Gathering fresh and targeted leads is the fuel that drives your business.

Without new business contacts, your sales team won’t have anyone to pitch and revenue will dry up.

Anyone who markets products and services to other businesses understands this, but what about the leads that aren’t ready to buy?

Data suggests that 73% of the leads you’re generating aren’t ready to buy when they’re first introduced to your brand.

If you aren’t moving them down a funnel towards an eventual sale, you are throwing out almost three-quarters of all successful marketing efforts that brought you the potential buyers.

Even with these staggering stats, 65% of B2B businesses have nothing but a pitch to offer incoming leads.

Are you one of them?

If you’re not quite convinced that your current strategy is lacking, consider a few of the benefits to nurturing an online sales funnel.

  • Increased brand recognition and market exposure
  • Reuse cold leads from previous marketing efforts
  • Automate product education resulting in warmer leads during sales calls
  • Increased lifetime value of current customers

Tempted enough to read on?

If so, you’ll need a brief introduction to growth marketing funnels.

A basic lead funnel starts with gathering leads (traditional ads, web traffic, social ads, etc.), continues with nurturing them (the focus of this post), and then ideally ends with them becoming a customer (your overall goal).

While marketing funnels have become amazingly complex and profitable through things like segmentation, the basics are always a great place to start.

Here are four questions you need to ask yourself when taking your leads on the journey to being sales-ready.

Question #1: Where Did These Leads (People) Come From?

Matthew McConaughey (hilariously) once said, “Sometimes you gotta go back to actually move forward.”

Determining which channel your leads came from is the first step in developing a nurturing relationship.

A quick audit of social media followers, email subscribers, paid advertisements, and organic web traffic will help you determine how fast leads are willing to move downstream and what types of interactions will get them there.

The number of points that someone can become a lead may surprise you.

If a person finds you through a LinkedIn ad, they may be closer to buying than someone who likes you on Facebook and how you first engage them may be different (more on this a little later).

Bonus Tip: This is also a great time to look at conversions. Find out how many subscribers, likes, or downloads you’re getting compared to the level of traffic or size of the advertising budget.

Question #2: Where Are These Leads Going?

Now that you know the entry points (where they became leads), you’ll have to take some time and map out a potential path each lead will then take.

This journey will be made up of valuable information (stuff they want), educational material (stuff about you), and calls to action. All of it needs to be set up in a way that will familiarize them with your brand and products, moving them incrementally closer to becoming a buyer.

You’ll want to consider just about everything you can to help you best segment your leads. Determining how qualified a lead is (how close they are to buying), depends on a number of factors. The more you pay attention to these factors will determine the level of overall funnel success.

Here are some things to consider:

  • How they found you (was it an ad, your blog, referral, etc.).
  • What offer made them subscribe (was it a course about X, or a white paper about Y).
  • Demographics (ASL much? This is useful for the next step).
  • Company data (Small company, big company)
  • How many decision makers (Average corporate purchase requires 6.8 people to say yes).

See how deep it can go? Time for some examples.

Example One: You’re a SaaS company that offers both a free and paid version of your software. A potential funnel would be something like below:

Visitor to Website —-> Subscribe to Free Version —-> Email Thank You/Tutorial —-> Email Free Trial of Paid Version —-> Upgrade to Paid Account

Example Two: We’ll make this one a little more complex. You’re a consultant that wants leads to schedule calls with you (so you can pitch them your services). A potential funnel may be:

Potential Lead Finds You on LinkedIn —-> You Share a Blog Post —> Lead Subscribes to Blog —> Call to Action to Schedule a Consultation Call —-> You Close the Deal

Where Are These Leads Going?

Hopefully, this image helped a little, but there are so many ways to nurture your audience. It takes time and effort, but losing 73% of your leads is not an option.

Question #3: What Do These Leads Want?

Once you’ve documented where your leads are coming from and the best steps to get them to buy, all you have to do is send them the right call to action, and it’ll only be a matter of time before they buy, right?

Not quite.

Just pushing them through a series of “squeeze” and sales pages has a few glaring errors.

  1. They don’t know you (more accurately what you can do for them).
  2. They don’t trust you (or that you’re the best solution).
  3. They aren’t ready to buy yet. (Leads can take up to 12-18 months before they’re ready to buy).

Every serious lead connected to your brand that isn’t a customer probably fits into one of these. The way around these concerns boils down to one word: Content.

Not just convincing sales copy or incredible one-time offers, but true content that sets you apart from the competition.

Let them get to know you as a leader in your field that gives away better stuff than anyone else. Build trust by consistently delivering high value targeted content. Stay in front of leads that aren’t ready to buy with training videos, insightful industry reports, and great blog posts.

Along the way, pepper in product education, doubt removal, and calls to action that will move them toward customer status.

How often you send content has a significant impact on the number of leads you get every month.

What Do These Leads Want?

Question #4: How Do These Leads Like It?

Now that you’re ready to catch all those cold leads and warm them up, there’s still one step that will bridge the missing link between old marketing and your new funnel.

Every element of your funnel needs to be tested to make sure it’s working properly. You do this by looking at your key performance indicators (KPIs) for each level of your funnel. There are several that you can keep track of, but here are a few general things you should see.

Click Rate – This is a simple indicator that people are getting where you want them to go and reading what you want them to read.

Engagement – This will tell you if the content you’re sending is valuable enough for people to share, leading in more targeted traffic and better lead quality.

Sales – Obviously, if you don’t see an increase in the percentage of sales per lead something is wrong and needs to be fixed.

Bonus Tip: The best way to can test your funnel is by going back through your old leads and introducing them to your new content.

The effectiveness of your funnel is something that you’ll need to evaluate every once and awhile (maybe constantly) to ensure that your conversions are getting better and staying relevant to your consumers.