By Stephanie Carrillo, Senior Marketing Consultant at Heinz Marketing

A few weeks ago Heinz marketing put on a three-hour Predictable Pipeline workshop with ON24, part of the fastFWD webinar series. This event had over four hundred attendees made up of marketing professionals across several different B2B industries. We polled to see how confident everyone felt going into the 2021 sales year throughout this live event and if they felt prepared in the areas covered during the workshop consisting of ideal customers, buying committees, messaging values, content strategy, campaign planning and measuring results– all critical elements for building a predictable pipeline strategy.

At the beginning of the program, we found most respondents felt neutral about being prepared.

How prepared do Marketers feel for 2021?

After reviewing the 160 responses, 85% of the respondents rated their confidence level between three and five. Only 1.3% of marketers feel optimistic they are ready for 2021. (click to see the image clearly)

Chart on survey results for how marketers feel prepared for 2021.

We are wrapping up a year like no other with the epidemic, multiple national disasters, and cities struggling to open to full capacity; not one industry has not been impacted by events from this year. Its to be expected sales and marketing teams are not confident about 2021.  Who could be with all the curveballs and the changes?  It is essential to go back to the basics and redefine your predictable pipeline strategy.

What three key areas did marketers feel needed improvement?

The three areas attendees felt needed the most improvement included the buyer and customer journey by 62.3%, campaign planning by 52.8%, and 50.9% content.  All three areas are closely aligned with each other to ensure the pipeline flows through the sales funnel.

They found the areas where they needed less help included internal roles and responsibilities by 7.5% and tech stack by 17%. (click to see the image clearly)

Chart showing the three key areas marketer's feel they need to improve in 2021

Where to begin in refining those three key areas marketers expressed concerns?

My first recommendation– watch the FastFWD on-demand workshop. Cheri Keith and Matt Heinz not only review the core concept of each predictable pipeline element, they dive into the details of how you should tackle and think about each of these areas in terms of your overall organization. Even if you’re familiar with the ten stages, there is always something new to learn.  If you do not have time to spend watching the webinar, I would, at a minimum, download and use the FastFWD workbook as the frameworks outlined in the workbook will be helpful in the development process.

Tackling your buyer and customer journey

Now that you have all your tools, your buyer and customer journey is the first place to begin. The buyer’s journey will play into your content and campaign strategies and impact your overall sales funnel (see how they work together in my last blog post). Chapter three, page 16 of the workbook, outlines the six stages of the customer journey awareness and solution, selection and service, engagement, and advocacy/loyalty.  When we review each of these stages to define them, we start with six primary areas: the customer stage, the buyer’s participants, the buyer’s questions, the buyer’s actions, the buyer’s needs, and our sales marketing goals.

First, start with defining your customer stages, clearly explain each step, outline the buyer’s questions for each step, and your overall organizational goals for these stages. Use the framework examples to help guide you on the types of questions you should be answering.  Now begin to layer in each of the pieces.  Start to outline the buyer’s actions at each stage and the buyer’s needs.  If you discover something new during these steps, make sure to update your customer stage definition to encompass it. The second to last step is to determine who the buyer participants are at each of these stages. Not everyone is active simultaneously. Your content and messaging at these stages will play a significant role in moving your buying committee down the sales funnel.  Use the example frameworks and the template on page 27 to help guide you in this process.

Once you have defined a more substantial buyer’s and customer journey, the final step is to have the sales team and marketing teams sign off on the final strategy documentation to ensure alignment.

Next steps

Now that you have a new and improved buyer and customer journey, take all those buyer and customer questions and needs outlined in your strategy and use them to frame your challenge messages for your messaging strategy (chapter four of the workbook).  Writing down and fully understanding your customer’s needs and pain points to help you define your organization’s strengths over your competitors’ and identify where to focus your content. Interview your customers, talk to your sales teams, review industry reports to learn more about your customers and the market. Do the research.

Finally, define your content strategy to see what is missing and identify gaps.  Content significantly impacts your sales funnel and will determine the offers for your campaign strategy based on the different stages of your buying and sales journey. All frameworks are available in the workbook (chapter five for content and chapter eight for campaign planning).

Good luck!