It’s the End of the B2B Inbound Marketing Funnel as We Know It…

If there was an underlying theme to the 2011 HubSpot User Group Summit (#HUGS2011), it was MoFu.

For the uninitiated, “MoFu” refers to “Middle of the Funnel.” As the name suggests, it refers to the area in your inbound marketing funnel (ahem, the middle) where all of your leads congregate before becoming your customers, your competitor’s customers, or otherwise becoming unqualified. This is when it is absolutely critical to nurture these leads: converse with them, share more information, keep them engaged and interested in your product or service. To borrow another analogy, this is where the battle for market share is won or lost, so winning the middle of the funnel is mission critical.

hubspot user group summit 2011You could be satisfied with focusing on your “ToFu” or “Top of the Funnel,” generating as much traffic to your website as possible by creating (everybody sing along with me) tons of remarkable content. After all, the more traffic you pull, the more leads you generate; the more leads you generate, the more customers you convert. It’s still a numbers game. But what if it could be better? What if your visit to lead percentage jumped from 4% to 20%? What if your lead to customer percentage increased 10 times over? What kind of impact would that have on your bottom line?

This was the picture HubSpot CEO and Co-Founder Brian Halligan painted during his “Inbound Marketing 2.0” talk at Inbound Marketing Summit (a FutureM conference earlier in the week), and again during his and HubSpot CTO and Co-Founder Dharmesh Shah’s welcome keynote at HUGS. I’m paraphrasing, but the takeaway was that it takes more than finding enough leads to fill the top of your funnel. You also need to nurture them through email, social media and on your website. Your inbound process must constantly be improving. You need to perform real-time A/B tests on landing pages, you need a smarter website that can recognize your repeat visitors, and you need more robust analytics to pull it all together. The end goal is creating a segment of one – providing that one lead a unique engagement experience.

Although he didn’t mention them by name during IMS, it was no secret Halligan was referring to marketing automation company Performable. In June, HubSpot acquired Performable to help boost its MoFu prowess, and in turn, offer its customer base a more advanced set of tools that could scale as their businesses grew; including more complex analytics and nurturing tools. What this acquisition also does is open HubSpot to a new audience of enterprise-level customers – some of whom may have may have been skeptical of HubSpot in the past due to a lack of such advanced features.

As a HubSpot Certified Partner and one of 20 selected to test drive Performable before it rolls out (expected) sometime near the end of the year, I’m very excited about this enhancement and the opportunities it creates. Not just for MLT, but for our HubSpot clients who are growing their leads and market share at incredible rates.

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As HubSpot revolutionizes marketing (again) by making inbound marketing smarter, faster and more efficient, I keep thinking about the funnel. If a focused concentration on the middle will increase customer conversion, when will the funnel cease being a funnel? How far away are we from talking in terms of cylinders? Is that even possible? It certainly seems impossible now, and there would no doubt need to be other variables involved in that process, but why not aspire to that today? And if the best we can do before the next evolution is turn the funnel into say a conical pint, I think we’ll all drink to that.