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.
The Marketing Funnel starts off with the Awareness stage (sometimes called Attention). The goal of this stage is to gain presence and to introduce your brand to potential customers: they need to know that you exist. You could either actively reach potential customers through marketing campaigns or help them discover you more easily with their own (online) search. Awareness can be created through advertising, trade shows, direct mail, social media campaigns et cetera. In order for customers to more easily find you online, Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Search Engine Advertising (SEA) are advised.
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You want to create initial awareness of your existence, then encourage interest or ‘traffic’ and eventually a conversion or purchase plus repeat purchases from happy customers. Your ‘funnel’ as such, can get lots of people interested, but many will drop off along the way through the process. This happens for a variety of reasons, price, availability of funds, a clunky website or interface, information overload, poor customer service and so on. By the time a person gets to the bottom of the funnel the numbers are considerably lower. And here you need to be consistently optimising the conversion rates, as in helping people decide to contact you or buy something – a result.
One entrepreneur who started her entire business off of funnels to delight is Marie Forleo. In her funnel for the audio training “How To Get Anything You Want” she not only provides an hour-long training to help people, she follows it with a thank you page offering even more helpful tips and insider information, and delivers a series of automated emails providing the audio training and more information around overcoming your business obstacles.
In fact, more than 80 percent of people look for recommendations before purchasing a product, according to research by Business 2 Community. And Nielsen reports that 84% of people trust the recommendations of friends and family over marketing campaigns. That makes personal referrals the highest ranked source for trustworthiness when it comes to making a purchase.
While the overall stages of the sales funnel stay the same, the big difference between B2B brands and B2C brands is how many people are involved in each step of the process. In B2C sales funnels, the purchaser is often the sole decision maker. They will sometimes talk to family or friends, but in general, they are making all the choices. Basically, you have one person to market to. On the contrary, in B2B brands, there is usually an entire team that you have to sell during every stage of the sales funnel. But the good news is, many B2B brands end with a contractual commitment instead of a one-time purchase.
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An increasingly common practice for marketing, sales, and customer service and experience managers is to “flip the funnel” into a customer experience funnel. This funnel outlines the process of turning customers into advocates, which in turn refuels the top of the marketing funnel by driving awareness and lead generation. Here’s our diagram of the customer experience funnel: