Unlike any B2C funnel, B2B marketing funnel is full of curveballs. The buyer journey and general behavior follow wildly different paths.
The primary difference between a B2C and B2B marketing funnel is that it’s not a straightforward buying decision with the latter. B2B buyers don’t just come across a TVC and think “wow, I need to buy that software now”.
There’s a lot more nuance and due diligence involved in having a prospect navigate through a B2B marketing funnel.
The result? Sales cycles are long at worst and unpredictable at best; buying triggers are random; conversions don’t follow specific B2B marketing funnel stages.
In this article, we’ll discuss how to build a B2B marketing funnel that factors in today’s non-linear buyer journey.
What is a B2B marketing funnel?
A B2B marketing funnel is a series of different touch points and marketing activities that a potential buyer goes through before making a purchase.
B2B marketing funnels are more complex since they are as value-driven as emotion-driven. While inherent value plays a major role in the buying decision, getting noticed sometimes requires a strong emotion-driven brand story.
Let’s not forget how tools like Lavender and Hockeystack created a kool-aid drinking echo chamber with an extended sense of belonging even for non-customers.
Not to mention, a B2B buying journey requires the consensus of multiple decision-makers and stakeholders who are going to use the product.
And the buying triggers in a B2B marketing funnel are down to the more tangible outcomes of your product, such as:
- Use-cases and problems your product solves for at a process-level.
- Scalability and general flexibility of the product to adapt to organizational changes.
- How the product integrates and really talks to your existing GTM tech stack.
- Price-to-performance ratio game with your competitors.
- ROI that the product adoption would bring to the company.
How can you break down the B2B marketing funnel?
For simple understanding and execution of activities in the B2B marketing funnel, most GTM teams follow a buyer awareness framework that we’ve all heard of at some point:
- Problem unaware; where prospective customers haven’t recognized that your value prop is a problem that they need to solve at an organizational level.
- Problem aware; where prospects have recognized a problem and start warming up to the operational changes and tools that could potentially eliminate or ease the problem.
- Solution aware; where prospects are aware about the kind of software they need to evaluate—or maybe have even shortlisted a bunch of them—to solve the problem.
- Most aware; where prospects have zeroed in on a product and are trying to get maximum value out of it from demo calls, negotiations, feature requests, and whatnot.
Note: The most aware stage doesn’t necessarily mean that the deal is sealed. It’s a phase where your product has a bright chance of landing a deal if you get most things right in the earlier stages. Yes, they all need to conspire.
And the content for these funnel stages are dubbed top of the funnel (TOFU), middle of the funnel (MOFU), and bottom of the funnel (BOFU).
Examples of content for each of these funnel levels:
- TOFU: Listicle pieces, newsletter, podcast, thought leadership articles, social media posts with a focus on brand building.
- MOFU: How-To articles, outcome-driven content on blog and socials.
- BOFU: Competitor comparison pages, feature pages, demo request pages, product marketing articles and newsletters.
Similar frameworks are used in different parlance such as awareness, consideration, evaluation, purchase, and so on.
Here’s the thing. B2B Marketing Funnels are good frameworks to help you analyze and see if you've created content across all the stages of the B2B marketing funnel. But it's important to understand that intent doesn’t fare linearly through these b2b marketing funnel models.
The journey does not move incremental stages like awareness, consideration, evaluation, and purchase in a buyer journey.
Instead, it’s messy like the image below. The buying trigger can come at any point, in any order from these multiple channels or touchpoints. Which means, prospects can take 2 steps front and 3 steps back in the B2B marketing funnel at any given time.
As prospects progress through your marketing efforts in the funnel, they gather more specific information and engage in deeper interactions, such as scheduling a demo, setting up meetings, signing up for free trials, and using a free plan of your software to get their way around.
What are the most decisive touchpoints in a B2B marketing funnel?
B2B buyers assess various vendors, comparing features, prices, and benefits. But before that, there’s also your demand gen activities that can indirectly influence their path through your funnel. Let’s look at some of key touchpoints in the B2B marketing funnel:
- Product comparison pages
- Thought leadership articles
- Paid ad creatives on socials and search engine PPC ads
- Paid media sponsorship such as B2B newsletters, podcasts, and events
- Social media/community posts and discussions
- Customer case studies and video testimonials
- Social proof with reviews, logos, and badges
- Product walkthroughs and recorded demos
- Option to schedule a demo or meeting
- Free trial and freemium value props
- SDR outreach and ABM campaigns
Across all these touchpoints, the product messaging needs to tie together a consistent brand story to move prospects through the B2B marketing funnel.
Examples of a B2B marketing funnel that drives pipeline
At RevenueHero, when we’re talking about the pitfalls of manual lead qualification, meeting scheduling, and lead routing, we ensure a consistent narrative that reflects across our efforts in the B2B marketing funnel.
So, the goal of your content efforts must be to ensure a B2B marketing funnel that creates top of mind recall to help prospects eventually find a solid buying trigger.
TOFU – Creating brand awareness and trust with content
1. Our problem statement in a meme video ft. Mr. Bean, worried about long wait times after booking a meeting. The creative doesn’t even lead our target audience to our website or a demo booking page.
It’s more about creating awareness about who we are as a company, and how fun we can be while educating our prospects.
2. Lavender’s FOMO inducing ad on LinkedIn plays with GTM dynamics by pitting sales and marketing at the opposites.
This not only fits right into their marketing funnel, but also creates that elusive top of mind recall with a stats, wit, and clearcut problem statement.
3. A thought leadership article from RevenueHero that discusses why lead routing isn’t the end of your qualified pipeline problems.
4. A listicle about the best lead distribution software that companies need to keep an eye on in 2024.
5. RevenueHero’s sponsorship of Dave Gerhardt’s Exit Five podcast and Emily Kramer’s MKT1 newsletter, which boast an audience comprising our ICPs.
MOFU – Digging deeper into the problems of the ICPs with helpful content
1. Hockeystack’s product marketing video about multitouch attribution and lift analysis is a great example of content for the problem-aware, MOFU stage of the B2B marketing funnel.
2. Manual lead qualification in an ad creative, which captures the imagination of prospects with the workflow behind it.
For prospects who have engaged with our TOFU efforts, we slowly warm them up to your product use cases with these creatives.
3. Customer testimonials that highlight what we solve for at a process level.
4. RevenueHero’s use case-driven content piece on what lead routing is and why GTM functions need to fine-tune it.
BOFU – Positioning your product as an authority in the market
1. A competitor comparison page that lists out detailed notes about how RevenueHero provides better bang for the buck.
2. We add strategically placed CTAs in our blog, feature pages, and other content resources like the one below – to quickly communicate our solutions to pain points at the right place or scroll.
And consider another touch where one of SDRs echoes this problem statement of building a qualified outreach through a LinkedIn InMail.
And we know a detailed B2B marketing funnel like this works wonders, from what we’ve heard from our prospects.
This is how you need to think about a B2B marketing funnel that guides prospects towards explicitly declaring their intent with a demo request or product test.
Earning trust should be the primary outcome of your marketing funnel. And for that, you need to embrace consistent and on-brand demand generation efforts before your prospects find a buying trigger.
Remember that the buying trigger can come from any of the above touches in the B2B marketing funnel. The key is what you do after they declare their intent with the right systems to help them evaluate, buy, and onboard your software seamlessly.
B2B marketing funnel is just a showpiece without the right lead management systems
Sure, your B2B marketing funnel can build intent and trust over time and let prospects dictate their buying trigger.
But prospects can show intent to buy based on any marketing activity. If you don’t have the right systems in place to capture these intent signals, you’re heavily losing out on pipeline on an ongoing basis.
They need to be engaged immediately no matter where they come from and turn these moments into meetings and sign ups instantly.
Once your prospects submit their contact info, their buyer experience has to be frictionless throughout the funnel.
- Keep your demo request and product sign up form concise. Use form enrichment and automated lead qualification to distribute prospects.
- Your prospects want a meeting; Give them a schedule to pick from NOW, not later.
- Be available across the funnel: In-app scheduling, live chat widgets, personal meeting links on outreach.
So how can you do these in one go?
Every form-fill is an opportunity for another qualified meeting - Allow your high-intent prospects to schedule a meeting instantly
Deploy a tool that can determine when a high-intent prospect fills up a demo request form and allow them to schedule a meeting right after form-fill.
They’re here to evaluate your software. Why add unnecessary friction and back-and-forth? Responding 2-3 days after form-fill and setting up a meeting another 2 days later won’t cut it.
Let them evaluate your product ASAP and keep them from shopping around during the buffer time of late response.
Never make your prospects wait again – Automate lead qualification and distribution
To let high-intent prospects book meetings instantly, you need to have a lead qualification system that qualifies leads in near real-time.
You can set this up with form enrichment tools like Clearbit or build custom rules based on the form fields, geography, lead demographics, company size, and so on.
And then add workflows and conditions to ensure that you distribute meetings to the right sales reps and AEs who are best equipped to handle the inbound contact.
Send proactive outreach when prospects are already on your funnel
Some potential buyers are dormant even though they might’ve scaled the length and breadth of your B2B marketing funnel activities.
Think of them like the abandoned carts in ecommerce sites. Customers who add products to the cart but don’t checkout. In B2B, abandoned carts are the prospects who request a demo but don’t book a meeting (or don’t turn up to a booked meeting).
They need an additional catalyst to display their intent, which is where SDRs can work some magic with 1-click booking experiences.
Since your reps already know the contact info, they can combine their personalized outreach with instant magic links in emails that help schedule meetings even without a form-fill, in just one click.
Add a sales-assisted PLG motion to drive more conversions and reduce churn
When your product is led by a PLG motion, there’s naturally less inclination for prospects to connect with you. Because they use a free trial or a freemium version of your product and try to scale up from there by themselves.
But there’s a lot of pain signals that can go unnoticed in the process. Self-serve may not solve for everything and getting in front of a rep is still unmatched if you want to remove friction instantly.
Here, you can embed meeting widgets within your product to high-engagement users or on specific features that demand a steeper learning curve.
Active users can automatically be routed to the right sales reps to help them further or make a sale. While existing customers can be routed to CSMs to help the customer become successful and get more out of your product.
In PLG, users abandon ship a lot because of the less number of customer-facing touchpoints when they hit a roadblock with your product. Adding these proactive meeting booking nudges on dedicated widgets and on live chat can help you avert quiet quitting prospects.
Remove the hassles of prospect handoff between SDRs, AE, and customer success
Booking meetings on behalf of others for customers involves plenty of async communication, spreadsheets, and general consensus between sales teams. At its core, the entire process as it exists now is laden with manual inefficiencies and tediousness.
On that front, SDR-to-AE handoff is a huge pipeline problem that can destroy all the goodwill built with your B2B marketing funnel. Add a system that can automate the handoff instantly, without losing any context about the prospect.
Booking meetings on behalf of others for customers is a huge problem that involves plenty of async communication, spreadsheets, and general consensus between sales teams.
This can also be emulated for different roles, including support to sales or AE to customer success handoffs.
To sum up, make buying simple after prospects navigate your B2B marketing funnel
Prospects don’t like waiting around after they declare intent. Your B2B marketing funnel will pay off and turn into conversions only if the buyer journey is frictionless.
Instead of letting them shop around with a delayed response, ensure that you reward their intent throughout the B2B marketing funnel by getting them in front of demo calls and evaluate your product ASAP.