Conversica named a Leader in The Forrester Wave™: Conversation Automation Solutions for B2B, Q1 2024

Leading Your Funnel Strategies With Experience-First Mindset

David Greenberg

Chief Marketing Officer

The Funnel Files: Experience First
The Funnel Files: Experience First
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Best PracticesBrand Experience
Published 06/17/24
6 minutes read

As a CMO, I am constantly seeking ways to elevate not just Conversica’s business and customers, but also the industry. Reflecting on the current state of lead experience and the traditional ways marketing has engaged with prospects, it’s clear that brands need a seismic shift in their approach to lead engagement to stay relevant and win in the market.  Let’s discuss how.

Long gone are the days when brands dictate the pace, direction and touchpoints of the buyer’s journey. With the proliferation of search, social and review sites, in addition to the significant influence of peer networks and referrals, today’s buyers are in control of the buying process and now choose when to engage. Consumers now embark on their journey equipped with extensive research and informed opinions long before they decide to engage with you. To truly cut through the noise while also building lasting connections with their buyers, marketers will need to prioritize creating a new vision of their brand’s early lead experience.

In this new mindset, marketers need to develop a concierge level of service to buyers. By offering concierge-level engagement that makes every prospect feel valued and prioritized from day one, marketers can ensure a seamless and impactful journey through the funnel.

A concierge-level experience also reinforces consumer trust. With increasing concerns around privacy and trust, reliance on third-party data is rapidly declining. This shift underscores the critical importance of first-party data, which, while more valuable, also comes with higher expectations and responsibilities. To garner this data, brands must earn the trust of their audience, demonstrating a commitment to transparency and privacy. By fostering genuine relationships and providing value at every touchpoint, marketers can secure the essential first-party data needed to drive personalized and effective marketing strategies.

Finally, marketers need to be aware of the dark funnel’s impact and develop appropriate metrics. Metrics like click-through rate and traffic sources can’t account for social media sentiment, Slack messages, word-of-mouth buzz, or Zoom call banter. The dark funnel poses a problem for standard metrics because a large part of the customer journey is occurring without marketers’ being able to measure it.

A shift in how we think of the traditional sales funnel is happening. How can we collectively meet this moment?

The Old Mindset has Limitations in this New Paradigm

The old-school marketing funnel that leads potential customers through the linear path from awareness and interest all the way to purchase doesn’t cut it anymore. This practice, known as “stuffing the top of the funnel,” isn’t effective in converting today’s savvy and omnichannel consumers. Similarly, going after leads too aggressively can, and often does, backfire. Today’s buyers are savvy and can be turned off by pushy tactics and premature follow-ups.

Instead, what really moves the needle now is the quality of customer’s (or potential customer) engagement. Consumers are increasingly making their buying decisions based on their interactions and overall experience with brands rather than the product itself, which makes the quality of their engagement critical in today’s funnel. Hyper-personalization and targeting allow marketers to meet the customer where they are in their journey. In fact, the vast majority (80%) of customers say they are more likely to do business with a company if it offers personalized experiences. To appeal to new and existing customers, marketing should focus on creating meaningful interactions and delivering exceptional experiences. That’s how you build trust and connections that lead to long-term success.

Traditional sales roles are evolving. AI tools that optimize, and automate, tasks can help free up sales leaders to focus on more high-priority business tasks. Data shows that buyers prefer to avoid talking to sales reps altogether if they can help it. They’re looking for a smoother, more autonomous experience, which AI-fueled applications can facilitate. This shift means that sales teams are becoming more like order takers, stepping in only when the buyer is ready to finalize a purchase. As a result, marketers are now expected to fill that gap and move customers down the funnel as sales teams are only engaged later in the process. This kind of team organization puts more work on marketers’ shoulders and doesn’t utilize sales teams’ more technical skills.

It’s up to us to guide prospects through their journey, providing the information and experiences they need to make confident decisions on their own. This is where two-way communication and personalization become critical to the consumer experience. To truly stand out, marketers need to deliver unexpected, personalized experiences that feel like a genuine conversation. This means creating two-way interactions that are rich with context. Show that you understand their journey by remembering past interactions and tailoring your communication accordingly. This level of personalization builds trust and keeps prospects engaged.

5 Strategies to Win with an Experience-First Mindset

To truly excel in today’s buyer-centric world, we need to shift our focus to creating exceptional lead experiences from the very beginning. Here are five strategies to adopt an experience-first mindset that will not only engage prospects but also build lasting relationships.

  1. Offer a Concierge Experience Early On
    Treat your early prospects like VIPs. Individualize a concierge-like service from the start to help them learn about the industry, the solutions available, their pain points, and the implications of those pain points. Make sure you deliver materials on request and keep it non-salesy. Regular, no-stress check-ins can go a long way in building trust.
    AI Lead Follow up
  2. Drive Experience Against Key Prospect Milestones
    Focus on the key milestones that matter to your prospects, not just your internal metrics. Understand and enhance their first-touch experience, the sales cycle experience, and the post-purchase experience.  Knowing these milestones will help you create more meaningful engagements, two-way communication, and custom support.The Conversica Customer Journey
  3. Lead with a Consumer Service Mindset
    Approach leads with a mindset of service, not just conversion. Avoid being pushy and allow buyers to engage on their own timeline, but always provide openings for them to connect. Engage in meaningful, two-way conversations and prioritize education—helping your prospects learn is paramount. Provide a way for buyers to get answers fast and deliver an amazing experience by making your AI team members your most knowledgeable product experts.71% of consumers say they prefer to gather information themselves rather than speaking with a human.
  4. Embrace AI to Scale Personalized Service
    The acceptance of quality AI engagement is on the rise. Be among the first to leverage this technology to differentiate your brand. For example, use AI to avoid asking customers the same questions repeatedly, show you’re learning from each interaction, and create “wow” moments for your prospects.
    Following up after a chat conversation
  5. Be Proactive When Potential Customers Engage
    Use AI-powered Revenue Digital Assistants™ to get smarter with each engagement. Avoid redundant questions by remembering what you’ve learned about your prospects. Instead, ask quality questions that build on previous interactions. This approach shows that you care and are attentive to their needs. It also creates positive brand interactions.
    Pipeline Push in Real Life

So, What Next?

It’s time to take a close, honest look at your company’s current lead experience. Assess where you truly stand and identify gaps and areas for improvement. This self-assessment will provide a clear understanding of your starting point.

Then it’s time to take action. By following these steps, you can transform your lead experience, making it more engaging, personalized, and ultimately, more effective.

  1. Develop Clear, Achievable Milestones
    Develop a plan with clear, achievable milestones to help your team mature your lead engagement efforts. Focus on the areas of your funnel with the greatest opportunity, particularly where conversion rates are lowest compared to industry standards.
  2. Enhance Your Lead Experience.
    Consider how integrating AI assistants can enhance your lead experience by facilitating two-way conversations and making your engagements more personalized and responsive.
  3. Prioritize High-Value Use Cases
    Start with a high-value use case that will bring significant benefits to your business, often by improving inbound conversion rates. Ensure that your triggers and automation align with your ideal lead experience, designed to engage and delight your prospects at every touchpoint.

The goal is to create a more dynamic and responsive lead experience, setting the stage for stronger relationships and better outcomes. Let’s make every interaction count and demonstrate that we value our leads from day one.

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