According to the predictions of industry experts, 85 percent of customers will perform transactions online without ever talking to a representative of the selling company by 2020. That doesn’t give your businesses much room for bad first impressions, does it?

To make the most of this increasingly depersonalized experience, companies need to create marketing funnels that draw in prospects by demonstrating what makes them different from all the others jockeying for their attention.

What’s the Big Idea?

Each of your lead generation funnels should be fueled by a “big idea.” Not the big idea that defines your company’s overall vision but one that allows you to look at all of your marketing campaigns holistically and understand what you’re trying to accomplish in different areas.

This big idea should be front and center for every potential customer — in the marketing funnel, it’s the part that sucks them in. Maybe it’s expressed via a landing page or a standalone piece of content. Whatever you decide, you really want to hit them over the head with it and make them say, “Wow, I need to pay attention to this!”

That’s easier said than done, of course. To get to that point, you need to do four things:

1. Know Your Target

Where are your potential customers, what do they do, how much revenue do they have, how many of them exist, and (if you’re B2B) what kind of decision-making power do they hold?

When we looked at our market, we saw small businesses stuck in a cash flow loop because they didn’t have systems in place to bring in new clients consistently. That became our big idea: helping these businesses acquire new clients and get out of this cycle. Building off of that, we created a program called the Appointment Generator and then designed our campaigns around the problem it was built to address so our target market would see it and say, “Yes! This resonates with me.”

2. Craft a Bold Message

The best message has three characteristics: It’s provocative, compelling, and phrased in a positive light. If you say the same thing everyone else says, or even something different but in a boring way, no one will listen.

Think about how GE has built its brand’s story over the past 20 years — patriotism, aliens, advanced technology. GE has done it all — and in a powerful way that resonates with its target market while emphasizing what separates it from other companies.

3. Be Specific and Concise

The average attention span in the age of Twitter is about zero, so use language that captures attention immediately. Avoid industry jargon or anything the average person would need a thesaurus to understand. Distill your message down to a single sentence or two to convey your big idea in the most unambiguous terms possible.

Once they’ve opted in for the lead magnet, build upon the foundation you’ve set. Your next piece of content should expand on why your big idea is true or possible, and the next should reinforce why your idea represents a great opportunity. You should be able to take any piece of content and condense it back down to that single defining sentence.

4. Refine to Stay Relevant

If your big idea isn’t resonating, you need to figure out whether it’s because you’re not communicating it well or because you have the wrong idea. Evaluate your titles using tools such as Google Keyword Planner; then, send out some test tweets to see what piques your audience’s interest.

BuzzFeed is often parodied, but the website gained notoriety precisely because everything on it is optimized to get clicks. In fact, big companies such as Purina have partnered with BuzzFeed to generate interest in their big ideas and refine their approach along the way.

Your big idea is everything when it comes to lead generation. From long-form copy to snarky one-word advertisements, all the content you create should reiterate the core concept you want to convey to your audience.

So how do your marketing channels communicate your big idea? Can you relate everything you produce back to it? Is your current approach working, or do you need to reevaluate?

Ben Kniffen is the co-founder and COO of LinkedUniversity and LinkedSelling, an Inc. 500 company, and a leader in the digital and social media marketing space. He developed and launched LinkedU's latest offering, Connect365. He's also a father of two crazy girls and an avid reader.