Pipeline Marketing Blog

How The B2B Marketing Funnel Works

By Andrew Nguyen
Sep 3, 2015

When it comes to being a marketer the most important principle I've learned is this: know thy funnel.

It was the first thing I learned and to this day I need consistent reminders to wrap my head around the concept. 

We’ve written about the general marketing funnel before and the several ways companies visualize them. In this post we’ll focus on the B2B marketing funnel, and discuss the channel data used to expand each stage.

Let’s start with a broad view of why marketers should always be thinking about the marketing funnel.

What The Marketing Funnel Is Used For

The marketing funnel is for defining and improving your marketing strategy. 

A marketing funnel is a set of stages that map the customer journey and marketers measure how effectively they are filling the funnel with new leads, and how well those leads convert through each stage. 

Like a video game, progression is the objective. Each stage of the funnel can provide marketers with guidance. 

For example, demand generation directors look at the funnel from a numbers perspective. They want to know what  the conversion rates are for each channel and funnel stage, and how much revenue each generates. 

As a B2B content writer I use the marketing funnel to understand the purpose of each piece of content. I ask, is this content meant to drive brand awareness? Is it to convince a site visitors to submit a lead form?

Below is an illustration of a marketing funnel from a primer on the subject by Zach Bulygo for Kissmetrics.

marketing_and_sales_funnel

While this is great for visualizing the customer journey, let's talk about each stage from the perspective of B2B marketing. 

What The B2B Marketing Funnel Represents

It’s important to remember that the marketing funnel is an ideal representation of the customer journey, see below:

Stages_and_touchpoints_b2b_customer_journey_funnel

We like to think web users see a few ads (impressions), eventually vist your site (first touch), download your content (lead conversion), and are so blown away that they pick up a phone to call sales. 

Unless you’re selling half-priced 30 packs of Pabst Blue Ribbon outside a frat house, your marketing funnel and the customer journey is far more complex than you think. 

In reality the customer journey is nuanced. In reality it’s messy, like this: 

the_real_customer_journey_through_marketing_funnel

Understanding How Prospects Really Become Customers

Marketers typically agree on funnel transition points and set up events to measure them. For example, downloading an ebook is an event that converts a web visitor to a lead, and signing up for a product trial converts them into a sales qualified opportunity. 

In between the key transition points are more touchpoints (e.g. site visits, downloads and sales calls) but marketers can’t focus their efforts on all of them. 

Choosing a limited number of transition points (events) to focus on is necessary because the real customer journey is elaborate, long and convoluted. 

Using The Marketing Funnel To Reduce Wasted Ad Spend And Optimize Channels

Marketing reports allow companies to see how well prospects convert at each stage of the funnel. 

Anonymous website visitors, marketing leads, and sales opportunities all have specific metrics associated with them. Let’s examine some of them in more detail. 

For top-of-funnel channels, study engagement metrics and point of origin information. This includes websource information, impressions, and web referral data. These three pieces of information answers the question: where do anonymous visitors come from. 

TIP: One of the most important elements of optimizing the top of the funnel metrics is connecting anonymous click data with lead contact information inside the CRM.

For bottom of funnel channels, look at sales opportunities and revenue by channel. 

Below you’ll see some helpful metrics for measuring performance for each stages of the funnel.

key_transition_points_and_channels_b2b_marketing_funnel-1

For more discussion on metrics, see our list of demand generation metrics that demystify growth and revenue generation.

Know Thyself Thy Marketing Funnel

The B2B marketing funnel is a wild animal. It’s a way for marketers to represent the customer journey is an easy to understand manner.

The marketing funnel is an ideal representation of the customer journey. To understand how customers actually journey through it, we use pipeline marketing data,

We as marketers try to solve a variety of technical and creative problems, and the guiding principle is know thy funnel.

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Topics: demand generation, marketing funnel

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