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According to the State of Marketing report by Salesforce, 67% of marketing leaders use a marketing automation platform. In a separate report published by Marketo and Ascend2 shares, “91% of the most successful marketers say sales automation is “very important” to the overall success of their marketing programs. These numbers show just how important sales and marketing automation is. One of the best ways to achieve automation is to build a marketing funnel.
How does a marketing funnel work?
Marketing funnels enable businesses to construct and measure their automated sales and marketing process which runs 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. It is literally the automation of the entire sales journey which can be optimised using analytics.
All marketing funnels are unique, depending on the brand and the type of business. However, no matter what industry a brand is in, all marketing funnels work on the same principles.
The three stages of a sales funnel
1. Awareness – This is the moment that a prospective customer first becomes aware of a brand’s products or services. For online businesses, a robust digital presence must be in place. Some of the most common tactics for driving awareness are:
- Consideration – During the consideration phase, brands should ideally prepare a plethora of content which demonstrates their expertise and product superiority. This content should use case studies and, answer all of the customer’s technical queries to ensure that they are fully informed. Going beyond the basics of consideration, brands should also seek to create an emotional connection (empathy) with design, content and interactive elements which engage and delight website visitors.
- Content marketing – Offer prospective customers advice, information and guidance about a product or service.
- Social media – Harness the potential of social media by sharing content which demonstrates the brand’s credibility and expertise whilst taking advantage of the platform’s reach.
- Organic search (SEO) – Produce expert content which is primed to deliver maximum value to prospective customers and, is optimised to display on search engines.
- Paid ads – Generate exposure through pay-per-click (PPC) advertising and banners. Reward inbound website visitors with exclusive content and promotions to get them into the funnel.
2. Consideration – During the consideration phase, brands should ideally prepare a plethora of content which demonstrates their expertise and product superiority. This content should use case studies and should answer all of the customer’s technical queries to ensure that they are fully informed.
3. Conversion – Once a potential customer has decided to purchase a brand’s products or services, the top priority should be to provide a slick and seamless sales journey. Obstacles along the way – anything that may give a lead some difficulty in buying the product – should be removed.
Common marketing funnel terms to be familiar with
- Bounce Rate – The percentage of people who visit a website but leave without engaging any further (they enter the funnel and leave without making a purchase, for example).
- Click-Through Rate (CTR) – The percentage of people who clicked through an ad to see a website.
- Content upgrade – Additional piece of content that is offered to audiences who are reading an initial piece of content. For example, a brand can offer a ‘complete guide to building marketing funnels‘ to a website visitor who is reading an article about marketing funnels. The content upgrade is offered in exchange for the customer’s e-mail address and the content is then emailed to them.
- Conversion rate – Term referring to a step within the funnel which converts leads to actual customers.
- Core offer – The main offer which is being promoted to visitors entering the sales funnel.
- Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC) – The average amount of spend that a brand has to make to acquire a new customer over a specific time period.
- Landing Page – A landing page is the page that website visitors ‘land’ on when they click through. The landing page usually offers website visitors an enticing offer or an incentive such as an e-book or discount. The landing page is the entry point for the funnel.
- Lead – A potential customer
- Lifetime Value (LTV) – The total revenue that a brand generates from a customer during the entire time of their relationship with that brand.
- One-Time Offer – A product which is offered to potential customers within the sales funnel and which is presented as an offer which is not available for purchase anywhere else.
- Open Rate – Percentage of people who open an email out of all those who received the email from a specific campaign.
- Opt-In – The act of giving permission (opting in) to receive further communications from a brand. This is usually done in exchange for receiving a free e-book or another value incentive.
- Opt-In Rate – The percentage of people who arrived on a landing page and completed an opt-in process. The higher the opt-in rate, the better!
- Order bump – A product which can be purchased as an add-on to the main product (this is also known as a cross-sell). Order bumps typically appear as a checkbox within the order form during the checkout process.
- Order form – A page in the sales funnel where customers enter their payment information in order to complete their purchase.
- Scarcity – A marketing tactic which states that there are a limited number of products available to inspire customers to purchase immediately.
- Urgency – A marketing tactic which uses a sense of limited time in order to encourage the customer to buy immediately rather than wait.
- Value Ladder – A set of products which deliver increasing value to the prospective customer. The value ladder usually represents a sales journey with the introductory (entry level) product or service being sold initially, followed by the more comprehensive / complementary service. An example is a web design company selling a website audit and then selling a website redesign and then, finally, selling an ongoing marketing retainer. This is used most commonly as a tactic to increase revenue in B2B businesses looking to maximise client revenue.
Creating an effective marketing funnel is just like creating good content
One of the best ways to create a sales funnel is to follow the stages of content creation using the acronym – AIDA.
- Attention – Define and articulate a problem which resonates strongly with the desired audience. Customers who are experiencing certain pain points but have not yet recognized the specific issue, will focus their attention on what a brand has to offer.
- Interest – I stands for both Interest and information. This is the stage where customers who are actively seeking a solution will become interested and seek to acquire more information from a brand. As customers move through the sales funnel after recognising their problems, their interest will be sparked.
- Desire – Customers who move beyond attention and interest will now have the desire to find a solution. Here, it is the job of the brand to position itself as the best value, highest quality and most comprehensive solution available to their prospective customer.
- Action – Once a customer decides to take action, brands should make it easy for them to say yes to the solutions offered.
Creating an effective sales and marketing funnel requires research and development and, a strong understanding of what prospective customers need. Operating the funnel requires a mechanical mindset where brands are focused on encouraging more leads to enter the funnel. Nudging the customers the right way through it, and eventually turning them into loyal customers and brand advocates is an important skill which will pay dividends when performed correctly.
Analysing funnel performance data via analytics will show the performance of different areas of a marketing funnel. This includes the points at which brands may be losing customers – allowing them then to adapt, iterate and optimise the funnel in order to improve conversion rates of the funnel.