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Flipping the Funnel with Joseph Jaffe

A couple of week ago I had the pleasure of hearing Joseph Jaffe speak at ExactTarget’s Connections 2012 conference.

His core message: why waste millions trying to acquire new customers when if you just looked after those you already have, new ones will follow. 

Turn the funnel on its side and instead of focussing on filling it up at the top, instead look at how you can look after the individual at the bottom.

Makes sense right. After all I’m sure everyone has heard the statistic that it costs eight times more to acquire a new client, than to look after an existing one. (Where did that statistic come from anyway?)

At first, it sounded like Jaffe’s talk was simply looking at marketing from an academic angle. After all every marketing graduate can recite the degree playbook: “marketing is all about putting the customer at the heart of your business”.

But who actually does that? Hands up marketers, particularly those working in B2B, who has the job to do anything other than acquire new customers?

OK OK, in B2C there is a lot of money spent on customer service: call centres, satisfaction surveys, loyalty campaigns, ambassador programs, reward cards, the list goes on. But is any of it actually effective?

The answer for some is: yes absolutely. Look at Zappos and you’ll see a great case study in customer service, customer retention and so on. Jaffe actually quoted the CEO of Zappos:

we’re a customer service company that just happens to sell shoes.

But what does this mean to the B2B world? What lessons can we take away, with our longer sales cycles, field marketing teams, education campaigns etc etc?

Here are my top three:

1. 80% of your contact database is irrelevant, so why not delete it?

I’ve worked with many B2B marketers who base their marcoms on data volumes. You need a good database to communicate to and open and click through rates are simple metrics to work with right.

However what would happen if you took that a step further?

Look at who actually opens your event email, or promotion, or reads your whitepaper. Rather than hammer your full database a dozen times, identify those who have engaged with your message and pick up the phone. Yes you Joe Marketer, talk to those who read your message and start a conversation.

If your primary lead gen tactic is event marketing, imagine if on the day of your event you had 50 leads rather than 500 prospects. What’s going to make the sales director happier? Which is more valuable? What happened to your campaign costs and ROI?

Jaffe talked a lot about the Pareto principle (again, nothing new I hear you say) so why not just focus on the top 20%. Go on, delete the rest, after all, they’re never going to buy from you anyway. It just makes you feel good to have a large database to eblast.

2. Fire your PR, marketing and advertising agencies.

If the job of your agencies is about getting more leads into your pipeline, whether through advertising, lead gen, digital marketing, events, PR, whatever the tactic, fire them and take a year off.

Use the time and budget to invest in your customer relationships. Look after your existing clients well. I mean, really well. See what happens. Find out if continual growth really is the only way, or if by becoming a customer service company first, you can ditch the half (or more) of your advertising that isn’t working.

I challenge you Oracle, or IBM, or Deloitte, or CBRE. Try this in one geography (say Ireland for example; chances are it’s a small territory for you anyway) and build relationships with your clients.  Real relationships. Start learning:

  • What do your customers want more or less of?
  • Which product features aren’t being used?
  • Would a SaaS approach work better?
  • Does that acquisition make sense?
  • Are hourly fees the right approach or is a fixed fee easier to swallow?

Spend the money you would have spent on all your agencies and campaigns and build some real customer relationships instead.

(Caveat: if you are a client of Klaxon, please disregard lesson number 2.)

3. Go digital with your marketing (and I mean every last communication).

If everything you did offline was replaced with online, how much less budget would that require?

Lets take your average event. The biggest expense is your venue (catering and room hire), followed by your agency fees and then probably production – graphic design, AV etc. What would happen if you invested that budget in an online question and answer environment instead?

Picture Quora, or Amex’s excellent Open Forum, where you have experts on hand 24 hours a day helping customers (and prospects) to find answers?

We could build you a digital environment tomorrow that can handle requests until the cows come home. Oh and by the way, it will also provide a permanent resource for new prospects and clients, which is also a great way of attracting search engine love and inbound enquiries.

How much money and resource could you save by not printing out those 10 page hand out packs, putting your logo on 500 pens, bags, folders and USB sticks?

OK so the chances of you as Joe B2B Marketer doing any of the above are pretty remote. But surely this is an easier exercise than for those dealing with high volume consumer markets.

What if you tried just one of these tactics? Would it make a difference?

  • Chris

    Didn’t seth godin write that book?

    • Andy Bargery

      Hi Chris,

      You are absolutely correct, Seth Godin did write a book called fliping the funnel, which can be downloaded for free here.

      Looks like Seth got in there first too… his book / blog post was published way back in January 2006.

      Andy