A marketing process is an essential tool for marketers in any sector.

You’ll see many terms on the internet, identifying and examining parts of the marketing process. Funnel, cycle, journey. What do these words mean? 

Even once refined, the definitive marketing process is somewhat extensive, so the impulse to simplify it is understandable. Before learning the meanings of these other terms, it’s essential first to understand the process as a whole. This example will use a simplified process designed for a small- to medium-sized company with minimal digital marketing and at least one dedicated salesperson.


This article sets out to provide a full understanding of the marketing process. Defining the stages, discussing the importance of this concept, and walking you through an example of the process in action. As with any marketing framework, this concept is not formally defined, and the community upholds no standardization. Every organization and thought leader in the industry is left to reimagine and trademark their version. The article below outlines and discusses this process in broad, simple terms so that you can understand not only this process but any variations you come across.

So, What is the Marketing Process?

A marketing process is defined as the stages of awareness and decision-making specific to making a purchase.

Buying is a process, from need to acquisition, and a buyer goes through several stages before making a purchase. A marketer’s job is to influence and engage with the buyer along the way.

The process is as follows:

  • Demand Generation
  • Lead Generation
  • Lead Nurture
  • Marketing Qualification
  • Sales Acceptance
  • Sales Qualification
  • Customer/Purchase


The 7-Stage Process

Demand Generation

First thing, people need to know that you and your product exist. Demand generation is the stage where a potential client becomes aware of your business, products, or services, and begins to learn the basics.

Lead Generation

In marketing circles there is a lot of talk about lead generation, or “lead gen” as it’s often shortened to, but what does it really mean? Lead generation is commonly used in the context of promotion and advertising, but it specifically refers to taking someone from generally aware of your product to explicitly expressing interest. Here, the goal of a marketer is to gather information about a person, often through gated content. Collection of information such as name, email or phone number, workplace, or position, is called capturing a lead. Once captured, marketing automation software creates a record for this person, and begins to measure their readiness to buy.

Lead Nurture

This is where a lead receives targeted emails and advertising to expand their awareness of your services. Here Tactical, this stage is often referred to as “Education”, as the primary goal is to educate your lead about your company and services. Leads can spend months, or even years, in this stage, depending on how prepared they are to buy. Automation software continues to measure readiness to purchase and grants them a lead score based on factors like filling out a contact form and visiting a webpage multiple times.

Marketing Qualification

Once a lead score reaches the set threshold, an alert can be sent out to the sales team. A lead has indicated through their actions that they are ready for a sales call, and the sales team delivers. A lead in this stage is called a “Marketing Qualified Lead” or MQL.

Sales Acceptance

Once a salesperson has determined that the lead meets any other qualifying criteria and is ready for personalized attention, they’ll reach out. After marketing qualification, but before the sales team has qualified them, a lead is called a “Sales Accepted Lead” or SAL.

Sales Qualification

Once contacted, your sales team makes a decision. If they think your lead is prepared to buy, they will take steps to secure a sale. Until the purchase is made, this lead is called a “Sales Qualified Lead” or SQL.


Once your lead is converted to a customer, they reset to Demand or Lead Generation, where they can continue to be nurtured and educated, keeping your product top of mind and encouraging upsells and relationship management.

Reasons You Should Know It

The marketing process (whichever variant you choose) is the most foundational marketing principle you can learn. From it, you can learn what your lead needs to move closer to becoming a customer. Unfortunately, 35% of marketers aren’t organized with their strategies and processes, even though marketers who document their processes are 313% more likely to report success in their campaigns. (CoSchedule, Marketing Management + Strategy 2019)

Knowing how your marketing fits into the greater process is more than theory. It affects how well you put your ideas into practice. Here are just a few of the ways that working within a marketing process framework impacts your work:

  • Understanding where your client has come from and where they’re going.
  • Create value through meeting your client where they are.
  • Maintain a narrow focus on objectives.
  • Reduce time developing marketing.
  • Ability to direct the process as you wish.


Your lead starts as a stranger to you and your business, a “cold” lead. She is one in a group of potentials: maybe the target audience on a Facebook ad, or a list you acquired. This is your Demand Generation stage; she doesn’t know you, so she can’t want your product.

At some point, she sees your product; in this case, through an ad online. She’s interested, clicks on the link, and follows it to your landing page. She quickly clicks away and doesn’t think about it again. Days later, another ad appears; this one addresses her pain point and offers a downloadable resource. This is Lead Generation. She sees ads or promoted social posts – sometimes clicking through and sometimes not. Finally, something resonates enough that she gladly trades her contact info for a piece of content. Once you have her email (or phone number), you now have a proper (warm) lead.

Lead Nurture begins. Ads become more targeted, and emails are sent to stoke her interest in your products or services. Your automated program is tracking her movements on your site, what she interacts with, the links that interest her, and ranks her interest on a numerical scale (her lead score).

So you’ve generated demand for information, generated a lead from an unknown, and nurtured your lead for some time. What next? Well, that depends on how effective your marketing is at targeting their needs. Eventually, their interest peaks; they have fulfilled the marketing qualifications and graduate to a Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL).

Your sales team is alerted to their new status and reach out. Maybe your lead gets a phone call, text, or personalized email. They are now Sales Accepted.

Leads can jump backward or forward through the process, depending on various factors. For whatever reason, they ignore the message and return to downloading freebies, liking social posts, and reading the blog. When this happens, they return to Lead Nurture until the next time interest spikes, and you reach out again.

This time they reach back! Sales schedules a meeting with them, and your lead keeps in touch. Sales decides that they fulfill the qualification requirements, and are one step closer to closing a deal!

The day comes that they make a purchase. You have successfully converted a cold lead into a customer. Once again, this customer is aware of your business, but doesn’t need you; they have reset to an earlier stage, and it’s up to you to guide them back through the process.

Key Take-Aways

  • The marketing process is the stages a potential client moves through to go from unaware to buyer.
  • The process follows the basic human decision-making process.
  • Leads can move backward or jump forward through the process, depending on various external factors.
  • Meeting your lead where they are in the process is key.

Check out our Complete Marketing Process Flowchart HERE.

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