B2B Marketing Funnel: What Is It, How to Build It, Why Use It
B2B marketing is fundamentally different from B2C marketing or marketing in DTC business models.
The stakes are much higher in B2B purchases because the products often directly impact the customer’s business performance. Plus, multiple technical and business experts are involved in the decision-making process from the customer’s end.
This is why it takes eight customer interactions on average to close a B2B sale.
To facilitate these interactions and ensure that you answer all the objections, questions, and doubts of your prospects, you need a B2B marketing funnel.
In this article, I’ll help you understand the role of a B2B marketing funnel and how you can build one for your business. At InboundJunction, we specialize in SaaS marketing. Therefore, this article will talk about the B2B marketing funnel in general, but also the B2B SaaS marketing funnel in particular.
Let’s dive in.
What Is A B2B Marketing Funnel?
A B2B marketing funnel is a step-by-step process to attract relevant visitors to your site and convert them into leads, customers, and brand advocates.
It does so by serving relevant and well-researched content at every stage of the funnel that answers the most burning questions of your audience and positions your brand as an authority in your niche.
Unlike direct marketing, where the goal is to immediately sell a product or service, a B2B marketing funnel takes a longer but more sustainable route to selling.
It breaks down your audience into different categories and allows you to create tailored messaging based on the prospect’s stage in the buyer’s journey. The buyer’s journey outlines the phases a typical B2B buyer goes through before making a purchase.
Here’s what a typical B2B marketing funnel looks like.
As you can see, a B2B marketing funnel gradually moves your prospects towards the purchase decision instead of pitching your product as the ideal solution right away.
The first stage of the funnel creates awareness of the problem your product solves and educates your prospects by answering their high-level questions.
From there, your prospects move to the interest, desire, and action stages one by one where you introduce them to your product, show them ways it can solve their problems, prove that your product offers greater value than its competitors, and ultimately persuade the prospects to buy from you.
These funnel stages are further grouped as Top Of the Funnel (TOFU), Middle of the Funnel (MOFU), and Bottom of the Funnel (BOFU). Each stage targets a different buyer need and uses a unique combination of content types, tools, and strategies.
I’ll discuss all these stages in more detail later in the article.
The Benefits Of A B2B Marketing Funnel
I’ve briefly explained what a B2B marketing funnel is. But why do you need it in the first place? Does it offer any advantages over direct marketing? Why take the longer route when you can simply run ads to sell your product?
To answer those questions, let me explain some of the main benefits of using a B2B marketing funnel for your business, especially your SaaS business.
Builds Brand Authority
People buy from people (and brands) they trust.
According to LinkedIn’s State of Sales Report 2021, 89% of B2B buyers ranked ‘seller credibility’ as the number one reason for choosing a company.
When you publish high-quality, in-depth, and well-researched content for every stage of the B2B marketing funnel, your audience starts seeing you as an expert.
This is exactly how HelpScout established its authority in the customer service niche.
Its blog covers all the core topics related to customer service and customer experience with high-quality and engaging long-form content at all stages of the marketing funnel.
The greater your credibility, the easier it is to sell your product.
Enables Permission-Based Marketing
A marketing funnel encourages your website visitors to convert into email subscribers by downloading a free training video, eBook, or any other type of lead magnet.
By becoming an email subscriber, a user permits you to send them informational and promotional emails.
This is the biggest advantage of a funnel over direct marketing.
It allows you to nurture the relationship with your audience through email marketing. Use your emails to educate your prospects, show how your product features work, share customer success stories, or send special discount offers.
For example, here’s how ClickUp uses email marketing to engage and convert its email subscribers.
As you can see, its first few emails are all about welcoming me on board and sharing the various ways I could use ClickUp for my business.
Then it gradually moved towards promotional emails to convert me into a premium user.
You can’t get so many touchpoints with your prospects in direct marketing.
Grows Your SEO Influence
Search engines are the most significant, reliable, and scalable traffic source on the internet. According to research, 68% of all online experiences start with a search engine.
By building a B2B marketing funnel, you can identify relevant long-tail keywords for all user types and drive thousands of visitors by creating SEO-optimized content.
Here are the different keyword types a marketing funnel allows you to target.
Navigational and informational keywords answer your audience’s questions in the awareness and interest stages of the marketing funnel.
Transactional and commercial keywords target the desire and action stages of the funnel and allow you to convert traffic into customers.
This approach is vastly different from randomly targeting high-traffic keywords and helps you generate qualified organic search traffic for all funnel stages.
OptinMonster is an excellent example of a SaaS company with a successful content-driven SEO strategy, as an essential part of their B2B SaaS marketing funnel.
It creates some of the best content in online marketing, lead generation, SEO, and email marketing niches. As a result, it dominates thousands of long-tail keywords and drives millions of visitors from Google Search every year.
Facilitates Link Building
Backlinks are the second most crucial search engine ranking factor after high-quality and SEO-optimized content.
A study by SEMRush found a direct relationship between the number of unique backlinks to a page and its search rankings.
Now, it’s important to understand how websites get backlinks.
Many SaaS companies think they can get backlinks to their site’s homepage by reaching out to other high-authority sites.
But they rarely succeed.
Nobody would link to your site without a good reason. They don’t care about your product, your company, or your features.
They only care about making their content more credible and engaging for their audiences.
This is why if you want to get backlinks, create content that offers so much value that other sites quote it and link to it as a reference.
A survey of thousands of marketers and SEOs found that the following content types get the most backlinks.
This is where a content marketing funnel is priceless for SEO and link-building strategy.
When you create high-quality content for all stages of the marketing funnel and answer the most burning questions of your audience using data, research, infographics, and various other link-worthy content elements. Even the highest-authority sites gladly link to it.
This in-depth study by BuzzSumo is a classic example of link-worthy content.
It is easily the most linked article on the BuzzSumo website and has links from many of the world’s highest-authority sites.
In short, you get backlinks when you create content that others can use as a reference to make their content more valuable for their audience.
You can then transfer the link authority of your blog pages to your site’s homepage through internal linking.
Builds Earned Media Assets
Building a B2B marketing funnel is the most efficient way to grow your brand’s earned media assets.
What’s earned media? It’s when journalists, websites, and high-authority publications mention your brand, quote your founders, or link to your content voluntarily.
It’s the most potent form of social proof for your brand that helps you build authority, attract traffic, and drive sales.
But you can only grow your earned media assets when you have something valuable to pitch to journalists and other media publications.
As I said in the backlinks section, nobody’s interested in your brand unless you offer them something valuable.
For example, say you want coverage in a specific publication or want a journalist to interview your founders. Offer them unique insights, data, or case studies they can use in their content.
This press release by Wistia is an excellent example of building earned media through value sharing.
Wistia published its latest report with unique findings on video content consumption. To promote the report to relevant journalists, it used a smartly written press release highlighting its key findings.
As a result, the report got coverage on numerous marketing and tech websites, including HubSpot and ImpactPlus.
Also, consider the hundreds of social media shares this report received which attracted thousands of new website visitors and priceless brand coverage.
All of this would’ve been impossible without creating a marketing funnel that included high-value content.
Increases The ROI Of Your Paid Media Campaigns
Standalone advertising campaigns only generate results as long as you keep investing in them. But when you have a B2B marketing funnel, even your paid marketing campaigns become more valuable.
Let me explain how.
When you have relevant content for all stages of the marketing funnel, you only need to route traffic to your landing page using a paid marketing campaign.
Once a visitor signs up to your email list using the opt-in form on your landing page, you get access to their email inbox and can contact them whenever you want. Which means there’s no urgency to drive the sale in your first interaction.
Instead, you can route them to the best content on your blog, send educational emails, share reports and whitepapers, or invite them to a webinar to share knowledge and position your brand as an authority.
Secondly, every article on your blog provides you an opportunity to retarget your audience through Facebook and Google advertising. Research shows that retargeting ads have a 10x higher click-through rate than regular display ads.
The more content on your site, the more chances you have to track users via retargeting.
So, now that we’ve discussed the main benefits of using a B2B marketing funnel let’s understand how it works.
Understanding The Stages Of A B2B Marketing Funnel
I’ve already briefly covered the various stages of a B2B marketing funnel.
But let’s dive deeper to understand the role of each stage and how it contributes to your overall marketing goals. Most of the examples below will come from SaaS.
Top Of The Funnel [ToFU]
The top of the funnel consists of the awareness and interest stages.
Its primary goal is to attract traffic to your website and feed your marketing funnel with relevant visitors.
At this stage, you don’t look to sell anything because your target audience isn’t fully aware of the problem yet.
This is why your main focus is on creating educational content that answers the fundamental questions of your audience and helps them understand the problem your product solves.
Let’s take Ahrefs’ content strategy as an example.
Ahrefs is the world’s leading SEO and content research tool. Its top-of-the-funnel content is all about creating SEO awareness, its importance, and its benefits for businesses.
Then it branches out into other common questions related to SEO, like traffic generation.
To spread the net even wider, it covers the various digital marketing concepts closely linked to SEO.
Plus, it covers the topics of general interest for its audience.
None of these articles are about Ahrefs features or functionality.
Instead, they’re high-quality and detailed educational resources anyone interested in the SEO and website marketing industries would find helpful.
This content is excellent for building brand authority because it allows you to demonstrate your topic-specific knowledge.
Additionally, TOFU content targets informational keywords with high search volume. As a result, it drives more traffic to your site than any other stage in your marketing funnel.
Plus, such content is ideal for link building because it’s not promotional and often contains useful link-worthy elements such as data, practical tips, or expert advice others can use as reference in their content.
Middle Of The Funnel [MoFU]
The middle of the funnel includes the ‘desire’ stage.
Once your TOFU content creates awareness of the problem and builds your brand authority, the MOFU content focuses on sharing product-specific knowledge and helping you gauge the product’s user experience.
To do that, you need to convert your traffic into email subscribers by offering a lead magnet or a free product trial. By signing up for your email list, users permit you to contact them with more product updates and educational emails.
Examples of MOFU content include whitepapers, eBooks, case studies, landing pages, webinars, product tutorials, and any other content type that encourages users to sign up to your email list or a free product trial.
However, MOFU content doesn’t have to be overly promotional. In fact, the best way to promote your product is by highlighting its benefits.
This step-by-step guide to starting an online store by Shopify is an excellent example.
This guide helps readers start an eCommerce business by setting up their Shopify store, adding products, and promoting them using various tools and plugins in Shopify.
The first step requires users to sign-up for a free Shopify trial.
It doesn’t directly promote Shopify but shows the readers how they can achieve their goal using Shopify’s features.
When users sign up for a free trial or join your email list, start emailing them about the different goals they can achieve with your product features. It makes them realize the value your product offers.
GetResponse does this brilliantly in its email sequence for free trial users.
Also, share comparisons with your most popular competitors to help users understand why your product is the better choice.
In short, everything you do in the MOFU stage gets users familiar with your product and brings them closer to the purchase decision.
Bottom Of The Funnel [BoFU]
The bottom of the funnel is about converting your free trial users/subscribers into customers and making them your brand advocates.
You’ll use various content types in this stage, such as landing pages, sales pages, email sequences, webinars, surveys, check-out pages, etc.
Since you’ve already educated your prospects about the problem and given them a taste of your product, it’s time to push for the final sale.
This is where conventional and long-form sales pages and email sequences play a crucial role.
You’ll drive traffic to your landing pages using well-designed email sequences that build anticipation in your audience, highlight the value they’ll get by purchasing your product, and persuade them to upgrade to a premium plan.
On the other hand, your sales pages will use testimonials, proof, case studies, and discount offers to convert the traffic from your email list into customers.
But your job isn’t limited to selling your product.
BOFU content also aims to build customer loyalty by helping users gain immense business value from your product.
This is where onboarding email sequences come in.
Use email marketing to help your new customers use your product to its full potential. Understand their business goals and recommend ways your product can help them.
Use surveys to gauge customer satisfaction and offer loyalty programs, affiliate commissions, and other incentives to your customers to spread the word about your product.
Strategies For The Various B2B Marketing Funnel Stages
Let’s quickly discuss some of the main strategies you can leverage when building a B2B marketing funnel.
Content marketing is the backbone of an online marketing funnel because the quality of your content determines your brand authority.
Content marketing works in two different ways when you’re building a marketing funnel.
Firstly, you’ll create high-quality content that answers your audience’s biggest questions and covers the core topics of your niche more comprehensively than your competitors.
Secondly, you’ll reach out to the pages ranking at the top of the search results for your target keywords to get backlinks and brand mentions from them.
You can do that through guest blogging, pitching your link-worthy content as a resource, offering expert insights and quotes from your founders, etc.
This strategy alone is enough to build your online reputation and drive thousands of visitors to your site.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
SEO is closely linked with content marketing.
Because you can’t create high-quality content without researching SEO keywords. Plus, once you create the content for your owned media assets, you’ll need to optimize it using on-page SEO best practices to rank for your target keywords.
Then comes off-page SEO which is all about link building.
Again, link building is also a part of content marketing to an extent. But in SEO, it takes center stage as the most important search ranking factor.
Although we haven’t discussed pay-per-click advertising in detail, it’s still an essential part of a marketing funnel.
In most cases, you’ll use Google and Facebook Ads, the two main PPC ad networks, to drive traffic to your landing pages and to retarget your website visitors.
PPC traffic is also very effective in the awareness stage of the content funnel and helps you promote your content to the right audiences.
In a marketing funnel, the conversion of your leads into customers primarily takes place through email marketing.
You can configure various automated email sequences for your landing pages, lead magnets, and product launches.
Plus, you can set up lead nurturing sequences that persuade your free trial users to convert into customers by sharing valuable and practical product knowledge, as we’ve already discussed in detail.
How To Build A B2B Marketing Funnel For Your Company
Before winding up this article, let me give you a quick framework to build a B2B marketing funnel for your business. This is super-relevant for B2B SaaS marketing funnels, but also for B2B companies in general.
It’s a topic on its own, so I won’t go into its details. But with the information I’ve already discussed in this article, you’ll hopefully understand how all the pieces of the puzzle work together.
Step 1: Start with a blank Google or Excel spreadsheet and put each stage of the marketing funnel in a separate column.
Step 2: Then, list the high-level goals for every stage of the funnel.
Step 3: Identify the primary KPIs for every funnel stage to measure your success/failure.
Step 4: Similarly, list your target SEO keywords, content ideas, email sequences for the different funnel stages (where applicable.)
This is just a sample template to demonstrate how you’ll go about building a funnel.
Using it, you can build a high-level marketing plan that lists the type and schedule of your marketing content across the funnel stages.
However, one variable that I haven’t included in this template is the product journey of your users because every product has a different flow.
Once you outline your marketing plan using this template, combine it with the timeline of your user’s engagement activity with your website and product.
For example, what happens when a user lands on your site, what content is served on the homepage, what happens when they download a lead magnet, what triggers different sequences, what content you share with them, and at what stage.
Only you can answer these questions while considering the funnel dynamics I’ve shared in this article.
If you need help building a B2B marketing funnel, schedule a free consultancy call with one of our marketing experts today.