B2B sales, marketing and content funnels explained

Holly Locastro


October 13, 2021

Marketers often talk about sales, marketing and content funnels. Mastering your funnel is the key to business growth. But it’s not a case of one size fits all.

Read on for tips on designing your own funnel, and making sure each section plays its part.

What is a sales funnel?

You probably get the idea of a funnel as a broad term – it’s about the mindset of people as they move along a journey.

Many people enter into the top of the funnel (the wide part). The group gradually gets smaller, and their intentions stronger, as we progress towards the end of the funnel (the skinny part).

In the context of sales and marketing, this funnel’s journey generally starts when a decision-maker first starts thinking about a challenge, and ends when they make a purchase to fix that challenge. Some funnels follow the prospect a little bit beyond that purchase, through to when they start recommending their solution to others.

Why do you need to know your funnel?

  • To plot your prospects along the buying journey
  • To spot any areas where prospects are dropping off
  • To give prospects information relevant to where they are
  • To ensure you have enough engaging content for each step

Each funnel is subtly different depending on the industry and the department using it. Let’s look at the different types of sales and marketing funnels and how they work together.

AIDA sales funnel

This classic sales funnel might bring to mind Mad-Men-era print advertising, or Alec Baldwin’s character in the film Glengarry Glen Ross. It’s a good simple template to follow when selling pretty much anything, and a salesperson can apply face-to-face or digital tactics across the whole journey.

The idea here is to capture the prospect’s attention, and then be interesting enough to hold their attention while you explain the benefits and create some desire for your product. Then, give them the confidence to take action without fear of disappointment.

Marketing funnel

The marketing funnel follows roughly the same trajectory as the sales funnel – the only difference is that it was created by marketers, not salespeople. This means it naturally has a little more complexity and a few more moving parts.

This funnel is more focused on the mindset of the prospect than the action of the salesperson. It’s especially relevant in B2B marketing (what we do!), where sales journeys are significantly longer, take a lot more thought and involve many more people.

Here, the prospect has an awareness of their challenge, then weighs up potential solutions before converting into a customer. From there, you want to hold onto them to retain their lifetime value, and enable them as an advocate so they can do the selling for you.

Content funnel

Now we’re talking specifically about content marketing, and mapping the content you create across the buying journey. The content funnel closely mirrors the marketing funnel above, but simplifies it into three main sections:

This makes it easier for a content team to create pieces which span the whole buying journey.

Did you know?

Don’t just focus on the bottom of the funnel! It might feel good to create pieces which tell people to buy, but if you haven’t done enough work further up the funnel, they won’t be effective. Split your efforts evenly across all three sections.

You’ll notice the loyalty and advocacy stages from our marketing funnel don’t feature here. But that doesn’t mean you should forget about them. If you engage with your existing customers when creating content – for example, asking them what they’d like to see from your content, or coming to them for an interview – it reinforces their commitment to your business.

How can you get all three working together?

Your sales and marketing functions should work in harmony, with content as the fuel in the engine.

Create content for prospects at every stage of the funnel. That way you’ll have something for your sales team to take out to a meeting or send to a prospect whatever stage they’re at, and you’ll have plenty of ammunition to use for remarketing ads and email campaigns.

Good content comes from good communication. Open the channels between your content creators and customer-facing members of staff so that your content is directly informed by customer challenges and queries.

Let’s talk!

Already know what you need? Or just want to kick things off with some advice? Schedule a free video consultation with TMP founder, Holly.
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