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Flip the B2B marketing funnel: thoughts from a SaaS founder

January 22, 2020

Alex Olley is the co-founder of Reachdesk, the direct marketing platform that empowers B2B professionals to send, measure and track direct mail marketing and gifting campaigns. Alex specialises in SaaS technology and is passionate about breaking through to prospects using account-based strategies.

This article began with a post that Alex shared on LinkedIn:


In it, Alex identified a problem with the traditional B2B marketing funnel and suggested a solution. Here at Cognism, we thought that Alex’s post was both useful and timely - so we asked him to expand his theory to a full article, hosted exclusively on the Cognism blog! 

It all starts with a question: is the MQL dead?

Intrigued? Then read on! Alex, it’s over to you…

The problem

Every B2B marketer worth their salt would’ve seen it, but just to refresh memories, this is what the traditional B2B marketing funnel looks like:


The first stage is Attract, which is where anonymous consumers first engage with your brand. Then, if they continue to engage, they pass through the funnel until they become a marketing-qualified lead (MQL), a customer and finally an advocate for your business.

What’s wrong with this approach to B2B lead generation? I’ve identified four main reasons:

It’s wasteful

it can take you a lot of time and resources to sort the potentially high-quality leads from prospects who aren’t interested in your product.

It’s arbitrary

The traditional B2B marketing funnel is like fishing with a net; it scoops up both the people who are interested in your business and the people who aren’t. Why would you want to attract people who will never buy from you? 

It’s impersonal

This approach treats people as leads, not as human beings. It doesn’t make you think in a customer-centric way, leading to poor customer experiences with your brand. This is bad in the long-term; if you keep producing irrelevant content, buyers won’t keep coming back to you.

It’s unprofitable

The cumulative effect of all this waste will be clear in lower returns and lower revenue.

The solution

The answer to this B2B prospecting predicament is simple. All you have to do is flip the marketing funnel! Like this:


With this model, it starts with you identifying your best-fit customers based on your Ideal Customer Profile (ICP).

Doing this enables you to tailor all of your content and communications, which can be shared at the most optimal times in their buyer’s journey. It keeps them engaged with your brand until they convert into a customer and then a passionate fan.

Why does this approach work? Here are four reasons:

It’s economical

The flipped B2B marketing funnel focuses resources on your ideal customers, those target accounts who have a much higher chance of converting.

It’s targeted

Unlike the traditional funnel, you’re not “spraying and praying!” The flipped funnel ensures you’re not wasting time chasing the wrong accounts.

It’s customer-centric

The flipped funnel model puts the customer at the top of the funnel, rather than the bottom. This means that all your data driven marketing activity will be laser-focused on the customer and their needs.

The flipped marketing funnel gives you insights that help you create content that’s both relevant and delightful; it treats your customers as people to be engaged with, not as leads to be moved through stages.

It’s profitable

This approach assigns every opportunity not as an MQL, but as a revenue target in its own right. It requires a change in thinking which has sales and marketing aligned and jointly owning revenue goals.

When both teams are working towards the same end result, it means a more efficient sales and marketing function - which in turn leads to better returns and higher revenue!

How to make the flipped B2B marketing funnel work

I know what you’re thinking! “Alex, this is all good! But how can I make this work in my business?”

The truth is, it doesn’t have to be difficult! Here are my three tips that’ll help you flip the marketing funnel today:

1 - Get buy-in from the entire organisation

To run true ABM you need to get buy-in from the very top all the way to your most junior hires. Start off by running a pilot campaign using this account-based approach.

Once it’s started delivering results for you, go to the C-suite and show them the difference it can make. Emphasise the value that a flipped marketing funnel can bring to your company.

2 - Align marketing and sales

The flipped funnel should be part of a wider strategy bringing together the two teams. A practical way to start this process is to share revenue goals, incentives and rewards across sales and marketing. Get both teams thinking in terms of revenue, rather than leads!

3 - Deliver great content at every stage of the buyer’s journey

This needn’t be as time-consuming as it sounds. If you have a library of B2B marketing content already, repurpose it! For example, you can edit whitepapers and case studies to make them relevant for different markets or territories. Don’t be afraid to be creative and different!

The flipped B2B marketing funnel in action

Cognism uses Reachdesk across our entire commercial team, from SDRs sending personalised notes to open doors, sales reps delivering content and gift boxes to accelerate deals and customer success sending cupcakes to leads who were ghosting. 

The last one I mentioned was a good example of ABM in action. It was an account-based campaign, starting with a B2B data list of target buyers and the messaging which resonated with each of them. The cupcakes were delivered and the results were exceptional - response rates were 80% when the campaign target was 20%!

Learn more from Reachdesk and Cognism

Thanks to Alex for providing us with this fascinating and actionable blog post! We hope it’s given you plenty to think about - it certainly has for us!

For more from Alex and his colleagues, cast your eye over the Reachdesk blog! You’ll find lots of creative solutions to B2B sales and marketing challenges.

Did you like this article? Do you have lots of comments and questions? Then click onto Cognism’s social media and hit “follow”! We’d love to hear from you.

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