Finding 'hidden pot of pipeline gold' during times of COVID-19

Recently I was speaking to the CMO of a technology company, who was stressed out about a major trade conference being cancelled. Her company is a key sponsor for the conference and had plans to create significant sales pipeline through that event. Her company is relying on that ‘marketing sourced’ pipeline to hit their revenue targets for next quarter and the year. Hundreds of hours of effort and tens of thousands of dollars that had gone into the conference preparation had just got vaporized. All around the globe, events and public gatherings are being cancelled or postponed to slow down the spread of COVID-19. That’s a good thing - citizens, businesses and governments all have a role to play to prevent a public health catastrophe.

But what about those revenue targets for next quarter and beyond? How will we fill the pipeline shortfall?  Don’t those need to be met too when we all turn the corner?

Marketing’s job has always been to be ahead of the revenue targets - especially in the B2B industry where sales cycles can be weeks or months.

What should CMOs, demand generation and field marketing organizations be doing right now?

Companies are already turning to virtual events and digital marketing to address the looming pipeline shortfall. However many of these techniques are focused on ‘top of the funnel’ marketing that may not convert for some time. Businesses need more pipeline now!

So what can Marketers do about that? The missing pipeline that the Marketers are seeking may be the hidden pot of gold in their marketing funnel.

For too long, Marketers have been trained to continuously fill the top of the funnel with new leads from these conferences, events and digital channels. We are trained to quickly push these new leads to Sales because timing is key. Sales development teams are trained to quickly qualify those marketing leads and if they don’t meet the BANT criteria then they are discarded back into ‘nurture funnel’.

In these times of need, it would be good to look at those discarded leads. Start with your pipeline goal. Organize those leads into your target segments and sales territories. Map them to your target buyer personas. Understand who you have (and don’t have) in your marketing funnel. Understand who is engaging with your company and who is not. You may be surprised! You will likely find a hidden ‘pipeline’ treasure lurking in your own marketing database. Focus on these accounts and leads that will create the biggest bank for the buck for your company’s targets. Create a compelling offer, message and call to action that reflect the needs of the time. And reconnect with these discarded prospects through Sales or digital channels. You may find that they have more time at their hands to hear your message. And if they like what they hear, they may talk to you. That could help you fill your pipeline shortfall and meet your company’s revenue targets.

And don’t forget if you need any help to find the 'hidden pipeline gold', you can contact us. We are already helping many companies in a similar quest.

Perhaps COVID-19 may have a silver lining after all - sales and marketing (and frankly all functions) will learn to rewire their processes. We will discover that we can be equally productive and effective through online channels. And we will find that, perhaps like leprechauns, we do have pots of ‘pipeline gold’ hidden in our marketing funnels.

A version of this blog post first appeared on LinkedIn.

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