Atualizado: 22 de Abr de 2020
“Building a successful company is hard. Smart entrepreneurs know that the key to success isn’t the originality of your offering, the brilliance of your team, or how much money you raise. It’s how consistently you can grow and acquire new customers”
Gabriel Weinberg, Justin Mares – Traction: How Any Startup Can Achieve Explosive Customer Growth
The concept of startup is still a little bit novelized in Portugal: founders start with an idea for a service or product that looks brilliant, often getting lost along the way, in a heap of advice from diverse people and without much concern in having traction metrics – an indicator which measures first customers in a predictable and scalable way.
Starting by defining what a startup is, therefore, relevant. Perhaps the best definition of a startup is the one from Eric Ries, author of the book Lean Startup, who says that “A startup is a human institution designed to deliver a new product or service under conditions of extreme uncertainty.” In other words, the demand for growth turns out to be what defines a startup.
This demand for growth, for traction, does not necessarily come from the same channels where founders were in the past - not all startups will make Business Development, Online or Offline advertising their main customer acquisition channels. There is a huge number of channels available - from PR to viral marketing, SEO and SEM, which only after being tested (and measured!) can be considered good or bad for that specific startup.
In this article, I will focus on how to grow sales for a B2B startup and how to build a sales funnel. Why a funnel? Because when making a decision to purchase a service or product, not all people interested will end up becoming real customers. In startups, there will hardly be perfect sales funnels, so I will leave below some of advice that will help you to assemble yours in the best possible way.
What are the different stages in a sales funnel?
1. Lead Generation
It is undoubtedly the first phase of the sales process and can be defined as how the startup attracts interest from potential buyers - it is, in the end, the way to acquire leads - potential buyers that show interest in your product or servisse through any type of behavior.
As previously mentioned, there are several potential channels to get the attention from potential buyers - from email marketing to content marketing, through vertical-specific fairs or even with offline ads.
Potential buyer's interest can be demonstrated and measured through metrics as simple as subscribing to newsletters, number of email openings or even the number of entries on your website.
2. Marketing Qualified Lead
The identification of the lead potential to buy is defined through the Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL) concept. Even though the lead has done all the action mentioned above, sometimes it ends up not always advancing to this phase of the funnel - imagine that your startup only works in the vertical of tourism - if this lead is in the vertical of health, your product is not adapted to the potential buyer, so it means that it won’t to this stage of the funnel.
Depending on your sales cycle, there may be multiple steps within your MQL. For example, in SaaS companies - Software as a Service, scheduling and running online demos is very important - either to confirm whether the problem the startup is solving is really felt by the lead or to validate whether the lead is found within the criteria to be a customer - for example, have a certain number of employees, a website, being located in a specific location, among others.
Sometimes (and as strange as it may seem) not all scheduled demonstrations actually take place, so an intermediate demonstration step can be added. At each step, leads are lost in the funnel, so it is very important to ensure a constant sending of useful materials to keep the costumer interested about buying your product or service.
3. Sales Qualified Lead
After the potential several steps within your MQL, the lead is identified as a potential buyer - feels the problem that your startup is solving and has clearly shown willingness to know the next steps, which may be a few more – from requesting a trial version to the submission of a formal proposal. This is the time when the lead will compare its offer with the one from the competition, assessing whether the investment would actually have the intended return.
Again, as in the MQL phase, there may be several intermediate steps. In the case of a SaaS company, it may be by scheduling a new demo with more customization or offering and using a free trial period.
Congratulations? The value of your proposal has been awarded, the invoice sent and the payment made. It is time to celebrate with your team, they got one more customer and your customer base grew. It's time to start analyzing your funnel and understand exactly how many leads you needed for this conversion, which channel is used and even if there is an intermediate step where there is a big break in the conversion.
Work doesn't end here, it's time to make your client happy!
There are several ways to make your customer happy and to feel truly special, namely through constantly sending useful content about your product or service, new features or even discounts for upgrades.
Congratulations! You have reached the end of the funnel. Now, it is time to do it all again :)
Article written by: João Freitas