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How do you eat an elephant?
The answer to this outlandish question from Thailand is incredibly simple: “Bit-by-bit”.
If you’re selling B2B (or high-involvement B2C) products and services, you’re up against an elephantine task that can only be accomplished in stages—bit by bit.
Lead generation is the first stage, and you need to break it down into yet smaller steps by creating a lead-generation funnel.
A lead-generation funnel is an arrangement of marketing assets designed with the singular purpose of collecting leads for further marketing. It defines the path of the customer from awareness to a desired action.
The culminating point of a B2C sale funnel is the purchase, but a lead-generation funnel delivers a lead for you to convert into a purchase with a well-thought-out lead-nurturing strategy. The end point of a lead-generation funnel may be a subscription to marketing emails, push notifications, a call-back request, appointment scheduling, or any other action that signifies customer interest and provides opportunities for further marketing.
Lead generation funnels collect leads through different marketing channels such as email, website, search engine, social media, video, and mobile. After a customer signs up to receive marketing communications through any of these channels, you can nurture the lead with content marketing to take the customer closer to a purchase.
Regardless of the length and type of a lead-generation funnel, the basic methodology of designing it remains the same.
Before you start approaching customers with the hope of finding business leads, you need to know who they are. The process of building a lead-generation funnel starts with market research.
Use surveys, polls, questionnaires, interviews, and other research methods to gain insights into the demographics, psychographics, behavior, lifestyle, media habits, and other common attributes of your target customers.
B2C businesses often prepare a generic hypothetical persona of their ideal customer. But, for B2B marketing, it’s better to prepare a profile for each person in the client’s buying team. Here’s an example of a B2B customer persona:
You’ll start nurturing the leads with content marketing immediately after a customer signs up for your mailing list. So, you need to know where different customers are in the buying journey at a particular time and what type of content they might need at that stage.
No two buying journeys are identical, but that shouldn’t stop you from creating a map of a typical buyer’s journey. The right model of your customer’s buying path will add a great deal of clarity to your content marketing strategy.
By visualizing where your customers are in the buying cycle, you can send them relevant information to advance them to the next level in their journey. Below is an illustration of a typical B2B buyer’s journey; however, you should create a customized model specific to your customers and their unique purchase path.
The customer profiles must include the media habits of your audience. This information will help you select the most suitable channels for running lead generation campaigns.
As a rule of thumb, email marketing (78%), event marketing (73%), and content marketing (67%) are the most commonly used lead-generation strategies for B2B companies, whereas organic search, SEM/PPC advertising, and word of mouth referrals are the top channels of new leads for B2B software marketers.
Creating and publishing high-value content immensely increases the number of qualified leads. Go ahead and share text, photo, video, and other forms of content, but make sure whatever you publish corresponds to the needs of your audience and channels.
You’ll need a more elaborate content marketing strategy to nurture the leads you capture. But, at the lead-generation stage, you may primarily need only four types of content:
1. Awareness Content: Examples of such content include blog posts, PPC ads, social media posts, cold emails, and other types of content that make strangers aware about your company and stir their interest in your products.
2. Lead Capture Content: Once you have laid down the honey trap by creating a great piece of content, you should have a way to convert awareness into interest and make the user subscribe to your follow-up list. Examples of such content include lead-capture boxes, subscription forms, and landing pages.
3. Lead Magnet Content: People are doing you a favor by opting in to receive your marketing communiqués. You should return the favor in advance by offering something valuable to them. It can be an eBook, a discount, a free consult, an event invite, etc.
4. Remarketing Content: Follow up with your lost website visitors using remarketing ads and special offers.
Be ready to nurture the leads with a carefully planned content market strategy. Email sequences, push notifications, SMS, and telemarketing are some of the popular types of lead nurturing content.
Multi-channel lead generation is the most time- and budget-intensive marketing for businesses selling high-involvement or B2B products and services. Designing and executing highly profitable lead-generation campaigns requires knowledge of diverse marketing technology such as Google, automation, CRM, integration, and more.
Thankfully, there are lead-generation companies that can make your life easy by taking on a big part of your workload. By outsourcing lead generation, you can focus on what really matters—the quality of your products and services and the level of your customer’s happiness.
That’s not all. Outsourcing also reduces the Cost of Acquisition and increases the average Lifetime Value of customers.
A sale funnel defines your customer’s path from interest to purchase. It’s a concept more relevant to B2C where the customer journey is a short trip, say from NJ to NYC. But, for B2B (or high-involvement) businesses, the customer’s journey is more like a voyage to New Zealand. You can think of lead generation as selling the tickets.
Once a customer gets on board, you can keep them entertained with content marketing until reaching the destination—a sale. However, the first step is to get them on board, for which you need a lead-generation funnel. I hope this article has helped clear your concept of a lead-generation funnel and what it takes to build one. Contact me for a free consult if you need further assistance.
May the leads be with you!
The art is building the right growth campaign. The science is in the results.