In a conversation I was having recently about marketing strategy, the question came up, “What should we be doing first? Where do we start?”

The answer to that question depends on whether you’re talking about audience building or system building. When it comes to building out systems and infrastructure, the place you generally want to start is at the very bottom of the sales and marketing funnel. Get your CRM in order. Get your marketing automation system in order. Get your email service provider in order. Get your web analytics set up. Get your goals configured.

Get all the nuts and bolts tested and working from the bottom up so that your infrastructure is in good condition when you initiate your media acquisition. One of the dangers of building a marketing infrastructure from the top down is that someone turns things on before you’re ready and your new audiences get into the funnel and promptly fall out of it because you’re not ready. Starting from the bottom up ensures that the parts closest to the sale are working correctly.

Spiders in the funnel

The reverse is true once you begin working with human beings, once you turn your actual marketing programs on. Nothing really matters in terms of optimization of your sales funnel if there are no people in it. A perfect closing rate of 1 lead still means you’re going out of business if your business needs dozens, hundreds, or thousands of leads. You need to start with the top of the funnel, with new audiences, new people can become aware of your existence and begin engaging with your products and services.

Optimizing for anything other than new audiences at the very beginning of the process is futile. Even after you developed a successful sales funnel from top to bottom, you generally want to understand where your audiences are coming from and get new ones that work in a similar manner. Unquestionably, fix the most broken metrics first, but if nothing is especially broken, that start with the top.

So the answer to where to start with your strategy depends on what you’re building: machinery or people. Choose wisely!


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