No matter which industry you work in, you’re likely familiar with enough jargon to start a new language. It’s esoteric. It’s a sure giveaway of who’s had experience doing what. In the marketing world, one of those terms of art is the sales funnel.
While it may sound self-explanatory, it actually encompasses a lot of considerations; and they can vary depending on whether you’re in B2B or B2C. And knowing these nuances will make a huge difference in whether your business growth strategies are successful.
The buyer’s journey within the B2B context tends to be significantly longer than the B2C variety because it entails a larger investment. This comes with even more ramifications, such as a longer research period to compare competitors, as well as often requiring buy-in from several decision makers within a company.
So while a B2C business may be able to sell running shoes or a deep dish pizza through TV commercials or social media ads, B2B companies have to develop more long-term complex strategies. This is where the sales funnel comes into play.
While here at Bluleadz, we’re bigger fans of the flywheel model, it’s still crucial to be aware of the funnel stages, so that you can create content for all of its stages. Done efficiently, those leads who go through the bottom of the funnel and become customers have a higher likelihood of referring people in their network to your business — and thus creating a figurative flywheel model anyway, as this momentum keeps bringing new people to the top.
Alright. In the words of Fraulein Maria, let’s start at the very beginning. The main stages of a sales funnel are the awareness, consideration, and decision. Get those right, and you’ll get to the loyalty and advocacy stage. But what do they entail? Glad you asked.
The Awareness Stage
This is when someone in your target audience becomes aware of your existence. Maybe a friend mentioned your business to them; or maybe they entered a query on Google and one of your links popped up. Or maybe they came across one of your social media pages and are now liking posts and following it.
It’s crucial at this stage to present information that’s relevant enough to them so that they want to continue engaging with you. For example, let’s say they came across one of your blogs. A good way to get that ball rolling is to always offer a subscribe option. This can be either to your blog or newsletter. Or you can also simply ask them to sign up for your email list, but it would behoove you to entice them with a reason to do so — a free resource like an eBook, workbook, or any other type of lead magnet.
The Consideration Stage
The next stage in the sales funnel is consideration. This is when your reader starts seeing you as a possible contender. At this point, your audience starts seeing you as an industry expert. How so? By showcasing that you know what you’re talking about and that you’re good at what you do.
Some examples on how to do this include providing them with more in-depth solutions to their pain points, such as white papers, webinars, or even case studies explaining how you were able to assist another business in the reader’s position.
The Decision Stage
The decision stage is when they’re ready to make a purchasing decision. They’ve done their research. They’ve narrowed down their choices. They’ve compared the available options. Now their credit card is out and they’re itching to get this party started.
The Loyalty and Advocacy Stage
Although this isn’t really part of the traditional sales funnel, it’s still an integral phase in the buyer’s journey. This is because when people are happy with the service you provide, they will gladly let the world know about it. You may have to ask them for referrals to get the ball rolling, but they’ll gladly do it. Word of mouth is still one of the most effective marketing tools, and it costs you nothing.
Alright. Now that you’re aware of all the stages you need to target, let’s go over some of the most common challenges when doing so. Being aware of them can help you design your strategies in a way that addresses each of them.
Getting Found By Your Target Audience
You could write the most helpful, relevant, and magnificent content for all stages of the sales funnel. But if your audience can’t find you, you’re wasting your time. Make sure to optimize your content for search engines (SEO) by conducting keyword research, and implementing other best practices, such as incorporating them into your URL, meta description, image file names, and alt text.
Also, link your content to internal and external pages, so that Google can crawl your website and index each page accordingly. Condense images to ensure that your website loads fast. And ensure you have a responsive design so that it loads well regardless of screen size (desktop, laptop, tablet, or smartphone). All of these elements will increase the likelihood of ranking higher on search engine results pages (SERPs).
In addition, conduct market research to determine which social media sites your target audience engages with the most, and focus on those. Kudos for easily shareable and consumable content, such as infographics, videos, and checklists.
Getting Your Audience to Engage With Your Content
Incentivize readers to engage with your content. This can be by directly asking them questions or for their insights. Enable comments on blog posts, webinars, and live videos. Provide discounts, or free tools to get them to fill out a landing page form.
Use a social media management tool to monitor engagement. Respond to queries, comments, and questions in a timely manner, and post your blogs and other lead magnets on them to promote them. You can also link your social media inboxes to your CRM to ensure that no one falls through the cracks — plus, you get to store information that relates to them so that you can provide a more personalized experience next time they reach out to you. Which brings us to the next challenge:
Providing a Personalized Experience
Cookie cutter marketing doesn’t cut it in the B2B world. Consumers are more educated than ever, and are used to instant gratification. If you engage with everyone the same way, you’ll likely provide irrelevant information to many of them, and they’ll end up unsubscribing from your list, or opting to do business with a competitor.
You can solve this by utilizing a good customer relationship management (CRM) software. Not only will it keep your contacts organized, it’ll also store information about all of their interactions with you — previous communications, past purchases, preferences, pages they’ve viewed the most, queries, etc… You can then use this data to segment your contacts based on categories (new leads, existing customers, past customers, etc…) so that you can send them communications that apply to their circumstances.
You can also implement smart content, so that every time a visitor reaches your website, the content that’s displayed to them is relevant specifically to them.
Now, before you create content for each stage of the B2B marketing funnel, let’s go over some threshold issues that are essential to hit the ground running.
Develop Buyer Personas
No matter how wonderful your products or services are, they aren’t for everyone. Before crafting any content, you should narrow down who your ideal customers are, so that you can develop content that would appeal specifically to them.
Think about factors such as their education level, industry, job roles, responsibilities, pain points, budget, company size, short-term and long-term goals, and where they generally get their information.
Once you’ve gathered all this information and answered each question in detail, you’ll set the stage to create content based on all of these components. It’s possible to need to create several buyer personas. That’s ok. If you’re in doubt about how to get started, you can follow our roadmap and use our free templates.
Develop the Buyer’s Journey
Once you know who your buyer personas are, it’s time to create a blueprint of all of their touchpoints with your company. For example, if you determine that their biggest pain points include implementing robust cybersecurity measures, then you can craft content regarding simple steps they can take right now to increase their security — such as installing a firewall, scanning for viruses, and training employees. That’s it. You’re not selling anything to them at the beginning. You’re providing them with free, short-term solutions.
Next up: They’ll likely want to know what else they can do. Make a list of related topics. For example: which kind of security software would work best for their type of business? Which industry, state, or federal regulations do they need to follow? How can they protect their data within a remote workforce context? Keep thinking of queries they may enter in their online search bar, and create content that addresses them.
Think of apprehensions and/or misconceptions they may have. Address each of them. What are the criteria they are looking for in their solutions? Highlight them within your services and product pages. How do they like to consume content? Is it by reading long-form blog posts? Watching videos? Tutorials? Listening to podcasts? Whatever it is, deliver your content that way.
And just as with developing buyer personas, you can download our Buyer’s Journey Template so that you can identify each touchpoint and develop your content based on what would keep them engaged.
Publish Content Consistently
Now, as tempting as it may be to go about your business and publish content whenever you have time to do so, remember that out of mind means out of sight.
Publishing content consistently significantly increases the likelihood of being found whenever your target audience does online research. Each published page is a new page Google has to index. So the more content you publish, the more probable that they’ll find you (as long as you’re implementing SEO best practices).
You can also develop a backlink strategy so that other outlets link back to your page. This gives you more credibility as an industry leader and drives more traffic to your website.
Decide whether you’re going to publish daily, biweekly, or weekly. Then develop an editorial calendar so that you never draw a blank or run out of things to write about.
Nurture Your Leads
As more people visit your website and consume your content, you’ll see more people subscribing to your blogs, newsletters, and/or downloading your lead magnets. Don’t just keep these email addresses for a rainy day. Segment your contacts based on the content they viewed and/or downloaded, and nurture them with marketing emails that are specific to them.
Send them a variety of content: educational, celebratory, industry updates, promotional, etc… Do so on a regular basis so that you remain top of mind whenever they need additional information or are ready to make a purchase.
As you can see, it takes a lot of effort, planning, and strategizing to do this right. It’s a full-time job. And whether you can delegate this responsibility to an in-house team or you could benefit from some agency help, it’s indisputable that it needs to be prioritized. But once it all starts yielding results, you’ll be happy you did.