The B2B Sales and Marketing Funnel Explained

What is the B2B Marketing Funnel? 

You’ve probably heard the term before but may not have thought about what it means (and how to use it) in depth. 

The marketing funnel is a visual representation of each step of the process to convert a potential buyer into a customer. The following table explains the four stages of the funnel. Each stage is integral to a successful presence in your market and to generating new business. Certain types of content perform better among buyers at certain stages of the funnel — we cover these content types in more detail later in this chapter.

Every business’s goal is to keep new leads flowing into the top of the funnel, and to keep those leads moving through the funnel with an effective and efficient nurturing process.

Graphic of the stages within the marketing funnel and corresponding steps

Stages of the B2B Marketing Funnel 

Awareness

The goal of the Awareness stage is exactly what it sounds like: you want to make sure your brand stands as a viable option in your buyers’ minds. In this stage of the funnel, your potential customers will have just identified their problem and may or may not have begun the process of searching for products or services that will solve this problem.

Building visibility for your company is usually the task of marketing, advertising, and even public relations teams. Your positioning and value proposition are critical elements of success here.

Everything from content on your own website to social media posts, podcasts, ads, and articles referencing you in industry media sources help “get the word out” about your company and make your potential customers aware of your brand.

Consideration

A buyer moves to the Consideration stage once they are aware of who your company is and understand a little more about what you have to offer. At this point they likely want to learn more about your product specifically. This might look something like submitting an information request or subscribing to your newsletter. 

Effective content for this stage of the funnel lures in your leads with certain expectations of what your product will offer and the needs it will address. Product- or service-oriented content will really shine in this stage — FAQ sections, video demos, white papers or ebooks, and webinars are effective content types for this stage of the funnel.

Once a lead has engaged with you, your sales team should nurture that lead’s curiosity via email campaigns, phone calls, and possibly even text messages. Ideally the sales team will build on the top-of-the-funnel messaging your marketing team has developed. 

By the end of this stage, both teams’ goal is to convince your prospects that they need your product or service, and once they get a taste, they can’t achieve further success without it. 

Decision 

By this point your buyer will (hopefully) have all the information he or she needs to make a purchase Decision. Ultimately, the buyer is faced with three options: to buy your product, to buy a competitor’s product or not buy at all. 

The outcome of this decision is most dependent on your sales team so it’s important that their outreach is directed and relevant to who you’re targeting. Depending on the complexity of your product or service, the sales team may need unique content geared towards individual decision-makers or purchase-influencers.

Case studies and deep dives into your competitive differentiation can be some of the most compelling types of content at this stage. And of course your sales team should endeavor to be proactive about reaching out to prospects at this stage of the funnel and highly responsive to any of their questions.

Advocacy

Many businesses unfortunately stop at the decision stage, but the most successful companies turn the marketing funnel into a marketing hourglass. Advocacy is the stage where your business can turn the marketing funnel into a self-filling machine, as your customers are the ones doing your sales and marketing for you.

The goal of the Advocacy stage is to get your customers to share your business in one way or another. 

The first step to Advocacy is to capture feedback from your customers a short time after you’ve delivered their initial product/service experience. If they’re not happy with how things are going, it gives you an opportunity to learn from and improve their experience. And if they are happy, then maybe they’re willing to take the next step on your behalf.

Are they willing to leave you a review? Share their happiness with your company on social media? Serve as a reference to other similar prospects? Record a short testimonial video? Participate in a full-blown case study?

All of these actions help bring awareness of your company to new potential customers, and help move prospects that have already engaged with you further down the funnel.