Understanding the revenue funnel

One of the most common B2B buzz words is the “marketing funnel.” But what does this really mean? When marketers first capture leads, they start at the wide, top end of the funnel and move down until they turn into sales. But unlike using a funnel to do an oil change, gravity will not necessarily pull leads through the other end. Internet lead generation needs to start at the top, with marketing activities encouraging prospects to take each step and sales efforts acting as the driving force to convert leads into customers.

A well-run revenue funnel is critical to business success. This means marketing and sales teams need to be closely aligned and support each other with their activities.

How marketers attract leads and move them through the funnel

Although sales professionals need to be highly involved in the process, the funnel really starts with marketing activities. In fact, Business 2 Community cited data from the Corporate Executive Board, which revealed prospects complete approximately 60 percent of their journeys to becoming a customer before they want to speak to a salesperson. Similarly, Forrester found buyers are anywhere from two-thirds to 90 percent of the way through the funnel before they want to be involved with sales. Marketers play a much more significant role in generating revenue for organizations than ever before.

Before marketers can use materials to build relationships with prospects, they need to attract them to the entrance of the funnel. They can employ a variety of techniques to do this, such as branding and search engine optimization so potential prospects readily find the organization when they start looking. Some B2B companies may choose to utilize paid lead generation campaigns as well.

Once leads have entered the funnel, marketing professionals need to use a variety of sources of content to engage them. Different types of content may be relevant based on the industry and buyer profile, but typically, webinars, product demos, and white papers are highly effective for delivering valuable information to prospects.

To move leads from one stage of the buying cycle to the next, marketers need to perform lead nurturing activities. This helps prospects turn into qualified leads.

Lead qualification is important in the revenue funnel

The sales funnel needs to function like a well-oiled machine to drive business growth, and this means that marketers and sales reps need to have an agreement on what constitutes a qualified lead. Marketing initiatives need to ensure campaigns are producing high-quality leads. Prospects should not be directed to the sales team until they are qualified because this can cause reps to waste time communicating with people who aren’t ready to buy.

Even if leads are qualified, they may not be ready to buy right away. Sales teams will need to stay in contact with qualified prospects to know when they are interested in buying. High-cost B2B products can stretch the sales cycle out for years. However, if marketers are sending qualified leads to the sales team, it prevents reps from calling cold prospects. Marketing and sales alignment can ensure the funnel is running efficiently.