As a B2B business, you need a well-structured digital marketing funnel to attract new prospects, nurture leads and generate sales.
However, the road across the B2B buyer’s journey can be a long and arduous one, including multiple touchpoints and marketing channels.
Long B2B sales cycles often require nurturing prospects for months or even years before they turn into sales opportunities or paying customers.
Digital marketing and automation have unlocked a whole new world of possibilities to deliver consistent and personalized experiences to your prospects and leads across all touchpoints.
And having an optimal B2B sales funnel will provide that seamless experience at each step of the buyer’s journey, steering them in the right direction towards the final sale.
This helps run lean, effective and efficient marketing, increasing your conversion rates and closing more deals.
In this guide, you’ll learn the ins and outs of the modern B2B sales funnel as well as how to leverage digital marketing to maximize performance and your ROI.
Table of Contents
The B2B digital marketing funnel
A B2B digital marketing funnel is a marketing system that targets potential customers with personalized messaging and offers, throughout the buyer’s journey.
From awareness, across consideration to the ultimate conversion, your B2B funnel is set to attract new prospects, turn prospects into leads and nurture them until they become paying customers.
The B2B sales funnel consists of three main stages of customer acquisition, followed by the retention stage:
- Top of the Funnel (TOFU) – Prospecting
- Middle of the Funnel (MOFU) – Lead generation
- Bottom of the Funnel (BOFU) – Closing the deal
- Customer Retention – Encouraging repeat business and referrals
The phases of the B2B funnel correspond to stages of the customer journey:
- Awareness – Strangers, aka prospects, aka cold audiences
- Consideration – Leads, aka warm audiences
- Conversion/Decision – Qualified leads, aka sales-ready leads, aka hot audiences
- Loyalty and Advocacy – Existing customers
The true power of a funnel like this is that it helps you map out the buyer’s journey and determine a perfect mix of digital marketing channel, content, messaging and offer that resonate at each step.
It’s all about sending the right message and offer at the right moment!
- Use TOFU marketing to attract new prospects, build awareness and educate about a specific pain point or challenge your product/service helps solve.
- MOFU works to build relationships with prospects with useful content that demonstrate how your product/service solves their problem.
- BOFU marketing is intended to help prospects make the purchasing decision by clearing up any objections and encouraging immediate action.
- CRM, as well as digital marketing channels, help retain existing customers and encourage repeat business as well as drive referrals.
You want to feed your sales funnel with as many targeted leads as possible.
However, unlike the B2C funnel where you target massive scores of people, here you want to reach only relevant accounts that make or influence decisions in a company.
Users are moved from one stage of the funnel to the next based on their interactions with your content/offer mix.
This interaction, also called a conversion, can be just about any action that qualifies the user for the next stage.
Digital marketing gives you an unlimited range of options that can be used as conversions.
From a simple ad click, engaging with your content on social media, viewing key pages on your site, to opting in for your lead magnets, signing up for a demo, etc., each conversion can be used as a signal that qualifies the user for the next funnel stage.
For example, when a user opts-in for your lead magnet e-book, it means they’re interested, so you can move them to the next funnel stage to keep the momentum going.
A B2B digital marketing funnel can be short or long, depending on your sales cycle.
Each funnel stage can also include more than one step and touchpoint.
For example, when users opt for your white paper (a typical MOFU offer), it doesn’t mean that they’re necessarily ready to buy your product yet. You still may need to nurture them further with other Middle of the Funnel content and offers before they’re moved to the BOFU stage.
So, in the next step of MOFU offer a webinar, then a case study, etc. Nurture leads one step at a time before you decide to move them to the next funnel stage.
This is especially true for high-ticket, complex and disruptive products/services where decision-makers within a company need strong and compelling reasons to even consider your offerings.
Which leads to the next point…
Differences between B2B and B2C sales funnel
The B2B sales process is different from B2C which translates to the funnel as well.
B2B customers conduct thorough research before they make a buying decision for their company.
There are three inherent differences between B2B and B2C sales funnels:
B2B buyers are looking for a solution that will improve their business and its bottom-line.
That’s why things like the value of your solution, reputation and customer service play a big role for B2B customers.
For these reasons, you need to demonstrate your value proposition as well as build and nurture relationships with key people within a target company.
On the other hand, B2C buyers are looking to improve their personal lives or the lives of their loved ones. Nonetheless, the purchase is made for individual use.
The motivation can be the usefulness of a product, but also enjoyment, appearance, prestige, status and other personal motivators.
The buying decisions in the B2C market are typically made by individuals. Although they can be influenced by friends, family members or online influencers, the decision is personal.
When it comes to B2B customers, a purchase is typically a group decision.
You need to appeal to a group within a business. This can be a board, department, committee, upper-level management, etc.
Even when a single person is in charge of the final decision, the purchase is still going to be considered by a group.
In B2C you can target broad audiences because just about any person can be a potential customer.
However, in B2B marketing you need to narrow your targeting to decision-makers and other key people that influence those decisions within a company.
3. Decision-making process
B2B buyers use logic and reasoning to make purchasing decisions for their company.
On the B2C side, the decisions are often made emotionally, on an impulse.
B2B customers need to consider the value and the impact of your product/service on business processes and performance.
To even be considered you need to prove your solution can enhance the productivity, efficiency, economy and/or profitability of the company.
But the key decision-making factor is ROI. Since each purchase for a company is some kind of an investment, the return needs to be greater than the investment.
B2B buyers will research your solutions with an ROI mindset.
And digital marketing can help deliver the right information at the right moment to the right people, to encourage purchasing decisions.
That’s why we see a proliferation of digital marketing strategies such as inbound and account-based marketing (ABM).
The B2B funnel from above doesn’t look like an actual funnel, does it?
That’s because the funnels have changed, evolved…
How the B2B sales funnel has changed
The internet has induced some seismic shifts in the way funnels work.
B2B buyers are more informed than ever.
Major changes in technology, business and marketing have resulted in:
- B2B buyers like to research on their own
- They’re better informed than ever
- Privacy concerns have diminished the potential of traditional outbound marketing (i.e. cold calling, cold email, etc.)
- The customers are in full control now
According to Forrester:
“B2B buyer will find three pieces of content about a vendor for every one piece that marketing can publish or sales can deliver. They are finding this content in an ever-expanding number and variety of channels.”
The shifts and changes have also made the B2B funnel less linear.
Prospects now enter and leave your funnel many times during the sales cycle.
It’s up to you to map out this new mess and figure out how to engage current and potential customers every step of this long and winding path to purchase.
Nonetheless, the fundamentals remain. The funnel system still applies.
You just have to adjust your marketing and sales approach to perfectly align with the current and future trends.
The challenges of modern B2B sales funnel
The availability of information and the modern B2B buyer have imposed some new challenges.
To win in the modern B2B market you must:
- Be present on all digital channels (omnichannel approach)
- Deliver a consistent experience across all channels
- Provide personalized messaging and offers based on the buyer’s journey stage
- Understand user behaviour to move them through the funnel
The challenge – How can you manage communications with prospects and leads across all channels in a consistent, yet personalized manner, on their own terms without being invasive.
The solution to modern B2B sales challenges
The solution to the whole modern B2B conundrum is designing an optimal funnel that leverages the full power of digital marketing.
Digital marketing channels provide immense data and analytics.
Tools like Google Analytics provide a treasure trove of valuable insights into user behaviour.
You can learn which content your prospects like, how they find your website and content, what offers convert, and much more.
Armed with this knowledge you can build and optimize your funnel to automate the entire sales cycle process.
With a B2B digital marketing funnel, you can provide a personalized and consistent experience across all touchpoints, at every step of the buyer’s journey.
Use segmentation based on data to learn where your prospects are in the buyer’s journey, so you can target the right users.
Match your messaging and offers to what resonates at each stage.
So, when someone does engage with your brand you can capitalize on that momentum and bring them closer to purchase.
How to build a perfect B2B digital marketing funnel
As a B2B company, you live and die by your sales funnel.
This system is designed to reach prospects with relevant offers that pull them deeper into your funnel and towards a sale.
With multiple touchpoints of your B2B funnel, you will isolate and embed your brand in the minds of business decision-makers. So, when they’re ready to pull the trigger you’re the brand they go for.
For your B2B digital marketing to be effective, you need to map out the buyer’s journey, along with goals at each stage, content and offers, as well as optimal marketing channels to reach potential customers.
Here’s a detailed guide on how to create a perfect B2B digital marketing funnel for your business.
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Top of the Funnel – TOFU
The Top of the Funnel is the stage that brings in new website traffic and leads into your sales funnel.
It corresponds to the Awareness stage in the buyer’s journey.
This is where most prospects are just becoming aware of a problem or are in the research mode.
For example, they may not be aware of your shiny new motorized standing desk, but they are just becoming aware of the health risks of prolonged sitting.
The TOFU marketing helps capture new, cold audiences who aren’t ready to buy but might be someday. This will be your initial contact with potential customers and a chance to build trust.
One big mistake you can make is to only try to capture leads with contact forms and/or phone numbers on your website.
Although this type of conversions will bring in sales-ready leads, you’re missing out on a huge number of people visiting your site who are not ready to buy.
These prospects may also be interested in your product/service but need more nurturing.
That’s where blog posts, videos and downloadable content offers, aka lead magnets come in.
Instead of pushing prospects to a call with a high-pressure sales rep, be helpful and use this opportunity to educate about the life-changing benefits of your solution.
B2B sales cycles are typically much longer than B2C, especially if there are many stakeholders involved.
Position yourself as an industry authority by providing value and staying top of mind.
TOFU is also where you’ll do initial qualifying based on content, offers and pages on your site prospects interact with.
A qualified B2B lead would be someone who:
- Expresses an interest in your product/service
- Needs what you’re selling
- Has the budget to buy your offerings
- Has the power to make or influence the purchasing decision
Optimal messaging and offers for Awareness stage audiences
In the Awareness stage, your B2B prospects recognize they have a problem and seek out solutions to change the status quo.
In other situations, you may be the one that initiates the Awareness stage by prospecting through display ads on Facebook or LinkedIn.
Whatever the case may be, at this stage your goal is to attract new audiences and educate them about the problem and subtly suggest a solution.
Optimal TOFU offers for cold audiences are:
- Blog posts
- How-to videos
- Cheat sheets
- Industry stats
- E-books, etc.
Your messaging should match the users’ expectations, so use content to:
- Build interest
- Acknowledge the problem and demonstrate a solution
- Position your business as an industry leader/authority
- Earn trust with useful information
Finally, use gated content, aka lead magnets to capture users’ contact info for further nurturing through email remarketing and retargeting.
Avoid making any high-commitment asks like scheduling a consultation, contacting sales, or buying your product.
It’s important to remember at this phase, the prospect may not even fully understand the problem, so it’s still too early for a sales pitch.
Helpful lead magnet offers can be a compelling reason for prospects to give up their contact information and become leads.
Continue nurturing leads with useful content through email and retargeting ads until they graduate to the next funnel stage.
Best acquisition channels for TOFU
Your sales team depends on a steady influx of new prospects into your funnel. So, your TOFU marketing channels should target relevant B2B prospects who could be a good business fit, not just any website traffic.
Some of the best TOFU acquisition channels strategies are:
- SEO – Search Engine Optimization can help bring targeted organic traffic from Google and other search engines. By publishing Top of Funnel blog posts, you can attract new prospects in the research mode.
- Social Media – Social networks like Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram can also help bring in new prospects into your funnel. Unfortunately, organic reach on social networks has decreased so you won’t be able to count on it as the main lead generator.
- LinkedIn Ads – B2B companies can benefit from outstanding targeting options on LinkedIn such as targeting people based on the job position, seniority, company name, etc. Learn how to build a full LinkedIn Ads funnel in our extensive guide.
- Facebook Ads – With over 2B active users, Facebook remains a top acquisition channel for businesses of all industries. Although targeting isn’t as precise for B2B like LinkedIn, you can still reach a massive audience at a much lower cost. Learn all about Facebook Ads funnel in our comprehensive guide.
- YouTube videos – Video is a very engaging medium that works great for educating potential customers about their problem and your solution.
If you’re trying to reach prospects organically, make sure to optimize your content with On-Page SEO to maximize the discoverability of your TOFU content.
If you choose to advertise, make sure to have a proper marketing backend to run profitable digital advertising.
The inbound marketing strategies listed above will bring in genuine prospects and leads who “opt-in” to be contacted. This will produce a much higher ROI and avoid wasting money and effort chasing cold trails.
Middle of the Funnel – MOFU
Once prospects show enough interest, they arrive at the Middle of the Funnel. At this stage, your B2B prospects understand the problem and they start exploring and evaluating solutions.
During the MOFU stage, your goal is to provide context for consideration. Differentiate your company by promoting your unique value proposition.
By now, prospects have read your blog posts, watched your how-to videos and downloaded some TOFU lead magnets.
It’s time to offer a different type of content that focuses more on the value and benefits of your product/service.
Remember, B2B buyers don’t make purchasing decisions for themselves, but to somehow enhance their business or get a competitive edge.
Prove that your solutions work but remain useful, make sure your content is valuable and educational.
At this stage, you also know more about your leads. Use data about which content your prospects interacted with in the Awareness stage for segmentation.
This will help you offer a more personalized experience to each group of leads by targeting their exact needs and pain points.
Optimal messaging and offers for Consideration stage audiences
In the Consideration stage, your content and messaging should explain the benefits of your solution. Demonstrate the results of using your products/services.
Since MOFU leads already know enough about the problem, they start looking for possible solutions. It’s also the right time to differentiate your brand from your competitors.
Your Consideration stage content should be more product-centric explaining the benefits, unique features and results.
Some of the best content and offers for warm audiences in the Consideration stage are:
- Quiz or Survey
- White Papers
- Case Studies
- Success Stories
- Video Demos
- Free trial or product samples
A white paper is a persuasive piece of content that connects a specific problem with your solution.
It can bring B2B leads closer to conversion by demonstrating how your product/service solves their challenge.
Webinars are another effective offer for MOFU audiences. Webinars work as an online presentation aimed to show how to overcome a particular industry challenge.
Webinars will showcase your expertise in the field and offer valuable information to potential customers by connecting a common industry challenge with your solution.
Case studies prove the value of your product or service because they show how someone else used it and got results.
Ideally, most of your MOFU content should be locked behind a lead form.
By making users submit forms to get your gated content, you can gauge their interest and qualify for further nurturing and remarketing.
Your MOFU content and messaging should bring leads closer to the Decision stage.
Best digital marketing channels for MOFU
You can reach MOFU users in a number of ways, however, the bulk of the channels will fall into the category of retargeting ads or email remarketing.
Some of the best MOFU digital marketing channels:
- Email remarketing – Nurturing leads with automated email sequences, aka drip campaigns.
- Retargeting on Facebook – Using Custom Audiences based on conversions and website visits.
- Retargeting on LinkedIn – Using Matched Audiences based on website visits and conversions.
- Remarketing with Google Ads – RLSA and Display remarketing ads.
- SEO – Your search engine optimization still plays a vital role, since B2B leads may be researching MOFU content on Google. That’s why you need to optimize and rank for relevant keywords to keep your content and brand top of mind.
After visiting the Supermetrics website, you’ll be followed by their RLSA ads whenever you search for relevant MOFU keywords like “analytics tools for google sheets.”
This way, Supermetrics can stay top of mind during the Consideration stage and reel users back into their funnel for further nurturing.
Ideally, you want all of your digital marketing channels to be in-sync and present the same offer at each stage of the funnel.
After prospects and leads convert on your offer, take them to the next step and show them the next MOFU offer in your arsenal. All the way until they’re warm enough to go enter the Bottom of the Funnel.
Bottom of the Funnel – BOFU
No matter what your company’s sales funnel looks like, the BOFU stage is where your prospect makes the purchasing decision.
That’s why this stage of the buyer’s journey is called the Decision stage, the Purchase stage or the Conversion stage, as users convert from leads to customers.
As buyers move down the sales funnel their discovery process changes. Your offers need to change along with it.
Depending on your business the BOFU goal of your B2B funnel can be signing up for an account, schedule a consultation or live demo and even a straight-up purchase.
At the Bottom of the Funnel, your salespeople get more involved. However, don’t let the sales completely take over. For many B2B products, it will take a joint effort by sales and marketing to close the deal.
Marketers should work alongside the sales team to create offers that convert. Especially since this is a critical stage when B2B decision-makers are choosing where to make the purchase.
Some buyers at this stage just need a little push, which could be in the form of a special offer, discount, or some custom-tailored deal.
Others will require more information, education, consulting, and trust before they become your client. And you can deliver that personalized, targeted content through digital marketing.
Optimal messaging and offers for the Decision stage
B2B buyers in the Decision stage, need to justify their selection before pulling the trigger on a purchase. They will respond to offers that reinforce their choice.
Offers and messaging at the Decision stage need to induce immediate action. That’s why the limited-time discounts work particularly well.
But depending on your industry and target buyers, even discounts may not be enough to pull the trigger as soon as leads enter the BOFU stage.
You may need to nurture them with multiple steps before they’re ready to buy. That’s why some compelling offers that work in the BOFU stage are:
- Free trials
- Live demos
- Quotes and Estimates
- Case studies and success stories
- Plan upgrades, etc.
Be mindful of any objections your leads might have. Use content and offers to overcome those objections.
For example, some leads may still be on the fence. Deliver testimonials and success stories that mention the exact objections those buyers might have.
In some other cases, leads may want to get a feel of your product/service before they’re ready to work with you.
Use free trials to give them a chance to taste what it’s like to be your customer.
Consultations and personalized live demos also work great for B2B customers. By targeting the specific needs of the decision-maker you can pinpoint and highlight the exact unique value you bring to them.
It’s a chance to answer questions and clear up any objection required to seal the deal.
Best digital marketing channels for BOFU
Your Bottom of the Funnel digital marketing channels are going to be very similar to what you use in the MOFU stage.
It’s mostly going to consist of retargeting ads on LinkedIn, Facebook and Google as well as remarketing via email.
An added channel this time would be using Google search ads that target high-buying intent keywords.
These could be branded terms like “staples office supplies” or things like “smart home wholesale distributor.”
Keep in mind that not all B2B buyers will enter your funnel at the top. Some may discover your business once they did all the research elsewhere.
However, by using all digital marketing channels at your disposal you extend your reach. You can be the one that initiates their discovery and it can help you guide prospects in your desired direction.
Customer retention – Loyalty and Advocacy
Even after you win a new B2B customer the funnel doesn’t end there.
You can use digital marketing, social media and CRM to nurture existing customers and encourage repeat business (loyalty) and even plan upgrades.
This will help increase customer lifetime value or CLV (aka LTV).
For an even higher return on investment, encourage referrals and word of mouth (advocacy).
The long sales cycle and high acquisition costs of most B2B customers make retention an essential strategy for long-term growth and profitability.
Be sure to include the post-purchase stage into your B2B digital marketing funnel to retain customers and even get brand advocates.
The modern B2B market has changed. Now buyers have more information than ever and they’re the ones in control.
B2B customers like to research and consider multiple options before they’re ready to buy.
You need an optimal B2B digital marketing funnel to make your business available to potential customers across the buyer’s journey.
Deliver the right message and offer at the right time to the right people to keep the momentum going and funnel prospects to the final sale.
Start with something simple, using the offers and content that you already have. Then use data to enhance your funnel and add additional steps and elements to boost your conversion rates.
And now it’s your turn, build your high-converting B2B digital marketing funnel to help grow your business to the next level.
If you have any questions or comments, feel free to drop us a line down below.
Or, if you get lost in your funnel building efforts, get in touch and learn what we can do for your business.