If you work for a business-to-business (B2B) company, odds are you’ve heard of the term “funnel” in reference to sales and marketing activity at least a handful of times. If you aren’t familiar with the ins and outs of funnels, we’ve broken it down for you.
What Is a B2B Marketing Funnel?
A marketing and/or sales funnel is a visualization of a prospect’s customer’s journey with your business up until (and sometimes beyond) the point of becoming a customer. In other words, it usually represents your customer’s typical journey. The journey begins when the prospect becomes aware of your business, engages (or takes an action), and then follows them through the purchasing stage. When executed properly, funnels help businesses move their marketing and sales strategies from isolated processes into a cohesive workflow, ideally ending in a seamless process for the customer.
Why Do B2B Businesses Use Funnels?
Easy to Understand
Demand waterfall funnels have been around for almost twenty years for good reason. They’re easy to explain and visualize. The metaphor fits well with how most B2B organizations view their go-to-market motion. The largest category is at the top filtering down to the few organizations that make it through to the status of customer. Total addressable market sits at the top, people who are aware of the brand next, and so on, until they become customers. The faster your business attracts people and convert them through each stage, the quicker you scale your business.
The demand generation waterfall helps businesses use key performance indicators that are meaningful to their business. When done correctly, businesses can use marketing qualified leads as a leading indicator for opportunity creation, which then leads to pipeline and bookings. Creating these metrics helps businesses build a benchmark for how much volume and time is needed to convert people through subsequent stages, which means they can predict future pipeline growth and revenue. This knowledge is vital when allocating marketing budget, determining sales headcount, and securing additional funding from investors.
But that’s not all funnels are useful for. When properly leveraged, you can help your organization speed up time-to-close and improve efficiency at each cross-functional handoff. Organizations that create an easing buying process are 62% more likely to win high-quality business, and funnels are a great tool to identify sticking points in the buyer journey and correct them! Almost as importantly, you can measure these gains in efficiency and communicate your department’s contribution to the business, which means senior leadership starts to view you as a rockstar.
ID Lead Sources & Opportunities for Alignment
Funnels can be used to identify which lead sources convert to customers at the highest rates and help marketing organizations determine which lead sources should be nurtured instead of passed immediately to sales. It’s also a great way to determine whether the definition of a marketing-qualified lead is in alignment with your ideal customer profile. CaliberMind leadership has also used conversion rates between inside sales meetings set and field sales qualified opportunities to identify misalignment in definitions of qualified leads and spot issues in sales processes.
Without conversion metrics, it’s difficult to prove to a department that the way they think of your prospects isn’t aligned with the rest of the organization. Data has a way of getting everyone on the same page.
What Are the Stages of the B2B Funnel?
Regardless of labels or stage names, all marketing funnels generally follow a basic structure that includes the following stages:
In this first stage, customers are driven to your website and learn about the products and services you offer. You can create initial awareness of your brand in several ways, including social media marketing, traditional advertising (TV, radio, magazines), and word-of-mouth referrals. Once a customer visits your website through any of these means, it’s important to offer them a high-value business proposition.
For B2B products, customers might need to access additional information beyond the specifications of the actual product. For example, a customer buying a high-value business software might first want to attend informational webinars and read relevant ebooks and whitepapers as part of their product evaluation before actually making a purchase decision.
In this stage, interested customers form concrete opinions about your product by researching its features, pros and cons, and other relevant information to help them make a purchase decision.
To move customers in this stage along the sales funnel, you should share product benefits, testimonials, and any notable or applicable social media mentions or press that provide social proof and credibility to your product. In addition, you should provide all the technical information necessary for their internal buying committee to evaluate your products.
In this stage, prospects are in the process of actively being convinced that they should invest in your product. Focus on closing these leads by assisting them with any information (especially pricing) they need to make a quick purchase and iterate that the onboarding process will be easy. You can offer them guided demos or a free trial for a hands-on experience with your product. Customers who purchase your product might also require assistance post-purchase, so it may be a benefit to introduce prospects to a customer success team.
Top, Middle & Bottom of the Funnel
For greater clarity, B2B marketing funnels can be divided into three broad parts – the top (awareness), middle (consideration), and bottom (conversion) of the funnel. These are common phrases to refer to the stage in which a prospect is in.
The top of a marketing funnel is the first impression phase. Interacting with potential customers at the top of the funnel is all about getting them interested in reading more about your company and its products and subscribing to important information channels like mailing lists and social media pages.
When customers reach the middle of the funnel, you should shift your approach toward providing them with information. The customers who reach this stage are potentially interested in your product but haven’t yet decided on buying it. These customers, therefore, need to be informed about your product’s features and unique selling propositions (USP).
Leads at the bottom of the funnel are ready to be converted to customers. These leads should be given all the information they need to finally make the purchase, including pricing and a detailed feature list. After-sales processes like onboarding and maintenance are also an important part of the customer experience.
A well-organized marketing funnel can help your business streamline its marketing and sales processes.
B2C vs. B2B Marketing Funnels
The fundamental difference between B2B and B2C marketing funnels lies in the kind of consumers each strategy targets. Since B2C purchases are usually smaller, the sales process is quicker.
However, unlike other marketing funnels, B2B marketing funnels are longer and more detailed because B2B products are never bought on a whim. B2B products usually include proprietary software, complex business development, and management of products that are often costly. Buyers need to be persuaded with detailed product and brand information before making a purchase decision. These purchases are also sanctioned by several employees within an organization, or a buying committee, as opposed to B2C purchases that are often made by a single person. Due to these factors, B2B marketing funnels are longer and more comprehensive than B2C funnels.
CaliberMind is a state-of-the-art marketing analytics platform that examines every sales and marketing touchpoint in the B2B customer’s journey. For more content on B2B funnels, marketing, reporting, and data thought leadership visit us at https://calibermind.com/thought-leadership/articles/.