Understanding how a B2B marketing funnel works and why it is important is key if you want to get more customers.
And that’s exactly what this post is all about!
If you’ve got a great product or service, but you’re not getting enough buyers, then the likelihood is you’re not serving them the right content at the right time.
People don’t just buy products on a whim – especially not in the B2B sector.
They transition through different stages, and it’s your job to serve them the right content (and experience) so that they become a customer.
Your sales and marketing strategies need to align with the different stages of your b2b marketing funnel so that people want to buy from you.
Simply hearing about your product and knowing its benefits is one thing.
Picking up the phone to place an order and parting with cash, is another.
It’s all part of a bigger process and you can’t rely on people seeing your products in action once, and then becoming a loyal customer. You need to know the right things to say, and when, so that you can reach prospective customers at each stage.
So without further ado, let’s start by defining what a B2B marketing funnel is before explaining how you can build your own.
What is a B2B Marketing Funnel?
A B2B marketing funnel is a visual representation of the different stages your buyer goes through before becoming a customer.
This starts from when they were first introduced to your business, right the way through to them making a purchase.
In the beginning stages, prospects don’t know that much about your product/service, or the different ways it can benefit them.
Perhaps they’ve seen your brand at an exhibition show or on a billboard advertisement, but they’re not too sure what value it can bring to them.
However, as they start to learn more about your business, they move deeper through your marketing funnel until they eventually become a customer.
And it doesn’t stop there either.
Once a prospect has become a customer, the idea is to keep them coming back for more. These are the people who add real value to your business and become brand advocates.
Because they have such a good experience using your product/ service, they start promoting you to other people. In turn, this increases your exposure even more, and is a fantastic way to get more customers without having to do much of the hard graft!
To get to this stage, prospects have to go through 5 different stages, known as awareness, interest, desire, action, and loyalty.
Let’s drill down into these stages some more so you can better understand the mindset of your prospective buyer.
We’ll also be outlining the different types of content that should be served at each stage so that people progress further down the marketing funnel.
As the term suggests, these people are just starting to become aware of your product.
They might have a basic understanding of what you do and why, but it’s not enough for them to become a customer just yet.
At this stage, customers understand that they have a problem/ pain point and are looking for a solution.
Types of relevant content: Blog posts, social media, articles, infographics
So, now that people are aware they have a problem, and are looking for a solution, they are interested in finding out more about your product.
They want to learn about its specific benefits, and how your product/ service can make their life easier in some way,
Take a busy creative agency like Canny for example. As a team, we communicate extensively throughout the day, and collaboratively work across a whole bunch of different projects.
To ensure deadlines are met, and every one understands their tasks, we need an online tool that facilitates smooth communication.
Introducing Slack – a tool I’m sure you’re all familiar with!
For those not in the know, Slack enables you to easily communicate with your team, and categorise different conversations into channels.
This made Slack very attractive to Canny Creative, as it makes our life so much easier. Instead of relying on emails, and losing track of where evetyhing is, we can rely on Slack to communicate with all team members in a really easy format.
As you can see, for people to be interested in your product, they need to understand the distinct benefits it can bring. In the B2B space, this usually means saving people time and money, and making workflow more efficient.
Types of relevant content: Forms, call-to-action, guides, ebooks
At this stage, prospects have moved past the awareness and interest stage, and are close to becoming solid leads.
They are considering buying a product to solve their problem, but something is still holding them back.
Think of this stage as ‘window shopping’ as prospects are weighing up their different options.
Your customer knows they have a problem, and understand the solution that’s on offer, but they need bringing over the line.
You don’t want them to buy just any product that will solve their problem, you want to make sure that your product is top of their list.
Types of relevant content: Emails, landing pages, case studies
Your prospects have now weighed up all of their options and are ready to buy.
However, they might be a little confused and unsure which product/ service is right for them. As such, they’re still comparing different options to which suits their needs best.
This is where you come in, as you need to position your brand as the go-to solution.
You don’t want leads trailing off and finding one of your competitors. As a result, you need to reaffirm their purchasing choice and tell them why they should choose you.
Furthermore, at this stage there might be certain last-minute obstacles that are making them question their decision. For example, can they really afford the product and do they really need it?
Again, this is where you swoop in as you need to squash these anxieties and reassure them that they are doing the right thing.
Types of relevant content: Trial codes, testimonials, case studies, giveaways, discount codes
At this stage, prospects have already turned into customers and have bought from you.
However, you don’t want the relationship to stop there.
If they’ve had a positive experience with your brand, and have enjoyed your products/ services then they will most likely recommend you to other people.
At this stage, they become loyal customers and brand advocates, who essentially give you free promotion by spreading the word to people in their network.
Types of relevant content: Surveys, personalised emails, user guides, rewards and loyalty programmes
Key Considerations about Your B2B Marketing Funnel
In an ideal world, customers would all start at the ‘awareness’ stage and then systematically move through the following stages before becoming a loyal customer.
However, like most things in business, it’s not that easy!
Customers are human, and not every single person will follow the same journey.
With that said, let’s take a look at some of the things you need to keep in mind when developing your own B2B marketing funnel.
You don’t control the journey
Prospects at any stage of the funnel may or may not discover the experience you have planned for them, and that’s totally natural.
Instead, they may get the information they need from other sources, such as friends, colleagues, and websites that have no affiliation with you whatsoever.
However, as long as they are getting the information they need to reaffirm their purchasing choice, then it’s still a win in your favour.
As much as you’d like every lead to turn into a customer, it just isn’t going to happen.
The more people learn about your business, the more they might discover that what you have to offer just isn’t right for them.
Maybe it’s your price point, delivery time, or availability of stock. Who knows, but there will always be some people who decide to purchase from elsewhere.
And that’s OK.
Once people are at the ‘desire’ stage, you only want to be spending your time on valuable prospects, i.e. people who actually want to buy from you.
You’re never going to win everybody over, regardless of how fantastic your offering is, so expect some people to drop off along the way.
As the saying goes, you can’t win them all!
Every customer is different
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.
Example of a B2B Marketing Funnel
When understanding a B2B marketing funnel, it can be easier to have a visual aid.
Take a look at the below infographic which details the different stages of a B2B marketing funnel and the types of content that should be delivered.
This helps you to visualise the way your prospects interact with your brand and how they journey from awareness to loyalty.
When devising your marketing strategy, you should refer back to the visual concept of a funnel as this ensures every decision is targeted and strategic.
You should never be creating content for content’s sake, as every blog, social media post, or infographic should be bringing your audience further down the funnel and closer to making a purchase.
Naturally, the funnel starts off wide as you want to get as many eyes on your brand as possible, and then slowly narrows towards the purchasing stage.
This is inevitable regardless of your sector, as you only want to concentrate on your most valuable leads.
Why is a B2B Marketing Funnel Important?
We’ve touched on this slightly above, but a B2B marketing funnel ensures your sales and marketing strategies have a sense of direction.
All too often, businesses get carried away with producing fantastic videos or fancy social media graphics without really understanding where they sit – or what difference they’re going to make.
To generate more customers, everything you create should align with your B2B marketing funnel.
For example, if you’re creating a promotional video, how does this help transition people from one stage to the next? If you’re spending time and effort producing this piece of content, then it needs to be serving a valuable purpose.
Otherwise, your marketing team is spending time creating content that isn’t going to move the needle.
Always refer back to your B2B marketing funnel and make sure everything you create is helping to push prospects forward.
How to Build a B2B Marketing Funnel
Now for the meat of the post – how to build a B2B marketing funnel.
We’ve broken this process down in 7 steps so it makes it easier for you to follow and to create your own.
Let’s dive in.
Step 1: Understand your target audience
The whole point of a B2B marketing funnel is making sure you reach the right people with the right message at the right time. However it’s impossible to do this if you don’t know who these people are, what their needs are, and which channels they use.
For instance, 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. This means you will understand how to capture their interest and appeal to their needs.
If your company has yet to identify your target audience, then check out our free customer persona worksheet.
Step 2: Trigger awareness and generate brand awareness
In this part of the funnel, your audience is not aware of your brand or the problems you can help them to solve.
This means you need to build up brand awareness and get your name out there.
Strategies to use:
You need to create content on topics related to your business.
These topics don’t need to be directly about your business, but they do need to be something that your audience is interested in.
For example, if you run a virtual event platform, you could create a guide about setting an event budget.
Whilst this isn’t directly promoting your brand, it is something that your target audience would like to read about.
If you’re struggling to think of topics related to your industry, then use a keyword research tool such as Ahrefs. This lets you look at popular keywords that your audience are looking for, as well as being able to snoop on your competitors.
To achieve the best results, you need to create a lot of high quality, targetted content.
This enables your website pages to show up on search engine result pages for several keyword searches. As such, your target audience will find you through search engines not just once, but multiple times.
Step 3: Generate interest to turn acquaintances into soft leads
The majority of people who are visiting your website, are visiting for the first or second time.
This means they might not be ready to buy from you, or do not have a need at the current moment.
However, when the time comes and they change their mind or develop a need for your product/ service, you want to make sure your company is the first one that springs to mind.
This is why you need to generate brand awareness, as the more exposed they are to your brand, the more likely they are to remember you.
This means it’s crucial to create ways to bring people back to your website as frequently as you can as this gives you more opportunities to convert them into customers.
Strategies to use:
At this stage, resist the urge to promote or sell anything.
Instead, focus on building up a big list of contacts who you can start reaching out to. This involves creating website pop-ups/ landing pages to offer an incentive to your target audience, which is also known as a lead magnet.
This could be a free ebook or whitepaper, a free trial, a sample of your product, or an editable template. Whatever you choose as your lead magnet, it has to bring some sort of value to your reader.
In exchange for the lead magnet, your audience needs to provide you with some of their details such as their email address.
This allows you to start building up your list of contacts so you can start reaching out to people.
Step 4: Optimise desire stage to turn soft leads into solid leads
Whilst soft leads (also known as marketing qualified leads) are pleased to hear from you, they are not considering a paid solution just yet.
They still have some thinking to do, and are weighing up their options.
This means you need to progress them to the desire stage so that they actually make a purchase.
Strategies to use:
You need to nurture your audience with middle funnel content that adds real value to your reader. This involves writing blog posts which subtly mentions your product/ service wherever relevant, but the main focus is to educate your audience first and foremost.
You should also share this content through various platforms such as social media and your email newsletter.
You could also run PPC campaigns to ensure you’re driving as much traffic to your content as possible.
Step 5: Improve action stage to turn sales qualified leads (SQL) into customers
In this stage, you’re targeting people who want to buy a solution as they have identified a specific problem. As such, you need to provide them with an experience that encourages them to buy from you.
This is the time to talk about how your business is relevant to the audience you’re communicating with. You need to address their specific pain points and detail how your product/ service solves these issues.
You should also address any concerns, and encourage your prospects to take action such as booking a call or placing an order.
Strategies to use:
- 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.
Step 6: Streamline loyalty stage and turn customers into brand advocates
Once someone buys your product or service and becomes your customer, you need to keep them coming back time and time again.
You should never just assume this is going to happen as there’ll be lots of other companies competing for their time.
You want them to keep using your product or service, as this means they’re happy with your offering.
In fact, they should be so happy with you that they readily buy when you recommend other services or upsell new offerings. You want to have them stay with you for as long as possible.
Strategies to use:
- Set up chatbots and a dedicated phone line for customer queries
- Run customer loyalty programs
- Respond to and implement customer feedback
- Personalise 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
Step 7: Monitor analytics to improve customer experience
The strategies you create for different stages of the marketing funnel are not set in stone.
If you realise a certain tactic or type of content isn’t working with your audience, then it’s important you respond to this.
By paying attention to analytics and recognising what your audience do/ don’t resonate with, you can build a more effective marketing funnel.
The goal is to transition prospects from awareness through to loyalty, so that they become repeat customers who champion your brand.
Therefore, you need to adjust your strategy accordingly so you are playing to your customers needs.
How to Build a B2B Marketing Funnel in 7 Easy Steps
Building a B2B marketing funnel is essential if you want to attract and keep customers coming back to your business in the future.
Only because someone has seen or heard of your business, it doesn’t automatically mean they’re going to buy from you, never mind buy from you again.
You need to guide them through their buying journey, by supplying them with content that is relevant to their needs. As a customer, it can be very easy to forget about a brand, as so many companies are competing for your attention.
That’s why you need to be reminded, and served with content that reaffirms your purchasing decision.
Are you struggling to attract and keep customers? If so, then you need the help of Canny. We’ve helped clients from the US to Australia to not only generate leads, but to also keep them coming back for more. Simply get in touch with our team of experts and let’s start creating content that drives your conversions through the roof!