Whether you know what a marketing funnel is or not, you’ve used it in some shape or form in your business. Heck, if you’re married, you used similar principles to land your spouse. But you’re not here for dating advice.
The marketing funnel is how a stranger becomes a prospect, then a lead, then a customer, and then a repeat customer. The reason “funnel” is such a fitting term is because every company’s buyer journey has the most people at the beginning. At each stage, a few people drop off because they lost interest, went with a different company, or some other reason.
When they enter the funnel, there’s a good chance they don’t even know your company exists. When they reach the bottom, they’re a raving fan and a repeat customer – ideally. All of this depends on a clear understanding of your company’s funnel and a well-implemented approach.
The Stages of the Marketing Funnel
1. Awareness – Prospect realizes they have a problem and starts looking for solutions.
2. Interest – Prospect considers several different types of solutions.
3. Consideration – Prospect decides which type of solution they want, now is considering which solution provider they’ll buy from. This is when the prospect becomes a lead and the marketing funnel turns into the sales funnel.
4. Purchase – Lead chooses and purchases a specific product. This when the lead becomes a customer.
5. Delight – Customer enjoys their purchase and ideally becomes a repeat customer and referral source.
So How Can the Marketing Funnel Help Your Business?
All of this is fun to think about but this isn’t Marketing 101, this is your real-life business we’re talking about here. How can we take the theory behind the marketing funnel and use it to help generate leads for your company?
Let’s look at the first three stages of the funnel: Awareness, Interest, and Consideration. This is where leads are generated and where the majority of most companies’ marketing efforts reside. But before we jump into that, let’s sort out one common misconception.
What is the Marketing Funnel Not?
The marketing funnel is not a way to sell your products or services. That’s what the sales funnel is for. The marketing funnel’s primary purpose is lead generation.
Marketing throws the ball in the air, sales hits it out of the park. Both steps are essential for a home run. You can’t have one without the other, and they can’t be done out of order. Too many companies put pressure on their marketing team to close deals, and they end up scaring off a lot of prospects by trying to close the deal too early. In order for the funnel to work, you have to do just that: let the funnel work.
With that in mind, let’s begin at the beginning.
Every company knows what their customers look like, and most know what their leads look like. But a lot of companies would have a hard time telling you who their prospects are before they become prospects. In other words, who are your pre-prospects, a.k.a., marketing personas?
By identifying your personas, you’ll know:
- Where to reach your prospects,
- What they care about,
- Who they are,
- How you should contact them, and
- Why they would want your products or services.
That last one is the most important for the Awareness stage. Knowing why someone wants what you’re selling will allow you to create content (blogs, ads, videos, etc.) that speaks directly to their needs. The right message will make sure you’re capturing the attention of the right people at the right time.
Imagine you sell basketball equipment. The Awareness stage would be all about you capturing the attention of people who like sports and/or may want to be more active. This is where you’ll show them why being active is important.
The Message of the Awareness Stage: “Here is a problem many people are facing and here are ways you can fix it.”
Now that you’ve caught the attention of prospects, you want to show them why the type of product you sell or service you offer is the way they should solve their problem. It’s important to note that this isn’t where you convince them to buy your product. If you were Stephen King trying to sell a book, this is where you would try to get people interested in the horror genre.
Or to return to our basketball example, if someone decides they want a way for their kids to play sports in their backyard, this is where you would convince them that basketball is the sport they should pick.
The Message of the Interest Stage: “There are several pros and cons to the different types of solutions for your current problem, but this one type is the best.”
The Consideration stage is often split between marketing and sales. If you’re using lead scoring (which you definitely should), this is where someone has expressed enough interest – clicked links, followed you on Twitter, attended webinars, etc. – to earn them a score that warrants a call or email from a salesperson.
Back to our basketball example one more time. This is where you show the prospect why your brand of basketball equipment is the best choice they could make. It bounces higher, lasts longer, is used by the pros – you know the drill.
The Message of the Consideration Stage: “The solution we offer is better than other similar solutions from other brands.”
Of course, not every prospect is going to hit every stage of the marketing funnel. Some may jump straight to the purchase. Others may go from Awareness to Consideration and then drop out of the funnel. But by addressing each stage of the funnel, you can dramatically increase your lead generation efforts, and then turn those leads into customers.
If you want to learn more about the next stages of the funnel, click here.