What is a marketing sales funnel? Simply put, it’s a way marketers represent the journey a person goes on from becoming a prospect to becoming a buyer. The analogy of a funnel to depict this process serves to represent the fact that a large number of people will enter the top of the funnel and a much smaller number will actually purchase your product. In this post, I’ll describe the different segments of the funnel, how the prospect’s mindset and attitudes are changing along the journey and how you can effectively move the prospect to the next stage. The funnel has been represented in various permutations – you may have seen it represented slightly differently than the graphic above, but basically, all of them describe the same process. However you choose to depict it, understanding where your prospects are in the funnel will enable you to craft the right message to the right prospect at the right time to, of course, increase sales. So let’s talk about the stages of the funnel and how you can better nurture your leads through each of them.

Awareness

In this stage, we’re trying to capture the prospect’s attention and make them aware of each of the following:
  • the fact that your company exists
  • what you do or sell
  • the prospects own needs or wants
Each prospect will be in various stages of problem awareness and solution awareness from problem/solution unaware at one extreme to problem/solution aware at the other. Here’s a graphic that attempts to illustrate this.
Every business has a product or a service that’s intended to solve a problem a given market has. People within that market may fall anywhere along the spectrum of awareness. Some may not even be aware of their problem, let alone a solution. Others may be aware that they have a problem, but unaware of how to solve it, and still others may be aware of the problem and aware of solutions, perhaps your solution, as well as the solutions your competitors offer. In the graphic, those prospects on the left side of the spectrum who are less problem/solution aware are what we often refer to as “cold” prospects, while those on the right are referred to as “hot” prospects. Hopefully, you’ve defined a niche for your business that’s unique and therefore puts your prospects near the left side of the awareness spectrum. Competition will increase the further to the right your prospects are on the spectrum, and thus, nearly always, it will cost more to acquire those leads. Brand awareness is all about letting people know you exist and the kinds of problems you solve. For some businesses, traditional forms of advertising, such as radio, television, and bulk mail can serve this role. But if you serve a smaller market niche, paying to serve impressions to the masses is far from cost effective. This is where running well targeted brand awareness campaigns via social media platforms can be highly cost effective. If you’ve defined your customer avatars well, having done good market research, then you’ve tapped into your prospects’ pain points and challenges and you know his needs and wants. Getting your message in front of just those prospects is easy via paid social media ads. It’s important to remember at this stage of the journey where your prospect falls on the problem/solution spectrum and craft your message accordingly. If you’re prospect falls on the cold end of the spectrum, asking him to purchase your product or service is likely to be a turn-off. Simply letting him know you exist and what kinds of problems you can solve is the goal.

Interest

Now that you’ve gotten the attention of your prospect, the goal is to reinforce to him that he’s in the right place. It’s now your job to inform him on your product or service. Remember that in this stage, he’s interested to know more, but he’s not ready to purchase from you. Satisfy his interest. Think about it from his perspective. What does he want to know? Answer his questions without trying to sell him. Educate him on your product/service and how it can help solve his problem. He’s very likely doing his research at this point. Rather than leaving it up to him to find the information elsewhere, provide it for him. Be a good source of information. How you do this will look different, depending on your company. For an e-commerce store, that could simply be making the products visible on your website, having good product information, customer reviews, showing related products, etc. If you’re an interior designer, a gallery of photos, software that models before and after, and testimonials might be more fitting. Remember that interest means your prospect is gathering information, not deciding that yours is the solution. Get into your prospect’s head and craft your message in a personal way. Show him you know him, understand and empathize with his situation, and care about helping him solve his problem. This is a stage where remarketing and email can help you nurture the relationship with the prospect. Just don’t try to push them down the funnel too quickly. Valuable content is really important at this stage. Some examples of content to educate your prospect are:
  • blog posts
  • social media updates
  • content videos
  • webinars
  • podcasts
  • product guides
  • newsletters
  • product tutorials

Desire

Now, your prospect is considering making a purchase. This is where they’ll be looking at reviews, testimonials, comparing prices, talking with their peers, and perhaps reaching out to you with questions. At this stage, your prospect is developing a favorable view of you and your product based on their experience with you up to this point. Things that can contribute to this could include a fast loading website, your customer service team, your social media content, your brand image. The prospect is convincing himself that he’s ready to take the plunge. Your job here is to continue to reinforce what he’s learned up to this point and convince him that he’s making the right decision. Depending on your product, your prospect might remain in this stage for weeks or even months. It’s important to keep him engaged with informative content. Address his objections and continue to focus on benefits. Strive to keep him on your property by giving him all the information he needs, without having to go to outside sources for information. Remember that your prospect will do his research, which means he’s looking at other potential solutions. Impress upon him why you’re different than any other solution. Here are some examples:
  • what philanthropic endeavors is your brand supporting?
  • have you reached out to engage by telephone or other personal form of communication?
  • is your checkout process trouble-free
Keep up with your remarketing and email throughout this stage to stay front and center in his mind.

Action

Here is where your prospect makes the decision to act. They’re ready to become a customer. You need to ensure that the process of making the purchase is easy and trouble-free. Have you ever started the checkout process online only to find yourself distracted by being redirected to a third-party site or searching for a coupon code? Don’t let them become distracted or make them jump through hoops. Do you offer multiple and easy ways to accept payment? Is the process simple and intuitive? The point here is to make the customer experience as smooth and friendly as possible. Offer incentive to act now. Maybe that’s through a limited time offer, a discount, or a bonus. Here is where a tripwire can be very effective. You make an irresistible, low price offer that has the sole purpose of turning the prospect into a buyer. If you make that a very positive experience and your offer has a high perceived as well as actual value, you’ll stand a very good chance of helping your prospect overcome objections, skepticism, and move him toward becoming a brand advocate. In turn, you stand a very good chance of the customer becoming a repeat buyer, perhaps with a flagship product, upsells, cross-sells, related products, or a product bundle.

Advocacy

Now that your prospect has become a buyer, don’t miss the opportunity to nurture them to become a brand promoter. A brand promoter recommends you, spreads the word about your brand and what it stands for, shares your content, and defends you against critics. (Just a parenthetical note to stress the importance of good business branding) You can use story-telling to reinforce your brand. One example of a company that does this very well is Yeti. They send an email newsletter to customers highlighting videos of how people use their products and that reflect the brand’s values. Brand promoters identify with you and your brand for various psychological reasons. They may see themselves as being aligned with your brand philosophically, as being an expert in your field, or as wanting to provide value to others for self-fulfillment. Creating shareable content that represents your brand and pushing that content to your customers is a great way to extend your brand’s reach and build awareness through brand advocates. Social media and email are great channels through which to share your content at little to no cost. Remember that the cheapest way to convert customers is through existing customers, so stay engaged after the sale and continue to promote your brand and what it stands for.

Summary

Hopefully, I’ve been able to impress upon you the importance of every stage of the funnel and why you need to implement good marketing throughout the funnel. Too much emphasis at the top of the funnel while neglecting the middle and bottom will result in lots of ad spend with little to no conversion. Too much at the bottom while ignoring the top will result in too few leads to meet your sales goals.
Scott Anders

Scott Anders

Founder and CEO, Southern Arizona Digital Marketing and DecideToBeFreeOnline

Scott Anders is a digital marketing trainer and consultant living in Southern Arizona. After more than 30 years in corporate life, including the US Army, he began pursuing his passions as an entrepreneur in 2016. He loves helping small businesses and aspiring entrepreneurs take advantage of the incredible opportunities available in the digital economy to enjoy greater freedom and fulfillment.

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