Building a B2B marketing funnel: a 7-step monster guide anyone can follow

Are you selling a great B2B product or service, but don’t have enough buyers? One of the most probable reasons is not providing your audience with the right experience at the right time.

This right experience is determined by a B2B marketing funnel. Planning your sales and marketing process in alignment with a B2B sales pipeline can help you drive more traffic, convert prospects into customers, and make them fall in love with your brand.

So here’s your complete guide to building a successful business by mapping your marketing efforts with stages of a B2B marketing funnel. This extensive guide will provide all the information you need about creating and optimizing your B2B sales funnel.

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    What is a B2B marketing funnel?

    A B2B marketing funnel is a visual depiction of the stages prospects go through, from getting introduced to your business to becoming a customer.

    In the earlier stages, prospects have little awareness of your product or service. But as they go from one stage to the next, they get interested in your business, eventually turning into leads. And when they make a purchase, they reach the final stages of becoming customers and brand advocates.

    Visual B2B marketing funnel

    Of course, every prospect’s journey is different and not as straightforward as shown in the above diagram.

    Then why do we need a B2B marketing funnel?

    Because by presenting a buyer’s journey in a visual format, you can better understand what to say and how to reach prospects at each stage. And by providing the right information at the right time and place, you can help prospects move from one stage to the next fast.

    In other words, when you divide your sales and marketing process into stages of a B2B marketing funnel, you can plan the right messaging, content, and communication channels for each stage.

    Stages of a B2B marketing funnel

    To truly understand how a B2B marketing funnel works, let’s take a quick look at all the stages one by one.

    Awareness stage

    This stage takes people from being strangers to being familiar with your brand. People in this stage have just become aware that they have a problem and that you are in the business of solving that problem. But they are not interested in learning more.

    Interest stage

    At this stage, prospects have moved past awareness, and are interested in learning more about how to address the problems they have. But they’re not looking to buy anything. In sales lingo, these people are known as MQLs (marketing qualified leads) or soft leads.

    Consideration stage

    At this stage, prospects have moved past awareness and interest towards being solid leads, aka SQLs (sales qualified leads). They are now considering buying a product or service to solve their problem. But they are not ready to buy something yet. In other words, they’re window-shopping.

    Conversion stage

    Prospects at this stage are ready to buy a product or service and become your customers. But they may not be sure which product or service is right for them. So they are comparing different options before making a purchase. Plus, there may be certain last-minute objections or obstacles keeping them from hitting the buy button.

    Adoption stage

    At this stage, prospects have already bought from you. They are now evaluating the overall experience of the delivery and usage of your product or service. If you have delivered a great experience, they’ll turn into repeat customers and brand advocates.

    Essential notes about the B2B marketing funnel

    From what we have discussed so far, the following points may be obvious already. But just so we’re on the same page, let’s put them on paper.

    You don’t control the whole journey

    Prospects at any stage may or may not discover the experience you have planned for that stage. Or they may get the information they need from other sources, such as friends, coworkers, and websites that have no affiliation with you.

    It’s not a linear process

    Not every prospect will start from the first stage. There will be prospects who come across your business/website while they are on the 2nd, 3rd, or 4th stage. However, the funnel concept remains the same. Your goal as a business is to deliver the right experience at whichever stage a prospect finds you.

    Drops are expected

    Not every prospect will turn into a buyer, and it’s unrealistic to expect that 100% of prospects will complete all the stages. There will be a considerable decline from one stage to the next, as some prospects will drop at each stage.

    Funnel building is done in reverse

    This is the most important thing you need to keep in mind when building a B2B marketing funnel. Because many businesses get this wrong.

    As we discussed above, a prospect’s journey goes from awareness to adoption. But that doesn’t mean you should follow the same order when building your B2B marketing funnel. In fact, you need to go from the end to the beginning — adoption to awareness.

    Why? There are two reasons.

    First, there’s no point in preparing the right experience for a stage when the experience for the next stage is not ready.

    For example, if you’re not ready to convert traffic into leads, what’s the point of getting traffic? All the money you’re spending on awareness will go to waste if you have not established what will happen in the consideration stage.

    Similarly, if you get customers in the conversion stage but you aren’t prepared to support and delight them in the adoption stage, they’ll leave.

    Second, we already discussed that the journey is not the same for each prospect. Some of your prospects are already in the late stages. And you have a better chance of selling to people who are in late stages than those in early stages.

    In other words, it’s easy and cheap to sell to someone who’s closer to buying. So you need to take care of them first. That means preparing your communication for the late stages first.

    Steps to build a B2B marketing funnel

    The following steps will help you build and put a B2B marketing funnel in place. We’ll discuss the stages once again, along with the strategies you will need at each stage.

    Understand your target audience

    The appeal of a B2B marketing funnel is reaching the right people with the right message at the right time. But you can’t do that if you’re unclear on who these people are, what they need, and where they hang out.

    For example, if you make car parts and your prospects are car manufacturers who use car parts to make cars, you should get to know as much about your target audience as possible. That’s how you will capture their interest and create value.

    If your company has yet to identify your target audience, that’s the first order of business. For more information, read our guide on researching your target consumers.

    Streamline adoption stage to turn customers into brand advocates

    Once someone buys your product or service and becomes your customer, you cannot take them for granted.

    You build a real business only when they keep using your product or service. They should be so happy with you that they readily buy when you cross-sell or upsell new offerings. You want to have them stay with you for as long as possible.

    Strategies for this stage

    • Set up chatbots and a dedicated phone line for customer queries
    • Run customer loyalty programs
    • Respond to and implement customer feedback
    • Personalize communications and address problems or concerns as soon as they arise
    • Welcome and onboard customers properly
    • Create knowledge base documentation and information on troubleshooting common issues. It should be easy to navigate and search.

    Work on conversion stage to turn sales qualified leads (SQLs) into customers

    In this stage, you’re targeting people who want to buy a solution. And you want to close them by providing an experience that persuades them to buy from you.

    This is where you explicitly talk about how your business is relevant to the audience you’re communicating with. You highlight its offerings and how those offerings help solve problems for prospects.

    In addition, you address any objections/concerns, and encourage your prospects to take concrete action, like scheduling a consultation or placing an order.

    Strategies for this stage:

    • Create and share bottom funnel content such as customer reviews and case studies.
    • Ensure the right website architecture. All the essential information about your business should be readily available and easy to find.
    • Introduce your lead magnets, products, or services in strategic locations of your website, like the header, footer, and sidebar.

    Optimize consideration stage to turn soft leads (subscribers/followers) into solid leads

    Soft leads (also known as marketing qualified leads, or MQLs) are engaged to the extent that they are actually glad to hear from you. But they are not considering a paid solution yet. So you need to move them to the consideration stage.

    Strategies for this stage:

    Nurture your audience with middle funnel content. This means sharing content that’s valuable and also subtly mentions your product or service wherever relevant.

    Share middle funnel content with people who follow you on social media, or who opted to get your email newsletter, mobile messages, or push notifications.

    Run retargeting campaigns to reach the same people as above, or those who have visited your website at least once.

    What is a retargeting campaign?

    Image Source: Turnkey Marketing

    Generate interest to turn acquaintances into soft leads/MQLs

    Brand awareness is good, but it’s the returning traffic that will ultimately turn into leads and sales.

    99% of people who come to your website are visiting it for the first or second time. These people may not be ready to buy or have the need at the moment.

    But for when they change their mind or develop an active need, you want to make sure they remember you. The more exposed they are to your brand and website, the more likely they are to keep you in mind.

    That’s why for the people who have visited your website once or twice, it’s crucial to employ ways to bring them back again as frequently as you can, eventually converting them into leads and customers.

    So in the interest stage of your marketing funnel, you’re creating interest among your B2B audience in your knowledge and expertise, not products and/or services.

    Strategies for this stage:

    Create and share your best top-funnel content at regular intervals. Resist the urge to promote or sell anything.

    Build a big list of people who have given you permission to communicate with them. To do this, create landing pages/website popups to offer an incentive your target audience would appreciate. The incentive is called a lead magnet.

    The lead magnet could be a free trial of your service, a product sample, an ebook, white paper, worksheet, template, webinar, or a video.  To get the lead magnet, they’d have to give you permission to communicate with them. For example, they’ll submit their email address, share their phone number, or opt in to get push notifications.

    Example of lead magnet

    In other words, a visitor will need to enter their email address and become a subscriber to get free access to the lead magnet.

    Trigger awareness stage to turn strangers into acquaintances

    This is the part of the funnel where people in your target audience are not aware of your brand or the problems you solve. So you want to build up brand awareness among prospective customers and leads.

    Strategies for this stage:

    Create content on top-funnel topics related to your business. It should be relevant and useful for your target audience, even if they are not looking to buy anything at the moment.

    For example, let’s you provide a coworking office space on rent to new entrepreneurs. So to create awareness of your brand, you can create a guide on how to register a new business. This topic is not directly related to what you do, but it’s useful information for your target audience.

    The best way to find such topics is to use a good keyword research tool (like KWFinder) to see what type of information people are searching for the most in your chosen niche.

    For example, let’s say my business is in the bodybuilding niche. This is what I get when I search bodybuilding in KWFinder.

    Keyword research for B2B marketing funnel

    A keyword like “bodybuilding diet” shows that the searcher is just looking to learn more about this topic. So it’s a top-funnel topic.

    Invest in SEO. Compounding growth is what matters the most for brand awareness, along with repeated exposure and traffic. This means you should focus less on traffic sources like social media or advertising, which cannot give you recurring traffic, and more on SEO.

    Essential traffic sources for B2B marketing funnel

    Image Source: Orbit Media

    For best results, you must have so many pieces of high-quality content that your website pages show up on search engine result pages for several keyword searches. This will ensure that your target audience finds you through search engines not just once, but on multiple occasions.

    Track analytics to keep improving experiences throughout the funnel

    The strategies you put in place when building a B2B marketing funnel are not set in stone forever.

    The needs of your target audience may shift over time. Or you may want to break into a new sector. of products and services. Whatever the case, keep checking performance reports for each stage and adjust your strategy accordingly.

    Final thoughts on building a B2B marketing funnel

    It’s time to start filling the gaps in the stages of your B2B marketing funnel — gaps that may be causing prospects to drop out.

    Start by planning a content strategy. Begin with small steps, and focus on having a basic marketing funnel. Then solve issues and find growth opportunities.

    Remember, a great B2B marketing funnel isn’t just about acquiring customers, but also about delighting and retaining current customers. So they recommend your brand to their friends as well.

    If you need further assistance, we’re here to help. Smemark is a digital marketing agency that can assist your B2B business in identifying the stages of a marketing funnel and implementing them to optimize your leads and increase your sales.

    Did we miss anything? Did you try these steps? Do you have any questions or comments? Share your thoughts below in the comments section.

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    Hi, I'm Hitesh Sahni

    My team & I help brands with superior content marketing services, software reviews, and insights to boost traffic and lead generation. Sign up for our free email newsletter and get notified once a week about new blog posts with strategies to turn content into a growth channel for your business.

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