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How Your Brand Can Optimize It to Boost Conversions

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How Your Brand Can Optimize It to Boost Conversions

An effective B2B SaaS sales funnel is critical for your brand to drive conversions. But 68% of companies say they haven’t attempted to evaluate the impact of their sales funnel and 79% say that marketing leads are never converted.

The result is a growing need for in-depth sales funnel optimization: Companies need to consider how current funnels are performing, where they need to improve, and what steps they can take to achieve this goal.

In this piece, we’ll dig into B2B SaaS sales funnel basics and explore five ways your brand can optimize this approach.

B2B Sales Funnel

While the stages of the SaaS sales funnel mirror those of less specialized sales approaches, the specifics of each stage differ. Let’s take a closer look at each.

Prospects

The prospects stage is the most general and involves broadly identifying potential prospects from the market at large. The goal here isn’t to make a sale on day one but rather to raise awareness of your brand to help potential customers understand that you don’t just deliver a product, you deliver a service that’s continually supported over time.

This stage of the funnel is also known as TOFU, or Top of the Funnel.

Lead Qualification

The next stage in the SaaS sales funnel is sales qualifaciton. This focuses on vetting leads obtained in the first stage: Are they interested in your SaaS solutions? Do they have the budget and decision-making authority to purchase your product? Qualified leads help sales teams boost win rates; unqualified leads can waste time for marketers, sales teams, and customers themselves.

Intent

Intent speaks to the portion of the funnel which sees leads activity looking to learn more about your SaaS solution and draft an agreement. In this stage, your sales teams are looking to connect more deeply with prospects and answer any questions they have, ASAP.

Both lead qualification and intent fall into the middle of the funnel, or MOFU.

Close (Won or Lost)

The last stage of the sales funnel is closing. Also known as BOFU or bottom of the funnel, closing isn’t always a win — your team could almost close the deal and find themselves frustrated at the last moment.

It’s also worth noting that closing in SaaS sales isn’t an end state but rather the beginning of a relationship. Ideally, your sales team wants to negotiate an agreement that sees customers purchase initial services and come back for contract extensions time and time again.

Ready to start optimizing your SaaS sales funnel? Here are eight ways to improve.

1. Boost Awareness with TOFU

TOFU content is designed to promote awareness of what your product can do and encourage prospective buyers to get in touch. Consider the example below of Adobe’s Creative Cloud on Facebook. The company offers a slick video along with a link to on-demand video content that dives into the use of 3D art tools — which Adobe just happens to sell — and how they’re impacting automotive design.

Other TOFU approaches include how-to guides, tutorials, and multichannel social media campaigns.

2. Optimize Your Content

Content optimization takes place within 3 specific content generation tactics: utilizing a multi-channel messaging strategy, improving thought leadership positioning, and segmenting the content’s delivery.

The goal here is to connect with potential customers and give them a more in-depth look at what your brand does and what sets it apart from the competition.

3. Target the Most Valuable Leads

The first tier of funnel optimization suggests that marketers focus on targeting the most valuable leads by examining how customers sought the information to begin with. Value propositions that resonate with select groups will facilitate the differentiation of these targets. This can be the most effective when exemplified by website design, management, and optimization.

4. Qualify Leads

On average, only 27% of B2B inquiries are qualified before they are given to the sales team. This is a problem since unqualified leads are far less likely to drive conversion. As a result, it’s worth taking the time to ensure leads have the intent and authority to make purchasing decisions.

5. Improve Lead Nurturing

Now the spotlight moves to lead nurturing. Here, the goal is to engage with potential customers and provide answers to whatever questions they may have. The better your nurturing efforts, the more likely you’ll be able to close the deal and drive SaaS revenue.

6. Make the Most of MOFU

Middle of the Funnel efforts focus on intent. This goes beyond lead nurturing to dive into the details of conversion. From a SaaS perspective, this means working with B2B leads to determine their specific needs and design offerings that best align with their budget and business goals.

The more specific your team can get in discovering key pain points and potential remedies, the better your MOFU efforts.

7. Close the Deal and Keep Them Coming Back

Now it’s time to close the deal. This means presenting leads with a finished contract and service-level agreement (SLA) along with negotiating the length of the contract term. Depending on your SaaS model, you may offer a free trial or the option to cancel without penalty for the first few months.

While the best bet here is a long-term (one year or more) contract, B2B leaders may be reluctant to sign on the line for that long. No matter what the term length turns out to be, however, the underlying rule remains the same: Focus on over-delivering to exceed expectations to ensure businesses keep coming back.

Worth noting? Even lost deals offer a valuable lesson. Rather than simply chalking the experience up to bad luck, it’s a good idea to hold a team debrief to discover where sales funnel processes worked as intended and where improvements could be made.

8. Measure Success

Once you have optimized to this point, on average, 20% of your leads will have converted into sales. This number is even more important when you realize only 32% of organizations have actually identified their marketing funnels.

As a result, it’s critical to measure both current and historic success rates to see if you’re heading in the right direction. If not, it’s a good idea to assess your B2B SaaS sales funnel approach and make changes as needed.

Facilitating Funnel Functions

The concept behind the sales funnel is straightforward: Capture broad leads at the top and then refine these leads at each step to drive conversion.

In practice, however, funneling can be both time- and resource-intensive, especially for B2B SaaS connections. With an approach that targets valuable leads, highlights your ongoing value proposition, and quantifies success over time, your brand can boost funnel function and win more long-term deals.

Editor’s note: This post was originally published in August 2011 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.

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Content Operations Framework: How To Build One

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Content Operations Framework: How To Build One

More and more marketers of all ilk – inbound, outbound, social, digital, content, brand – are asked to add content operations to their list of responsibilities.

You must get your arms around:

  • Who is involved (and, I mean, every who) in content creation
  • How content is created
  • What content is created by whom
  • Where content is conceived, created, and stored
  • When and how long it takes for content to happen
  • Why content is created (the driving forces behind content creation)
  • What kinds of content does the audience want
  • How to build a framework to bring order and structure to all of this

The evolving expectations mean content marketers can no longer focus only on the output of their efforts. They must now also consider, construct, implement, and administer the framework for content operations within their organizations.

#Content marketers can no longer focus solely on the output. It’s time to add content ops to the mix, says @CathyMcKnight via @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

What exactly are content operations?

Content operations are the big-picture view of everything content-related within your organization, from strategy to creation, governance to effectiveness measurement, and ideation to content management. All too frequently at the companies – large and small – we consult with at The Content Advisory, content operations are left to evolve/happen in an organic fashion.

Teams say formal content operations aren’t necessary because “things are working just fine.”

Translation: Nobody wants the task of getting everyone aligned. No one wants to deal with multiple teams’ rationale for why the way they do things is the right/best/only way to do it. So, content teams just go on saying everything is fine.

News flash – it’s not.

It’s not just about who does what when with content.

Done right, content operations enable efficacy and efficiency of processes, people, technologies, and cost. Content ops are essential for strategic planning, creation, management, and analysis for all content types across all channels (paid, earned, owned) and across the enterprise from ideation to archive.

A formal, documented, enforced content operation framework powers and empowers a brand’s ability to deliver the best possible customer experiences throughout the audiences’ journeys.

A documented, enforced #ContentOperations framework powers a brand’s ability to deliver the best possible experiences, says @CathyMcKnight via @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

It doesn’t have to be as daunting as it sounds.

What holds many content, administrative, and marketing teams back from embracing a formal content operations strategy and framework is one of the biggest, most challenging questions for anything new: “Where do we start?”

Here’s some help in high-level, easy-to-follow steps.

1. Articulate the purpose of content

Purpose is why the team does what it does. It’s the raison d’etre and inspiration for everything that follows. In terms of content, it drives all content efforts and should be the first question asked every time content is created or updated. Think of it as the guiding star for all content efforts.

In Start With Why, author Simon Sinek says it succinctly: “All organizations start with WHY, but only the great ones keep their WHY clear year after year.”

All organizations start with WHY, but only the great ones keep their WHY clear year after year, says @SimonSinek via @CathyMcKnight and @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

2. Define the content mission

Once the purpose of the teams’ content efforts is clear (and approved), it’s time to define your content mission. Is your content’s mission to attract recruits? Build brand advocacy? Deepen relationships with customers? Do you have buy-in from the organization, particularly the C-suite? This is not about identifying what assets will be created.

Can you talk about your mission with clarity? Have you created a unique voice or value proposition? Does it align with or directly support a higher, corporate-level objective and/or message? Hint: It should.

Answering all those questions solidifies your content mission.


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3. Set and monitor a few core objectives and key results

Once your content mission is in place, it is time to set out how to determine success.

Content assets are called assets for a reason; they possess real value and contribute to the profitability of your business. Accordingly, you need to measure their efficacy. One of the best ways is to set OKRs – objectives and key results. OKRs are an effective goal-setting and leadership tool for communicating objectives and milestones to achieve them.

OKRs typically identify the objective – an overall business goal to achieve – and three to five key quantifiable, objective, measurable outcomes. Finally, establish checkpoints to ensure the ultimate objective is reached.

Let’s say you set an objective to implement an enterprise content calendar and collaboration tool. Key results to track might include:

  • Documenting user and technical requirements
  • Researching, demonstrating, and selecting a tool
  • Implementing and rolling out the tool.

You would keep tabs on elements/initiatives, such as securing budget and approvals, defining requirements, working through procurement, and so on.

One more thing: Make sure OKRs are verifiable by defining the source and metric that will provide the quantifiable, measurable result.

Make sure objectives and key results are verifiable by defining source and metric, says @CathyMcKnight via @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

4. Organize your content operations team

With the OKRs set, you need people to get the work done. What does the structure look like? Who reports to whom?

Will you use a centralized command-and-control approach, a decentralized but-supported structure, or something in between? The team structure and organization must work within the construct and culture of the larger organization.

Here’s a sample organizational chart we at TCA developed for a Fortune 50 firm. At the top is the content function before it diverges into two paths – one for brand communications and one for a content center of excellence.

Under brand communications is each brand or line of business followed by these jointly connected teams: content – marcom, social/digital content development and management, center of excellence content – creative leader, center of excellence PR/media relations, customer relationship management, and social advertising.

Under the content center of excellence is the director of content strategy, manager of content traffic, projects, and planning, digital asset operations manager, audience manager, social channel and content specialist, creative manager, content performance and agility specialist, and program specialist.

Click to enlarge

5. Formalize a governance model

No matter how the operational framework is built, you need a governance model. Governance ensures your content operations follow agreed-upon goals, objectives, and standards.

Get a senior-management advocate – ideally someone from the C-suite – to preside over setting up your governance structure. That’s the only way to get recognition and budget.

To stay connected to the organization and its content needs, you should have an editorial advisory group – also called an editorial board, content committee, or keeper of the content keys. This group should include representatives from all the functional groups in the business that use the content as well as those intricately involved in delivering the content. The group should provide input and oversight and act as touchpoints to the rest of the organization.

Pointing to Simon Sinek again for wisdom here: “Passion alone can’t cut it. For passion to survive, it needs structure. A why without how has little probability of success.”

6. Create efficient processes and workflows

Adherence to the governance model requires a line of sight into all content processes.

How is content generated from start to finish? You may find 27 ways of doing it today. Ideally, your goal would be to have the majority (70% or more) of your content – infographic, advertisement, speech for the CEO, etc. – created the same or in a similar way.

You may need to do some leg work to understand how many ways content is created and published today, including:

  • Who is involved (internal and external resources)
  • How progress is tracked
  • Who the doers and approvers are
  • What happens to the content after it’s completed

Once documented, you can streamline and align these processes into a core workflow, with allowances for outlier and ad-hoc content needs and requests.

This example of a simple approval process for social content (developed for a global, multi-brand CPG company) includes three tiers. The first tier covers the process for a social content request. Tier two shows the process for producing and scheduling the content, and tier three shows the storage and success measurement for that content:

Click to enlarge

7. Deploy the best-fit technology stack

How many tools are you using? Many organizations grow through acquisitions, so they inherit duplicate or overlapping functionality within their content stacks. There might be two or three content management systems (CMS) and several marketing automation platforms.

Do a technology audit, eliminate redundancies, and simplify where possible. Use the inherent capabilities within the content stack to automate where you can. For example, if you run a campaign on the first Monday of every month, deploy technology to automate that process.

The technology to support your content operations framework doesn’t have to be fancy. An Excel spreadsheet is an acceptable starting place and can be one of your most important tools.

The goal is to simplify how content happens. What that looks like can vary greatly between organizations or even between teams within an organization.

Adopting a robust content operations framework requires cultural, technological, and organizational changes. It requires sponsorship from the very top of the organization and adherence to corporate goals at all levels of the organization.

None of it is easy – but the payoff is more than worth it.

Updated from a November 2021 post.

Want more content marketing tips, insights, and examples? Subscribe to workday or weekly emails from CMI.

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Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute



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SEO Recap: ChatGPT – Moz

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SEO Recap: ChatGPT - Moz

The author’s views are entirely his or her own (excluding the unlikely event of hypnosis) and may not always reflect the views of Moz.

We’re back with another SEO recap with Tom Capper! As you’ve probably noticed, ChatGPT has taken the search world by storm. But does GPT-3 mean the end of SEO as we know it, or are there ways to incorporate the AI model into our daily work?

Tom tries to tackle this question by demonstrating how he plans to use ChatGPT, along with other natural language processing systems, in his own work.

Be sure to check out the commentary on ChatGPT from our other Moz subject matter experts, Dr. Pete Meyers and Miriam Ellis:

Video Transcription

Hello, I’m Tom Capper from Moz, and today I want to talk about how I’m going to use ChatGPT and NLP, natural language processing apps in general in my day-to-day SEO tasks. This has been a big topic recently. I’ve seen a lot of people tweeting about this. Some people saying SEO is dead. This is the beginning of the end. As always, I think that’s maybe a bit too dramatic, but there are some big ways that this can be useful and that this will affect SEOs in their industry I think.

The first question I want to ask is, “Can we use this instead of Google? Are people going to start using NLP-powered assistants instead of search engines in a big way?”

So just being meta here, I asked ChatGPT to write a song about Google’s search results being ruined by an influx of AI content. This is obviously something that Google themselves is really concerned about, right? They talked about it with the helpful content update. Now I think the fact that we can be concerned about AI content ruining search results suggests there might be some problem with an AI-powered search engine, right?

No, AI powered is maybe the wrong term because, obviously, Google themselves are at some degree AI powered, but I mean pure, AI-written results. So for example, I stole this from a tweet and I’ve credited the account below, but if you ask it, “What is the fastest marine mammal,” the fastest marine mammal is the peregrine falcon. That is not a mammal.

Then it mentions the sailfish, which is not a mammal, and marlin, which is not a mammal. This is a particularly bad result. Whereas if I google this, great, that is an example of a fast mammal. We’re at least on the right track. Similarly, if I’m looking for a specific article on a specific web page, I’ve searched Atlantic article about the declining quality of search results, and even though clearly, if you look at the other information that it surfaces, clearly this has consumed some kind of selection of web pages, it’s refusing to acknowledge that here.

Whereas obviously, if I google that, very easy. I can find what I’m looking for straightaway. So yeah, maybe I’m not going to just replace Google with ChatGPT just yet. What about writing copy though? What about I’m fed up of having to manually write blog posts about content that I want to rank for or that I think my audience want to hear about?

So I’m just going to outsource it to a robot. Well, here’s an example. “Write a blog post about the future of NLP in SEO.” Now, at first glance, this looks okay. But actually, when you look a little bit closer, it’s a bluff. It’s vapid. It doesn’t really use any concrete examples.

It doesn’t really read the room. It doesn’t talk about sort of how our industry might be affected more broadly. It just uses some quick tactical examples. It’s not the worst article you could find. I’m sure if you pulled a teenager off the street who knew nothing about this and asked them to write about it, they would probably produce something worse than this.

But on the other hand, if you saw an article on the Moz blog or on another industry credible source, you’d expect something better than this. So yeah, I don’t think that we’re going to be using ChatGPT as our copywriter right away, but there may be some nuance, which I’ll get to in just a bit. What about writing descriptions though?

I thought this was pretty good. “Write a meta description for my Moz blog post about SEO predictions in 2023.” Now I could do a lot better with the query here. I could tell it what my post is going to be about for starters so that it could write a more specific description. But this is already quite good. It’s the right length for a meta description. It covers the bases.

It’s inviting people to click. It makes it sound exciting. This is pretty good. Now you’d obviously want a human to review these for the factual issues we talked about before. But I think a human plus the AI is going to be more effective here than just the human or at least more time efficient. So that’s a potential use case.

What about ideating copy? So I said that the pure ChatGPT written blog post wasn’t great. But one thing I could do is get it to give me a list of subtopics or subheadings that I might want to include in my own post. So here, although it is not the best blog post in the world, it has covered some topics that I might not have thought about.

So I might want to include those in my own post. So instead of asking it “write a blog post about the future of NLP in SEO,” I could say, “Write a bullet point list of ways NLP might affect SEO.” Then I could steal some of those, if I hadn’t thought of them myself, as potential topics that my own ideation had missed. Similarly you could use that as a copywriter’s brief or something like that, again in addition to human participation.

My favorite use case so far though is coding. So personally, I’m not a developer by trade, but often, like many SEOs, I have to interact with SQL, with JavaScript, with Excel, and these kinds of things. That often results in a lot of googling from first principles for someone less experienced in those areas.

Even experienced coders often find themselves falling back to Stack Overflow and this kind of thing. So here’s an example. “Write an SQL query that extracts all the rows from table2 where column A also exists as a row in table1.” So that’s quite complex. I’ve not really made an effort to make that query very easy to understand, but the result is actually pretty good.

It’s a working piece of SQL with an explanation below. This is much quicker than me figuring this out from first principles, and I can take that myself and work it into something good. So again, this is AI plus human rather than just AI or just human being the most effective. I could get a lot of value out of this, and I definitely will. I think in the future, rather than starting by going to Stack Overflow or googling something where I hope to see a Stack Overflow result, I think I would start just by asking here and then work from there.

That’s all. So that’s how I think I’m going to be using ChatGPT in my day-to-day SEO tasks. I’d love to hear what you’ve got planned. Let me know. Thanks.

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What Is a White Paper? [FAQs]

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What Is a White Paper? [FAQs]

The definition of a whitepaper varies heavily from industry to industry, which can be a little confusing for marketers looking to create one for their business.

The old-school definition comes from politics, where it means a legislative document explaining and supporting a particular political solution.

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