By Lauren Arendt
People buy products for the first time based on the quality of your marketing more so than for the quality of what you’re selling. While your product or service must wow customers to inspire repeat purchases or word-of-mouth recommendations, your marketing efforts make or break the first-time purchase of most customers.
Marketing should not be random but rather planned out to keep costs low, maximize touch points* and ultimately convert the most leads into customers. The marketing funnel is a model designed to help businesses organize their marketing tactics to best reach their selling goals.
Before determining what tactics work best for your business, it is essential to define your target customer* and the messaging you will use to appeal to them. Segment this customer group as much as possible in order to keep marketing costs low and impact high. Try to imagine a single person you will be speaking to through the campaign so you can craft messaging that perfectly suits their needs.
- I will target all male and female college students that commute to school.
- My target customer is Kelly, a 20-year-old, female college student who currently rides the bus to school, as she doesn’t have access to a car and lives too far away to walk. She doesn’t like riding the bus, however, because it is oftentimes running late and crowded, causing her to run late. She aspires to be punctual and perform well in school so that she can get good references and grades for graduate school.
Which of the above target audiences is easier to create an emotional, compelling, high impact message around? The second option offers many more opportunities to hone in messaging for more successful, resonating campaigns.
Designing your Marketing Funnel
Now that you know who you are trying to attract into the funnel and what you want to say to resonate with them, it is time to design the different marketing tactics you will use to get them through the funnel.
The goal of the awareness phase is to identify a need from within the target audience and show how your product or service can fill that need. Customers likely know little to nothing about your company or what you offer at this stage, so it is all about building trust and establishing thought leadership*.
Since these prospective customers don’t know much about your product or service at this time, product-centric advertising won’t do you much good. Rather than focusing on tangible features and capabilities, create value in your brand with educational, need-centric content.
Do you like it when people are always talking about themselves and ignore your thoughts and feelings? Prospective customers don’t either. They will tune out blatant advertisements about what you’re selling. Rather, become a lead magnet by crafting irresistible content that creates value for prospective customers.
- Free blog, video, Ebooks or worksheets that focus on or assess consumer problems, not your solution
- Engagement-centric social media advertisements
- Events (with social media coverage, of course)
The consideration phase is where you introduce your product or service as the solution to the prospective customers’ need or problem. This will help you build trust and develop a relationship with consumers. This still doesn’t mean it is time to get too salesy, however. Providing consumers with useful information is key in helping them learn more about your product and how it can make a difference in their lives.
In the consideration phase, you have learned much more about who your leads are from the awareness phase, so you can send out much more targeted information. If you effectively captured your leads from the awareness phase by collecting email or other contact information or using the Facebook pixel, you can send these targeted messages directly to them.
- Targeted social media advertisements
- Education-based email blast
- Media placements or influencer marketing
- Free blogs, videos, Ebooks or worksheets that focus on educating the consumer about your product or service’s ability to solve their problems or fill their needs.
Now it’s time to inspire the final purchase. By now, you have helped consumers realize a problem or need they have, educating them on how your product can solve that problem or need, and have a good idea of who your leads are and how to reach them. All that’s left is to give them one last nudge to buy. Not an irritating push, but a nudge. That means avoiding over inundating consumer with sales calls or promotions, but rather presenting offers they can’t refuse.
In the action phase, it’s important to exhibit why consumers should buy your product rather than an alternative route. This doesn’t mean to get lost in talking about specific features, but rather highlighting what makes your product or solution the perfect fit for this prospective consumer.
Special offers or promotions fit in well at this stage to give that last nudge of incentive to buy. Offer free shipping, 10 percent off, or BOGO with a time limit on the purchase to create urgency and excitement around your promotion. This final touch point is all about the final sale, so make it exciting and irresistible.
- Send out an email series exhibiting your solution’s benefits and offer email subscribers an exclusive offer
- Retarget leads from the awareness and consideration phase with an exclusive offer through social media advertising
- Offer a free trial or sample to valuable
After investing time, effort and budget into guiding a lead all the way through the marketing funnel, the last thing you want to do is lose them. If you don’t have a plan for the loyalty phase, you are likely to lose those hard-earned customers to the next big thing.
It is essential for a business to continue providing customers with opportunities to engage with their brand by providing entertaining or informative content that reminds customers why they love what you do. Subscription models are also excellent vessels for keeping customers close.
- Tutorials on different uses for the purchased product sent via email
- Re-post user-generated content on social media to make customers feel appreciated and connected
- Engage in community management on social to maintain relationships and engage customers
- Integrate a subscription model to keep customers engaged weekly or monthly.
In this new era of digital marketing, an additional stage of the marketing funnel has emerged called the advocacy stage. This is where businesses have the opportunity to leverage the vast networks and connections across the globe created by email, social media, online reviews, forums, blogs and more. Now, when customers buy a product or service, they have the power to create new customers in a few clicks. That’s right: your customers will bring even more new leads into your marketing funnel for you, and more leads mean more chances for sales.
This leverages the power of word-of-mouth, which is regarded as one of the most powerful conversion factors. According to Nielsen, 92% of people trust recommendations from friends and family over any other type of advertising.
- When customers buy, incentivize them to post on social media or submit an online review with a discount or bonus.
- Create a referral or ambassador program. The more customers they help you acquire, the more benefits they receive.
- Regularly post shareable social media content to create opportunities for advocates to engage
Remember, marketing is not random shots in the dark, free or unattached to specific goals. The marketing funnel is a proven model to plan out touchpoints with consumers in a way that focuses on lead generation and relationship building. There are many other models to explore, so long as you have a solid plan backed by customer development and research.