As a B2B marketer, you’re responsible for delivering highly qualified leads to your sales team. While some of your leads might immediately be sales-ready, more often than not, you’ll need to nurture them until they’re ready to take action and move into the sales process. In order to measure the success of your efforts and how well you move these leads along, you need to look at your conversion rates at each stage of the marketing funnel.
Let’s explore the 5 stages of the marketing funnel and the ways you can improve your conversion rates between each stage.
The 5 Stages of the Marketing Funnel
Before someone even enters the funnel, they are simply an anonymous visitor on your website and could stay that way for weeks or months. Optimizing your website experience is the best way to convert anonymous traffic into known leads and build your marketing funnel.
Now, let’s take a look at how a visitor becomes a lead and progresses through the five stages of the marketing funnel.
- Lead: A lead is someone who engages with your business by submitting their email address through a form, whether it’s to download a piece of content or request a demo of your solution, or something else.
- Marketing qualified lead (MQL): Different companies define an MQL in different ways, but here is our suggestion of how to go about it: If a lead has requested a demo of your solution and matches your company’s ideal customer profile (ICP), they’ll move on to become an MQL. Leads can also become MQLs based on behavioral scoring—essentially, by engaging with your brand (e.g. attending webinars, downloading whitepapers, watching videos on your site) they will add points to their lead score. Each activity they complete is worth a certain amount of points and, once they reach your chosen threshold (say, 100 points), they will be marked as an MQL. A lead might also add points to their lead score by having the right demographics and firmographics (aka being in ICP).
- Sales accepted lead (SAL): Once a prospect has been marked as an MQL, a salesperson, typically a Sales Development Representative (SDR), will then correspond with them to see if they’re the right fit for the solution and sales-ready. The prospect will be marked as an SAL if they are indeed determined to be ready for further sales attention.
- Sales qualified lead (SQL): Once a lead has been reviewed and moved forward by both the marketing and sales teams, they become an SQL. This typically means that the SDR has set a meeting on the calendar between the prospect and an Account Executive (AE).
- Sales opportunity: After the initial conversation, if the lead is determined by the AE to be the right point of contact (aka a decision-maker or someone that influences decision-making), in buying mode, and has a real problem that your solution can solve, they’ll move on from an SQL to an open sales opportunity. Typically during this stage, the AE will assign a dollar amount to the opportunity as well as a closing timeframe for the deal.
How to Measure the Success of Your Marketing Funnel
The best way to determine the success of your marketing funnel is to set conversion goals for each funnel stage, measure your current conversion rates against these goals, and then change your tactics accordingly to improve said conversion rates. Measuring your current conversion rates is simple: all you need to do is divide the number of conversions (aka those who move on to the next stage) by the number of leads from the previous stage and multiply it by 100. For example, if you had 1,000 leads and 250 of those move on to become MQLs, your lead-to-MQL conversion rate is 25%.
Once you’ve determined your current conversion rate, you’ll need to set a specific and actionable goal for how you plan to improve it—as an example, you might set a goal to increase your lead-to-MQL conversion rate by 5% in the next 90 days.
How to Optimize Conversion Rates At Each Stage of the Marketing Funnel
With your current conversion rates and new actionable goals in mind, you’re ready to implement new tactics and drive more conversions. Let’s explore how you can optimize your conversion rates at each stage of your marketing funnel.
Your lead-to-MQL conversion rate is indicative of how effectively your marketing is articulating your value proposition and creating a sense of urgency for the buyer—it should make them want to jump now and request that demo because you’ve clearly conveyed that your solution is better than the rest and that it can help them do their job better. Using personalized social proof (e.g. case studies, customer testimonials) in your marketing can help to convert leads to MQLs by showing them that businesses like theirs have seen success with your solution.
The MQL-to-SAL conversion rate is a measure of the quality of the leads that marketing is passing over to sales (and, for the scored leads, your lead scoring methodology effectiveness). You want to make sure you’re delivering the highest quality leads so the sales team isn’t wasting their time on prospects that either aren’t in ICP or aren’t sales-ready. If this conversion rate is low, then marketing should start by ensuring that the leads they're sending over are in ICP (ideal customer profile), meaning the right company size, company revenue, and industry that the solution serves. The main point of contact should also be in ICP, meaning they’re a decision-maker who can push the sales process forward on their end and whose team would leverage your solution.
The SAL-to-SQL conversion rate really measures how effective your SDR outreach is—it's essentially a step to double-check that the prospect is indeed the right fit for your solution (for instance, that they’re similar to other customers of yours who have found success with your solution) and that they're seriously in buying mode. Perhaps the best way to improve your SAL-to-SQL conversion rate is to prioritize speed above all else. Your SDRs should be reaching out to leads quickly (typically within minutes) to keep their excitement and sense of urgency up and ultimately get that meeting on the calendar.
Your SQL-to-sales opportunity rate is generally reflective of the quality of meetings that your SDR is putting on the AE’s calendar. If this conversion rate is lower than you’d like it to be, try having your SDRs review sales calls from closed/won deals to better understand the kind of attributes that the AE is looking for in a new sales opportunity.
3 More Ways to Improve Conversion Rates Throughout the Marketing Funnel
Since you’ll want to optimize your marketing funnel conversion rates on a continual basis, here are 3 more tactics to help you improve the overall prospect experience.
Take a Deep Dive Into Your Data
As with anything you do in marketing, your conversion rate optimization efforts need to start at the source with your visitor data. Take a deep dive into your analytics to better understand where you’ve seen the biggest drop-offs in your marketing funnel. Be sure to leverage other sources of information like sales and customer support calls, chatbot logs, surveys, heatmaps, and more to gain as much insight as possible and see where you can improve the prospect experience.
If you see drop-off patterns higher up in the funnel, this might present an opportunity to optimize your website and reduce any friction for your prospects. If you notice drop-offs lower in the funnel, work with your sales team to see if you can perhaps improve your hand-off between marketing and sales.
Identify Gaps in Your Content
Another common issue that could be affecting your marketing funnel conversion rates is a gap in your content. You may provide a lot of content that caters to the top of the funnel and even the middle of the funnel but this could leave your sales team struggling to justify certain talking points once a prospect reaches the SAL or SQL stage.
Conduct an audit of your content and identify which funnel stage each piece fits into and if you’re lacking content in any one particular stage. Talk with your sales team (or listen to Gong calls directly) as well to see if there are any specific topics that keep coming up in their conversations with prospects. Then prioritize these items in your content calendar to fill in any gaps and show future prospects that your solution can indeed address their needs and pain points.
Focus on Personalization
The best way to improve conversion rates between marketing funnel stages is through personalization. From your website to emails to sales conversations, delivering personalized messages to your prospects shows them that you’ve actually taken the time to understand them and where they are in their buyer journey. As a prospect continues to move further down the funnel and interact more with individuals at your company, be sure to increase the level of personalization in your communication with them. When personalization is done right, it can have a huge impact on your bottom line—companies using advanced personalization report seeing a $20 return for every $1 spent.
Increase Your Marketing Funnel Conversion Rates with Intellimize
Understanding your conversion rates at each stage of the marketing funnel is key to driving more sales for your business. Once you have a clear picture of where your drop-off points are in the funnel, you can begin to optimize them in an effort to reduce friction and increase future conversion rates. Whether you’re aiming to optimize conversion rates at the top or bottom of the funnel (or at every stage!), personalization is your best tool to do so.
Intellimize can help you personalize your website so that it caters to each unique prospect’s needs and interests. Our machine learning-based solution adapts to any changes in visitor behavior over time so it is consistently delivering the best personalized experience in the moment. Request your demo today to learn more.