Sixty-eight percent of sales teams have yet to fully visualize their sales funnel. In the B2B ecosystem, your funnel is the tangible representation of your marketing ecosystem. It helps sales teams align goals, drive visions, and convert prospects. Unfortunately, most organizations either fail to understand their sales funnel or over-simplify the full complexity of their funnel. Your funnel isn’t a manufacturing line that takes in prospects and spits out conversions. It’s complex, cyclical, and filled with various micro-moments, emotional journeys, and personal experiences.
Marketing, as a whole, is incredibly dense. McKinsey defines modern marketing as “the ability to harness the full capabilities of the business to provide the best experience for the customer and thereby drive growth.” This definition is near-perfect. Marketing isn’t solely about leads, conversions, and content. It’s about the entire experience. Your funnel is simply a visual representation of that experience made to help sales teams understand campaigns, goals, missions, and metrics.
So how do you visualize the modern B2B marketing funnel?
The Three “Stages” of the B2B Funnel
Technically, the B2B funnel is filled with millions of micro-moments and stages. But the entire point of a funnel is for visualization. You want your salespeople to understand the customer journey and how the campaigns and strategies they execute influence that journey. So, for the sake of simplicity, effectiveness, and understanding, let’s break the funnel down into the traditional 3 buckets.
1. Demand Gen
This is, by far, the most important part of the funnel. Unfortunately, it’s also the least popular. Over 80 percent of sales reps say lead gen is their #1 priority. It shouldn’t be. In fact, 83 percent of leading CFOs believe that marketing’s sole role is to promote growth. Growth and leads aren’t synonymous. Demand gen is the secret growth sauce many organizations fail to chase. In a nutshell, demand gen is how you get people aware, interested, and excited about your products or services. The goal of demand gen is to generate doubt. You want your prospects to question the way they currently do things and become aware of how your solution solves that problem.
So why is demand gen such a big deal? Because people aren’t sacks of cash. They’re complex, emotional, and unique. Demand gen gives them an opportunity to form their own opinions, ask big questions, and discover your content through inspiration and curiosity — not through a bombardment of ads. In fact, demand gen campaigns don’t ask for contact details, pry for personal information, or involve a ton of annoying spam calls. Instead, demand gen allows people to be people. Building a brand through trust, transparency, and awareness is far more effective than throwing money into the jam-packed social media ad ocean.
So how does it work? You start by aligning marketing and sales teams. Demand gen requires both teams to walk hand-in-hand. Marketing is responsible for branding and content generation (LinkedIn is the perfect spot for this), and sales is responsible for nurturing. Ideally, marketing teams will identify and qualify prospects using a variety of strategies, and sales will nurture and qualify prospects throughout their journey. So, demand gen is still funnel-based. But it’s less focused on immediate value-generation and more focused on long-term nurturing and lifelong awareness.
2. Lead Gen
As demand gen produces nurture-ready prospects, marketing teams will begin funneling these prospects down into the lead category. This process involves qualifying leads. We recommend breaking leads down into three categories: low-value, mid-value, and high-value.
- High-value: These are leads with high intent and fit. They need your product, and they want your product. Sales team members should be directly involved in every interaction with these leads.
- Mid-value: These are leads with high fit and low intent. They need your product, but they may not want your product immediately. You should blend automation and manual touchpoints to reach these leads.
- Low-value: These are leads with low fit and low intent. They completed a form fill at some point, but they’re not ready to convert. Use sales sequences or fully automated tools to continuously nurture these leads.
Remember, demand gen generates leads. But not all demand is a lead. Nurturing and qualifying is crucial. You want salespeople focused on the people with the highest conversion chance. Don’t let low-value prospects drip out of your funnel. Keep them in a nurturing loop by sending them automated emails, texts, and messages. But don’t bombard them. Sometimes, it can take years for a prospect to convert. Don’t lose track of them in the process.
3. Lead Conversion
Once leads are qualified and categorized, it’s time to convert them. This is where your human capital shines. Salespeople should focus on high-quality leads first. Through a combination of emails, calls, and social media outreach, your sales team can flex their silver tongues. But here’s the crazy part: lead conversion isn’t at the end of the funnel. It’s actually the beginning and end. Once leads convert, you need to keep them. Increasing retention by 5% boosts profits by 95%. Not only is it cheaper to retain customers, but it’s the entire ballgame. Why spend all of this time on demand gen, lead gen, and conversion only to let customers churn after a month or two?
Want to prevent customer attrition? Stop thinking about your funnel as a linear in-and-out process.
Continuous vs. Linear: Understanding Prospect and Client Flow
The traditional funnel is linear. You create awareness, generate excitement, and convert. Then… you’re done. That’s it! But is it really? What about all of those new conversions you sweat blood and tears to acquire? Are you really prepared to call them “done?” You shouldn’t be. Stop thinking of the funnel as a line. It’s a circle. Once a lead converts, they’re back to the demand gen phase. That’s how you build a killer brand.
Think about Google and Coca-Cola. Did Coke’s marketers call it quits once you drank your first can? Is Google done with you once you make your first search? Nope! They’re constantly battling for your attention. And you’re always a part of their plans. That’s how you build a successful business. Demand gen isn’t only valuable for first impressions. Keeping existing customers aware of your company helps you occupy the emotional chambers of their brains.
In other words, never stop marketing.
Need Some Help?
The truth is: the B2B marketing funnel is fluid, complicated, and filled with small touchpoints. Are you struggling to create demand, generate leads, convert prospects, and retain customers? We can help. At TAM, we understand the importance of a funnel visualization, but we also understand the intricacy of the intangibles and invisible funnel layers. Contact us to learn how we can help.
The material was written with the help of the following resources:
- Starting and Marketing a New Business with Aaron Mellman of Aiden Technologies
- Leveraging Neuromarketing for Your Business with Tim Ash of TimAsh.com
- How to compete with the big guys, with less resources (B2B)
- The Key to Marketing for Video Platforms with Alena Amano
- Best methods of segmentation for B2B