We know the story: if only you could generate more leads without expending more effort, a lot of problems in your company would solve themselves. The problem is, of course, that generating high-quality leads is not easy. In fact, most companies don’t even know where to start, or how to scale the process later.
The right answer is building a lead generation funnel. If it sounds difficult, don’t stress — lead generation funnels can adapt to your needs and be quite simple to start. Once you get the hang of how to optimize a straightforward lead gen funnel, you can fine-tune it further to handle the precise complexities of your business.
In addition, with new lead gen tools that make use of powerful AI, creating a lead gen funnel that works is easier than ever before. In fact, you can skip some of the traditional steps with an AI-powered shortcut.
Let’s explore what lead generation funnels actually are and how you can build and optimize an effective lead gen funnel today.
By the way: When it comes to lead generation, data and results speak for themselves. Within 90 days, Lift AI customers see an average of 9x more conversions into the pipeline by skipping the middle steps of a traditional lead gen funnel. Just take a look at the case studies for Formstack (88% increase) and PointClickCare (400% increase).
Refresher: What are lead generation funnels?
A lead generation funnel is a system that defines the process of acquiring leads, taking them from the awareness stage to being potential customers.
A well-designed funnel is broken up into a few different stages, each with a distinct goal of providing valuable information that matches the level of interest most leads would express. As a result, best-matching leads can self-select and proceed to the next stage of the funnel.
The goal of the funnel designer is to create effortless stage-to-stage transitions while giving leads enough information that only those who clearly resemble the ICP (ideal customer profile) would convert to customers at the end of it.
Virtually all lead generation funnels have three stages:
- TOFU (top of the funnel)
- MOFU (middle of the funnel)
- BOFU (bottom of the funnel)
Each of the stages can have multiple substages, diversions, mini-funnels, specific actions, and more. Lead gen funnels that handle lots of traffic can be very complex. But when you’re just starting out, focus on getting the three basic stages right.
TOFU is also referred to as the awareness stage. It’s how potential customers find out about you. This could be anything from ads to SEO blog posts, to guest articles, to industry conferences.
MOFU is the nurturing stage. It relates to how to increase interest in your product or service once people know about it, and how to keep it on top of their minds. Good examples are podcasts, newsletters, books, etc.
BOFU is the conversion stage. This is where you turn engagement into actual conversions. Your audience already knows and loves you, but you need to offer them something that would turn them into happy customers. Some techniques here are demos, trials, discounts, and tailored services.
Now that you know what the different stages are, how can you create a lead generation funnel that would effortlessly guide your target audience from awareness to purchase?
Plus, how can you skip straight from TOFU to BOFU using leading-edge technology?
How to build lead generation funnels
By looking at the three stages of a typical lead gen funnel, we can roughly sketch out five key steps to its implementation.
1. Define your buyer’s journey
Your potential customers don’t just do what you tell them to — they do what satisfies their own needs and solves their own problems. This means that to build an accurate lead generation funnel you need to know what those needs and problems are, and how your audience tries to find appropriate solutions right now.
To know your audience, there’s no substitute to interacting with them directly. Interview them, send surveys and polls, monitor existing customer requests, look at relevant Google Trends, etc.
Once you understand the journey your potential customers are on now, you can identify specific problems and target your solution at those pain points.
2. Drive traffic
If you’ve done the customer journey map properly, you should be able to see where exactly your potential customers are struggling. These are the best areas to position your TOFU at — creating awareness for your solution.
Is your audience searching for a solution on Google? Find out the keywords they are using and write SEO-powered blog posts to drive traffic to your website. Are they looking at Stack Overflow or specific subreddits? Consider advertising there. Are they listening to a relevant podcast? Ask to come on as a guest.
The goal here is to introduce your solution at the moment when your customers are ready to accept it, so you can start building a strong relationship.
3. Collect data
Most potential customers who click on your ads or read your blog posts probably leave your website or landing page immediately after and never come back. This is a big loss, especially if you don’t offer them an option to stay in touch.
If your blog post solves a problem for someone, there’s a chance you can do it again. So make sure there’s an easy way they can follow you, whether it’s social media, email updates, RSS, etc.
Ask just for the data you need. If you have their contact information, you can always ask for more data later on.
Naturally, you’ll want to ensure you’re also tracking data through your funnel. From advertising metrics via LinkedIn Campaign Manager to website data using Google Analytics — if you can’t measure your data, you don’t know what’s working and what’s not.
4. Create nurturing content
During the MOFU stage, it’s critical to continue regularly producing engaging content that would increase your audience’s interest in your solution. Explain why solving a problem your way makes sense and educate your audience on your industry.
At the same time, make sure your content stays relevant and your cadence not spammy.
Take advantage of marketing automation tools to make this step easier. For example, you could use a CRM like HubSpot to send a sequence of nurturing emails to anyone who has signed up to your newsletter. Begin with helpful resources, then start leaning into call to actions by the end of the email series..
When it comes the time to convert — ask, loud and clear. You’ve already interested your audience, you’ve provided lots of value for free, so it’s only natural that part of your audience has probably been waiting to pay for something that solves their problem. Ensure your call to actions are plentiful, and try to keep them simple — don’t ask the customer to do one of five different actions, get them to do one thing that will convert them into a customer.
Creating various incentives can also be useful. Why not give a 10% discount for your podcast listeners or email subscribers? Maybe an extended trial? A referral program? Opportunities to experiment are endless here.
However, conversions aren’t just clicking on buttons or accepting offers. In fact, one of the most effective ways of converting website visitors is to use an online chat tool like Drift to engage visitors as they are on your website — similar to a salesperson at a retail store asking if you need help. This nudges visitors towards conversions that they might not otherwise have done — however, chat needs to be implemented properly to get results.
Lead gen funnel breakthrough — skip straight to conversions with real-time buyer intent
Defining your own TOFU, MOFU, BOFU stages and creating various lead generation funnels is essential for any company that wants to have a robust and effective sales strategy.
But technology doesn’t stand still. In fact, it’s now possible to leverage the latest advances in AI and machine learning to reliably skip the middle steps in your funnel and jump right from traffic acquisition into conversion (from step 2 to step 5 above). You can do so with Lift AI.
Lift AI is a buyer-intent solution powered by a unique machine-learning model trained on billions of data points and over 14 million live sales interactions. As a result, it knows which website visitors are actually interested in your product or service, and which aren’t, even if those visitors are completely anonymous.
This creates a massive opportunity for an ultimate shortcut — selecting the exact part of your audience that is ready to skip over the whole nurturing stage and convert on the spot.
To facilitate this, Lift AI can connect visitors with the highest buyer intent directly to your conversion tools — for example, BDRs via live chat (compatible with any chat platform you already use).
Nurturing, of course, is still essential, so Lift AI would redirect the lower-scoring visitors to a nurturing bot where they can go through the standard nurturing process as defined in your buyer’s journey.
Just to reiterate — something that used to take months can now be done in an instant. What’s more, Lift AI integrates with practically any marketing tool, from MAs to CRMs.
When it comes to lead generation, data and results speak for themselves. Within 90 days, Lift AI customers average a 9x increase in chat conversions to pipeline by skipping the middle steps of a traditional lead gen funnel. Just take a look at the case studies for Formstack (422% increase in MRR) and PointClickCare (4x increase in conversions).
You can see that while thinking through the stages in various lead generation funnels is important, being flexible toward new technologies like Lift AI can create valuable shortcuts that match you with the most engaged part of your audience faster than ever before, drastically increasing conversions as a result.