conquer your sales funnel

Last month, we wrote about the 5 Dos and Don’ts for Lead Generation in 2021. Today, we want to take a deeper dive into your sales funnel to explore detailed tactics that will help you master your funnel in the new year. We’ll be reviewing the four main steps that turn strangers into leads and then into sales:

  1. Understand the process.
  2. Generate new leads.
  3. Qualify your leads.
  4. Nurture your prospects.

Step One: Know Your Funnel

First, let’s look at the lead generation process that website visitors follow to become paying customers.

Quick Definitions:

Visitor: Your website visitors arrive on your website from a variety of sources. These include organic search, social media, paid marketing channels like Google Ads, referrals from other websites, or directly by typing in your URL.

Lead: When a person takes a desired action on your website and provides his or her information without making a purchase, you have a new lead (also known as a prospect).

Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL): Simply put, an MQL is a lead that is qualified, or has sales potential, based on the individual’s response to marketing efforts. This can include something as simple as providing an accurate email address, or something more involved like multiple website visits, downloading materials, or using a free trial.

Sales Prospect or Sales Qualified Lead (SQL): Going one step further, an SQL is a lead that has been qualified as being ready to take the next step and become a customer. Sales Qualified Leads have been vetted by both marketing and sales and have demonstrated sufficient interest in further conversation.

Sales Opportunity: This is the big moment – the conversation that is designed to turn your prospect into a customer.

Active Account: Success! Your hard work paid off, and your lead has an active account with your business.

In the following chart, you can see what drives your visitors to continue down the funnel to become customers:

Step Two: Lead Generation

Lead generation can be expensive, so it’s important to understand where your organization can expect to find high-quality leads. The following chart illustrates where the best – and worst – leads are found. Keep in mind, even if a marketing tactic is associated with lower quality leads, it may still offer an affordable way to reach your target audience. The ROI may be worthwhile if the cost is low enough. As always, it takes a lot of testing to evolve a successful marketing strategy.

Metrics for Success

When you’re in the process of testing and measuring marketing efforts, it’s important to understand the benchmarks and metrics that will help you determine whether or not a campaign is working.

The average lead-to-opportunity conversion rate across industries is 13%, and the average time to conversion is 84 days. In the tech industry, the average lead costs $60 (and that cost is increasing quickly), while the average cost per lead for non-profits is $43.

Step Three: Qualification

Only 3% of new leads are ready to buy the moment they become a lead.

That means 97% will require more effort on the part of your marketing and sales teams to qualify and then nurture the lead until conversion. Many factors will influence exactly what this process looks like and whether or not you can expect your lead to become an active account.

Factors that Influence Lead Qualification

  1. Number of people involved in decision making: The more people weigh in on a purchase decision, the less likely a lead will convert. While there’s an 81% chance with a single decision-maker, there’s only a 35% chance with a group of six.
  2. Complexity of the sale: Direct sales have a short sales cycle and few influencers, while complex sales have a long sales cycle and many influencers.
  3. Response time: The chart below illustrates how dramatically success decreases just five minutes after a lead submits a form on your website.

4. Persistence: Sales teams that make multiple calls have much higher success rates. They also have a better chance of making contact on a Wednesday or Thursday as compared to any other weekday.

Sales teams who initiate one phone call have a 35% chance of making contact, but sales teams that call at least six times have a 90% or better chance.

Step Four: Nurturing Your Leads

Once your marketing and sales team has determined that a lead is qualified, it’s time to treat that lead with care until it turns into an active account. Don’t despair if the process takes longer than you anticipated; sometimes we’re surprised by how long the sales cycle can be for even a simple purchase. If the lead has met your qualifications, the right amount and type of nurturing actions can lead to that final conversion. Here are some common conversion rates to help you benchmark your efforts:

Main Methods for Lead Nurturing

  1. Social media
  2. Email
  3. Remarketing
  4. Sales representatives

Drilling Down on Email Lead Nurturing

Email is going to be the most cost-effective method of nurturing your leads, so it warrants more explanation. Email list segmentation and individualized messaging are the two most effective ways to personalize your messages, but there are numerous other useful options as well.

Good hooks to use in your emails include comparison guides, challenges to the status quo, data or surveys, and use cases. When you communicate, let your leads know how your product can solve their problems and make their work easier.

Marketing automation platforms offer a convenient way to nurture your leads on a consistent basis and respond to any actions they take on your website after becoming a qualified lead. There are so many marketing automation platforms to choose from, but some of the most popular include Marketo, ParDot, HubSpot, and Eloqua. All of these programs will allow you to track your leads, send out regular emails, and provide a customized experience to your leads when they visit your website, all things that should eventually turn your leads into active accounts.

Setting up marketing automation is an involved process, but once you have things in place, it’s easy to add additional email templates and other customizations to test out new strategies or messaging.

Are you ready to conquer your sales funnel in 2021 by implementing the best practices we’ve described above? Send us a message, and we’ll help you get started.

Welcome to the third and final post in our series on maximizing the time you spend on marketing. Here’s what we’ve covered so far:

Now, it’s time to get tactical. Your goal during this stage is to structure your marketing channels so that you can “set and forget” them. In other words, build your marketing platform so that it’s always working for you in the background while you tend to sales and operations. To do that, let’s dive into the four tactics that will help you maximize the time you spend on marketing:

  1. Implement the Basics of Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
  2. Establish a Digital Advertising/Search Engine Marketing Presence
  3. Set up Your Marketing Automation System
  4. Prepare for Inbound Lead Generation


1. Implement the Basics of Search Engine Optimization

“SEO is like breathing. You just need to do it, every day.”

This quote is from Frank, our head of Digital Marketing, and it sums up the essence of search engine optimization. So many SEO books have been written, and so many more blogs have been posted on various SEO tips and recommendations, that the core of SEO can be obscure for the layman. But SEO’s three pillars are much simpler than they seem:

The three phases of SEO

The three phases of SEO

  1. Optimize your website “under the hood” so that your pages have the strongest density of key terms you want to be known for in the right places in your site’s code (your URLs, your page titles, etc.)
  2. Publish regular content that includes your keywords, which will keep your site fresh in search results
  3. Get people to share your content and link to your website (ideally using your keywords in their links)

We recommend using Google’s excellent Keyword Planner tool to identify the target keywords you’ll use as the cornerstone of your search engine optimization strategy. Once you’ve got your SEO terms, review your website and make sure that those terms are reflected in the areas of your site such as your URLs, header tags, and internal links. After you’ve taken care of the basic nuts and bolts, it’s time to start creating new content. Set aside a day, write four blog posts that feature your target keywords, and then set them to publish weekly for four weeks. Repeat this process each month, track your progress using Google Analytics, and Google Webmaster Tools, and adjust your content as necessary.


2. Establish a Digital Advertising/Search Engine Marketing (SEM) Presence

Search engine marketing goes hand-in-hand with SEO. But whereas SEO is a more passive, “organic” channel, digital/PPC advertising lets you jump to the front of the search engine results page (SERP) line. Because of that efficacy, your pay-per-click advertising strategy should be different than your SEO strategy in one significant way:

Use SEM to target new audiences, rather than the existing terms where you rank well organically.

For example, if Young Marketing Consulting was ranking highly for, well, marketing consulting, but not as highly as a digital marketing agency, we would want to invest in PPC advertising campaign to put us in the top results for Washington DC digital marketing agencies.

SEM/PPC Ad Best Practice from Google

How do you write good PPC ad copy? Look no further than Google!

The next thing you want to do in a strong digital marketing campaign is to create an experience that will reward your leads for giving you their information. What offer will draw their interest enough to click on your ad, and once they land on your page what will give them that extra nudge to sign up?

Finally, you want to think about where (and when) your audience will be. If you’re selling breakfast food, there’s little point in advertising after 10 am or so. And if you’re only operating in the Washington DC metro area, for example, you’ll want to limit your ads as appropriate.

Once you’ve established the areas above, you’ll just need to set your budget, turn on your campaign, and let the software do the work.


3. Set up Your Marketing Automation System

Marketing Automation is one of our favorite aspects of digital marketing. Ultimately, what we all want is to make the process of generating and nurturing leads as pain-free as possible, which is the promise of marketing automation. There’s only one problem: setting up an automation platform requires you to invest a lot of upfront work to get up and running. Luckily, you’re working with a marketing firm with a lot of marketing automation experience.

The most important key to success for any marketing automation effort is to have your business rules clearly defined ahead of time. Think of your business rules as a series of IF/THEN statements. If a lead does X, what should happen? Keep building out these statements until you reach the end of the line. Take your ideal workflow to everyone who will be affected by your marketing automation and see if there are any outliers you aren’t covering. Once you’ve got your business rules blessed, it’s time to build your system.

One of the most common questions we get asked as a marketing consultant is to recommend a particular software suite for marketing automation. There are roughly four thousand possible choices, and the real answer is that most of them are exactly the same. They all allow you to customize your fields and workflows, create autoresponders, group and track leads and contacts, etc., so the tool you use will come down to personal taste. Pick the tool that best fits how you’d like to work and you’re off to the races.

Marketing Technology Landscape Supergraphic

Marketing Technology Landscape Supergraphic

4. Drive Inbound Lead Generation through Offers

Finally, now that you’ve got your marketing automation infrastructure in place, the last step is to continually put out offers to your audience that will entice them to take action and either give you their contact information or make a purchase. These are the “carrots” that will draw potential leads to you, and there are a few tips for making them valuable. The ideal inbound lead generation content is:

  • Time-Sensitive – it’s hitting your lead at the right time, driving them to take an action within a certain window
  • Unique – it separates your offer from the others out there
  • Valuable – what you’re offering is valuable enough to drive action on your potential lead’s part
  • Personalized – something that speaks to your individual lead’s core
  • Repetitive – you’re not just doing it once and seeing what happens. You’re putting the offer out over a long enough period of time to see if it truly performs

With the above set up, you’ll be in great shape to maximize your inbound lead generation in no time!

Thanks very much for reading our series. If you have any questions or would like to discuss anything related to SEO, SEM, marketing automation and inbound lead generation, please contact Young Marketing Consulting today!



One of the keys to modern digital marketing is establishing yourself as a thought leader. Your organization undoubtedly has something unique and special to say in the marketplace; creating and marketing content that conveys that viewpoint is one of the best ways you can promote your business in today’s search engine-driven world. Done properly, content marketing promotes your brand over and over again over a long period of time by enabling others to find and share the compelling stories that you tell. As the number of people linking to and sharing your content rises, your website’s search engine ranking will increase as well. Today, I wanted to share a content marketing case study from Young Marketing Consulting client Wanted Analytics.

Wanted Analytics provides human resources departments with talent marketplace data – what companies are hiring for what positions, how much they’re paying, how hard certain skills are to find, etc. One thing we’ve learned over the years is that nothing catches a visitor’s eye more than data that helps them make decisions or provides an interesting insight. And as you can imagine, Wanted’s data set is a content marketing goldmine. So, we worked with them to build a blog-centered digital marketing and lead generation strategy that provides excerpts from Wanted’s data in areas such as bilingual staffing, in-demand IT skills, and more. So far, the results have been generating leads and driving site traffic, and the momentum keeps building.

Our biggest content marketing success so far came when Wanted ran a blog post on the recent meteoric rise in hiring for the “Internet of Things”. A reporter from Forbes came across the post and ran a story on where to find a job doing Internet-of-Things work based on our content. That’s fantastic exposure without paying for a public relations firm, and it’s all thanks to content marketing.


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