No business can grow without a marketing funnel that is constantly loaded with new names at the top and is moving leads through the various stages of the funnel at a consistent pace.
The best way to grow in 2019 is to build and maintain a healthy, flowing marketing funnel. To do that, you first need to define the stages of your marketing funnel, decide which types of content or outreach are effective at moving leads through each stage of the funnel and execute your strategy.
Below, we’ll cover the basics of defining your marketing funnel stages and discuss which types of tactics are most effective at each stage.
Key steps to building your marketing funnel
There are many tactics to build your marketing funnel and grow your business. Some tactics work for certain companies and prove ineffective for others. However, there are a few tried and true tactics that can be applied across the board, regardless of the type of business you run. Here is a quick rundown of those universal marketing funnel growth best practices:
Customer research and buyer personas
Before you can define and map out your marketing funnel, you must understand who your ideal customers are. With that insight, you can accurately map out stages that align with customers’ needs and deliver the right content and tools at just the right time.
If you don’t know what your customers need at each stage, you’ll be going in blind, which will not yield impressive results.
So, to start, your first step is to understand the demographics, needs, interests, and challenges of your ideal customers. You accomplish this by creating buyer personas. Buyer personas are hypothetical profiles of your ideal customers. They include loads of information about those hypothetical buyers, such as demographic information, key challenges, objectives for the future, their preferred channels for receiving information, etc.
Building buyer personas is a labor-intensive task that requires much research and analysis. But it’s very much worth the effort as these personas will dictate the content you produce, how you interact with leads at each stage of the funnel, and so on. Check out our article on buyer personas to learn more.
Determining your marketing funnel stages
Each company will develop marketing funnel stages that are unique to its business model and customers’ needs. Essentially, you need to decide what a lead in each stage needs in order to be persuaded to engage further with your company and move to the next stage.
There is no definitive standard for creating a marketing funnel. Below we lay out a simplified set of marketing funnel stages to provide you with an idea of how to get started. But first, let’s touch on content, as content marketing is an increasingly important tactic for moving leads through each stage of the funnel and towards conversion.
Forming your content strategy
You can’t just reach out to a cold lead and pitch your product without nurturing them first. Before you ever mention your product or service, you must build trust among your prospects. You can do this by leveraging content marketing. Learn more about content marketing.
Leads at each stage of the marketing funnel need different types of content to engage them—think of it as a content marketing funnel. You wouldn’t send a cold lead a product brochure because you haven’t yet convinced them that they need your offering. And besides, why would they trust you if they know nothing about you?
Rather, you must plan to deliver different content types at different stages to help nudge them along the buyer journey path. And your first task is to determine which types of content will entice and interest leads enough to enter the top of your funnel.
Awareness: The top of your funnel
The top of your marketing funnel is where new leads enter into your marketing database. They self-identify by providing you with their contact information in exchange for content or other offers.
At this point, you are targeting anyone who would potentially be a good fit for your product or service. Once leads enter the top of your funnel, you can push inbound content at them to build trust and, if the content is world-class, they will start to see you as a thought leader in your space.
If you deliver content that solves common problems that leads have and educate them on emerging trends, they will start to look for you when they need guidance. This greatly boosts your brand reputation management efforts.
Other common tactics to attract fresh leads and convince them to engage with your brand include:
- SEO tactics that push your content higher in search engine results
- Social media tactics—such as special offers, contests, and social media ads—that capture leads’ attention
- Blog articles that provide unique value that competitors’ blogs do not
Ultimately, any tactic that allows you to generate brand awareness will be effective in the awareness building stage.
Consideration: The middle of your funnel
Once a lead is aware of your brand and is paying attention to you, then you can move to the consideration stage. In this stage of the marketing funnel, you share content that will convince leads that they have a problem that needs to be solved. Then, you present yourself as the entity that can help them solve that problem.
Often, particularly when talking about the B2B marketing funnel, potential customers do not realize that they may be missing a critical element of their internal process that is negatively affecting their ability to grow.
At this point, they are already aware of your brand, and you have their attention. So, the goal is to convince them that you are the provider who can solve their problems better than your competitors.
Common content types that are effective at moving leads from the consideration stage to the decision stage include:
- White papers
- Educational webinars around trends
- Educational resources about your brand and product or service offerings
- Email marketing campaigns to nurture leads and grow their interest in your brand
The goal here is to show potential customers your brand identity and convince them that you are the right choice to propel them forward in their growth plans.
Decision: The bottom of the funnel
When a lead is interested enough in your brand and your offerings that they want to learn more, they move to the decision stage. At this point, they are likely comparing you to competitors, trying to decide which company would best meet their needs.
In this stage, you should focus on highlighting your value proposition and proving to prospects that you offer unique value that they can’t get anywhere else.
Leads in the decision stage need a little extra attention. Your sales reps can make direct calls to them to answer any questions they have.
You can also leverage bottom-of-funnel marketing tactics to help convince prospects that you are the right choice. These include:
- Case studies that allow prospects to envision themselves using your product and achieving similar results to those that the case study subject achieved
- Customer testimonials
- Deep-dive webinars that cover your product and its benefits
- Free product demo offers
- Product spec documents to give prospects a full view of what exactly your offering delivers
If you nail this stage, you will convert more prospects to customers. Because of this, the decision stage is particularly important.
Measuring the results of your efforts is always critical because any intelligent business wants to make data-driven decisions about how to move forward.
With powerful CRM reporting, you can measure the velocity at which leads are moving from one marketing funnel stage to the next. Metrics and reporting are incredibly helpful for marketing funnel analysis.
If you see leads piling up in one stage—in other words, you identify a bottleneck—you can ask yourself what you could be doing differently at that stage to unblock the bottleneck and keep leads flowing smoothly.
So, always measure your efforts and course-correct as needed.
Defining and monitoring your marketing funnel will help you generate more leads and convert more of them into customers.
It’s incredibly important to develop buyer personas to give you insight into which types of content leads need at each stage.
Then, create content that is effective at moving them from one stage to the other. And if you see a bottleneck appear, always be sure to address it immediately.
Businesses that take an ad hoc approach to moving leads towards conversion typically underperform against the competition. Those that define detailed funnel stages and constantly monitor how leads are moving through the funnel are those that will come out on top and thrive into the future.
How are you managing your marketing funnel? Do you have any specific tactics that work particularly well for you and your business? Be sure to share them with us in the comment section below!