The lead funnel is the virtual 'hopper' that your prospective customers travel down as they form a relationship with your business and get closer to making a purchase.
The concept is not new. The funnel is a widely accepted model for the B2B buying process and it reflects the fact that sales are victim to diminishing returns, i.e. you have to put more in at the top that you get out at the bottom.
Now that the content marketing era is upon us however, the lead funnel is more important than ever.
The new B2B buyer
In the past, prospects could be added to and moved down the funnel by any number of outbound, interruption or sales-person-led activities. But no more.
Nowadays, the vast majority of buyers reject such approaches. The process they go through hasn't changed, they just move themselves through it, searching out relevant content at each stage. As your prospect moves through the funnel, the type of content they desire changes, as does the amount of information they are prepared to share in return for it.
A model for content marketing
The objective of your content marketing therefore is to support the movement of your prospect through the funnel. Thus the funnel provides us with an effective model around which to construct the content marketing plan and a tool with which to measure it.
For businesses just starting out with content marketing, we recommend using a simple, three stage model comprising top, middle and bottom stages - or, as they are commonly known, TOFU, MOFU and BOFU.
This simple model provides a basic structure against which you can align your content production plans and can help you to consider the needs of buyers at each stage.
This model is also simple to execute in technology terms - any decent email marketing platform and/or CRM system should be configurable enough to segment your prospect data by funnel stage, once you set them up right. Be warned however, prospects, being human, don’t always follow the linear path of the funnel - so make sure that your sign-up forms etc. can tolerate prospects entering the process at various stages and traveling in multiple directions!
Streamline decision making and measurement
When your chosen funnel model is in place, and accepted by all stakeholders, it will accelerate decision making - removing the main, common barrier to successful content marketing, indecision - and enabling you to focus on content production.
Measurement of success is also streamlined. The overall success of your content marketing strategy can be measured by analysing the number of prospects at each stage of your funnel. Overall success then does not become confused with the performance of individual content campaigns, which can none the less be measured and continually improved.
Stop discussing, start producing
So, the lead funnel provides much needed clarity, structure and measurement around the otherwise open-ended topics of content marketing and inbound lead generation. Use it to stop discussing which content tactics to pursue and start pursuing them.