What is the "Marketing Funnel"?
By: Chelsea Maher
Well.. wait. Actually, it’s not great because here’s the thing about a marketing funnel: It exists whether you understand it or not.
That’s right; the marketing funnel is real and it’s out there doing its job every single day. It doesn't matter if you know how it works or if you’re actively aware that you’re utilizing it. If you’re selling a product or service, the marketing funnel is a critical component of your business. So if you don’t know how to use it right, it’s time to learn.
What is the Marketing Funnel?
We know you probably think we’re answering the million dollar question too soon but don’t worry, there’s more to it than that. Put simply: The marketing funnel is the journey customers take before making a purchase.
And it doesn’t have to be exclusive to purchases. The marketing funnel can pertain to things like website flow as well. So a broader definition would be: It’s the journey a consumer takes before converting.
It’s the entire conversion process, from beginning to end. It starts when a customer hears about you and ends when they buy or come back to buy again or tell their friends to buy. In truth, the marketing funnel doesn’t actually end, or at least it doesn’t have to, but we’ll talk about that more later.
It’s just like when you go shopping. You walk into Target and start browsing. You buy the things you need, maybe a few things you don’t because you saw an ad for them online and they looked cool, and then you leave having spent way more money than you meant to. That’s the marketing funnel in action. Bad for you, but good for Target.
What is a Conversion?
You probably already know this, but we thought a refresher would be nice. A conversion is, basically: When a consumer takes the action you wanted them to.
Were you trying to sell them some new shoes and they bought them? That’s a conversion.
Were you trying to get them to sign up for your newsletter and they did? That’s a conversion, too.
How Does the Marketing Funnel Work?
You know how a funnel is wide at the top and then gets narrower and narrower? That’s how the conversion process would look if you drew a picture of it.
There are some conflicting theories on exactly how many parts of the marketing funnel there are and what they should be called. Fortunately, most people agree that the following are the most critical components of the marketing funnel.
Customers have to learn about you before they can buy your products or solicit your services. As a business, you have to cast a pretty big net in order to get in front of as many prospective customers as possible. You can do this by:
- Making/participating in podcasts
- Attending trade shows
- Speaking at conferences
- Being active on social media
- Running geofencing campaigns
- Advertising online and in the real world
- Ranking well in Google search results
- Marketing on YouTube
A great way to do this is through free content like blogs, white papers, ebooks, videos, and coupons. Offering these things carries little to no risk for either you or the consumer. Plus, they can be used to help you collect email addresses.
Now that potential clients have learned about you, they’ll begin to consider you as a viable option. This is the phase during which you must build trust and earn their business.
Now that you have those email addresses and have learned more about your target audience, you can start to tailor the information you send them.
If you’ve learned what types of products or services they like, now is a good time to start showing those to them. For instance, if you’re a shoe company and you know that a certain group of users has been looking at running shoes, you probably want to provide them with information on running shoes as opposed to high heels or sandals.
What kind of information? Well, at this stage we’re still trying to avoid being too pushy, so you still don’t want to use direct sales pitches. Instead, you could provide this particular group of users with targeted content. Example: an article on the top ten running shoes of the year or a podcast that’s made by runners for runners.
You’ve gained their trust, you’ve given them tons of useful information, and now you just have to sit back and wait for consumers to become customers, right?
Yes, you’ve done what you need to do to earn their trust, and yes, they’re aware you have what they want or need. Unfortunately, that doesn’t always mean they’re ready to buy.
It’s rare that consumers learn, click, and buy all at once. Sometimes, they need to visit a product’s page (or even add it to their cart) several times before clicking the “buy” button.
Be patient. It’ll happen. It may not happen the first, second, or third time they visit a product page, but it will happen.
In the meantime, don’t neglect them. Keep sending them useful information. If you’ve been tracking website users (and you should be) then you’ll be able to see who clicked through from an email or what product they were looking at when they decided to leave your site.
You can use this information to your advantage. Offer them more information on the product they were looking at and didn't buy, in case they didn’t know enough to make an informed purchasing decision. Or, provide them with information on similar products that are more affordable, in case the product they looked at first was out of their budget
Be creative, don’t lose touch, and keep track of what your customers are looking at and you will prevail.
Alrighty, so you’ve made some sales and built up your customer base. But you don’t just want any old customers; you want loyal customers.
How do you get loyal customers? Keep doing what you’ve been doing. Keep providing customers with valuable information, keep monitoring their website activity, and keep providing high-quality products and services.
Another really important thing you can do to create loyalty? Monitor your reviews across all platforms. That doesn’t mean simply reading reviews, it means responding to them as well. If you can, you should thank customers for leaving positive feedback but, at the very least, you need to learn how to deal with negative reviews.
This lets customers know you’re listening... and you should be! After all, how else are you supposed to improve the customer experience if you don’t take the customer’s feedback to heart and use it to make constructive changes.
Remember earlier when we mentioned that the marketing funnel doesn’t actually end? Here’s why:
Again, the marketing funnel is there whether you’re maximizing its worth or not. It can help you get in touch with prospective customers, it helps those customers learn more about you, and it helps you both be happier when a purchase is eventually made. And, if a purchase isn’t made, the marketing funnel can even help you figure out why.
If you’re already using the marketing funnel, but feel like your funnel is a little… leaky, you may need to take some steps to patch it. Don’t have any more time to put toward your marketing efforts? We do! BlueTone Media offers web design, social media, and digital advertising services that can help you remarket, retarget, and get more sales. Get in touch with us to learn more about what we do.