Think of a sales funnel as a device you can use to create customers. While it seems that many businesses find customers, a closer look will show you the process involved in generating sales. Simply put, a sales funnel conceptualizes the process of turning prospective leads into loyal customers.

Paying attention to your funnel can improve marketing performance because it provides an ideal process for a customer’s lifecycle. It guides the marketing team on the steps needed to improve a prospect’s experience—from considering the product to maintaining loyalty to the brand.

A consistent flow of leads into your pipeline keeps the sales cycle steady and reliable. In a nutshell, understanding the sales funnel can help businesses improve their relationship with customers and develop an efficient strategy to nurture prospects right through to the end of the buyer’s journey. This is where inbound and some outbound marketing techniques come into play.

understanding the stages of your sales funnel-infographic

The Buying Cycle is Getting Longer

SiriusDecisions reports the average sales cycle has increased by 22% over the past 5 years, attributed to more decision makers involved in the buying process than in previous years. That the process of buying B2B technology has lengthened is a surprise to some. The decision-by-committee structure of so many tight budgets elongates many processes, vendor selection simply one of them.

As a marketer, it is critical that you understand this lengthened buying cycle and maximize your content and its positioning appropriately for this changing buying dynamic. A few things to consider:

  • Persona

The strategy of “targeting the decision maker” used to be easy enough. But with several layers of approval, that target is broadening and difficult to pin down. When you tailor your content for specific personas, realize that you may need to create multiple pieces of content with a similar message to various different people in the same organization.

Creating content just to address the value your end users realize is not enough. Content must also highlight the ways your solutions improve team productivity (for Director level) and the broader business problem your solutions address (for the VP and potentially C-level).

  • Syndication

Where once it was straightforward to discern the decision maker’s title and target content distribution accordingly, today’s content syndication must span the breadth of decision makers within an organization while targeting content appropriately. That is no easy balancing act.

Today’s buyer – and their boss and colleague and boss’s boss – are educating themselves well before they ever interact with vendors. Content syndication and other distribution strategies are critical to ensure that your content is in front of the people who would buy your product if only they knew about it.

Sales Funnels Optimize Marketing and Sales Teams

In a 2014 study by Regalix Research, 87 percent of marketing professionals prioritized improving their knowledge of a customer’s purchase journey.

Indeed, analyzing what motivates prospects at every stage of the sales funnel is vital to a marketer’s or sales person’s success. Furthermore, a well-utilized sales funnel will ensure that every stage’s initiatives are well thought out and directly stimulating a specific action.

It’s not enough to simply throw generic sales promotions at potential customers. In today’s highly saturated market, rising above the noise is not sufficient to ensure a purchase. Nurture your leads at every stage in the buying process by providing exactly what they need, when they need it most. Using the sales funnel as a foundation for your target marketing strategy ensures that you’re doing everything you can to maximize your conversion rates.

With a better understanding of your sales funnel, you can serve prospects with more relevant content. Check out our FREE content marketing whitepaper today!

Content Marketing as an Effective Tactic for B2B Lead Generation