For B2B marketers helping their clients connect with more B2B customers, understanding the different stages of the B2B customer journey is extremely important. However, to fully understand all the complexities of this customer journey, one must first understand the concept of the modern B2B marketing funnel.
For all intents and purposes, the B2B marketing funnel is essentially a step-by-step outline of the customer journey, which now resides almost entirely online. As a result, marketing teams often break this funnel down into several segments when coming up with an effective B2B digital marketing strategy. These segments cover the entire customer journey from point A to Z, but in a clearly laid-out manner, each with its own attributes and nuances.
So, even though the concept of a B2B marketing funnel might sound simple, there’s actually a lot that goes into this fundamental component of a B2B digital marketing strategy. Here, you’ll learn all about the key marketing tactics and other considerations that go into building a successful B2B marketing funnel sales strategy. But first…
Make Sure to Do Your Research
The very first step should always involve you asking yourself this question: “Do you know who your client’s B2B buyers really are?”
While it might seem fairly straightforward, there’s actually a ton of potential variables that go into answering this question. Furthermore, if you’re basing your answer off of guesswork as opposed to research, then you won’t ever know for certain, let alone be able to identify factors such as who the potential customer’s primary decision-makers are or the extent of their decision-making power.
In addition, without actual data based on thorough marketing processes and analyses, you’ll never be able to curate an accurate value prop for each prospect or lead, nor will you be able to figure out crucial data points like the cost per acquisition. Needless to say, all of this could seriously impact your bottom line, so preliminary research is critical if you want to accurately examine the funnels of potential buyers.
The Three Stages of the B2B Marketing Funnel
The concept of the “buyer’s journey” encompasses everything that happens from the moment a prospect becomes aware of your product up until they finally make a purchase. However, the hectic landscape of the online business world makes the B2B buying process tracking more complex than ever before, resulting in additional strain for some B2B organizations.
This is also why digital marketers like to break down each stage of the funnel, as this gives concrete, organized, and clearly defined touchpoints which can be referenced at any time. These stages include the top of the funnel, middle of the funnel, and the bottom of the funnel.
1. The Top of the Funnel
The top of the funnel is the initial awareness stage where a person first becomes a potential prospect. They’ve “entered” your funnel through the very top by simply becoming aware of your products, services, or brand. The important part of this stage is that brand awareness has now hit them, and your organization is now something they know exists. Ideally, this will be in regard to a particular issue or challenge they were researching.
Since the top of the funnel is naturally the funnel’s highest level, prospects are still in the early research and discovery phase here. In other words, they’re likely more interested in locating more educational content to help them address their issues. Fortunately, if you happen to be a reputable online authority that can offer a solution, then you might just become a subject of consideration and evaluation – which brings us to the middle of the funnel.
2. The Middle of the Funnel
In the middle of the funnel, the prospect has become aware of your brand (or at least a particular product or service) and then gone a step beyond to learn more about you as a potential solution provider.
While the prospect still isn’t ready to make a purchase during this stage, anyone in the middle of the funnel is interested in learning more about your organization’s offerings, background, and reputation.
Based on what they decide, they could either opt for a competitor, but ideally, they’ll proceed to the next stage: the bottom of the funnel.
3. The Bottom of the Funnel
If the prospect decides that you are the most appropriate solution to their unique situation, then they’ve finally entered the bottom of your sales funnel.
At this point, they’ve done their research on both you and your competitors, meaning they’re now quite familiar with your business. As a result, they’re now focused on you providing them with adequate products or services, which they’ll determine after thoroughly navigating your website.
If you have a well-defined value proposition and your prospect enjoys the customer experience, that reassures the prospects of your value. As a result, you’re much more likely to become their final decision for their big purchase or transaction when the time comes.
Understanding the B2B Sales Funnel
To help prospects decide that your business is indeed the best option as they go through the three stages of the marketing funnel, you need to ensure that your internal sales process is as foolproof as your value proposition. After all, it’s your sales team that will play the biggest role in moving prospects further down the B2B sales funnel, especially since B2B consumers expect to interact with a qualified sales rep before making a major purchase for their company.
As a result, marketers and sales teams should always work in tandem to help turn leads into conversions. For example, marketers can help arm your sales reps with key data points, case studies, and even product demos that will help everyone on the sales team drive conversions when engaging with prospects.
Modern B2B Marketing Channels
By now, it’s fairly common knowledge that traditional outreach channels such as cold calling are outmoded and ineffective. However, modern marketing campaigns can supercharge an organization’s lead generation through a variety of more contemporary strategies and avenues such as social media, content marketing, search engines, email marketing, and content creation.
One of the primary ways that today’s customers find information about companies is through their social media. For B2B brands, one of the most commonly used platforms is LinkedIn, but Facebook and Twitter are also commonly referenced by prospective buyers, as well. LinkedIn, however, is particularly useful for getting your business’s name out there in certain circles, helping those who are seeking your services find them with greater ease.
Partnering with the right influencers – ideally, those who your audience is already familiar with and trusts – can lend your business tons of credibility to your business and help you stick out from your competitors. When these strategic partnerships feel natural and organic instead of forced or contrived, then the influencers’ authority can really make a difference.
Every B2B marketing funnel requires a cutting-edge content marketing strategy to push it to the next level. The general purpose of content marketing is to share written, downloadable, or visual media that helps your target audience learn more about your expertise within your industry. And with so many of today’s B2B buyers checking out the websites of companies they’re interested in, having an effective content marketing strategy is an essential way to strengthen your brand affinity, drive leads, and expand your audience as visitors navigate your site. This is especially true when you consider that 90% of B2B buyers say online content has a moderate to major effect on their purchasing decisions.
78% of today’s B2B buyers start their search on Google, and since the top of the marketing funnel is all about building awareness, it’d be foolish not to leverage this powerful search engine. That’s why so many B2B strategies place such great emphasis on things like search engine marketing, online/paid advertisements, and especially search engine optimization (or just “SEO”). For example, incorporating SEO strategies into your B2B marketing efforts will increase your website’s visibility on search engines like Google, allowing you to appear in the results above your competition. Naturally, this will help increase the traffic to your website while building up awareness of your business.
While sending out cold emails is almost as antiquated as cold calling, digital marketers can leverage nurture emails for a more pragmatic email-based marketing campaign that moves people through the funnel. Indeed, email lead nurturing is a great way to stay connected to the leads that you collect. It’s especially helpful in the B2B industry, where sales cycles can take weeks or even months. Maintaining a well-crafted email nurturing campaign full of engaging content will help you remain top-of-mind as your prospects contemplate their options throughout the long-term buying process.
Leveraging On-Site Content to Attract Qualified Leads
One of the best ways to establish a solid online presence is by featuring helpful and relevant B2B content throughout your website. Not only will this help your website look better, it will also help your business showcase their thought leadership.
Things like on-site blogs, webinars, case studies, white papers, landing pages, and testimonials are a great way for leads to gain more awareness of your brand and reputation (especially when that content is optimized using SEO best practices).
You can also leverage your content to proactively address potential pain points your audience is likely facing, alleviating anxiety around these issues and reinforcing the fact that your business is the best solution for their B2B needs.
Meeting Your B2B Marketing & Conversion Goals
While all of this might seem like a lengthy process, it’s always worthwhile if you have a clear goal backed by solid, measurable data. Regardless, generating more leads is naturally the ultimate goal of any B2B marketing strategy.
So, as more and more visitors become new leads or potential customers by providing their email addresses, phone numbers, or entering into your contact database, you’ll need to ensure you follow the best practices of the aforementioned lead nurturing processes to help your marketing and sales teams meet their goals.
Furthermore, when you carefully monitor the number of buyers at each stage of the purchase funnel, you can then calculate conversion rates between the different phases. This will show which stages of the sales process need improvement, as well as how much revenue is being generated throughout each stage. Using this quantitative data, you can safely determine whether or not your B2B marketing strategy is successful.