to touch deep.
“This is the time to challenge the norms of your business and then rethink the conventional. The changes this situation forces may very well turn out healthy for your business.”