What Is a Marketing Funnel, and Why Is It Important?

What Is a Marketing Funnel, and Why Is It Important?

Even if you aren’t exactly sure what a marketing funnel is, you’ve probably at least heard of it as a concept or business tool. You might even think you don’t really need to understand it, or you just don’t have time to think about it – but that would be a mistake! Understanding your marketing funnel will help you employ effective strategies for attracting new customers, increasing sales, and establishing a loyal client base.

Is it a marketing funnel or a sales funnel?

Some people differentiate between the marketing funnel and sales funnel, but both are essentially the same: they illustrate the stages along a customer’s journey from the first exposure to your brand (top of the funnel) to the final steps of completing a conversion (bottom of the funnel). The top of the funnel includes the many people who learn about your brand and might be in need of your product or service. As potential customers progress toward the bottom of the funnel, they move through stages of interest and consideration before they are ready to make a purchase.

Your digital marketing strategy is critical to helping potential customers become aware of your business at the top of the funnel and then learn more about your brand as they move down through the sales funnel. Some will inevitably drop out along the way, so the pool of interested consumers gets smaller, which is why this system is visualized as a funnel.

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Why is the marketing funnel so important?

People rarely hear about a new business or brand and immediately decide to hire their services or buy their product. Especially now, with so much information available instantly online, customers will research a product, read reviews, and compare with competitors before making a decision to purchase. This process of learning and consideration often takes longer if the product or service is more expensive – you might impulse buy a new pair of shoes, but you’re probably going to take your time looking for a new car.

Every business is different, so your customer’s journey will also be unique. That’s why it’s so important to think through the customer’s journey for your specific product or service and develop a sales funnel that fits your brand. You should consider outlining “buyer personas,” or profiles of your target audience, to better understand who your customers are and how they are finding your services.

What are the stages of the marketing funnel?

Depending on your industry or type of business, there are different ways you could structure your marketing/sales funnel. Generally, the funnel can be divided into four stages:

  • Awareness
  • Interest
  • Consideration
  • Action/Purchase

The Awareness stage is when potential customers are simply getting to know you while discovering your products, values and approach. This is a potential customer’s first exposure to your brand, when you have the opportunity to attract and educate them about who you are and what you can offer. There are many ways customers might learn about your business: organic search (Google), a Facebook ad, client referrals, etc. At this stage, you want to cast a fairly wide net to reach a broad audience to build brand awareness and help potential customers get to know your business – which means you need to have a strong online presence and be easy to find. A user-friendly website, effective SEO, active social media presence, and accurate online listings are all important for developing a lead generation strategy at this stage.

Once a potential customer has become aware of your brand, they then move into the Interest stage where they determine if your product or service is really relevant. They have a problem or a need, and they are looking for someone who can provide the solution. In the interest stage, you want to demonstrate your expertise and show the potential customer that your brand/product/service could be just what they need. The customer is probably searching online for more specific terms related to your product or services, so you want to make sure your website ranks for industry-specific keywords. A good way to do this is through organic SEO and quality content (blogs, social media posts, webinars, etc.) that engage potential customers and demonstrate your expertise.

The customer moves into the Consideration stage when they believe your product or service could solve their problem, but they aren’t quite sure your brand is necessarily the right solution. There might be a lot of competitors in your industry, so you need to convince potential customers that your product or service is the best option for them. This stage is when you need to really nurture your leads and engage with potential customers. Try offering a free consultation. Stay connected with interested consumers with email marketing and social media and let them know what makes you stand out from the competition. Authentic client testimonials, positive Google reviews, and case studies are a few ways you can build trust and help encourage a conversion. Digital advertising campaigns that retarget potential customers in the Consideration stage can also be effective in nudging them along down the funnel.

Finally, after a lot of research and consideration, the potential customer reaches the Action stage! The action may not be the actual sale, but the customer is practically there. You might need to give them one last compelling reason that will nudge them into the purchase. This could be a reminder about why they should act now (the sale is ending, a product is almost out of stock), or you could offer a free trial or discount as an incentive. Most importantly, you need to ensure the purchasing process is easy so there are no last-minute hurdles to completing the sale.

How do I know my marketing funnel is working?

After putting all of that work into building your marketing funnel, you want to make sure it’s really helping you meet your goals. Assigning metrics to each stage of the funnel will help you track your progress and evaluate your success. It’s always important to track your website data to learn more about your potential customers and evaluate which of your marketing efforts are resonating the most. At first glance, building your marketing funnel might seem a little overwhelming, but it is definitely time well spent. If you need some extra guidance, ALINE is always here to help. We’d love to talk about how we can help with your marketing strategy.

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