April 2, 2020
marketing funnel 101, marketing funnel definition, stages, and best practices

marketing funnel 101, marketing funnel definition, stages, and best practices


we talked about funnels all the time in
marketing purchase funnels sales funnels inbound funnels call it what you want
but they’re all ultimately describing the same concept a funnel is really just
a way to represent the customers journey as they move towards the purchase of
your product or service at the top or the widest point of the funnel is where
a buyer starts their journey and the bottom the narrowest part is where they
complete it our goal is marketers is to funnel
prospects into buyers moving them from the top to the bottom of the funnel the
shape reflects the fact that a large number of people will never complete the
journey through the funnel you’ll expose your product or service to a lot of
people at the top of the funnel but only a small fraction will actually convert
now it obviously gets a little more involved than this awareness interest
desire and action these are the fundamental stages of a consumers
journey the idea proposes that marketing efforts must focus on moving the
consumer through these steps sequentially the more you understand the
steps the more effective your marketing strategies are you unorganized thinking leads to mediocre
conversions to stay organized and focus our thoughts we use the funnel why well
because when you’re aware that a consumer must move through a series of
steps before converting you can better align your attention and your marketing
efforts a common mistake is thinking that awareness will directly lead to a
conversion the purpose of the funnel however is to make it incredibly clear
that this isn’t the case there are no shortcuts the number of users who go
from awareness directly to a conversion skipping all other steps is zero every
sale goes through the process but the speed at which the process happens
indefinitely vary for example you can be walking along the street and see a
merchant selling sunglasses you’re immediately aware of their product you
may also have been thinking about picking up a new pair so you become
interested you look through the selection see the price is incredibly
desirable and decide to make a purchase now it may feel as if you went from
awareness to purchase instantly but you still went through four distinct steps
mentally take another example you may be in the process of buying a new car your
journey from awareness to action is going to take a lot longer and the
seller is going to want to do everything they can to make sure you stay in their
funnel for the duration of that sales cycle you may spend a long time in the
interest stage and if the seller is aware of that they can then tailor their
messaging to continue moving you closer to the next stage of the funnel so as
you can see when you understand where your user is and the mindset they’re in
you can tailor your marketing to their needs the funnel really serves as a tool
to view and evaluate your offer from the perspective of your consumer
additionally we’ll be applying this funnel to each of our consumer segments
so we can understand how we motivate them to move from stage to stage we also
use the funnel to evaluate issues with our conversion rates to optimize the
performance of our campaigns and even to facilitate our automation efforts
throughout this course we’re going to take this high level concept of the
marketing funnel and learn how to use it to improve your entire marketing
strategy you the funnel is always demonstrated with
segmentation and the most traditional funnel follows Ida awareness interest
desire action at the top is awareness a prospect has to become aware of two
things their problem and your solution it’s in this stage that your brand is
exposed to the prospect alongside competitors below awareness we have
interest at this stage a consumer begins to explore the products or services
available to them next comes desire which we can also call
consideration it’s here that the prospect wants to make a purchase but it
may or may not be with your brand they are however in the final stages of
evaluating whether or not to commit and finally action they’re either going to
buy or not they may select your company another company or based on their
findings they may decide they’re not making a purchase at all now this is the
foundational funnel we often reference these different segments as top of the
funnel middle of the funnel and bottom of the funnel the top is awareness the
middle is evaluation and the bottom is conversion but plenty more on that later
so here we have our basic funnel with our four segments this on its own will
serve you well but there’s a widely respected adaptation to the original
funnel and that’s to add a fifth segment called loyalty or advocacy it’s unwise
to think that just because the customer has purchased but their journey is over
after the sale is an incredibly important element of marketing so it’s
important that the funnel reflects the notion that a customer can choose
whether to purchase again or if they’ll recommend your product to others what we
have here is the completed marketing funnel now as you continue to explore
the idea of the marketing funnel you’re going to find plenty of varying opinions
on what to call the stages whether there’s really three four or eight
whether you should flip it upside down or even turn it on its side and honestly
that’s all fine you can take this concept and adapt it however you like
because truthfully this is really just a tool and no matter how you want to use
it or evolve it these are the bay six steps every customer will go through
you can name the steps whatever you want the most important thing here is
recognizing that this customer journey exists you all right let’s jump into the funnel so
you obviously can’t sell something to someone who has no idea that your
product or service exists that’s where stage 1 awareness comes in
at this stage we’re working to capture the consumers attention we need them to
be aware of our product or service but awareness isn’t good enough what we
really need is for them to be aware of well one the fact that our company
exists and to what it is that we do or sell and three that they have a need or
want awareness must capitalize on those three things but that process can happen
in any order typically we accomplish that through advertising pay-per-click
ads webinars Direct Mail social media blog posts and so on but awareness also
comes from our competitors the media and our consumers environment how you
approach generating awareness is a function of what you’re selling and who
you may choose to invest evenly across earned owned and paid media or you may
opt to stack your efforts in one area that yields the best results with your
audience I’m not here to dictate how you generate awareness but instead draw your
attention to the need and how it fits in the funnel it’s up to you to find that
delicate balance too much attention at the top of the funnel may exhaust your
budget leaving you with too large of an audience that you don’t have the budget
or resources to move down your funnel no attention at the top of the funnel and
you’re curious why your sales are lackluster when we talk about awareness
or any stage of the funnel really we’re talking about it as it applies to a
specific customer segment you must remain diligent and talking to the right
customer at the right time in the right place now you may have several customer
segments and as such you’ll need to define the funnel for each of those
segments one way to visualize this is to simply slice the funnel vertically
labeling the columns as they correspond to your customer or you can simply track
the funnel for each segment individually that’s up to you and this idea will make
more sense as we look at marketing sequences later as you explore awareness
don’t fall into the trap of thinking your entire marketing strategy is
just about awareness there’s this misconception you just dial up awareness
and the rest will fall in place but to really nail awareness you need to keep
showing up in the same demographic that’s why targeting is incredibly
important awareness doesn’t mean distributing your message everywhere it
means making your target demographic oh where you exist have you ever talked to
someone and they’ve never heard about the new product you’re always seeing and
you’re baffled have you not heard about that new shaving Club you haven’t seen
their ads you’re not getting their coupons you see if a marketer has done
their job well you the key demographic have become very aware because you’re
the right customer they’re not wasting their time making everyone aware they’re
making the perfect customer segment totally aware over investing and
awareness will create a really wide funnel at the top but prospects won’t
automatically fall down the funnel the shape suggests gravity is at work here
but that’s really not the case if it’s easier to visualize turn the funnel
upside down you’re now pushing that one target
demographic up through your funnel and that’s a lot more effort which is the
reality of that situation you at this point you’ve secured the
attention of your prospect Congrats you’ve entered the second stage of the
funnel interest here your goal is to reinforce that the prospect is in the
right place and guide them towards what they need to know about your offering
it’s here they’ll look to learn more about the product or service but they’re
not actively vetting your company that comes later now it’s fairly easy to
overlook this step and rush the consumer to the finish line this problem is
incredibly common just think how many ads you’ve clicked on or brands you’ve
tried to explore and there was an absolute disconnect when you arrived
your sale is not assured just because you’ve moved a consumer into a state of
interest you now need to give them resources relevant to their mindset so
they generate a desire for what you’re selling the consumer of today has
knowledge available on demand they understand how to make better informed
purchasing decisions by educating themselves on what they’re buying
would you rather control that education or leave it up to the buyer if you can
provide everything the buyer needs to know they’ll be less likely to turn to
outside sources to get that information to drum up interest you’re expanding on
why the consumer needs what you have delivering the details on what it is you
offer and answering their fundamental questions now the consumer is still
likely to gather information elsewhere but by knowing the mindset your consumer
is in when they arrive you can prioritize giving them what they need to
improve their interest and again this is going to look different for every
company an ecommerce store might just need to do a good job of making the
navigation easy the product information visible and make those relevant products
visible as well an indoor kids gym would need to make their features and location
prominent deliver relevant fa Q’s and have an easy to access gallery of photos
and videos I think you see what I’m getting at do some research to
understand what mindset your consumer is in when they first arrive and feed them
what they need to know early on this is one of the harder and more fuzzy stages
interest can feel indistinguishable from desire or consideration the nuance here
is that interest is when the consumer is learning more about your offering and
consider raishin or desire is when the consumer
decides if the offering is worth it and determines how important it is to them
personalization also plays a huge role in this stage if you know who I am
what I need and where I belong you can use that to your advantage if you tailor
your messaging to me I’m comfortable if you don’t I might not be interested and
I’m leaving this is your opportunity to build that relationship and nurture that
lead this is also where you start to introduce those remarketing strategies
and email drip campaigns you’ve got a lead so it’s time to nurture it but
don’t push them down the funnel too soon if they’re not convinced they’re not
converting educate the customer on what you have to offer why it’s unique and
how it will benefit them now as a quick side note you may also discover another
interesting aspect of this stage the awareness effort put forth by another
brand can actually lead a customer into your interest phase they become aware of
you through an external factor and begin researching you as an alternate option
now they’re not truly jumping the funnel they still had to become aware it’s just
you weren’t the one actively creating that awareness and this is why it’s
important to consider leads coming in from an external influence
you may dedicate messaging specific to them as to pique their interest
differently than someone coming in from a campaign you developed there’s one
more key thing I want to point out it’s a harsh reality of the interest stage
your customer has a limited attention span there’s really no guarantee they’re
going to stick around on that path towards purchase they may really have
limited motivation to do anything which means you have to put a lot of energy
into this stage put your resources into educating the customer use tailored
landing pages webinars newsletters testimonials customer guides online
videos media interviews blogs and even customer service training keep your
efforts focused here though give the customer too much information and you’ll
overwhelm them so give them just enough to move them along you if you were successful at the interest
stage you’ve now got a consumer who is considering making a purchase at this
point a consumer is looking for reviews reading testimonials talking with their
peers comparing prices and perhaps reaching out with key questions the
consumer is also developing a favorable disposition based on their experience in
the previous stages what’s the attention to detail like with your company does
your site load fast with your customer service team responsive did your social
media resonate with them things of that nature it’s here in the journey that
your consumer is convincing themselves they’re ready to take the plunge and
you’re convincing them that this is the best decision by reinforcing everything
that they’ve learned up to this point now of all the stages in the marketing
funnel this is the one that gets more most from model to model and this is
because it’s often the longest stage depending on your business this stage
can last weeks or even months so it’s crucial that during this phase you’re
reinforcing your relationship with the customer and giving them the necessary
information they’re using to evaluate this decision try to keep them in your
ecosystem as much as possible and have answers ready to all of their objections
for an e-commerce site this might be reflected in making your shipping
policies clear answering FAQ is on how returns are handled demonstrating the
security of your site and providing the user with clear and authentic reviews
from others the point is you don’t want users to have to leave your experience
to find answers to their questions now there are a couple ways to assess your
customers experience here including user testing or even inexpensive online tools
have testers talk through their thought process as they look to make a purchase
what questions do they have what answers do you then have for them to be
effective in this stage of the funnel you have to accept another harsh reality
there’s a lot of choice in the marketplace and even with your own level
of differentiation the competition isn’t going to be that far behind so as you
look to move someone from consideration to action you have to do more than just
blast them with your features what can you do to set yourself apart that may be
talking about your investment in the environment it
maybe designing a frustration-free checkout process it may even be picking
up the phone and having a conversation with a prospect if you’re dealing with
larger purchases remember your customer will do their research so even if you
resolve their objections on your site expect that they’ll turn to the web at
large for more answers so be present on third-party review sites be present on
the most popular channels your customers frequent and be present with your
remarketing so you can capture their attention wherever they may be you if all goes according to plan your
customer will make the decision to take action they’ve gone from being a
prospect to a customer but if only it was that simple this stage shares
incredible overlap with consideration every consumer is different and how each
consumer arrives to complete a sell is different as well some need social proof
as they evaluate your business others need reassurance at the time of
purchase because they second-guess themselves before checking out there’s
still plenty of time for a consumer to get distracted they see a coupon box and
immediately depart your site and search for one what happened here have you
controlled that experience will they find a competitor’s coupon which then
undermines all of your efforts it’s here that you have to be focused on making
this purchase process as seamless as possible do you accept the right credit
cards or accept them at all do you redirect the buyer to a third
party site which then makes the experience disjointed do you make that
buyer jump through unnecessary hoops this part of your funnel needs to be
extremely slick your focus is to give the consumer incentive to act right now
a new formulation a new sales offer an expiring soon promotion the answer here
lies in how you’ve positioned your brand for example a luxury product cannot be
discounted so you’d have to find alternate methods for getting that
customer to overcome the final hurdle another thing to keep in mind here is
that you may have several goals for your user let’s say you’re selling an online
software product your goal is for that consumer to sign up for a monthly
subscription you could in theory have a funnel that leads them into a free trial
which results in an action and then you’ll start their second funnel which
leads them into taking action on that subscription so the key takeaway here is
you need to identify the primary actions you want your user to take as you’ll be
modeling your funnel around those actions and one last thing to remember
buyers can always finish the action or purchase but still be left frustrated
confused or upset a truly positive experience at this stage in the funnel
means you’ve moved the customer closer to the advocacy and loyalty stage which
of course is what you want you
the final stage of the funnel is where most companies fall flat the deal is
done so what is there left to do sure you can
send repeat offers and keep the customer aware of what else you’re selling but
the most successful brands create a user who will advocate any consumer that
advocates for you and spreads the word about your products in a positive manner
is a brand promoter it’s important to be working towards creating brand promoters
these customers recommend you share your content and spread the word about what
you and your brand stand for the best promoters start sharing content about
you online it could be amongst their colleagues at
a professional space such as LinkedIn or publishing an Instagram of your product
in use the New York Times conducted a study to understand why brand promoters
share they found four reasons the first is to bring valuable and entertaining
content to one another the second is to define themselves to others third to
grow and nourish relationships and fourth for self-fulfillment and to get
the word out about causes they care about let’s break these down further and
understand how you can influence this behavior a promoter seeking value wants
to be seen as a go-to resource and they want to have someone or something to
recommend they may see themselves as part of the industry or someone who
aligns very closely to your brand identity use storytelling and post
purchase messaging to reinforce the value of your brand a promoter that
defines themselves around your brand wants to be positioned as an expert you
can develop these experts by investing in influencers and creating special
brand opportunities for people who define themselves as being incredibly
knowledgeable in your subject area this type of promoter can be nurtured in
the pre-purchase phase by giving them access to the inside scoop and an
exclusive offering promoters that seek relationships see opportunity in using
your brand as a way to connect think of that recent coca-cola campaign where
they added names to cans it gave people an opportunity to reach out to friends
and say hey I thought of you when I found this you can build these types of
promoters by creating shareable content bite-size nuggets that relationally
driven people will send others finally we have the promoter who is
interested in self fulfillment and outreach this is someone who is most
aligned to your purpose they’re involved and they will frequently share the
latest news and join every opportunity to learn more and engage with your brand
they get fulfillment out of sharing content because it supports what they
care about building this type of promoter is easiest when your brand
aligns with a strong purpose and a cause that is fulfilling to a particular
people group invest in building recognizing and nurturing all your brand
promoters to maintain your brand momentum and reinforce your position the
cheapest path to conversion is through existing customers retention is
paramount keep them in your flow and give them ample opportunity to share
about your brand the more you continue to delight your advocates the more
they’ll contribute to your growth you now that we’ve evaluated each stage in
the funnel let’s look at the big picture our goal is to develop a full funnel
marketing approach and what I mean by this is we want to make sure we have
marketing tailored to each stage of the buyers journey your competitors are
already making such efforts and if you haven’t developed your own full funnel
strategy you’re behind the curve now oftentimes you’ll hear about funnel
strategies referred to as top of funnel middle funnel and bottom funnel
marketing let me explain towards the bottom of the funnel you have a consumer
who is close to making a purchase bottom funnel marketing focuses on identifying
consumers who are in a buying decision and then converting them at the top of
the funnel you’re focused on bringing leads into your funnel if there’s zero
top of funnel marketing there’s nobody coming out the other side and as you
might expect middle of the funnel marketing is the nurturing process to
keep the leads moving what we failed to take into account so far is the mindset
of the buyer as it pertains to their journey you’ll often see this play out
and pay-per-click advertising a consumer who does a search on Google for I glass
repair Santa Barbara is close to making a purchase we call this type of
marketing bottom funnel marketing this isn’t because the consumer is already at
the bottom of our funnel it’s just that the consumer is ready to be in the
bottom of someone’s funnel we know that from a marketing perspective they’ve
expressed interest in resolving their problem therefore we know that this
customer is incredibly valuable they’re not window shopping they’re ready to
take action and that customer is worth more money to us because it will take
less effort to convert them atop a funnel customer well they can exist in
several states for starters they can be aware of their problem but not aware of
any solutions additionally they can be aware of solutions but not aware if they
have a problem and finally they can be aware of their problem and aware of
their solution so we’re adding a new layer of complexity to how we think
about our funnel we must consider the fact that a buyer has their own funnel
agnostic of ours they’re moving through that buyer journey as it pertains to
their problem they’re hopping in and out of other funnels and as they
continue on their journey their state of mind changes we must now consider the
buyer journey both inside and outside of our funnel when we know their state of
mind we know we’re in our funnel they’ll likely end up back to the eyeglass
example here the customer is aware of their problem and they know a solution
must exist they do a search they see our advertisement they’re now aware of our
company they’re interested because they already have a problem so they come into
our landing page and the experience is personalized to their needs and
therefore they desire what we have and they take action they’ve moved through
our funnel quickly because they were in a buyer’s state of mind
but look at another example let’s say we have a window on a busy street front we
have a sign in that window that says eyeglass repair same day starting at $29
we’re doing top of funnel marketing here people walk by every day and see our
sign and some of them become aware of our solution but they don’t have a
problem yet one day someone who has a pair of broken
eyeglasses thinks wait there’s that place near my work that does eyeglass
repair and they come into the store here you had a consumer who is in a top of
funnel mindset responding to your top of funnel marketing now the first example
sounds most desirable it’s faster and it’s more likely to yield results but
you must invest in awareness marketing in the upper funnel to keep your
products and services on the minds of your prospects even when they aren’t
actively looking for a solution additionally awareness demonstrates a
presence in the market if someone knows you offer a product or service but
doesn’t recall seeing your brand anywhere their appeal is much lower and
if they enter into your funnel with low appeal well you can guess the outcome you

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