Understanding the process and stages behind a lead generation funnel is critical for marketers to successfully move names and contacts gathered through their marketing efforts and turning them into customers. The following attempts to give you valuable insights in understanding the lead generation process as well as overviews on tips and best practices to make this lead generation funnel work for your brand and your business.
In fact, more than 80 percent of people look for recommendations before purchasing a product, according to research by Business 2 Community. And Nielsen reports that 84% of people trust the recommendations of friends and family over marketing campaigns. That makes personal referrals the highest ranked source for trustworthiness when it comes to making a purchase.  
Although I mentioned several times in this list the importance of participating in discussion rather than just dropping your links, that doesn’t mean you should never promote yourself. I like to use the 80/20 rule in this case. At least 80% of the time, you should be using social networks to share other people’s links and participate in conversation. You can share your own stuff about 20% of the time.
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Depending on your analytics setup, you can track specific user actions and create segmented remarketing lists with messages designed for each audience. For example, if you’re using Event Measurement in Google Analytics (linked with your Google Ads account) then you can place users on remarketing lists based on the page elements they click, as well as the URLs they visit.
Understanding the process and stages behind a lead generation funnel is critical for marketers to successfully move names and contacts gathered through their marketing efforts and turning them into customers. The following attempts to give you valuable insights in understanding the lead generation process as well as overviews on tips and best practices to make this lead generation funnel work for your brand and your business.
If the deal is won, your sales reps move the deal to the won stage in the pipeline and begin onboarding the new customer. Some leads may slip through the cracks for reasons that are beyond the control of your sales techniques, like budget constraints. It is important to keep a record of the lost leads too so you can track the reasons why you lost them, and nurture those prospects in the future to win back their business and relationship.

Modern CRMs also track your emails and notify you when the lead opens your email. This is a nifty feature to know when to take action and move your lead to the next stage. You know, strike while the iron is hot? So now you’ll know if your email is getting read or not. You can also use email metrics to test your email performance, and craft better ones to increase open rates.
Or, in some businesses, there’s only one thing to purchase–you just have to do so often. For example, let’s say you own a dairy farm and sell milk at the farmer’s market every week. Your regular customers buy the same two gallons of milk every week. You can’t move them farther down a sales funnel to buy something more, because that’s all you have–milk.
After you have mapped out your sales funnel and have a good idea of what happens to leads when they come into your system, spend time mapping your lead generation efforts to buying stages. You can define a buying stage by how close a lead is to making a buying decision — and it’s critical to create lead generation programs that resonate to where buyers are in their purchasing decisions.

Intuitively speaking, it makes sense to try and minimize the time spent on each stage, so that you shorten the length of your average sales cycle. That said, remind your sales reps to exercise discretion when doing this—they shouldn’t rush their leads into the next stage of the process if their lead isn’t ready to move on. Remember: no one likes a sales rep who’s too pushy or aggressive, and moving your lead along too quickly can ultimately backfire on you.
But, once you have enough experience to be eligible (and are likely itching for a promotion), they start marketing to you. It might be email marketing or an email list-based retargeting campaign, but these graduate programs do their level best to get back on your radar. It’s a long-term play, but it’s one that works incredibly well because the schools know exactly when their students are “ready to buy” again.
Another important principle of this sales funnel is that we’re not talking about a linear process here. You don’t want to limit your marketing strategy to generate leads at the top of the funnel and then guiding them all to the end. There are thousands or even millions of people out there already who may know your brand but simply aren’t interested in it yet.
Private communities: This is a great way to establish a closer and continuous channel of communication between yourself/your company and your leads, as well as allowing them to interact with each other. You can create private communities to start conversations, gather feedback, or share updates and news. By starting a community, you are committing to being active and monitoring it regularly for the medium/long term, which can be very time consuming in future—so keep that in mind if you decide to go with this tactic.  
In today’s marketing landscape, people can experience a brand in many ways other than purchase and usage of a product. These include live events, content marketing, social media, and word-of-mouth. Consider all the members of the Nike+ running community who don’t own Nike products or the half million fans of Tesla’s Facebook page who don’t own a Tesla. Or consider companies where employees use their own devices or download their own software until IT purchases the enterprise version for the entire company. In today’s digital age, advocates aren’t necessarily customers. Marketers who think that advocacy comes after purchase are missing the new world of social influence.
To better understand the concept of a sales funnel and just how you can implement it in your own business, let's look at the following image from Shutterstock. On the left side of the image, you see a magnet. That magnet is attracting customers, which happens a number of ways. From blogging to social media to paid ads and everything in between, how the visitors arrive to your website has some impact on the success of your funnel. 
Social media: Social media platforms are great marketing channels for the top of the funnel. Social media users spend a lot of time in them and usually spend a good amount of that time consuming content shared by other people. When it comes to getting non-paid traffic from social media channels there are two main ways to do it: you can grow your own social media audience and share your content with your followers, or you can participate and contribute to already existing communities.
You want to capture leads at every stage of the sales funnel and target them with messages that reflect their state of mind. To do this, you need to assign user actions to each stage of your marketing funnel. For example, a first-time visitor on your site will fit into the “awareness” category while someone who has repeatedly visited the same product page probably fits in the “consideration” stage.
If you ask me, that seems like a more efficient, better use of your time. I recommend you create short (read: under 30 seconds) videos about your company, as well as how-tos and videos that answer consumer questions. Promote them on YouTube as well as social media sites, and don’t forget to put them on correlating landing pages and blogs on your site.
Task management tools help you move prospects through the sales funnel quickly because they help you schedule and assign tasks that must be completed to move onto the next stage. Being able to quickly schedule important tasks like sending quotes or writing emails helps keep these tasks top of mind and reminds you that there’s an important deadline that you must meet to get closer to a sale.

If the deal is won, your sales reps move the deal to the won stage in the pipeline and begin onboarding the new customer. Some leads may slip through the cracks for reasons that are beyond the control of your sales techniques, like budget constraints. It is important to keep a record of the lost leads too so you can track the reasons why you lost them, and nurture those prospects in the future to win back their business and relationship.
That’s the main question you want to ask yourself in the final stage of the new digital marketing funnel—because there really isn’t a “final” stage in the buyer’s journey. Any business owner knows that it’s easier to keep an existing customer than it is to generate brand-new ones, so invest in keeping your current customers. Hopefully, after your new customer made a purchase, they start their journey all over again with another one of your products. Or, even better, they become a brand advocate and start selling your product or service for you in the form of recommendations.
Your sales funnel is composed of the means you use to drive prospects and potential clients to your company and close the sale. Online, you may have a blog that you write to each day. Once you get prospects to your blog, you lure them with an offer so as to receive their e-mail addresses. Then you send out periodic email messages to find those prospects interested in a product that you would like them to buy.
The sales process is not a straight line. This is why converting a lead to a customer often takes its own course, and varies from business to business. Whether B2B or B2C sales, it’s important for sales reps to understand and visualize a lead’s journey; otherwise, they’re shooting in the dark. This is done by a series of steps that develop into what’s called the sales funnel—a concept that finds its way back to the 1890s.
Interest: Once leads are generated, they move on to the interest stage, where they learn more about the company, its products, and any helpful information and research it provides. Here is an opportunity for brands to develop a relationship with the people in its lead database and introduce its positioning. Marketers can nurture leads through emails, content that is more targeted around industries and brands, classes, newsletters, and more.
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