Inbound for Startups - Start with a basic Sales Funnel

Nikita Smits by Nikita Smits   03 Jan



Alright, you’ve decided you need to kick your marketing into gear and you realise inbound is the way to go. But where do you start? My advice is to start by understanding the sales funnel; the journey your leads take before becoming a customer. This is where we’ll start today and we’ll detail further steps in future blogs. Let’s dive into understanding the Customer Journey or Sales Funnel.

Basic Sales Funnel

When I showed customers the traditional sales funnel framework in the past year, they’ve often responded: “But I thought the funnel was dead?”.  I agree, it’s hard to believe that any customer journey would be as linear as described in a classic sales funnel. A lot has been written about how the Consumer Decision Journey has replaced the classic sales funnel. It is true that your customers constantly review their experiences with you. They’ll face a constant set of choices after the consideration phase which means they don’t stop evaluating you and your product. McKinsey & Company has created the below visual to illustrate this Customer Decision Journey


This is a complex framework. So, for us to start, we will work with the classic funnel first and you can then move on to the more complex decision making journey.

Before you get there, you need to nail the basics. You’ll build a linear funnel but when you get around to working with your leads, don’t assume they will neatly follow a simple path you’ve outlined for them as there are many options

BB Inbound funnel.png

Top of the Funnel

At the top of the funnel we’re talking about visitors and leads. And, of course, how to attract them to your site.

You’ve researched your market, your personas and your competitors. This means you are ready to define keywords to focus on and even create a list of top 10 questions or concerns your audience might have. All of this will help you create content to drive traffic to your website. This means you start blogging. Don’t wait until your product is ready. Blogs are a great way of communicating your vision. Think about content like you do about building your product: Release publish early, publish often.

So how do you optimise your content for Google? Don’t, or well, we’ll get to the technical part later. For now, optimise for your readers. Happy humans equal happy Google. Google wants to show content that is engaging for their users. Make sure you write content that is easy to read and engages your audience so they spend time on your blog. Of course there is a lot more to SEO but we’ll get to that later in this blog series.

By creating content early on and publishing often you’ll also learn what works and what doesn’t. Do you see an increase in organic traffic when you write about a certain topic? Publish your blogs on your own social media channels. Do you see that you get positive responses on Social when you publish an article? Consider who is engaging with your content and what their value for your business is. Consider this audience as leads or potential influencers. At a later stage you’ll want to segment this group of influencers and consider how you can mobilise them to spread your content.

Middle of the Funnel

Conversion from a visitor into a lead. How can I get in touch with you after I read your content? Do you give me an option to gather more information or do you simply leave me with a phone number?

Make sure that you create basic call to actions. A call to action is a button or a link where you urge your reader to take a specific action. Typically, you’ll offer specific content on a landing page where the visitor needs to complete a form before they can access this content.

It is important to consider what kind of information your visitor is willing to share in return for what you offer. They might be interested in having a conversation with you which means they’ll be happy to share their phone number and expect a call from you. More likely they are reviewing multiple options and would like to continue their research so give them a low key option, ask them for their name, email address and business name. You’ll be able to include them in your lead nurturing emails and stay top of mind this way.

At the middle of the funnel we’re talking about Marketing Qualified Leads or MQLs.

Bottom of the Funnel

At the bottom of the funnel we’re talking about Sales Qualified Leads (SQLs) or opportunities. The stage focusses on how you engage your MQLs to become strong enough to be considered a good sales opportunity.

Once you’ve classified leads as MQLs it’s even more important to segment and target them so they can evolve to an SQL. This is where you start creating lists. Have these MQLs engaged with a specific topic? What are their job titles or what is their seniority? This is one way to identify whether you’re attracting decision makers or influencers.

Your bottom of the funnel content (blogs, landing pages, emails and downloadable content) should be tailored to these specific segments. At this point, it is likely that you’ve gathered plenty of information on the individuals. This means you can personalise your emails and website content to them.

Make sure there is a good balance between your automated workflows and your sales team. Once you hand a lead over to a real human, make sure they are no longer enrolled in non personalised workflows. You can still send them emails, as long as they don’t interfere with the sales process.

You can start using personalised email nurturing through workflows and possibly show smart content on your website that fits their place in the funnel.

Now all you have to do is…. Sell!

By creating this basic funnel you start to build your inbound marketing machine. Inbound marketing is very simple in principle but it’s not easy to execute on your inbound plans. By breaking down the funnel and tackling each task step by step, the process becomes a lot more manageable.

When you continue to invest in your content you’ll see it working for you in driving traffic and leads. By creating a marketing machine with call to actions, landing pages and workflows you can make sure none of these leads slip through the cracks and you don’t waste time on leads that aren’t ready to have a conversation for you.

Topics: Inbound Marketing

Nikita Smits

Written by Nikita Smits

Marketing strategist and GDPR specialist. Nikita was one of the founding members of BusinessBrew but is currently working as a digital marketing specialist at a Copenhagen startup.