First question – what’s a sales funnel? Here’s a good looking one, courtesy ofEndo Creative:
Your sales funnel – or your marketingand sales funnel, to give it a fuller title – is simply a visualisation of the marketing and sales process. Second question – what’s the marketing and sales process? Well, as you can see from the image above, the marketing and sales process is a multi-stage endeavour that inbound marketing and sales teams use to make sales. So let’s take a brief walkthrough of the procedure.
The marketing and sales funnel can essentially be broken down into just three stages:
Simple enough, right? Right – but, there are a couple of more questions that need to be answered. Third question – what’s a lead? Good question – and one that many companies get a little bit stuck on. Leads are not random visitors to your website (as it is sometimes assumed). Rather, leads are special visitors in the fact that they make some sort of indication that they are more deeply engaged with your website’s content and are considering a purchase. This indication is given when a visitor takes a specific action, which is usually in the form of submitting some personal information (for example an email address) in order to access gated content. Which leads us nicely onto the next question… Fourth question – what’s gated content? Gated content is the content that you only give access to in exchange for information from the recipient – i.e. a name, email address, business name, profession, etc. By gating content, inbound marketers are able to separate regular visitors from special visitors, and identify personally who their leads are.
Indeed, they are not, and this is because not all content is created equal either. You will notice from the marketing and sales funnel image above that we have leads, MQLs (marketing qualified leads), SQLs (sales qualified leads) and opportunities. Determining what type of lead an inbound marketing and sales team has on its hands is determined by what type of content the lead requests access to. So let’s break our visitors and leads down: Visitors – Simply enough, strangers that visit your website. Leads – A visitor that has submitted information in exchange for “basic” content – i.e. they have subscribed to your blog or email newsletter. MQLs (marketing qualified leads) – These are your visitors that have downloaded pieces of content not freely accessible on your website. The type of content in question is usually an eBook or whitepaper that explains in greater detail a little more about the business or solution. To give an example, telecoms company LG Networks gates an eBook entitled ‘Top Ten Tips When Considering VoIP’, asking downloaders for their name, email address and business name in exchange for the content.
SQLs – These, in effect, are special MQLs, which the sales team identifies as being worthy of a follow-up. This identification might come from the fact that, upon researching the company that downloaded the MQL-identifying content, it is realised that the company in question is a perfect fit for a sale. In other circumstances, however, an SQL might be identified by the type of content that was downloaded. Price lists, for instance, are a good indicator that the lead is considering a purchase and would therefore qualify for a sales call. Opportunities – These are special SQLs in the fact that the sales team has successfully made contact with them, and can confirm that they are indeed a true potential new customer. Customers – These guys need no explanation.
Ok, so we now understand the differences between visitors and leads, and the differences between MQLs, SQLs and opportunities. Next, we need to understand the inbound marketing content strategy that is used to move these leads through the sales funnel and convert visitors into customers. Here it is.