As data and content have become the norm for digital marketing, “funnels” have taken center stage. Funnels are tools that help marketers navigate customers and prospects through a sales or communication journey.
They are, simply put, a step-by-step way of looking at the progress a prospect is making through a brand’s content … toward a sale. Data has made it easy to quantify whether a message, tactic or step within a funnel is successful and, if not, suggest recommendations on how to adjust.
Today, marketers are building funnels for lead generation, sales and marketing. In this article, we explore the benefits of crafting funnels for marketing tasks and outline the steps to create a basic marketing funnel.
The Benefits of Creating a Marketing Funnel
Marketing is a combination of art and science. Without the inspiration (and perspiration) of great content, the most rigorous marketing plan will fail. That said, amazing creative content alone will not yield reproducible results.
We’ve all heard sayings like “failing to plan is a plan to fail” and “measurement is the key to marketing success”. Funnels make the science of marketing quantifiable, measurable, and actionable.
One of the main benefits of using a funnel is that it allows you to break down a marketing goal into discrete steps. Each step will have:
- A specific objective
- Tools/tactics to achieve the objective
- Methods to evaluate success
Another main benefit of using marketing funnels is the amazing variety of tools / tactics that are being developed. Today, there are tools that help marketers cross media using mobile and social media technology, that creates personal experiences through data, artificial intelligence and chatbots, and even creates real-time (or the perception of real-time) interaction in our newly virtualized world.
The final benefit of using a funnel is the gamification of the marketing process. The specific goals and evaluation methods make it easy to monitor status and understand how the funnel is performing. These metrics can become the foundation for score keeping and creating incentives for both staff and vendors to improve results.
How to Build a Simple Marketing Funnel
Every funnel begins with awareness and ends when the recipient takes a specific action. Typically, the name of the funnel is derived from the action that the funnel is trying to generate. The most common funnels are for lead generation and sales.
Each level of the funnel can contain discrete steps and interaction opportunities for the prospect. The funnel is designed to move users along the desired path.
Step One: Determine the Objective
Be as specific as possible in articulating the objective of the marketing effort. For example, “make a sale” is not nearly as useful as “sell the Pro version of our software at the full retail price of $499.”
The objective is the bottom of the funnel. Every decision, all of the tactics, and all evaluation methods need to be defined to achieve that objective. Action metrics will be defined by the objective but most often are related to the business goals — revenue, profitability, and growth.
Step Two: Create Awareness
Once you have the goal of your funnel defined, start at the top and consider ways to generate awareness. Like a physical funnel, the amount of success coming out of the bottom of the funnel will be a direct result of the amount of success “poured” into the top of the funnel.
From a giant blow-up gorilla on the top of the building to a downloadable whitepaper, there are many ways to generate awareness. Today, most businesses equate awareness with “website traffic.”
Traffic generation doesn’t have to be limited to your website as long the data generated is yours to control. This insight can be especially useful if you consider using digital advertising to generate awareness.
There are powerful and efficient awareness tools on every social media platform. Video can be an extremely effective method to establish awareness. The most common awareness tactics to generate traffic include:
- Search engine optimization
- Social media marketing and advertising
- Search marketing
- Downloadable trials / whitepapers / ebooks
- Discounts and coupons via email
Primary evaluation metrics for this stage of the marketing funnel will include audience reached, impressions of the marketing message to the audience, clicks, form-fills, phone calls and downloads.
Step Three: Convert Awareness to Interest
As the audience becomes aware of the campaign, some will exit, and others will show interest.
Don’t force the offer on your interested prospects this early in the relationship. The best way to build rapport is through low risk content that educates the audience and confirms that the user has made a good decision to express interest in the brand. Live video, demonstrations and webinars are great vehicles for sharing your brand and message with your audience.
Appointment-setting live video can generate significant interest and audience interaction for both B2B and B2C audiences. Other interest generating tactics are:
- Email newsletters, personalized/customized drip campaigns, and automated messaging
- Trial opportunities and surveys
- Product / service whitepapers, case studies, and videos
- Ask the expert via a forum (yes, they still work), social media, and group chat on Telegram or WhatsApp
Metrics to measure the success of the interest tactics include email opens, repeat/recurring visits, time on-site and follows/likes on social media.
Step Four: Engage Your Audience
Technology has moved the buying decision from the marketer to buyer. This shift has made the Engagement step of the marketing funnel the most critical predictor of the success of the funnel. Once you gather an audience and stimulate interest, you need to interact with them in a way that will motivate THEM to take the final step and perform the action that you want.
Well-constructed marketing funnels make the goal clear but never force it on the audience. The best engagement tactics are based on interaction. They include:
- Social media
- Community advisory groups
- In-person (or Zoom) conferences and trade shows with audience interaction
Engagement metrics could include visit frequency, referrals to new prospects, coupon redemptions, requests for download/demo, and actual sales. It is important that customers who do not take the final action can remain in the funnel for future opportunities.
In many marketing funnels, the line between the Engagement step and the marketing goal is very thin.
A Final Word …
A funnel is a useful method to explain a marketing campaign and allows all stakeholders to have the same understanding of the campaign’s tasks and success.
Best of all, if a funnel isn’t generating the anticipated success, the tactics within the various steps can (and should) be tested and adjusted until the funnel is generating the results expected.
Many marketing funnels are stacked or interconnected to capture as much of the audience as possible and maximize the marketing investment. This creates a perception of complexity while the reality is each funnel starts with awareness and ends with an action you want your prospects to take.
If the idea of executing on a marketing funnel seems overwhelming, know that you don’t need to go it alone. We’re in this with you. If you need a little help, just drop us a line, anytime.
Rainmaker Digital Services