Why the ‘middle’ is such a great place to find new business opportunities for tech companies
The middle can be a tough place. As the middle child of a large Catholic family, I always liked to pretend I was somehow a victim of ‘middle child syndrome’, ignored and forgotten. For writers, the ‘mushy middle’ is when they write great beginnings and endings, but struggle with the middle of their story. ‘Middling’ is used as a definition of mediocre.
The ‘middle’ can certainly be a place ignored in tech marketing, the place where marketing and sales don’t quite align.
At the top of the sales funnel, marketing often does its job well. Lead generation programmes are run to generate traffic using email and social and ads and SEO. Good content then engages potential buyers and gets them downloading and turning into new contacts in your database/CRM. So far, so good.
These raw ‘leads’ are only in the early stage of their buying journey, just starting to understand what their problems or needs are and how they could potentially address them. The content they are consuming will typically just help them understand these issues better.
They may well have just stumbled across your content by accident, not really understanding what it was about. Or they may understand what they are getting, but not be a good fit company or the right buyer persona. Then there are the students, job seekers or garden variety tire kickers. The less mature your lead generation programme, the less likely it is to produce quality leads.
Even if you have a well-targeted lead generation approach, that generally attracts the right type of prospects, most people at that first conversion aren’t ready to buy. In either scenario, salespeople can get frustrated when they chase new leads with little return. Marketing’s contribution is seen as marginal, and they conclude prospecting is better done by themselves.
At the bottom of the sales funnel, things are different. Again, marketing are running conversion offers – demos, webinars, case studies, sales consults etc. People that convert at this stage are usually more qualified and have much more intent to buy. Sales can often create a deal and start working their magic.
Here volume is the issue, with only a small proportion of all those progressing through the sales funnel popping out at the bottom of the funnel. If your sales ‘lions’ are relying on this to satisfy their hunger, things could get pretty lean.
What about the forgotten middle?
An untapped source of leads can be those contacts in your database that have been converted at the top of funnel, but haven’t raised their hand to engage with sales (e.g. for a demo or consultation). They are receiving and opening emails, visiting pages on your website and perhaps downloading more content assets. Often ignored, these contacts in the middle of the funnel can be a rich source of potential.
Marketing can run programmes to engage these prospects. Content like case studies, buyer’s guides and ROI tools can all work well for buyers in this part of their journey. Compelling content can engage these prospects and push them to the bottom of the funnel to take action. But not always.
Another way to start engaging with this group of prospects is to classify their interest in some way. For example, contacts in your database that are opening email communications and visiting product information and similar pages on your website could be categorised as ‘engaged’, and then nurtured with specific email offers or pop-forms on your website. For those prospects who show more intent, for example visiting your pricing page, these can be notified to a sales person for evaluation.
This is one of the key roles your CRM can play in supporting lead generation. By linking the behaviour of prospects (e.g. website page visits, email opens, LinkedIn post clicks) with their record in your CRM, sales gain powerful insights for engaging proactively with middle of the funnel prospects.
Sales still need to check to assess whether these leads are a good fit, but it will give them a steady stream of prospects that are more qualified and more engaged than those at the top of the funnel. And marketing enhances its credibility as a provider of potentially useful leads.
That credibility helps a lot with aligning marketing and sales, where marketing is delivering a consistent stream of qualified leads, and sales are focussed on following them quickly and effectively. Which makes the middle a pretty useful place when it comes to marketing your tech.
Want to know more about building an efficient sales model for your tech business? Join Concentrate’s Owen Scott and Greg Williamson in this Techweek webinar.