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Signal-based marketing and sales explained

Published Jun 6 2024 6 minute read Last updated Jun 11 2024
signal based marketing
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  • Sean Dougherty
    Written by Sean Dougherty

    A copywriter at Funnel, Sean has more than 15 years of experience working in branding and advertising (both agency and client side). He's also a professional voice actor.

Can signal-based marketing transform the way marketers reach customers? 

With the average American encountering 4,000 to 10,000 ads daily, traditional marketing methods often get lost in the noise. From the moment people wake up, they are bombarded with social media campaigns, email marketing, website banners, and TV ads. Step outside, and the barrage continues with ads on every street corner.

The human brain simply can't process this amount of information. So, how can you ensure your message stands out and reaches those truly interested in your product or service? The answer lies in providing a personalized experience that places each individual at the center of their own buyer's journey.

This is the power of signal-based marketing and sales.

What is signal-based marketing?

Signal-based marketing is a strategy that utilizes available signals and machine learning to deliver relevant messages. These signals cover a wide range of consumer events and behaviors at specific moments in time, indicating interests and affinities.

It’s all about nuance. 

By paying attention to each consumer’s behavior, you can create a unique buyer profile for them. This profile includes things like how they navigate your site and socials, and their browsing history. 

The problem is that with the rise of privacy standards urging many to block tracking cookies, the amount of information available to create a buyer profile is decreasing. So you need to find ways to understand your consumers, even when they are anonymous to you.

Using signal-based marketing, you can identify patterns in the behavior of the customers and match them with anonymous users to more accurately predict if a person is likely to buy from you. 

By fully understanding your consumers and what moves them, you can ensure you deliver the right message at a time that inspires them to make a purchase.

“You can view it as the automated gathering of intelligence,” said Con Cirillo, Funnel's director of lifecycle marketing. “I see companies either automate the outreach that follows [as well] or give it to humans to follow up on manually"

Gathering this data personalizes your marketing strategy and takes the guesswork out of your next steps in the buying process.

Signal-based marketing or signal-based selling?

Signal-based marketing and sales are two sides of the same coin, working in harmony to create a seamless, personalized customer journey. So let’s dissect them to get a better understanding of what makes this technique thrive.

SBM for marketing teams

You can’t make a sale if there’s no demand, right? Signal-based marketing (SBM) is all about scouting those consumers who are most in need of your business and who are most likely to buy from you.

It includes analyzing website and marketing interactions (such as newsletters and social posts) and monitoring which ads/content are driving more traffic. This helps you understand the pain points of each person so you can personalize the way you market to them.

For example, let’s say you sell notebooks. You’ve noticed (after extensive data analysis) that buyers typically start their journey through your newsletter. They then land on your sales page and spend 10 minutes before making a purchase. Based on this, you can assume that other people who come to your website through your emails and spend 10 minutes on a sales page are more likely to buy from you because that’s the signal you’ve received from previous consumers.

From there, you can start to build audience cohorts that you can effectively market to, delivering the messages that are most likely to draw them in.

Once the data shows a person who is likely to buy (based on their website journeys, interactions, browsing history, and more), it’s time to get the sales team involved.

You have a couple of options. You can trigger automatic sales tactics such as pop-up boxes and personalized offers or pass them along to the sales team as qualified leads, giving them the information they need to create a personalized and effective sales conversation. 

SBM for sales teams

If the marketing team lines up the shot, it’s the sales team’s job to score a goal. 

The allure of SBM is that, while not a guarantee for success, it greatly improves your chances of converting potential clients into paying customers. 

We know that consumers react poorly to cold calling and generic emails. It actively harms the relationship the consumer has with your brand. For example, on social media, it’s estimated that 51% of people will unfollow a brand that posts “annoying” content.

By understanding and talking directly to your customers you gain their trust by offering a solution to a problem they actually have instead of making them feel uncomfortable or targeted.

Let’s continue using the notebook example from earlier. Imagine the buyer came specifically from an email about how notebooks improve productivity. You could lean on the themes of productivity to create a personalized email pitch to the prospective buyer that links buying a notebook to their specific interest.

By following the signal data of how your audience interacts with your website and channels, you can acknowledge their pain points and needs, showing customers that you’re paying attention to their needs, and portraying your company as understanding and trustworthy.


SBM for Marketing Teams

SBM for Sales Teams

Lead Generation

Monitor customer behavior on your website and social accounts.

Provide the right offers to the right customers (through personalized recommendations based on the SBM research of the marketing team).

Lead Identification

Use web crawling to find potential leads for your product/service.

Regularly stay in touch with likely buyers when they indicate a life change or internet browsing behavior that could benefit from your goods or services.

Lead Nurturing & Closing

Keep up-to-date with customers to assess their current circumstances, indicating they may want to buy from you.

Close the deal!

Data sources for signal-based marketing

At its core, signal-based marketing is about leveraging your data to gain insights into customer behavior so you can personalize your marketing efforts. But where does this data come from? 

  • Website analytics: Tracking metrics like page views, CTR, bounce rates, and time spent on each page reveal how visitors interact with your site and what content resonates with each person.
  • CRM data: You can use demographics, interactions and purchase history to personalize future marketing efforts as well as identify patterns from past and current buyers.
  • Email marketing: Monitor open rates, CTR, and conversions to see which messages resonate best with each consumer. A/B testing helps narrow down which specific elements are resonating best.
  • UTM metrics: Using UTMs in your URLs helps keep track of the exact sources and campaigns consumers are engaging with most.
  • Social media engagement: Though less frequently used for SBM, likes, comments, and clicks act as additional third-party data that lets you understand individual preferences and interests

When pulled together, all of these data points create a holistic profile of a consumer that allows you to personalize their marketing experience with your brand.

Three tips for signal-based marketing

Signal-based marketing helps businesses across the world personalize their efforts by producing higher-converting marketing efforts. So how can you replicate their success?

1. Focus on customer engagement

Every move someone takes on the internet tells a little story about what’s going on in their mind. And as a marketer, there are plenty of tools available to uncover that picture.

For example, if you want to pinpoint the content that’s driving traffic, you can use UTMs (Urchin Tracking Modules) at the end of your URLs, and use the information to focus your marketing strategies on what works for your audience.

The first-party data analytics from your website can help you accurately track critical feedback such as bounce rates, page views and time spent on each page to see where your audience is connecting best with you. 

Your CRM data is also useful to see demographics, purchase history, survey information and feedback which are all powerful signals you can use to personalize marketing to that specific person.

All of these serve as signals that can alert your teams to certain problems they might have or solutions you can offer.

You can then choose a two-prong approach:

1. Automate your outreach through:

  • Pop-ups
  • Email sequences
  • Personalized offers

2. Have a sales rep get in touch to see how your company can help

These signals help you put the right information in front of the right people, highlighting your products or services as the solution to their problems.

2. Reach out to champions when they start at a new company

Signal-based marketing isn’t just about finding new customers. It’s also about nurturing the ones you already have, fostering good relationships, and focusing on repeat business.

And this is something you can leverage with “champions”  — people who already use your product and have shown they like it.

For example, let’s imagine there’s an email marketer working at Nike who’s been using GetResponse as their email marketing tool for the past three years. Using data analysis, GetResponse notices that the marketer has updated their LinkedIn profile and now works at another company in the same role.

GetResponse knows that this email marketer favors their product, and may want to incorporate it into the tech stack of the new company.

So GetResponse could schedule an email for two months’ time (once they’re all settled into their new position) to catch up with the marketer and discuss their email marketing software needs.

In this way, keeping up with people who have already indicated their preference for your business and product means they’re more likely to bring you new clients by “vouching” for your brand and the service you provide.

3. Use web crawlers to get additional data

Signal-based marketing can also be enhanced with self-built tools. Sometimes, you can create your own solutions quickly and inexpensively to generate data and signals.

Web crawling is one such method. You don’t need to buy data from third parties; you can acquire it yourself. If you have in-house web developers, that's ideal. If not, you can find external experts to take on the task for you.

A simple use case: If you operate a staffing agency and are looking for companies posting specific job listings, you can either acquire these data externally from relevant data providers or create a crawler for specific job platforms yourself. This way, you receive a daily list of companies and contacts. If a job posting serves as a signal that this company might be interested in your services, you’ve developed a cost-effective and straightforward tool that provides you with fresh signals every day.

Take the hint with signal-based marketing 

The internet is crawling with subtle clues that can help you find your next sale.

Whether it’s how people navigate in your online spaces, what they search for on competitors’ sites, or analyzing business trends, reading the signs will help you market to the people who need your products or services the most.

Check out our Funnel data marketing report software and see for yourself how easy it is to get started on signal-based marketing, personalizing your marketing efforts, and driving those conversion rates higher!

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