Heard of the marketing funnel? Apparently, it was invented by the ad agency executive Elias St. Elmo Lewis in 1898. It was originally intended to break down the buying journey into distinct stages: awareness, interest, desire and action. Since then it’s changed and evolved but today’s conceptualizations are based on Lewis’ work. Considering its ‘age’ of 120 years, it’s held up pretty good.
Some people have 3 stages in their marketing funnel, others have up to 12. They all seem to be pretty much the same however: it is a conical shape, with holes at every stage. The idea is that your target audience is at the start of the funnel and you need to convert them into paying customers when they pop out the other end. The challenge is that not all customers make it out the other side; some get lost on the way, others don’t even make it into the funnel at all! When it comes to marketing funnels, remember:
1. It is important for businesses to have activity at every stage.
2. Content marketing is a great way to reach audiences at any stage.
3. It should be your goal to guide as many people down the funnel as possible; this will increase sales.
Regardless of how many stages you’re using, they should all broadly cover the areas of awareness, consideration and conversion.
Awareness is gained in the moment a person discovers your brand, product, offer or service. Ask yourself, how are you currently generating awareness and what could you do additionally to grow your reach further. Organic search? Social advertising? AdWords? What about viral and educational content?
Educational content can be quite useful, especially if you’re competing in a category that not many people understand. For example, if you’re marketing a new breakfast cereal, you don’t really need to educate the market. Yes, your product may be new, but education of the category isn’t really necessary; your product is likely to be consumed in the morning, probably in a bowl with milk. Conversely, if you’ve developed something complex (such as a new geospatial AI system that helps clarify the way data in the transport sector is interpreted) you’re going to have to educate people on the sector as well as your product. In other words, educational content focuses on telling people that there is a problem to be solved, especially if it isn’t clear in the first instance, and that your product and/or service can solve it. To do this well, you need to figure out what your audience wants and needs to learn about and teach them those things. If you’re after something specific to do, focus on content pieces such as blogs, webinars, ebooks, videos etc. Once potential customers are aware of you, they have entered stage two: Consideration.
This means customers are interested, but not ready to buy just yet. They might even be comparing you to your competition or are waiting for a special offer. You want to be speaking directly to people that you think can help. Content wise, you want to be looking at case studies, how-to content that showcases your product, demo videos, product descriptions and datasheets. All of these will influence the potential customer to move further down the funnel towards the next stage.
Finally, we have the conversion stage, with the customer finally making the choice to buy. These people are high-quality leads, which is the gold-standard we’re after! Content that can be produced at this stage is all geared such as testimonials, reviews, and trustworthy sales processes; the final push if you like.
Next there should be something around Loyalty and Advocacy… in other words, Retention. The goal is to develop regular buying patterns, making it difficult for customer to go elsewhere. Ideally, you want your customer to be actively recommending you to others. This is where social media and newsletters can help. Having a Facebook page will remind your current fans what a great job you’re doing and what a great purchase they’ve made. But you will need to buy advertising to get new customers, as it will be unlikely otherwise.
So…how many stages in your marketing funnel? What initiatives are you employing at each stage? Where are the “leaks”?