You have been sucked into marketing funnels many times throughout your life, whether you know it or not. That beer commercial showing young people who apparently have zero responsibilities other than gulping beer? Part of a marketing funnel.
Being forced to enter your email address before Starbucks will let you access their wifi? Marketing funnel.
Typing “sparkly iPhone cases with a dog face” into Google and seeing sponsored results first? Funnel.
Funnel marketing is a standard business practice that has been around for years. As the internet has matured, businesses have increasingly relied on digital marketing funnels to bring in new leads, create relationships with those leads, and eventually turn leads into sales.
But even though the term “funnel marketing” is thrown around a lot, many people aren’t exactly clear on what a marketing funnel is or how it works.
In this post, we’re going to break down the what, why, and how of funnel marketing. We’ll also give you a high-level overview of how to create a marketing funnel that creates a high-conversion path from the initial contact with leads all the way to the point of purchase.
Class is now in session.
First things first. Let’s make sure we’re all on the same page about what funnel marketing is.
Funnel marketing is a systematic process for connecting with potential customers at different points in the buying journey and then leading nurturing those leads to the point where they’re ready to purchase from you.
Or, to put it another way, funnel marketing is a methodology and a marketing funnel puts that methodology into practice.
Why use a marketing funnel?
Because most people aren’t ready to buy from you at the moment. Maybe they’re not aware of their problem or don’t have enough information to make a decision to purchase. Or maybe they’re considering their options.
A marketing funnel allows you to provide information to potential customers at each stage of their buying journey. For those at the top of the funnel, you can raise awareness of the problem. For those in the evaluation stage, you can provide help them see what you’re the best choice. When someone makes it to the bottom of the funnel, you can close the deal.
Additionally, funnel marketing weeds out those who aren’t truly interested in your offer. A person who reaches the bottom of the funnel is ready to purchase from you and not just a tire kicker.
There are dozens of variations of marketing funnels, but they all tend to follow three basic stages.
The top, or entry point of a marketing funnel, is for those who are in the early stages of research. They are vaguely aware that they have a problem but don’t understand the full extent of it.
For example, say an eCommerce store owner wants to sell more backpacks with Justin Bieber’s face on them. He knows that optimizing his conversion rate will help him sell more, but he doesn’t know exactly how much it can help him or how to accomplish it.
Providing high-level content about conversion rate optimization can help him understand more about his problem and the benefits of solving it, which then causes him to want more information.
So he moves “down” the funnel.
The middle of the funnel is for those who realize they have a problem and are in the process of evaluating their options.
In the eCommerce example, the store owner is evaluating whether he can do the optimization himself or whether he should hire someone. He may also be evaluating different optimization tools, as well as the time involved.
He’s also trying to determine whether Justin Bieber or N’Sync is better, but that’s on him, not you (N’Sync hands down).
By providing valuable information that speaks to these questions, you can demonstrate your expertise in the matter and begin to introduce some of the solutions you offer.
By the time someone reaches the bottom of the marketing funnel, they have done their research, compared their options, and are ready to purchase. You simply need to nudge them past the tipping point.
The eCommerce owner understands that optimizing his conversion rate will significantly benefit him and that he needs to hire a company to help him do it. He also understands that your company is the best solution to his problem. A final push to overcome any hesitance is all that’s needed to make the sale.
Things like success stories or case studies can give him enough confidence to pull the trigger.
When it comes to building your own marketing funnel, it’s like the old, truly bizarre saying goes: there is more than one way to skin a cat (seriously, what kind of weirdo came up with that?).
Or, put less bizarrely, there are a variety of ways to structure a funnel and different tools to use in each section. Here’s a high-level way to approach a marketing funnel.
The top of your marketing funnel is designed to attract potential customers and get them into your marketing funnel. Your goal is to raise awareness of the problem and introduce a solution.
A common way of attracting and capturing leads is to use online advertising (Facebook, Google, etc.) to capture people’s attention and get them to click through to a landing form. On the landing form, you offer a high-level solution to the problem in exchange for the person’s contact information. Once you have their contact info, you can begin moving them down the funnel.
For example, let’s say you’re a realtor and you want to sell more homes. Step one could be creating a Facebook advertisement that promotes a guide you’ve created called, “How To Sell Your Home In Three Months Or Less”.
When someone clicks on the ad, they’re brought to a Paperform landing page that uses text and a video to highlight the challenges of selling a home and then promotes the guide as a solution. To get the guide they must enter their email address.
Once you’ve captured their contact information, you can move them into the middle of your funnel.
Once you’ve captured a lead, you need to heighten awareness of the problem (agitate) and begin to lay out the solution (educate). Again, there are numerous ways to do this.
As a real-estate agent who wants to sell more homes, you could:
In reality, you’ll probably use a combination of tactics depending on how far down the funnel a person is. Those who have just entered your funnel probably aren’t ready to spend 30 minutes watching a webinar and would be better served by educational emails.
Those more toward the middle of the funnel may be willing to watch a few short videos or read an in-depth guide.
Those almost at the bottom of the funnel are much more likely to dedicate the time necessary to watch a webinar.
The point is that you offer more and more information the further along someone gets in the funnel. Your goal is to demonstrate your expertise in the matter, help the person evaluate alternatives, highlight the solution you offer, and lead a person to the point where they’re ready to buy from you.
After you’ve taken sufficient time to agitate and educate, you can present the call-to-action. This is where you ask the potential customer to take action and purchase from you.
Again, there are loads of ways to present your offer, including over the phone, on a webinar, in an email, or even in person.
Generally speaking, the higher the stakes, the more personal the offer has to be. If you’re selling a $5 guide to the Avengers universe, you probably can do that via email. If you want someone to use you as their realtor, you probably need to meet them in person. You get the point.
Because there will still be people who are hesitant to take action, you want to continue to present information that will give them the confidence to work with you. So in addition to calling people to action, you can supply things like customer success stories, reviews, and testimonials. Your goal is to get people off the fence.
In the classic movie Glengarry Glen Ross, a furious, spittle-spewing Alec Baldwin tells a pathetic sales team to, “ABC - Always, Be, Closing.” Actually, there are approximately 456 profanities sprinkled into the speech, but that’s the gist of it.
And while Baldwin’s strategy may have worked in the 1980s, customers are a lot savvier today. You can’t go straight to the close. The internet has created almost unlimited options, which means that much more education and persuasion is needed.
Instead of always closing, a better solution is to Always Be Funneling (ABF). Attract and capture leads, agitate and educate regarding the problem, and eventually close the deal.
Oh, and ghosts aren’t real. I don’t think.