The sales funnel metaphor is somewhat misleading; in real life, the process never goes as smoothly as liquid down a funnel. In the last decade, digital marketing, artificial intelligence (AI), and CRM have drastically changed the process of converting new leads into customers. Given this, it’s increasingly important that business-to-business (B2B) sales and marketing teams are aligned in their views on a sales funnel strategy and lead generation as a whole.
The Discovery stage is where your prospect’s interest is piqued. They are curious about your company and products and want to learn more. In this stage, you are sharing valuable educational content related to your prospect’s problem or need. This stage occurs while you are qualifying your prospect, conducting initial meetings, and defining their needs.
A sales funnel reflects the prospect’s journey or path that takes them from awareness to becoming a customer. It encompasses actions you take to create this journey or experience. The sales pipeline, on the other hand, is the specific stages that a deal or opportunity moves through in your sales process from the salesperson’s perspective. See our article on the eight sales pipeline stages every sales team should have.
As you can see, each color-coded section of the funnel pictured above corresponds to a stage in the buying process. The widest tier at the top of the funnel represents “awareness,” the point at which potential customers are beginning their information search. The second tier is “interest,” roughly corresponding to the evaluation of alternatives described in the purchase process above. And, finally, the third and fourth tiers, “desire” and “action,” are self-explanatory.
Although I mentioned several times in this list the importance of participating in discussion rather than just dropping your links, that doesn’t mean you should never promote yourself. I like to use the 80/20 rule in this case. At least 80% of the time, you should be using social networks to share other people’s links and participate in conversation. You can share your own stuff about 20% of the time.
The key thing here is that your marketing funnel doesn’t end with the purchase. There is plenty more work to be done at this stage. You can add as many stages into this funnel as you deem necessary to your brand but, again, it’s up to you how complex your marketing funnel should be. You can also expand it with time as your strategy becomes more efficient and new opportunities arise.
Marketers should tap every opportunity to develop a relationship with the buyer at this stage. This is often done through monitoring reviews of the products, testimonials from previous customers, inbound marketing, having a great graphic interface to draw attention, delivering more information to the customer, etc. This is a crucial stage of the marketing funnel as it is chiefly at this stage that the prospective buyer would want to remain in or leave the funnel.
You’d probably think I’d lost my marbles, and I don’t blame you. Back in the 1980s and 1990s, it was a common marketing strategy to send out mass advertisements via fax machine, similar to today’s mass-email marketing campaigns. They worked. They were a viable marketing strategy because everyone had a fax machine, and used it on a daily basis. Now? Millennials are stumped when it comes time to operate one and the majority of Gen-Z doesn’t even know what a fax machine is.