Focus Funnel Expert: Barbra Gago of Cloud9 Analytics

Continuing with The Funnelholic’s series of interviews with industry thought-leaders who contributed to the Focus Experts’ Guide: Sales and Marketing Pipeline and Funnel Models, today we interview Barbra Gago, Social Media Manager of Cloud9 Analytics and contributer to the Cloud9 Analytics blog. Barbra recently joined Cloud9 Analytics, and has consulted businesses on Web-content strategy, inbound marketing and social media for the past four years.

The Funnelholic: Explain your approach to the funnel.

Barbra: The funnel is entirely focused on the buyer’s experience through their buying process, and puts as much emphasis on that same prospect even after they become a customer. The funnel follows the steps that the B2B Buyer 2.0 would engage in.

Buyers start their journey within the community, as members of a professional network; as they become more engaged in a community, they learn best practices and realize they might have a problem, then they move through the funnel as usual. Once they become customers however, the funnel continues to engage them. The goal is to turn prospects into customers, and customers into evangelists. To the right of the funnel, you notice actions the brand takes to ensure value is provided every step of the way.

The Funnelholic: Besides your own, were there any other funnels that resonated with you?

Barbra: Matt Heinz’s funnel puts almost as much attention on the customer as it does on the buyer. I think that is extremely important, and I noticed that most funnels have conformed more to the “new” buyer, but a big influence on those potential buyers are current customers-turned-evangelists, and I think this only happens by extending the funnel to engage customers with as much attention as you gave the prospects.

The Funnelholic: What did you learn from the exercise?

Barbra: That everyone’s funnel is different, and it should be. If customers are different, then sales processes should also be different, and I think this book is a clear example of that. For each group of buyers and businesses, there is a different style funnel. No one funnel is the “right” way, but one thing is for sure: It’s the buyer who defines it, not the company.

The Funnelholic: If everyone needs to create a funnel to model their business, what are best practices for creating it?

Barbra: The most critical step is knowing who you’re selling to. You can’t create a sales process around a buyer you don’t know. Getting to know them can happen in a number of ways; analysis of deals you’ve won, interviews with current customers, community engagement, listening and asking questions to the community your buyers are part of. The thing to remember is that you need a process that aligns with the way they work, and is dynamic enough to engage appropriately based on their actions. Once you understand your prospects and what their buying process is like, you can dig deeper by understanding what they need at each step. This is where content comes in, but it’s also what forms the internal sales process, and the alignment of sales and marketing. You need to know when marketing is involved, and when sales comes in — and in this 2.0 world, it’s a lot more back and forth between the two — so clearly defining your sales process (and how marketing supports that) is critical.

Join the conversation: Is the funnel still a relevant metaphor for the b2b sales and marketing process?’

Craig Rosenberg is the Funnelholic. He loves sales, marketing, and things that drive revenue. Follow him on Google+ or Twitter