In marketing, lead generation is the process of identifying and attracting qualified leads. It’s an important activity because the marketing and sales departments only have so much time. In other words, they must focus on the most promising leads.
A lead generation funnel is a tool that helps sales and marketing departments filter the leads they generate. Essentially, the funnel ensures that leads are qualified before moving them further along the funnel, so they’ll eventually become customers.
Leads are acquired from three key sources, then poured into the top of the funnel:
Once the leads enter the funnel, they pass through a series of stages. Some of these leads drop off at each stage, while others emerge as paying customers.
Each lead generation funnel is different. It varies according to the business, the product, and the strategy of the sales and marketing teams. Let’s take a closer look at the common stages of a lead generation funnel.
Every lead generation funnel is unique. Its shape and stage will vary according to a range of factors, but there are some common stages. (It’s also important to remember that leads can skip ahead to other stages of the funnel—if you’re lucky!)
Here’s a closer look at these stages…
When a lead has been generated using one of the three key sources, he or she will be in the Awareness Stage.
At this point, the lead has a basic awareness of your product or service, and he or she has demonstrated some level of intrigue by asking for more information. At this stage, it’s very important to recognize and respond to that attention.
Depending on your product or service, you’ll need to develop an action plan that will inform and educate your leads in this stage. A range of content can be used, including articles, ebooks, infographics, landing pages, social media posts, email newsletters, and videos.
A big part of your action plan will include the roll-out of that content using B2B email marketing. Email is a strong channel because it allows you to capture the contact and get commercial opt-in to stay in touch over a longer (nurturing) period of time.
If your CRM is configured appropriately, you’ll be able to monitor how your attentive leads respond to this content. If they click through, you may determine that they’re interested in your product or service.
Lots of this work can be automated using a cutting-edge CRM that attributes weight to the actions that your leads perform. This scoring system can automatically move your leads through the funnel and trigger new automated lead-nurturing programs.
But if this system is going to work well, it’s important for you to have an understanding of how your leads behave, and what the customer journey looks like.
Once you’ve capitalized on the attention of your lead, he or she will move into the Interest Stage.
The leads in this segment of the funnel are interested in your product or service, as evidenced by their interaction with your content. Since they want to learn more, this stage could be a good time to suggest a phone call or meeting.
The actions in this stage vary according to a range of factors; the most prominent is a sense of scale. For example, SaaS businesses often want to automate the lead funnel as much as possible, in order to acquire new users at scale. Meanwhile, some businesses naturally want to make human contact as quickly as possible, which is due to the nature of the product or service they offer.
The key goal of this stage is to stoke the interest of your leads and give them the relevant information they need to make informed decisions.
Once your lead has all of the information he or she needs, it’s time to work on brewing a burning desire for your product or service.
In the Desire Stage, you may pass the prospect from marketing to sales. In other words, the sales team will want to start making direct contact across a range of channels, so they can try to build a relationship with the prospect.
This process will look different according to each individual company and its preferences. But in the B2B world. in-person meetings and calls are most common. Sales professionals who are proficient at working with high-quality leads are worth their weight in gold, and they can command high prices.
A lot of experimentation is required during this stage, so many businesses find they have to place a great amount of trust in the experience and abilities of high-level salespeople.
During the Action Stage of the lead generation funnel, it’s all about your salespeople focusing on inspiring action and commitment from their leads. This team will use a wide range of techniques according to the product or service you offer.
It’s during this stage of the process that talented business development and sales professionals show their value. They call upon their previous experiences and natural social skills to close deals and inspire action.
Lead generation is a delicate science. Looking for the killer insight that will help you capture more leads than ever before? Be sure to check out our ultimate guide on how to generate leads.
Within modern businesses, there are two key types of lead funnels. One is the marketing lead funnel, while the other is the sales lead funnel.
The marketing department is generally responsible for the first two stages outlined above. To acquire as many qualified leads as possible, the team will call on a range of key areas, including:
Equipped with those three key abilities, marketing teams work very hard to make sure that quality leads enter the funnel. The marketing team will want to make sure that those early leads are informed and qualified.
Once the leads have been attracted via a blend of paid, earned, and owned channels, the marketing team is responsible for nurturing those leads. In other words, the team is equipped with the information they need and offers calls to action that will move those leads through the funnel.
Of course, each of these funnels looks different, depending on the business. But generally, they’ll include a range of automated programs that give leads the information they’re looking for. Along the way, they’ll offer the relevant calls to action.
In many businesses, the sales lead funnel begins where the marketing funnel leaves off. Once a prospect has been nurtured to the point that he or she is in the desire phase, it’s time for a business development or sales professional to make direct contact.
Of course, some prospects could skip the marketing sales funnel entirely, and be immediately moved into the sales funnel. This oversight often occurs with earned leads. And it can lead to some interesting conversations between sales and marketing about who owns the lead!
The exact structure of the sales pipeline varies between businesses, depending on the complexity and nature of the product or service that’s being offered. Of course, many businesses will want to quickly move customers through the sales pipeline as efficiently as possible.
In fact, the beauty of this structure lies in its efficiency. The marketing department should only pass along prequalified leads. In other words, the potential for closing the deal should be very high.
This structure also helps the team become effectively organized. The low-impact leads can be passed along to the junior staff, while senior development professionals can take care of the leads that have the highest potential.
When it comes to creating an effective and impactful lead generation funnel, data is everything. Here’s a look at some of the key metrics you should be monitoring…
Throughout your lead generation funnel, you’ll use a lot of calls to action. These CTAs are meant to inspire action and move your prospects further along in the funnel. Therefore, it’s imperative for you to understand how those CTAs perform. When you’re equipped with this data, you can make any necessary adjustments.
You’ll want to understand the goal at each stage of your funnel, including how successfully you’re meeting them. In other words, you should measure your conversion rate to get a clearer picture of how things are going.
It’s logical for you to want your conversion time (i.e., how long it takes for a lead to become a customer) to be as low as possible. You can determine this figure by dividing all of the total time spent by all your prospects by the total number of leads.
Whether your leads come from paid, earned or owned channels, they’re going to cost a certain amount to acquire. It’s very important for these costs to make sense and lead to an effective ROI.
Each lead will cost you a certain amount of money, so you need to make sure you’re getting a good return on investment (ROI). This metric is a very important metric to track, and it will tell you whether your lead generation funnel is worthwhile from a business perspective.
Are you ready to create a winning lead generation funnel? We’re confident that you’ll create an amazing tool that will drive value to your business. But if you’re going to succeed, you’ll have to make sure the data for your business contacts is accurate.