How to set up effective conversion funnels for B2B tech lead generation – with practical examples

If you want to create a steady pipeline of sales opportunities and grow your business, one of the most effective ways to do that is by creating conversion funnels on your website and optimizing them. 

When you set up your funnels right, you are creating a lead generating machine that can bring a steady amount of qualified leads every month. It is way more efficient than having your salespeople cold calling companies without knowing their level of interest in your offering. This is why inbound leads cost 61% less than outbound. (Source: https://bit.ly/inboundsale).

In this article, we are going to cover anything you need to know about setting up effective B2B sales funnels, with practical examples. If you want to jump to a particular section, just click on any chapter.

1. What is a conversion funnel

A conversion funnel refers to the journey visitors take on your website, from being a stranger to becoming a qualified known lead, ready to talk to a salesperson. In the simplest form, a sales funnel looks something like this:

simplified_sales_funnel
A simplified sales funnel

Internet users reach your website, looking for information about a particular problem their organisation faces. They don’t know how exactly to fix the issue and are just becoming aware of your brand and offers. This is called the awareness stage.

As your visitors navigate your website and consume content, they start to learn about a possible solution to address their problem and hopefully gain interest in your solution. It’s the interest stage. Ideally, what should happen in this stage is some of these visitors will give your their name and contact details in exchange for a high-quality piece of content, turning them into leads.

Knowing what are the different solutions to address their issue, your leads are now evaluating different vendors, looking to compare and make a decision. This is the consideration stage and it’s the stage where some leads finally become ready to get in touch with your sales team.

In the decision stage, some of your hot leads will make a purchasing decision turning into paying customers, with the help of your sales team.

The landscape is however more complicated than this, especially for companies selling B2B. That is because your sales cycle is typically longer and more complex, and 90% of B2B buyers now twist and turn through the sales funnel, looping back and repeating at least one or more tasks in the buyer’s journey.  (Source:bit.ly/salesfunnelstats)

90% of B2B buyers now twist and turn through the sales funnel, looping back and repeating at least one or more tasks in the buyer’s journey.

So perhaps a more updated sales funnel look something like this:

2. But first, why should you care about setting up conversion funnels?

If your website has a contact form that visitors can fill in, then you have a conversion funnel in place. Or if you have multiple forms that visitors interested in your products can fill and get a call back from you/demo/consultation, that counts as several conversion funnels. That is great, right?

Well, not so fast. The main issue is that most of your visitors are not yet ready to speak to sales or make a purchase, hence they won’t give you their contact information. Consider also the following stats:

For a software website, only 4.2% of first-time visitors are ready to buy. (Source: https://bit.ly/2Qj6D1j)

53% of B2B buyers will read 3-5 pieces of content before contacting the supplier (Source: https://bit.ly/3aRHlPI)

63% of consumers who ask for information about your business or products won’t make a purchase for at least three months. (Source: https://www.hubspot.com/marketing-statistics)

As you can see, there is a long journey from a website visit to a sales conversation and an actual purchase, so you need to figure out how to develop a relationship with your website visitors soon and nurture it.

3. Getting started – select your audience

First off, you should know your buyer persona profile, aka a semi-fictional representation of your ideal buyer. Buyer persona profile will help you identify the potential problems your ideal customers face, the right tone of voice to use throughout the content as well as where on the internet you can reach them. If you provide several services or products, it’s likely that you will have just as many buyer personas. Once you’ve done that, focus on selecting a product or service for which to set up the conversion channel, if you provide more than one. 

Let’s look at a fictional company we’ll call Web Software, offering both a task management tool as well as custom software development. Web Software is addressing two quite different audiences/buyer personas and should create a separate funnel for the task management tool and one for the bespoke software development service.

4. Stages in the buyer’s journey

Let’s focus on Web Software example earlier, say they want to set up a sales funnel for their task management tool. 

Top of the Funnel (TOFU) – Awareness – Identifying the problem

What questions do your buyers ask in the awareness stage?

In the awareness phase or TOFU, buyers are becoming aware of a particular problem their company faces and are looking for top-level information about that specific issue.

In the context of Web Software, potential customers might ask questions such as:

  • How to organize my tasks more efficiently?
  • How to track my team’s progress?
  • How can my team collaborate more easily with other teams?
  • Task management tips for start-ups / big organization etc
What type of content will you build?

Given the broader nature of the questions asked at this stage, some of the most suitable types of content for Web Software would be:

  • Blog posts
  • FAQ list
  • Checklist
  • Educational webinar
  • How-to video
  • Landing pages
Where will buyers find that content?

In order to attract the right audience, you have a few tactics at hand:

  • SEO – research the most lucrative keywords related to the issues addressed and optimize the content created around them (blog post, landing page etc). For our example company, the questions above can be a starting point in their keyword research.
  • Guest posting –  one way to broaden your reach is guest posting on portals that your buyer persona reads. It can be technology blogs, influencers’ blogs, industry-related websites (say you serve the manufacturing industry, can you find any manufacturers’ portal to blog post?).
  • Ads – using either Google or Facebook / LinkedIn, you can boost the content beyond organic reach. You can, for example, promote your educational webinar on LinkedIn, inviting people to click out to a landing page with a sign-up form for the webinar.

Buyers can interact with just one or several pieces of content; they could be reading a guest blog post, read the FAQ list and then reach the webinar landing page and sign up. What you need to focus on is offering diverse content and occasions to engage with forms and CTAs.

Middle of the funnel (MOFU) – Interest – Gathering information

What questions do your buyers ask in the interest stage?

Web Software prospects now learnt about the brand and its task management tool and are picking up interest in their solution. Some questions they might ask at this point are:

  • How important is it to have a task management tool in my company? 
  • What are the benefits of using a task management tool?

So the content created will address these questions and validate the need your prospects found.

What type of content will you build?

You can go for a variety of content types:

  • Blog posts such as “ Why having a task management tool / X solution will make your life easier?” / 
  • Case study of how Web Software’s task management tool made a particular client more efficient / Case study of how your product or service made a specific client successful in its activity
  • Video explaining the features of Web Software’s task management tool / your solution 
  • Landing pages with a lead generation form
Where will buyers find that content?

To reach your audience, you can use SEO, PPC or guest posting, as with TOFU. In addition, you have two more option:

  • Email campaigns – once buyers download a piece of content / signed up for an educational webinar, you can add them to a sequence of nurture emails. The content you provide should be an upgrade to the one they initially consumed. Eg if they downloaded a checklist, you can send them a case study.
  • Retargeting allows you to market to those visitors who reached your website but didn’t convert to a lead. 

Middle of the funnel (MOFU) – Consideration – Evaluating options

What questions do your buyers ask in the interest stage?

It’s time to introduce your solution into the scene and explain it’s differentiators and benefits. 

  • What makes Web Software’s task management tool stand out from other similar tools? / How is your product/ service different / better from other similar products/services?
  • Why should prospects buy from Web Software / you and not the competition?
  • Social proof that other similar companies have been successful using your products or services
What type of content will you build?
  • Comparison chart your product vs competition
  • Whitepaper with research conducted among current customers showing results they achieve while using your product
  • Brochure explaining the features and benefits of your product/service
  • Live demo
  • Testimonials
Where will buyers find that content?
  • Email nurture campaigns
  • Retargeting 
  • Ads
  • SEO
  • Social media

Bottom of the funnel (BOFU) – Decision – Making the purchase

Web Software buyers went through stages 1 to 3 and are now ready to speak to sales. But the work of the marketing people at Web Software is not done yet. In order to ensure the new customers are successful with using their task management tool, they would need to put in place a sequence of emails helping with onboarding, videos on how to get started, first-time users FAQs, maybe a chat inside the tool itself to help answer questions new clients might have. 

As you convert leads to customers, remember that ensuring their success is critical, as your most powerful marketing tool is your product/service itself.

5. Qualifying leads for sales

Before passing leads to sales, we marketing people have two main jobs:

  • Qualify the leads, deciding if they are ready to speak to sales. 
  • Hand over a comprehensive history of the interaction we had so far with the lead; there is nothing more annoying for a buyer than having to start all over again in explaining their challenges and pains. To seamlessly pass useful information to sales, your best option is investing in a marketing platform. 

Qualifying a lead to determine if there might be a sales opportunity can be very different from one company to another. In our example, Web Software might decide that leads who signed up for a live demo or a 15 days trial are what we call MQL (marketing qualified lead) and can be handed to sales. Or they might decide that leads who signed up for a live demo / free trial and viewed the pricing page are an MQL.

6. What is the simplest way to get started with a sales funnel?

If you are quite new to content creation and only have a basic sales funnel on your website, all of the above might seem a bit overwhelming. And we feel you. However, this doesn’t mean you should quit altogether on the idea of setting up conversion funnels to generate leads. What you can do instead is start small and build up from there. The most simple framework can be the one below:

sales_funnel_simple_framework

Build one blog post, offer a content upgrade in exchange for buyers’ email and then create an email nurture sequence.

Because users in the awareness phase are far from being ready to make a purchase, your efforts are better rewarded if you focus on buyers in the middle or bottom of the funnel as they have a stronger buying intent. Some of the content upgrade ideas worth exploring can be:

  • For BOFU: free discovery calls, free consultations, free trials. Once you decide what is the give away / content upgrade you can offer, you can think of creating an article to detail on how a free discovery call or trial can be helpful 
  • For MOFU: industry-wide research, case studies across verticals, Q&A sessions

7. Which metrics do you need to track to measure sales funnel’s success?

To be able to measure how successful your funnels are, you also need to keep an eye on performance. Here is what you should consider tracking:

  • Close rate: this is the number of leads that turn into customers, compared to the total number of leads generated through your website.
  • Conversion rate on forms: this allows you to understand how many people fill out a form on your funnel pages. Go to Conversions > Goals > Overview report in Google Analytics. If you didn’t already set up Goals in Google Analytics and want to learn how to do it, check out this post.
  • Entry sources:  this allows you to visualize through which pages your leads entered the funnel. This can point you to review and optimize those pages with low engagements or promote pages that do a good job of attracting visits. Go to Behaviour > Site content > Landing pages report.
  • Engagement rate: this shows you which pages in your funnel are the most popular and inform you which ones you need to further optimize. To visualize your top pages, go Behaviour > Site content > All pages.

Setting up sales funnels is no easy task, especially if you are just getting started. But they are such an important tool for generating leads that no marketer can ignore. So rather than postponing this for later, we encourage you to take a look at the content you already have and start building your first sales funnel with small steps.

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