Though the use of the term “funnel” is a bit outdated when it comes to discussing leads and sales, I think it still has use for small businesses and entrepreneurs. By focusing on a “funnel” you are better able to set up a basic lead generating process that can be edited as you go to increase efficiencies.

If you’re not familiar with the term ‘sales funnel’ it is a simplistic way of looking at moving people from awareness of your product/service/brand through to customer/client status. The idea is that you have a lot of prospects at the awareness stage and you lose people at every stage along the way through the funnel– hence the funnel shape. More advanced versions of the funnel have pieces designed to collect the fall-off from each stage and get them back in the funnel. The below is a basic funnel with general stages. Your funnel might look very different from this one, for example, maybe you have a Trial stage.

sales funnel WindWater Marketing

For new businesses, setting this up can be frustrating. However, mapping your customer touchpoints (where and when you interact or ‘touch’ a prospect, sales cycle (the buying process from awareness to purchase) and customer journey (the possible routes that can lead to a purchase) can make your sales and marketing efforts more effective. Essentially you stop doing what doesn’t work and do more of what does. For small business this means that you may spend some money to find out what works, but have faith in the fact that that money is well-spent if you’ve tracked and monitored what you’re doing. It’s not really throwing spaghetti at a wall – though in the beginning it may feel like it.

If you’re just starting out, here’s a simple way to begin:

  1. You need to track all sales conversations.
    • How did they hear about you?
    • Did they download something from your website?
    • Have they attended an event or webinar you hosted?
    • How many meetings/calls have you had with them? (What did you talk about?)
  2. Start looking for patterns in your data.
    • Which prospects turned into customers? (look at their role and industry too)
    • What was the path to purchase? (There will be more than one)
    • Are there similarities between purchase paths? (Did they all read the same whitepaper?)
    • At what point in the path was each content piece shared? (if you have sales or marketing content) You may start to see trends in content type e.g. Sales sheet was shared close to point of purchase.
    • At what point did you pass this lead to sales? (if you separate sales and marketing)

This initial map takes time but it is very important as it also helps you understand your customer types better. Tracking as you go makes it less daunting. If you’re not using a CRM that helps define your funnel, you can create your own spreadsheet to help sort through your data. A simple Google search will give many templates and tips – here are three that I found:

After you’ve mapped your funnel, you can align content to each stage. For example, blogs are usually seen as broad content that attracts people to your website and promotes awareness. From here you can think about what type of information a typical prospect would want access to at each stage. Giving too specific content too early can have the opposite effect and your prospect could leave the funnel before becoming a customer. Matching up your content is not difficult but you may wish to enlist the help of a marketer to help you do this. And remember that every piece of content you share should add value and influence the intent to purchase. According to Corporate Visions, 74% of buyers choose the sales rep that was FIRST to add value and insight. This is a difficult (if not impossible) metric to track. How would you know if you’re the first? You probably won’t know, but you can aim for likelihood with good organic search and excellent content that resonates with prospects and speaks to a popular pain point.

Doing the above will put you on the path to building an efficient funnel. There are other pieces that will help you maximize your awareness stage and improve your lead to customer conversions, but you need to do the above things first.

Carolyn Bergshoeff is the founder of WindWater Marketing, a small business B2B marketing firm based out of Toronto, Canada. She helps her clients set-up and monitor lead generation that help grow their business. Email or visit for more on how we can help you.