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GTM funnel stages, metrics, & goals

At large companies, marketing teams are composed of people with skill sets ranging from product marketing to graphic design and even technical roles. Of course, at the early stages of building your company you won’t have teams of people (yet) to fill all of these functions. However, you will find that you need to make decisions and do work across all marketing specialties in order to design and execute your Modern Go-to-Market (GTM) strategy. 


GTM is a Team Sport

It is important to keep in mind that the Modern GTM is a team sport. If planned and executed properly, your teams will collaborate on a company-wide strategy that requires coordination and a shared understanding of the role each team plays. 


Together you will collaborate to define funnel stages that map your strategy and activities to the steps of the customer journey. This coordination encompasses everything from awareness to product strategy and even sales processes. You’ll need to define funnel stage entrance and exit criteria and company and stage-specific goals and metrics. You’ll track everything through a shared dashboard and weekly GTM meetings where the entire team will do an honest assessment to identify problem areas and plan improvements.

 

Base Your Funnel on Your User/Buyer Journey


You Are Here: At this point you should understand your USER / BUYER journey. You have completed an exercise such as developing your GTM Framework to ensure you have clear definitions for your USER and BUYER personas, the specific USER problem you are targeting, and how your product addresses that problem.


Once you have an understanding of your USER / BUYER journey, it’s time to develop your strategy for getting your product into the mix of solutions your USER is considering to solve their problem. Ultimately, your strategy will include content creation, community building, developing an engaging product trial, and more. But before you jump into any specific activity or program, you need to design your GTM funnel. Your funnel is a means of organizing your activities, metrics, and goals and aligning them with the appropriate steps of the USER/BUYER Journey. 


The Modern GTM Funnel


The fundamental objective of your GTM strategy is that your USER finds your awareness activities and content so compelling that they continue their journey with you until they become a happy customer and advocate for your product with peers and colleagues. 


Unfortunately, the reality is that not all users who start their journey with you will also complete it with you. So, how will you know if your strategy is working? The better question is how will you know which GTM activities are performing well and which are not? The answer is to define funnel stages and goals and track goal-specific performance metrics.


In my experience, every company ends up creating a unique GTM funnel. We’ll get you started with common terminology and definitions. Going forward you will iterate on funnel stages and metrics. These will become fundamental to how your company talks about GTM.


Your first funnel should be designed something like the following. Here we’ve mapped the USER/BUYER journey steps onto our funnel so that you can see how to leverage marketing methodology in the Modern GTM.  


Example


Product Editions

We offer our product in 3 editions:  FREE, MID, and ENTERPRISE. FREE has a limited set of features and can be used forever. MID has more features than FREE but is less expensive than ENTERPRISE, which has all the features. 


Product Delivery

All of our products are delivered as cloud-based services. We do not offer an on-premises option.


Free Trial

Everyone starts off with a 21-day free trial of ENTERPRISE. During the trial (and after) users can purchase MID directly in the product. A user may initiate a sales conversation at any time during the trial to purchase ENTERPRISE or MID. 


Website Calls-to-Action

The primary call-to-action (CTA) on our marketing website is for the visitor to start a free trial. This CTA appears in the hero section on every page. Our secondary CTA is to request a product demo. This is included in our navigation, footer, and pricing page. We also have an ebook and recorded webinar that are gated, meaning the visitor must fill out a form in order to access the content.


Product Engagement Milestones

We need to make sure that trials are successful and that the USER continues their journey with us after the trial expires. Our Product team has established the following product engagement milestones. We track the USER’s progression through these milestones in the product. Tracking is integrated with our Marketing Automation System to trigger activities, such as email with links to helpful content, that assist USERs in progressing through the milestones.

Milestone 0: User creates a product account and starts free trial

Milestone 1: Confirms email address and watches getting started video.

Milestone 2: Installs SDK and configures settings.

MIlestone 3: Create a report combining data received via SDK and our amazing insights (Aha! Moment).

Milestone 4: Invites 1 or more teammates.


Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL)

Anyone that has completed a sign-up form on our site who is not a student, does not work for a non-profit, and has an accepted email domain.


Sales Qualified Lead (SQL)

MQLs become SQLs when one or more of the following occurs:

  • User requested a product demo 
  • User signed up for a free trial and works at a strategically important company
  • User accomplishes Milestones 0, 1, 2, & 3 during their free trial


Opportunity

Any SQL that meets the following criteria:

  • Has an urgent pain that our product can remedy
  • Has budget allocated to purchasing a solution
  • Plans to purchase within 6 months


Our GTM Tech Stack (we’ll dive into each of these in a later section)

  • Hubspot for Marketing Automation
  • Salesforce for Sales CRM
  • Google Analytics
  • Google Sheets for Reporting
  • Website with the following tracking snippets:
  • Google Analytics
  • Hubspot
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • API integration between our product and Hubspot
  • Amplitude for tracking product engagement metrics


With this product example in mind, now we'll take a look at each funnel stage and the way a user might move through this funnel as they consider our product.

Funnel Stages, Metrics, and Goals

Technology plays a critical role in executing the tactics and programs of your Modern GTM strategy and in collecting and analyzing metrics along the way. Metrics provide the insight you need to analyze the performance of your funnel and take corrective action as necessary. Metrics also serve as triggers to ensure content and activities reach the USER at the right time in their journey.

Awareness 


It all starts with Awareness. There is an entire Awareness article later in this module, so I’ll keep this description brief. Awareness is the first stage in your Modern GTM Funnel and encompasses the activities and programs you execute to make your USERs aware that your company exists and that you have a product that solves their problem. Example activities include the following. 

  • Identify top keyword searches related to the problem
  • Ensure website has content and pages that are optimized for keyword searches
  • Participate in relevant community discussions related to the problem. Typically, you don’t want to blatantly pitch your product in these discussions but showcase your expertise in understanding the problem and the best approaches to solving this problem (oh and by the way, we have a product that just so happens to solve this problem). 
  • Speak at relevant conferences/meetups as a domain expert in this problem area
  • Actively participate in relevant discussions on social channels and online communities and discussion forums
  • Publish a technical ebook or white paper that showcases your expertise in the area and, of course, mentions you have a product that solves the problem

For our example product, awareness activities in our funnel look something like the following.



Goals & Metrics: Your Awareness goals and metrics will be based on website activity. I know, everyone already knows what website visitors and pageviews are. But to be comprehensive, let’s define them here anyway. When someone says they had 1,000 website visitors last month, that should mean that they had 1,000 unique people visit their website last month. 


You can get slightly more granular and track total, new, and repeat website visitors to get a better sense of how many visitors are coming back to get more information. You can also try to exclude customers and other cohorts that you don’t want to count as being in Awareness. 


For now though, just keep it simple and assume that all of these visitors are in the Awareness funnel stage and our goal is to get them to start a free trial of your product. The one exception to keeping it simple relates to our next funnel stage, which is Education.


Education


The Education funnel stage includes the set of activities and programs you execute to educate your personas about how your product solves their problem and how the product actually works with detailed product tutorials and documentation. Example activities include the following.  

  • Detailed product page
  • Product documentation targeted to users 
  • Getting Started guide
  • Feature tutorial videos and guides
  • Sandbox environments
  • Product webinars


Education activities in our example funnel look something like the following.

Goals & Metrics: Assuming your Education funnel stage relies predominantly on webpage content and that anonymous website visitors can consume this content, then, like Awareness, you will use website activity to set Education goals and track with metrics. You will need a way to distinguish between Awareness visitors and Education visitors. The easiest way to do this is to track unique pageviews on the webpages hosting the educational content, including product documentation and videos (if they can be consumed off your site, say on YouTube, then you will need to pull in the metrics from the distribution platform). 


Free Trial Conversion


This is one of my favorite Modern GTM Funnel stages. You’ve worked really hard up to this point to build awareness and educate USERs about why they need your product. Now, we just need to get them to try it! Again, I have a dedicated article on this funnel stage later in this module. But to summarize, here are example activities and programs you execute to get USER personas to start a free trial and create an account in your product: 

  • Good CTA Strategies
  • Persuasive web copy
  • Clear pricing and packaging
  • Email nurturing
  • A/B testing conversion pages
  • Retargeting advertising


Free Trial Conversion activities are reflected in our example funnel as follows.



Goals & Metrics: This stage is pretty straightforward when it comes to defining metrics and goals. It’s simply how many people successfully filled out the form that creates the USER’s product account and starts their free trial. You might get more creative with your goal and metric definitions to account for specific circumstances that repeatedly misrepresent the actual health of this funnel stage. A few common circumstances I’ve seen for getting more granular in these definitions include:

  1. Multiple people from the same company start free trials but further down the funnel merge into one sales opportunity. This scenario, if not well understood, will make it appear that conversion rates from Trial Conversion to later funnel stages is lower than it actually is.
     
  2. Fake accounts. The best way I’ve seen to prevent fake trial accounts from impacting your metrics and goals is to attempt to prevent spammers from filling out the form in the first place (CAPTCHA, require non-disposable email domain, etc) or have a post-signup email verification step (or similar) and only count the trial USERs who have completed this step. Neither approach is bulletproof (spammers stil get through) and they both add friction for real USERs.

Both of these example circumstances artificially boost your Free Trial Conversions metric and artificially lower your conversion rates further down the funnel. Assuming these special circumstances aren’t that problematic, meaning they only represent a small percentage of your trial conversions, then just count them all. The next funnel stage, Trial Engagement, will distinguish between engaged and not engaged trial USERs and the conversion rate from Free Trial Conversion to Free Trial Engagement will inform the quality and change in quality over time of your trial conversions.

Free Trial Engagement


Getting a USER to start a trial is not an end. Once the USER has started the trial, you’ll need to help guide them toward their Aha! Moment with your product and content. Activities and programs you execute to get trial users to engage with your product and reach the Aha! Moment include:

  • Instrumenting your product to collect metrics for important product engagement milestones
  • Product education content that guides new users through product onboarding that results in reaching the aha! moment
  • Email nurturing programs to share education content when trial users don’t reach milestones


Goals & Metrics: Determine what USERs must do and/or experience with your product in order to be engaged. Your product team, likely with support from your sales team, will identify these engagement milestones based on working with real USERs. From there, the product team will instrument the application to collect the necessary metrics to determine when USERs reach these milestones. Ultimately, you will identify a specific milestone or set of milestones that officially determine when a USER is engaged.


Free Trial Engagement activities are reflected in our example funnel as follows.



Sales Opportunity (optional)


When you hire a sales leader, they will implement a sales methodology with several distinct sales-specific stages, activities, and metrics. We reuse your sales methodology’s Sales Opportunity stage as an optional stage in your Modern GTM funnel. It is optional because some USERs may choose to purchase your product directly in your application (self-serve) rather than through your sales team. 


See the Field Guide module on Selling to Your Early Market for more practical guidance on this stage.


Sales Opportunity activities are reflected in our example funnel as follows.

Land deal (self-serve or sales-led)


When a USER or BUYER purchases your product for the first time either through your sales team or through a self-service experience. This is described as a land deal because it typically covers only one application/use case (and is priced accordingly) with the opportunity to earn expansion opportunities to others. Key activities include:

  • Ringing a bell or hitting a gong
  • High-fiving
  • 🍻


Goals & Metrics: This one is easy! Like the Sales Opportunity Stage, set goals for both the number of new customers and the dollar amount of those deals (typically, the aggregate ARR or contract value).  


This may be obvious but at the end of each sales cycle you will have either won the business or lost it. If you won it, then you consider this opportunity Closed/Won and have made progress toward your Land Deal goals. If you lost the deal, then it is considered Closed/Lost. In many cases, you may continue to pursue Closed/Lost opportunities. However, when you’re able to get them back to the table then it would be considered a new opportunity. 


Land activities are reflected in our example funnel as follows.



Expand


With a Modern GTM, it is common and by design that your Land deals will have a relatively low (annual contract value) ACV. This stems from the fact that USERs, or their mid-level managers, are also the BUYERs, have limited budgets, and are making a buying decision for a small division or team within a larger organization. The downside is the lower ACV but the upside is adoption, transaction speed, deal volume, and lower customer acquisition costs. The most valuable upside is that you earn the opportunity to grow the ACV by leveraging these small, yet successful implementations to identify and pursue expansion opportunities. Expansion opportunities can include purchasing additional licenses, upgrading to a more advanced version of the product, and/or purchasing add-on products. 


Think about the Expansion stage as kicking off another iteration of the entire funnel but highly customized to the specifics of the expansion opportunities available in your product. We aren’t going to go through the entire funnel here again, but here are a few important points specific to expansion activities:

  • Craft Awareness and Education programs specific to the features available in advanced editions of the product
  • Leverage Account Based Marketing (ABM) tactics to focus programs on additional teams within your existing customer accounts
  • Create private/internal case studies of the initial successful implementation to be shared with other departments or teams
  • Host or sponsor Lunch & Learns or dedicated education events where existing customers bring other teams to learn about your products
  • Establish a trial or POC program to let existing USERs experience additional product capabilities


Goals & Metrics: Since we treat the Expansion stage of the funnel like a restart of the GTM funnel, the goals and metric definitions for each stage remain largely the same. However, you will need to establish a methodology that identifies when existing customers are ready to embark on the expansion journey. If the opportunity is to upsell additional products to your existing Land USERs, then you will need to define product engagement metrics and milestones that indicate a need for the additional product capabilities. If the expansion opportunity is to identify new departments or teams within the organization, the trigger is usually a successful outcome with your Land USERs that can be used to prove value to additional teams.

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