Addressing Funnel Leaks: Remedies for Funnel Inefficiencies and Achieving Lossless Growth

Jun 11, 2022


Narayan Prasath

As marketing and growth pros worldwide build out their growth funnels and models, a recurring question echoes:

How do you improve your funnel efficiency?

Drawing from my experiences in a tech startup and advising several early-stage growth teams, I've witnessed firsthand the transformative power of a well-structured marketing funnel.

But lossless growth doesn't come without a carefully devised marketing funnel.

In this article, I've taken the best of what worked for me and boiled them down to steps you can follow. These strategies have helped my peers in propelling their startups and minimizing waste in spend and efforts. This is a crystal clear checklist you can bookmark and rely on when building or auditing your marketing funnel, whether you're working at a startup, well-established enterprise or SMBs.

Let’s dive in.

What is a Leak Problem to Solve?

A 'leak' in our context is a loss of 'value'—be it in traffic, leads, data, or opportunities missed due to suboptimal setups. Any captured value that fails to be fully realized is a critical issue needing immediate attention.

Types of Funnel Leaks

  1. Traffic leak

  2. Data leak

  3. Lead leak

  4. Lifecycle leak

  5. Post-Engagement leak

1. Traffic leak

Traffic is a precious commodity. Whether it’s from paid ads or organic efforts, each visitor to your site is a potential customer.

Losing traffic that has potential to convert into a lead is the kind of leak we want to avoid.

Consider this scenario: an Ideal Customer Profile (ICP) lands on your site, but simultaneously, they're exploring competitor sites. Losing this visitor over minor technicalities like load time is not just a missed opportunity; it's a critical leak that needs immediate attention.

Example Costs of Traffic Loss

Let's break down the investment involved in driving traffic to your campaign's landing page:

  • Strategy meetings

  • Creative development

  • Team alignment

  • Campaign setup

  • Landing page and automation setup

Each element represents significant investment. When a well-matched user bounces off your site, unable to engage with your content due to slow load times, it's not just a bounce; it's a substantial leak of potential value.

And if a user who matches Ideal-Customer-Profile bounces off your site without even getting a chance to look at the content, then we can mark it as a lost-value - a big leak in the system due to traffic lost due to page load time.

Similarily, a visitor encountering formatting issues on their phone faces a barrier right at the outset. This isn't just about losing traffic; it's about losing traffic that's already engaged enough to visit your site.

While 'bounce rate' is a common metric to gauge site engagement, it doesn't tell the whole story. This metric amalgamates various issues, from technical aspects like load time, mobile responsiveness, browser compatibility, and script load times, to business factors like messaging and targeting.

The lack of clarity in these technical issues can challenge even the most experienced teams, impacting the entire funnel's performance.

Ironically, these are often basic technical glitches - visible but frequently ignored. This oversight leads to a chain reaction of inefficiency, wasting efforts and resources across the funnel.

2. Data leak

I have spoken to a number of marketing teams that work for SMBs, and a frequent challenge I’ve encountered is the mismatch between legacy and modern technology stacks. A classic example is the integration between Salesforce and HubSpot. Despite the availability of resources and native integrations, the reality is often far from perfect. This misalignment is a prime source of data leaks.

The Root Causes

Two major culprits stand out in these scenarios:

  1. Incorrect Data Flow Configuration: The pathways through which data moves between systems are not always correctly set up.

  2. Unmanaged Custom Fields: These fields, if not properly handled, can disrupt the smooth flow of data.

A Common Scenario

Consider this: Data originating from UTM parameters is captured in HubSpot but fails to transfer to Salesforce. The result? Campaign data gets trapped within one platform, creating silos and impeding holistic analysis.

When Sales Development Reps (SDRs) and Business Development Reps (BDRs) engage with leads, their effectiveness hinges on the quality and completeness of their information. Limited data means limited insights, hampering their ability to convert prospects effectively.

In essence, every piece of missing or siloed information represents a lost opportunity, undermining the efficiency of your sales efforts.

Imagine two companies, Company A and Company B, both operating in a competitive market. Each company uses a combination of Salesforce and HubSpot but with contrasting experiences in managing data.

Company A: Seamless Data Integration

At Company A, when a lead enters the system, the Business Development Rep (BDR) receives a comprehensive set of information. This includes the channel through which the lead was acquired, the specific marketing campaign they responded to, their product interests, and detailed form submissions. This rich data set equips the BDR with a deep understanding of the lead’s needs and preferences. As a result, their conversations are tailored, relevant, and significantly more likely to convert the lead into a customer.

Company B: The Struggle with Data Disparity

Contrast this with Company B, where data integration between Salesforce and HubSpot is flawed. When a lead comes in, the BDR only receives fragmented information. Critical details like the lead’s originating channel, campaign interaction, or product interest are either mismatched or completely missing. On a particularly busy day, the team at Company B doesn’t have the time or resources to manually stitch this information together. Leads that could have been potential conversions are either approached with a generic pitch or, worse, neglected entirely due to incomplete data.

The Outcome

The difference in outcomes between the two companies is stark. Company A sees a higher conversion rate, thanks to the completeness and accuracy of its lead data. The BDRs are empowered to engage in meaningful conversations that resonate with the leads. In contrast, Company B experiences a lower conversion rate, with leads slipping through the cracks due to the lack of comprehensive data. The opportunity cost of lost leads and inefficient sales efforts highlights the critical importance of addressing data leaks in any organization's marketing strategy.

3. Lead leak

A 'lead leak' is a scenario where a lead enters your system but finds themselves in a dead-end, leading to missed accounts and potential opportunities left on the table.

Consider a lead that arrives through a form fill-out. Ideally, this entry point should be the beginning of a journey filled with opportunities for engagement, discovery, and ultimately, a sales conversation. However, the reality often diverges from this ideal path.

In my audits, I frequently encounter scenarios where a lead is dropped onto a 'brick wall' thank you page.

This page, stark and devoid of further engagement opportunities, typically features nothing more than a thank-you message and a download link.

The user experience abruptly halts here.

Without any clear next steps or further information, these leads are left hanging.

If they're looking to solve a business need quickly, they might land straight into the hands of competitors who offer more engaging and a clearly informative pathways.

So, like the thank you page above, what are some of the dead end zones you don't want to have in your system?

Identifying Dead-End Zones in Your System

To prevent such scenarios, it's essential to recognize and address potential dead-end zones in your system:

- A post-form submission experience that's not thought out

- A blank thank you page without any indication of what's next, worst no thank you page at all (message on the same submission page)

- An email follow-up with out offering a chance to re-engage

The Post-Form Submission Experience is a critical juncture for identifying leak zones. It encompasses elements like Thank You Pages and Email Follow-ups. An ineffective Thank You Page, lacking in engagement or clear direction, can significantly dampen a lead's interest. Similarly, follow-up emails that miss the opportunity to re-engage or encourage further exploration are a missed chance to keep the lead involved and interested in what you have to offer.

 Tech issues to keep note of: Some stack missteps can prevent leads from syncing like field mismatches. For instance, a discrepancy between the fields in your form tool and your CRM can result in leads slipping through unnoticed, only to be discovered during an audit. So, what's the solution:

A predicatable pathway that's proven to persuade further discovery, and exploration. What they look like? We will explore at the end.

The digital journey needs to be thought-through and run down step-by-step and hand crafted bearing your ICP in mind. This involves tailoring each touchpoint to anticipate and meet the prospect's needs at every stage, engaging them with relevant and timely content.

Hence a content 'loop' is essential.

This loop reconnects the lead back to the journey, encouraging them to explore the product further, self-qualify, and enter a nurturing process.

Without this loop, leads often end up in a state of limbo, waiting for contact from a Sales Development Rep (SDR) or Business Development Rep (BDR) without knowing when or if it will happen.

This approach isn't just about preventing leads from falling through the cracks; it's about actively guiding them through a journey that is both informative and engaging.

By considering each step of this journey and how it aligns with the lead’s interests and needs, we create a more efficient and effective funnel that drives conversion.

4. Lifecycle leak

Lifecycle leaks represent a more nuanced and granular challenge in digital marketing, often revealed during thorough audits. These leaks, although not always visible in the day-to-day rush, are costly mistakes that can be as significant, if not more so, than other types of leaks. They are complex, both in their nature and in the solutions required to address them.

Building and Understanding the Lifecycle

In my experience working with teams to customize their marketing stacks, considerable time is devoted to defining the different lifecycle stages of prospects. These stages often align with the standard lifecycle popularized by Hubspot:

Subscriber > Lead > MQL > SQL > Opportunity.

However, during annual reviews, a common pattern emerges: the Lead or MQL stages become overfilled with vague records, leaving their statuses unclear. This is what I term a 'Lifecycle Leak.' It’s a situation where leads linger indefinitely in one stage or another. They neither progress through the system nor exit it. Instead, they remain like inefficiencies within the pipeline, adding to the numbers without contributing to real progress.

Identifying and Resolving Lifecycle Leaks

The root causes of lifecycle leaks can vary. They might be due to an absence of effective content loops or a result of technical issues that prevent leads from moving through the funnel due to insufficient data.

Addressing these leaks often requires a multifaceted approach:

  1. Batch Cleanup: Using tools like Unbounce to systematically remove outdated or stagnant leads from the system.

  2. CRM Deep Clean: Leveraging HubSpot's email engagement reports, for instance, to identify leads that are stuck and understand why.

  3. Targeted Email Campaigns: Running specific campaigns aimed at re-qualifying leads, providing them an opportunity to either re-engage actively or be removed from the system.

These solutions, while more complex, are crucial for maintaining the efficiency and effectiveness of the marketing funnel. By regularly auditing and cleaning up the lifecycle stages, businesses can ensure that their funnel remains streamlined and that each lead is given the attention and journey they deserve.

5. Post Engagement Leak

As we delve deeper into the sales-end of the funnel in my work, I shift my attention from the technical aspects of the 'stack' to the more nuanced operational and internal processes.

This is where the concept of a 'Post-Engagement Leak' comes into play. It's essentially about the gaps in our systems that fail to capture and integrate crucial sales intelligence back into our marketing and CRM systems.

In the sales process, whether it's a pitch or a discovery call, having a mechanism to comprehensively capture data is paramount.

This includes confirming source data through self-reported fields, really getting to grips with the lead's intent, their timelines, and crucially, documenting the reasons behind our wins and losses.

The absence of this data enrichment post the SQL (Sales Qualified Lead) stages leads to a post-engagement leak.

This happens when a record isn't updated with relevant status, next steps, or associated actions, rendering it virtually unusable for future engagement or analysis.

Without proper management, these leads are merely temporary tasks on an SDR’s daily schedule. Soon, they're forgotten and lost in the system, instead of being actively moved through a well-managed marketing funnel.

To combat these leaks, I focus on several critical areas:

  • Avoiding Duplicate Accounts: I make sure a lead doesn’t slip through the cracks just because of an existing duplicate account.

  • Correctly Classifying Opportunities: It's essential to ensure opportunities aren’t wrongly marked as lost when they're still in play.

  • Building Robust Follow-Up Mechanisms: Implementing systems for continuous engagement and follow-up keeps leads active in the sales cycle.

  • Efficient Management of Target Account Lists: I stress on smoothly transferring ownership of target accounts among teams to maintain a seamless flow.

  • Deep Diving into Loss Reasons: Conducting thorough analyses of lost opportunities helps in pinpointing and addressing the root causes.

Leads and opportunities can easily be lost if they aren't continuously nurtured within a well-structured marketing funnel.

Otherwise, we risk losing valuable leads – they go unnoticed and unconverted.

We’re not just sealing the gaps; we’re building a more effective and efficient path from the first contact to closing the sale. It’s like ensuring every piece of the puzzle fits just right, so the big picture – your business’s growth – comes together seamlessly.

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