Pipeline Marketing: An Overview with Stages and Benefits

Updated June 7, 2023

Pipeline marketing is a strategy that marketers and salespeople use to convert leads into customers and thereby increase revenues. It's an important part of earning loyal customers. Understanding how pipeline marketing works and how to apply it can increase the effectiveness of sales teams and help organizations achieve revenue targets more easily.

In this article, we define pipeline marketing, along with its stages, benefits and tips for using this tool.

What is a marketing pipeline?

A marketing pipeline is a marketing strategy that combines sales and marketing efforts for optimal revenue generation. Pipeline marketing helps shift the focus of marketers from just creating leads to contributing significantly to increasing revenue. Unlike a sales funnel that emphasizes leads generation, pipeline marketing aligns your sales and marketing strategies for increased efficiency, lower cost and increased conversion of leads into paying customers.

Marketing pipelines can be a force multiplier for small businesses and entrepreneurs with limited marketing and sales budgets. When well implemented, this strategy can help you leverage current marketing efforts for future revenue. Rather than spend most of your resources on identifying leads, this strategy emphasizes qualifying and engaging promising leads and current customers so you can quickly move them to the buying stage. A marketing pipeline is a method used to identify qualified buyers and create a strategy to complete sales.

Related: What Is a Sales Pipeline? (Plus How To Build One in 4 Steps)

Why is pipeline marketing important?

Pipeline marketing is important because it can help you increase the sales an organization makes. The connection between marketing and sales and your conversion rate is important because you can improve both marketing and sales processes to get a higher conversion rate. It also keeps your current customer engaged with your products and services since you can provide solutions to several challenges your consumer may experience and seek your products to resolve.

Pipeline marketing vs. lead generation

Lead generation is the process organizations use to gain the interest of potential customers. Leads are potential customers. While some leads become customers, many leads don't so spending a large amount of money on lead generation may not be as effective as pipeline marketing. In pipeline marketing, you engage with both your leads and your existing customers and customize that engagement to each customer, which creates individualized products and services.

The 6 stages of a marketing pipeline

Here are the six stages of a marketing pipeline:

1. Defining staging criteria

The first stage in a marketing pipeline is to establish the different stages of the strategy. Identifying these stages provides a well-defined step-by-step process for finding leads, converting them and maintaining a relationship with them to ensure that present marketing efforts contribute to future revenues. It's bout mapping a customer journey that reflects the majority of journeys that potential qualified customers go on.

2. Lead generation

In the lead generation stage, both marketers and salespeople use a wide range of tactics and strategies to find and develop the interest of potential customers in a product or service. Lead generation is essential as it helps refine sales targeting and serves as a foundation for other stages of the marketing pipeline. You can use traditional and digital channels for lead generation, including advertising, promotions and sponsorships. Personalized content, such as newsletters, direct mail, blog posts, social media posts, lead magnets and paid social ads, can all help you achieve lead-generation goals.

Related: A Guide To Strategic Marketing Plans (With Tips)

3. Lead nurturing

Lead nurturing involves developing relationships with leads and preparing them for the buying process. It can be sending emails about offers relevant to their demographic, asking them to tell you about products and services that can help them solve problems in their business and other engaging and personalized content that keeps you salient with prospects. Being able to nurture leads modestly can help build trust among leads and make it easier to convert them into buyers down in the marketing pipeline. Sometimes, using previous marketing campaigns can also help you identify where most consumers engaged and bought products or services.

An effective lead nurturing strategy provides answers to the most common questions and concerns of leads. It also engages leads across multiple channels such as email, blog posts, social media and even traditional media such as TV and radio, depending on the lead's preferred medium of engagement. Also, ensure that your sales and marketing efforts are aligned to promote the progress of the leads throughout the decision-making and buying journey.

Read more: What Is Lead Nurturing?

4. Lead qualification

Lead qualification involves classifying qualified marketing or sales leads based on their readiness or willingness to buy. Qualified leads are farther down the sales process and can be converted into paying customers with further engagement by the marketing and sales teams. During the lead qualification process, assess the lead to ensure that they fit your ideal customer profile. Lead qualification can help boost conversion by enhancing the ability of the marketing and sales teams to target people most likely to become customers, increase sales and revenue and reduce cost.

Related: 5 Questions To Include on Your Lead Qualification Checklist

5. Deal closing

Deal closing is when a lead becomes a customer by making a purchase. It's essential for salespeople to know how to persuade promising leads to close. Some strategies for closing sales include pitching the product or service as a solution, showing the prospect what they may lose by not buying and creating a sense of urgency.

Related: How To Close a Sale: Top 10 Closing Techniques

6. Post-sale

After closing, marketers and sales teams continue engaging customers to gauge their satisfaction with their purchases. Post-sales engagement can provide opportunities to up-sell and cross-sell the customer by ensuring they get the best out of their initial purchase and identifying other pain points that can benefit from your solutions.

Related: 10 Marketing Strategies To Grow Your Business

Benefits of a marketing pipeline

Here are some benefits of a marketing pipeline:

Uses full-funnel approach

The biggest advantage of a marketing pipeline over other strategies is that it focuses on every stage of the customer journey, rather than just lead generation. By focusing on every step in the marketing and sales ladder, you have a more refined understanding of your ideal customer, their problems and qualities. This makes it easier to fine-tune your messaging and offers for higher conversions and increased revenue generation.

Related: How a Marketing Funnel Works (With Stages and Examples)

Increases sales

In marketing pipelines, the end goal is revenue. The result is that your team may generate fewer leads but can convert prospects faster at less cost. If you can generate revenue faster, you can grow in less time and invest more resources into converting more leads into paying customers while engaging existing clients actively to ensure they remain committed to the business.

By having this increase in sales and income, it makes it possible to fund bigger marketing projects and grow on the success of the marketing pipeline approach. It also promotes employee morale and satisfaction so sharing sales results and surpassing expectations are important details to share with the marketing and sales teams.

Related: Sales Strategies: 27 Strategy Examples To Boost Your Results

Creates customers

While sales pipelines typically focus on collecting the contacts of leads for future exploitation, marketing pipelines emphasize customer creation. By focusing on the customer throughout the pipeline, marketing pipelines can help businesses build a large and loyal customer base that can boost revenue generation while reducing costs.

Related: What Does a Marketing Manager Do? (With Job Requirements)

Focuses on the purchase

Marketing pipelines focus most of your sales and marketing resources on making clients purchase a product or service. Rather than spend most of your budget on leads and conversion, a large percentage can go to the important task of actively engaging prospects to increase their chances of purchasing.

Increases budgeting efficiency

Marketing pipelines can also increase the efficiency of budget implementation. Since it focuses on qualified leads and purchasing opportunities rather than lead generation, you spend more on producing customers ready and willing to pay rather than just having their contacts.

Tips for using a marketing pipeline

Here are tips to help you get the best results from your marketing pipeline:

Target the best leads

To make your marketing pipeline more efficient, focus your efforts and resources on the best leads who are most likely to buy your offers. One way to do this is to monitor the level of engagement with leads, so you can isolate and focus on the most valuable prospects who can contribute the highest level of growth to your bottom line.

Related: Marketing Qualified Lead vs. Sales Qualified Lead vs. Sales Accepted Lead: What's the Difference?

Remove unpromising leads

It's also important to know when to stop pursuing a lead. Regardless of how much you've spent cultivating the lead, the business may be better off focusing on sales-ready prospects, instead of investing the marketing and sales budget on leads who may not convert. That way, you can increase the efficiency of your marketing pipeline and get more returns for your efforts while reducing costs.

Adopting a streamlined method of doing this can help quicken the process. This also helps sales teams perform better as they know what strategies to use to identify a qualified lead and remove those that are not yet at that stage.

Follow up

To boost the performance of your marketing pipeline, always remember to follow up with promising leads. Even when a prospect is ready and willing to purchase, the sheer number of options at their disposal may make it difficult for them to choose your offer. Reminding them of the benefits of using your solutions can serve as a positive reinforcement that may persuade them to choose your products or services.

Related: What Is Lead Follow Up? How To Follow up on a Lead

Be flexible

Buying behavior can change based on the needs and preferences of buyers. Thus, an effective marketing pipeline is flexible to adapt to changing customer needs. Always review the steps in your pipeline to determine what's working and what processes or aspects you can change. It can be identifying ways to increase engagement, trying new sales tactics or removing old ones or adding stages in the pipeline.

Having a flexible pipeline allows your team to be more agile and able to respond quickly to changes in leads and customers' behavior to optimize sales and revenue generation. Flexibility also helps to adapt the pipeline to suit early results based on analysis. Analyzing early performance is the key to understanding how the pipeline is performing and what needs to change in the early stages to ensure success.

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