However, there are even some who see the funnel as being split vertically, with both sales and marketing owning the full funnel. They argue that the sales people are increasingly becoming thought leaders to drive awareness by doing outbound outreach. In this scenario, both marketing and sales would work to nurture leads and prospects from awareness to purchase.
Most leads are not instant customers: They go through a process of researching, comparing and evaluating before agreeing to spend their money. This process is commonly called the purchase funnel or the sales funnel (whichever you prefer). Understanding the steps your leads go through will help you market properly so that you can convert as many of them into customers as possible. Here is a brief overview of what the sales funnel is and how it varies for B2B and B2C companies.
Just like an actual funnel, Marketing funnels represent a buyer’s journey from awareness to the actual purchase of the product. The concept marketing funnel revolves around is that marketers spread a vast lattice to catch hold of as many leads as possible and then gradually foster prospective customers through suitable schemes, even though the numbers lessen with every passing stage.
Once the prospective customer is made aware of the product, it’s the duty of a marketer to nurture the lead by arousing his interest in buying the product and make him consider it over other products. This involves marketer to tap several other channels, improve its public relation strategies, and include affiliates and partners who promote the product.
Now, before we begin I should state that this funnel is for illustrative purposes only. There is no such thing as a marketing funnel as drawn above, only a series of interactions people go through with your company (and other companies) as they make their way from being a complete stranger to a loyal customer. In short, each marketing funnel is unique.
Typically in your content marketing, to generate traffic, you will use a website, blogging, SEO, landing or squeeze pages, Google Adwords or PPC, Social Media Marketing, perhaps influencer marketing(see more below) and the old fashioned mediums of TV, Radio and Newspapers or Magazines. It involves creating engaging and useful or interesting content to promote through the various mediums, videos, guest posts etc. Likewise you want to get the technical aspects right, any transaction pages need to be as simple as possible, contact forms, shopping carts and search filters. If you lose people during the process, you can remarket through Facebook and Google, to draw them back.
A complex marketing funnel is made up of several different low-value steps. An example of a complex marketing funnel would be if you run an ad that takes users through to a landing page where they are asked to complete a specific action. After a visitor completes that specific action they will be taken to a success page where there’s another chance to get them to make a purchase or complete a second action. A complex funnel is not ideal because there are a lot of places for people to fall off, reducing the chances of getting them to convert.
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By delivering the right value in the right order, they keep you engaged. If the writers started out by saying — SPOILER ALERT — the characters think they’re in The Good Place, but they’re really in The Bad Place, I, as a viewer, would not care yet. The writers did an artful job of delivering the right value in the right sequence to keep me moving along to the season finale, where they make the big reveal. They brought me on a journey so that plot point had maximum impact on me.
Finally the customer will make a decision to either buy or not buy from you. Important to note here is that the one making the decision does not allows have to be the same person as the one purchasing the product or using the product. Think for example of a child who wants a Nintendo console from the toy store. Even though the child might become the user, it is the father who might decide whether he will get one, whereas the mother might be the one who will have to go to the store and purchase it. It is crucial to keep that in mind when targeting your marketing efforts to certain groups of people. The child for example should be targeted with news about the amazing games you can play on the Nintendo, whereas the father should be informed about the relatively cheap price and the durability of the Nintendo console.
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Once the customers’ interest in your company has grown, they might be willing to consider purchasing your products or serivces as well. In order to establish that, you first have to help them realising that your product is meeting a need or desire that they might have. Furthermore, you have to explain that YOUR product is the best option for meeting that need. This stage is therefore all about positioning and showing off your unique selling points (USPs): what extra value do you have to offer to customers compared to competitors? People usually consider only 3-5 different brands before purchasing one, so you want to make sure your brand is among those. Persuasion skills and a good sales team can be very helpful during this stage.
The largest pool of leads is always the least qualified, but every one of them is still a potential customer – one that might shop with one of your competitors if you don’t get them first. So, to maximise your marketing funnel conversions and keep your rivals in check, you also want to guide as many of these potential buyers towards the finishing line as possible.
This is stage with the most potential to grow your marketing funnel, and ironically, it’s the one you have to work the least in. The “advocacy” stage is your reward for all the work you put into the stage before. When you keep your customers happy, they’ll not only remain loyal to your business, but they’ll recommend you to friends and industry contacts facing a similar problem to the one you solved. They’ll brag about how easy life is with your product or service and how hard you work to keep them happy. The result is not only a bigger marketing funnel, but the chance to get a head-start on your competitors.
Okay, so death rumours aside, the sales funnel is in good health and every argument I’ve heard suggest otherwise comes from someone trying to create a selling point for one of their products. What has changed in recent years is how marketers use the sales funnel because the number of interactions between brands and consumers along the buying cycle has multiplied.
Now that you have the consumers’ attention, you want to create some interest. The goal of this stage is to show who you are and what your brand stands for. You are trying to build a relationship with your potential customers and gain trust. Give people valuable information, but don’t focus too much on selling your product yet. Throughout this stage potential customers begin to develop attittudes, opinions and hopefully interest in your company. Content creation is often used for this stage. Think about blogs, webinars, infographics, free e-books, newsletters et cetera. Keep in mind that customers can also develop negative feelings towards your brand, so be careful with what kind of messages you convey to potential customers.
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Alright, at this point in the funnel you’re going to be working with fewer leads than you started with. But that’s ok! Because those that are still with you are a higher quality lead, and are more interested in what you have to offer. They’ve also taken some form of action or micro-commitment and are a lot more open to what you have to offer next. It’s at this stage that you want to begin the follow-up process and really bring the value. Continue to nurture your leads by providing more valuable and helpful information but at the same time, don’t be afraid to ask for the sale. If you’ve done a good job at guiding them along their journey up until this point the next logical step should be your core offer, product, or service. When your “warm” lead buys and exchanges their money for your product or service they become “hot”.
Any entrepreneur who is growing their business has come across the term funnel, whether it's marketing funnels, sales funnels, or just funnels in general. One of the biggest mistakes I see entrepreneurs making is that they think they need a website before all else, when in reality, having marketing funnels first allows them to be in direct communication with people all across the web from the start.
I mentioned earlier that the sales funnel goes beyond the first purchase. You don’t want customers to buy once and then forget about you. You want them to buy again and become long-term customers who are loyal to your brand. You want them to recommend you to other people – both online and offline – who might also be interested in what you have to offer.
So the obvious approach to funnel marketing is to focus on high-intent users who show all the behaviour of someone ready to buy. And your best weapon for this is AdWords – the only platform that allows you to target people itching to buy. People turn to Google when they’re about to jump from consideration to conversion and AdWords is the only channel that allows you to target high-intent search queries that have “next customer” written all over them.