How To Build a Lead Generation Funnel and Find Prospects that Convert

Lead generation is tricky. Even the most experienced sales teams are challenged daily when it comes to prospecting, nurturing, and converting. With 68% of businesses struggling to generate leads, it’s no wonder there is a slew of guides, books, courses, and coaches to improve every aspect of the sales process.

Even so, lead generation remains one of the most critical activities for your company, and that’s why you can’t afford to shy away from this formidable task or settle for second-rate results. 

In this article, we will explore everything you need to know about building a lead generation funnel that converts prospects into customers with ease again and again.

What is a Lead Generation Funnel, and How Does it Work?

A lead generation funnel is a systematic methodology that helps you generate leads and move them through the sales process with ease. The funnel comprises a series of activities that guide prospects through each stage of the buyer’s journey. 

You can use a lead generation funnel to ensure you have a consistent process in place to attract leads and turn them into paying customers. You can also use it to ensure you are maximizing your return on investment by efficiently directing prospects to the right sales rep and product or service.

What are the Benefits of a Lead Generation Funnel?

In a word: consistency. You can expect consistency in your processes and prospects’ experiences when you establish a smooth-flowing lead generation funnel. 

And when you establish consistency in these aspects, you can also expect:

  1. Manageable Metrics You Can Optimize – Metrics can’t be managed effectively if they are not measured methodically. The consistency of a lead gen funnel makes it easier for revenue leaders to pinpoint the “when,” “where,” and “why” of each won and lost deal. In doing so, you can diagnose leaks in your funnel and successfully improve your KPIs.
  2. Increased Efficiency You Can Leverage – When you have consistency in sales, you don’t have to reinvent the wheel each time a lead enters your funnel. You can rely on your sales system to guide your team and prospects. You can also improve sales training, so new reps have a repeatable process to follow that reduces mistakes and mishaps. 
  3. Predictable Revenue You Can Count On – The goal of every business, big or small, is predictable and sustainable revenue, and reaching that goal starts with a lead generation funnel. As long as you manage your metrics, you will eventually be able to forecast the length of your sales cycle and your conversion rate. 

How To Structure a Lead Generation Funnel 

Let’s start with the 30,000-foot view. 

Every lead you attract will fall into one of three stages: 

  • TOFU: Top of the Funnel 
  • MOFU: Middle of the Funnel
  • BOFU: Bottom of the Funnel

These stages align perfectly with the buyer’s journey, which is typically broken down into:

  • Awareness
  • Consideration
  • Decision

Because of this parallelism between the funnel and the journey, we will pair them as we explain the structure of a successful funnel. 

The Top of the Funnel: Driving Awareness

When a prospect enters the top of a funnel, they are simply a lead. Purchase intent isn’t there yet. While the lead is most likely aware of a problem because they are experiencing symptoms, they aren’t looking for a product or service. A prospect usually enters your sales funnel through some lead magnet (more on those below). 

Top of the funnel lead gen activities usually include: 

  1. Knowledge-Based Content Marketing – Content marketing refers to the process of creating content to attract and engage potential customers. A wide variety of content can fit into this category: blogs, videos, ebooks, and webinars. The most effective content marketing campaigns focus on educational pieces. This means creating content that gives value in exchange for attention by addressing your audience’s most significant pain points. 
  2. Social Media Marketing – Although social media is a great way to keep current customers engaged, it can also be used to attract new leads. By following influencers in your niche, you can find opportunities to take your own spin on trending topics and add value to the community you serve. 
  3. Email Marketing – Email marketing is another popular lead generation activity that can be used to attract new leads and nurture them along the sales funnel until they’re ready to make a purchase. The most effective email marketing strategies are those that offer a personalized experience. Consider sending monthly newsletters and event announcements segmented by key demographics to boost open and click-through rates. 

Trying to sell at this stage will push prospects out rather than pulling them down your funnel. Keep the ToFu focused on adding value, and your leads will be more receptive to scheduling discovery calls and demos in the future. 

The Middle of the Funnel: Nurturing Consideration

At this point, your leads are fully aware of their problems and are considering solutions. Your sales team’s responsibility is to establish rapport with qualified prospects. Keep in mind that all potential solutions are being explored, not just your direct competitors. You’ll want to build your lead nurturing program around content that addresses all options, including indirect and phantom competitors as well as DIY alternatives. 

Middle of the funnel nurturing activities include:

  1. Research-Based Content Marketing – For prospects, consideration is all about compiling and comparing. While cost is a considerable factor, other variables are at play. Create content that assists in the evaluation process of purchasing. Comparison guides, how-to ebooks, white papers, and case studies are all perfect MoFu marketing materials. 
  2. Follow-up Campaigns – Sharing the content you create for the consideration stage helps move ToFu leads to the middle. You’re still not trying to sell here but offering advice and guidance as an industry expert. Use multiple channels to reach your leads, including LinkedIn, calls, and emails. 
  3. Retargeting Ads – How often do you get sidetracked each day? Just like you, decision-makers, no matter how driven, are experiencing a slew of distractions in their lives. A retargeting ad on your prospects’ preferred social media channels can be just the pattern interrupt they need to re-focus attention to the problem on hand. 

Nurturing MoFu leads is a balancing act. You must find that sweet spot between educating and engaging your prospects without pushing for a purchase. 

The Bottom of the Funnel: Making a Decision

Lead gen takes time, and nurturing takes even longer. But once you have your leads, you don’t want to lose them. The problem is that the line between the middle and bottom of the funnel leads is often blurred. 

The best way to separate the middle from the bottom of the funnel leads is by incorporating a scoring and qualification process to identify sales-ready prospects. Not only will this prevent your sales team from pushing a lead in the wrong direction, but this will also ensure your time and resources are spent wisely.

Here are the BoFu activities your team will engaging to help leads make an informed purchasing decision:

  1. Persuasion-Based Content Marketing – BoFu content is designed to make purchasing decisions happen quickly and efficiently. Your prospects will have so many doubts floating around in their heads that it can become challenging to allay each one successively. By being prepared with persuasive content that addresses the most common questions from prospective buyers, you can overcome objections before making it to the deal table.
  2. Live Demos and Sales Presentations – This kind of goes without saying, but demos and presentations are clear giveaways to purchase intent. Many companies default to offering demos as a CTA on their website, which is great but can leave your sales team unprepared. The best way to make the most of your time during these meetings is to schedule a discovery call before the demo so the presentation can be personalized to the prospect’s needs. 
  3. Special Offers, Freemiums, and Trials – Discounts and try-before-you-buy options are always a favorite for purchasers. However, sales teams still need to be engaged with prospects to ensure the partnership flourishes even after the limited-time offers are gone. Incorporate automated and manual check-ins to establish a lasting relationship. 

How to Build a Lead Generation Funnel in 5 Easy Steps

Now that we have the structure of the lead generation funnel let’s break down each step so that you can create a strategy that works.

Step 1: Map Your Customer Journey

The first step in building a lead generation funnel is to map out your customer journey. Understanding each step your prospects take while engaging with your brand is essential. This will help you identify where exactly your prospective customers drop out and take the steps needed to fix the issue. 

A customer journey map will also help you figure out where you can create additional touchpoints for your customers to increase brand awareness, generate leads, and nurture the relationship. 

You can use Google Analytics and advanced CRM tools to track the activity on your website and through your sales channels. Look for key indicators like page views, session times, bounce rates, open rates, and click-through rates. You can then use tools like Cacoo or Cynefin to create a customer journey map to share with your team. 

Step 2: Create Great Content that Adds Value

As you’re probably aware, marketing and creating awareness about your brand is vital to the success of your lead generation efforts. However, not all forms of marketing are created equally. We’ve found that content marketing is one of the most effective ways to create awareness of your brand. That said, you need to ensure that you’re creating high-quality, engaging content that resonates with your target audience. You also need to make sure that you’re creating an abundance of unique content to avoid flooding the market with the same thing over and over again. For example, if you’re in the B2B tech sector, you could create a blog series that focuses on the challenges that decision-makers in your target market are facing. This will help you establish yourself as an authority in the niche.

Step 3: Drive Traffic to Your Lead Funnel through Marketing Channels

As you create awareness about your brand and gain a strong presence in your niche, you’ll want to start driving traffic to your lead generation funnels.

The secret here is finding the right place to market your business. The best way to determine your ideal channels is to refer to your buyer personas. Do some research and match the demographics with the platforms or search engines your buyers use the most.  

However, here are the most common marketing channels used to attract leads into funnels:

  1. Social Media – Platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, TikTok, and Twitter have become a melting pot of socialization and consumerism. Individuals are following their favorite people as well as their favorite brands. Not only are they looking for entertainment, but they are also looking for advice. Lead generation on social media channels should focus on building a community around sharing knowledge and experiences with your prospects. In doing so, you can enhance brand awareness and drive organic traffic to your website.
  2. SEO and Content Marketing – What’s the difference? Just like all squares are rectangles, but not all rectangles are squares. All SEO is content marketing but not all content marketing is SEO. SEO is a long-term strategy focused on optimizing website pages that will help you rank higher in search engine results for relevant keywords. Content marketing, on the other hand, is a short-term strategy, involving any kind of marketing material that will drive traffic to your website or result in a specific actions taken. If you’re serious about your lead generation efforts, you need to invest in SEO and content marketing.
  3. Paid Advertising – If your budget allows, paid advertisement can significantly boost traffic to your lead generation funnel when appropriately approached. You can use advertising platforms like Google Ads or Facebook Ads to get your brand in front of your target audience. The bidding process for advertising can be complex so if you are unsure how to create targeted ads and allocate your budget, consider consulting an agency.

Step 4: Collect Prospect Information

Your goal in driving traffic to your funnel should be collecting prospect information. You can do this by using different types of lead generation forms. For example, you can add in newsletter sign-up, pop-up, and exit-intent forms on your website to capture email addresses. For landing pages and lead magnets, you can also incorporate more detailed forms to collect data such as names, phone numbers, and other demographic information that would be helpful in the lead nurturing process.

There are a variety of ways you can fill your funnel with qualified leads, but if you find that your forms are collecting cobwebs instead of prospects, consider the significance of the exchange. Are you following step three: creating great content that adds value? Prospects will rarely part with even an email address, let alone their personal information if the potential payoff does not equal or exceed the price they put on their privacy. 

Step 5: Nurture Prospects to Close the Deals

The second you receive your prospect’s information, the nurturing process begins. It might start with something as simple as a “thank you” email for signing up for a webinar, or it could be a quick call to verify a scheduled appointment. Whatever the case, ensure that your team is making an effort to be front and center when a prospect responds to your lead gen efforts.

Those who follow up with a lead within five minutes are 21x more likely to open that opportunity in comparison to those that wait one hour. 

How Can I Increase Sales With a Lead Generation Funnel

So maybe you are here because you already have a lead generation funnel, but you have spent hours running campaigns only to come up empty-handed. 

Even if your company has a brilliant product, it’s hard to grab the right audience’s attention at the right time. The digital marketplace is so crowded with competitors that it almost seems impossible to break through the noise and really stand out. And even if you manage to generate some leads, that’s no guarantee of a sell. 

What you’re probably missing is diversity in your lead gen marketing profile. Let’s go over some of the most common tactics so can mix and match strategies till you find the formula that works for your company.

Create Content for Each Stage of the Funnel

We have already discussed the stages of the lead generation funnel and how those correspond with the stages of the buyer’s journey. We have also briefly hit on the fact that content should be matched to each stage of the funnel to make the transition through the buyer’s journey as smooth as possible. But how do you know what type of content to create? 

We recommend that you make a list of questions your target audience is trying to answer and match each one to the relevant stage of your lead generation funnel. If you haven’t already, create blogs, vlogs, guides, and other marketing resources that responds to those questions. Develop follow-up campaigns that present the content in a way that preemptively serves your leads needs. In doing so you will become a trusted guide on your customer journey. 

Creating Lead Magnets and Landing Pages

A lead magnet is an irresistible piece of information that your ideal customers want. Lead magnets come in all shapes and sizes like ebooks, cheat sheets, videos, events, templates, or guides. Like your marketing content, you can make a lead magnet for each stage of your funnel. For instance, you could create a lead magnet that helps your potential customers diagnose their problem based on the pain points they are experience. Then, you could create a separate lead magnet that helps them understand how your product can solve those problems. Each lead magnet should be focused on just one pain point or problem.

A lead magnet is attached to a landing page. A landing page is a single page dedicated to capturing prospect information so you can convert your audience into opportunities. In essence, the landing pages pursuades prospects to exchange information for the lead magnet. 

Oftentimes, landing pages with lead magnets are used as CTAs on a website or in conjunction with paid advertising, but can also be assets in your organic social media posts and email marketing campaigns. 

Place CTAs On Your Website and Blog

Although lead magnets and landing pages are good tools to move potential customers through your lead generation funnel, you’ll also want to place call-to-actions (CTAs) throughout your website and blog. A CTA is a button that asks your readers to take a specific action.

Donald Miller, the author of StoryBrand and Marketing Made Simple, recommends having two types of CTAs on your website: direct and transitional. A direct CTA is your push to purchase button usually labeled with headings like “buy now” or “shedule a call.” A transitional CTA usually connects to a landing page with a lead magnet. 

Having these two types of CTAs on your website ensures you can attract leads to your funnel no matter their stage. 

Using Inbound and Outbound Email Marketing

Email marketing is a powerful way to generate and nurture leads. In fact, email marketing still has an ROI of 3,600%, and 61% of people surveyed said they actually want to receive promotional emails weekly.

Inbound email marketing focuses on building a subscriber list through newsletter sign-ups, lead magnets, and special offers. On the other hand, outbound email marketing involves sending cold emails to B2B decision makers in order to open conversations about potential vendor partnerships. 

Whether using inbound or outbound methods or a combination of the two, follow-up campaigns are a key factor in the success of your email marketing. Write each email as if you were talking to your prospects one-on-one for the best results. Email is a very personal form of communication, and mass blasts are a thing of the past. 

Network Through Social Media Platforms Like LinkedIn

Social media is a great way to network with potential clients. You can create a LinkedIn or Facebook group, engage with members, and offer valuable content to your community. You can also share your blog posts or, better yet, upload pictures and videos to put a more personable and relatable spin on your social media marketing.

The trick to social media marketing is creating content specifically for each platform. Find the channels your ideal prospects frequent and focus on mastering those first. Then, you can branch out to other platforms and experiment with different audiences to expand your reach. 

Analyze and Optimize Your Funnel

Once you’ve created your lead generation funnel and have been running it for a few weeks, you can analyze its performance. Marketing platforms and tools can help you keep track of important marketing metrics that will determine the fate of your funnels. For instance, a high click-through rate with a low conversion rate means that your CTA is attracting your audience, but something in your landing page is pushing prospects away. Split testing variations of your landing page, in this case, could have an exponential effect on your conversion rate. 

After optimizing your lead generation funnel, you can then decide which assets to toss or tweak. It can be gut-wrenching throwing out content you spent hours developing, but if it doesn’t resonate with your audience, it’s got to go. 

Putting It All Together

Alright, so we went over a lot of information in this article. You should now know how to structure and build a lead generation funnel as well as how to increase its flow. 

Don’t worry if you still feel a bit of trepidation about trudging through the trials ahead. Lead generation is a top challenge for most marketing and sales teams. But knowledge is no substitute for experience. The best thing you can do is go through this guide and take it one step at a time. Carve out a section of your busy schedule each day to work on your lead generation funnel, and you’ll be well on your way to obtaining a predictable and sustainable revenue model. 

Vito Vishnepolsky
Vito Vishnepolsky
CEO and Founder at Martal Group