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You may have seen the blog post I recently wrote about Full Funnel Management. My premise was that ZiftONE uniquely manages the entire buyer’s journey from the top to the bottom of the sales funnel because it connects the marketing activities at the top with the selling activities at the bottom into one seamless journey. Pure-play, or standalone channel marketing products only address the top of the funnel, and pure-play PRM products focus primarily on the bottom of the funnel without adequately serving the top of the funnel. When a supplier implements a one-from-column A and one-from-column B strategy, the admin and partner experience is no longer seamless (i.e. a bad user experience), and the data flow is not continuous.

I had an interesting call with a friendly customer where we talked about the roles of various voices along the buyer’s journey from interest (top of funnel) to purchase (bottom of funnel). It made me think more about full funnel management, and what has changed in the buyer’s journey that needs to be reflected in the way our platform is used to support the process. Buyers used to go shopping and find marketing materials. When they found something interesting, they would raise their hand and ask for more information, and that was a key handoff point between marketing and sales. A typical issue would be that the lead passed by marketing was unqualified – the shopper did not know what they needed, nor did they necessarily have budget, and authority to buy. Nonetheless, the marketing content remained relatively high-level, and the handoff to sales was taking place in the upper part of the sales funnel.

What changed in the last few years is that shoppers started doing much more research on their own, and outbound marketing techniques no longer enticed a shopper to raise their hand and be willing to speak to a salesperson until they were really educated and ready to make a purchase decision. The handoff from marketing to sales had to move further down the funnel, and marketing had to adapt by expanding its role beyond surface awareness creation and into serious nurturing and education. That is all good for us, and ZiftONE supports this fluid transition of roles and responsibilities, but what about the talents and knowledge of the supplier’s marketing team, and the role of the channel partner?

This is where my conversation with our customer triggered a lightbulb moment for me. As you move down the funnel and the buyer is seeking more and more education and doing more research, the content put forth has to become more and more specific and carry much more depth. In many cases, the marketer that was comfortable at the top of the funnel with value messages and positioning statements is not sufficiently technical and comfortable creating the materials that will carry the buyer down through the funnel to the point when they are ready to speak with sales.

This opens the door for a new voice to participate in the nurturing process, and I suggest that in many markets that can and should be the voice of the partner or the MSP. If the supplier rethinks content creation and delivery with a specific role in mind for the partner, then co-branded assets will take on a new and more targeted purpose. The voice of the partner will become the trusted expert advisor, and they can be the sherpa that carries the shopper to become a buyer.

In the case of our customer, the marketing team realized that they needed help creating better co-brandable assets for this purpose. The marketers did not have the technical knowledge to do it. The answer was to engage the engineering team to create a separate social media stream and to provide technical content that could be delivered to partners in co-brandable assets. They acknowledged the need to support buyer research in a new way, and brought another voice into the mix to improve their content.

This is not a new or radical idea, but for me the lightbulb moment was putting it in the context of full-funnel management and the delineation of duties between the supplier and the partner. Suppliers need to consciously make the partner the smartest person in the room so that they can guide the shopper through the funnel. Suppliers need to build content that is more partner focused and less brand centric. Supplier marketers need to acknowledge the shift in buyer research and shopping habits, and use the seamless elements of ZiftONE to better score and nurture the leads along a modern buyer’s journey. Try doing all of that with a ‘pure play’ half solution. ZiftONE rules!