As an entrepreneur interested in web marketing and lead generation there is an image that you will have seen over and over again on the net among articles, posts and infographics: the path of a lead from the first contact to the purchase also known as marketing and sales funnels . It is often depicted as a funnel, funnel style . Others as a logical sequence. Still others as a horizontal path in stages. The chosen graphic style doesn’t matter, the point is to understand how to “accompany” a lead from the first contact to the final purchase and beyond (loyalty). As we’ve seen before, not all leads are created equal . There are potential customers who have a rather urgent need for the products and/or services that your company sells and others who still need to be convinced, or rather aware of them. In short, not all leads will start their journey at the same point . But then why should you treat everyone the same? And in fact this generalist approach does not pay. What is marketing and sales funnel There are web marketing approaches and techniques that identify only three steps in this marketing and sales funnel, some define four or more. Basically, we can say that the basic steps are: Leads prospect customer In reality, this distinction is somewhat reductive and deserves to be explored. Because the position of leads in your marketing and sales funnel must be defined based on their levels of involvement and propensity to purchase and, as we will soon see, there are not only 3 but 5 steps common to any type of business. Leads entering your system will have varying levels of readiness to purchase your product. Some may desperately need what you sell and therefore should convert faster, others may need sustained nurturing actions to convert into a customer. How to correctly define your marketing and sales funnel As you can well imagine, correctly defining your funnel is crucial . And this path depends on the company and the company. Obviously, a B2C business is profoundly different from a B2B one and therefore the sales funnel will be too. >> Read also: The fundamental phases of Lead Generation for B2B However there is a framework common to all businesses that we can identify in 5 steps First contact Leads prospect Chance Customer Let’s see each stage in detail… Sales Funnels The Journey of a Lead in the Marketing and Sales Funnel – Infographic First contact This is the first stage of any marketing and sales process. The moment your company first introduces itself to its audience. If this happens without targeted marketing actions, in the vast majority of cases, it happens that the customer clicks on your page, looks at it quickly but does not take any action. This often happens when conducting impromptu ad campaigns on Facebook or Google. Once cold calls were used, today this first contact takes place online . But the point is that to go further, much more is needed. If, on the other hand, this first contact is the result of a targeted lead generation strategy , it will be the beginning of a lasting relationship. You must already have a clear understanding of the needs of the contacts you are addressing that your products and/or services can satisfy. Let’s suppose that among these contacts there is a certain “Mister X” and we start this marketing and sales funnel journey with him. Leads If after the first contact, Mister X decides to fill out the form and leave you his contact details , you have just won a lead, or a contact potentially interested in your products and/or services. What to do? This is where the nurturing phase begins , because every lead must be nurtured to move on to the next phase. You have to gain his trust and make him feel your authority in the industry. You will need to prepare specific mail sequences for each step. In the lead phase, for example, you can start with a series of welcome emails in which, also through informative articles and free downloads of valuable content, you begin to explain what potential needs our Mister X can solve thanks to your products and/or services. The sequences of emails (there will be one for each of the next phases) do not have a predefined duration, it’s up to you to choose how many to send. Like? You start sending him informative articles and content of value to his industry. Mister X opens some emails and ignores others. He is physiological: he is not yet ready to buy. But if you nurture it carefully, gradually his click-through rates improve and he starts engaging with your emails and starts visiting your website more often . Maybe even download your company’s app (if you have one). Good job! It means this lead is actively interested in what you have to offer and is ready to move into the Prospect stage. prospect A prospect is effectively a potential customer. Let’s say our Mister X has started visiting your site regularly and even actively using your app. Now you know for sure that he’s interested, so you slowly start pushing him to buy. Like? Also in this case you have to prepare a sequence of emails aimed at having your Mister X perform a specific action. He already knows, in theory, your products and/or services as he has perceived the professionalism of your business and has trust in your brand, now he just has to test them. You can offer them a free trial of a product or a free consultation . The important thing is not only to offer valuable content but to set up your communication on the basis of one or more calls to action and, sooner or later, he will accept. Then, his propensity for the final purchase (therefore the possibility of converting him into a customer) will definitely increase. Chance Wow! The path of our Mister X is approaching the goal . However… Of course; there is a but. Just because they accepted a free consultation doesn’t mean they’re ready to buy . There is still a rather high probability that he will change his mind. However, the fact that they accepted your call to action means they trust your brand and are seriously considering your products and services. He’s becoming aware that he might really need it. This is an opportunity for you. Indeed, it is your opportunity. You need to make sure that the trial or call to action is a positive experience for them, and you need to offer them a tantalizing incentive to switch from trial to purchase . If you can convince him, he will move on to the next, last stage. Also in this case, a sequence of emails can be useful through which you can ask for feedback and impressions on the free trial, offer assistance and, of course, propose an indispensable offer to make the last “upgrade”, from opportunity to customer. You have to convince him to take this last step. Here your communication must be extremely personalized and oriented towards the final goal: the purchase. Customer (or lost customer) We are at the point. After the free trial or in any case the call to action that allowed Mister X to get in touch with your products and/or services, this is the decisive moment. Either become a customer or become a customer… lost. Or maybe not, as we will soon see… If Mister X has decided to buy your products or services , it means that your marketing and sales funnel has worked great! Usually, this is the final stage for most businesses , because it has converted the lead into a customer. Mistaken! Now begins the phase of long-term customer support and retention . This means continuing the lead nurturing process to push our dear Mister X to become a regular customer. As you know, retaining a customer is often more important than acquiring new ones. Lost customer? But companies do n’t always get a dream customer like our Mister X. Sometimes, your leads might change their minds right at the end of the funnel. Because? You may have done something wrong or, more simply, your competitor may have won it. In this case, the next stage for the lead is not “lost”.