Understanding The Marketing Funnel and Its Stages
As you know, there’s a journey that most customers need to experience before making the decision to buy from you. It’s a process that isn’t necessarily linear and involves not only your marketing team, but also sales, customer service, and even high-level executives.
As you’re crafting your digital marketing strategy, work to master the various steps involved with each stage of your marketing funnel. By combining elements of marketing automation with more traditional touchpoints, you’ll have a consistent flow of both marketing-qualified leads (MQLs) and sales-qualified leads (SQLs) — and, ultimately, a healthy, growing customer base.
Stage 1: Air Cover
The term “air cover” is probably not second nature to all marketers and might not even be associated with a typical sales and marketing funnel — but it absolutely should be. Air cover is all about building your brand awareness and notoriety via multiple channels.
Newsletters, blog posts, press releases, white papers, analyst relations, and social media posts are all examples of air cover for your business. Typically, marketing teams will own the tactics around air cover.
However, because air cover is so fundamental to who you are as a brand, it’s important to get senior leadership’s input on brand values, differentiating factors, messaging, and a unique value proposition. Armed with these tools, marketers can readily communicate what your company does and why customers should buy from you versus a competitor.
Stage 2: Top of Funnel
At the top of funnel, you’re driving leads and creating a constant influx of qualified prospects. While there’s a variety of tactics you can use at the top of funnel, there’s one specific area that can be a goldmine for B2B lead generation: LinkedIn.
In terms of satisfying cost-per-lead and MQL criteria, it’s tough to beat LinkedIn for lead generation. That’s because you have the ability to isolate and target a specific audience and engage them both on and off the platform as you drive these leads to your website or landing pages.
Bottom line: If you’re not already including LinkedIn in your marketing strategy, now is the time to start.
Stage 3: Middle of Funnel
The middle of funnel is arguably the most underserved component of the entire funnel. It’s here where you can utilize technology to identify engaged leads, continue lead-nurturing efforts, and seamlessly hand over qualified leads to sales.
There can be various components at work at the middle of funnel, including emails, customer testimonials, and use cases. Be prepared to measure the engagement from your outreach via email clicks, website visits, and responses to your calls to action.
Ideally, your efforts should identify both:
- People who are ready to take the next step with your sales team; and
- People who need more nurturing.
Either way, make sure your middle-of-funnel strategy addresses how to handle each type of prospect.
Stage 4: Bottom of Funnel
At this point, you may have customers who are ready to become SQLs. You’ve checked all the boxes as far as handling objections, understanding the customer’s needs and budget, and sending a proposal that addresses those needs. Yet you may still experience radio silence after that proposal goes out.
Although sales technically owns an SQL at the bottom of funnel, your sales team may still need marketing support. Some of the key materials you’ll need include case studies and testimonials that reinforce the messaging you’ve delivered throughout the entire marketing funnel.
Essentially, you’re showing the customer the kind of results they can expect if they work with you — not just because you’re saying so, but because your customers are experiencing those results firsthand.
Stage 5: Retention and Growth
The work doesn’t end once you land a customer. Now you move into the retention and growth phase where you’re actively marketing to your customer base to keep them engaged and happy.
Both sales and marketing own a piece of the retention and growth phase. At the same time, service teams need to have locked-down processes for onboarding, communicating new product features or upsells, ensuring customer satisfaction, and asking for referrals from happy customers.
One area of particular focus should be customer renewals. Whether it’s a simple text-based approach or regular emails, your ongoing communications allow you to stay top-of-mind and address any customer pain points. This way, when it comes time to renew, the customer won’t think twice about re-committing.
Ultimately, marketing owns the funnel from beginning to end. However, there are multiple people, processes, technologies, and even data points involved with earning a sale and retaining the customer.
The more you get to know your customer throughout the funnel, the more relevant and personalized your message becomes. You’ll also be able to keep your customers engaged and more likely to continue on as a customer, year after year.
Need help with your marketing funnel? Contact us today to learn more about how we can help.