The reason the funnel has become less clearly defined is the average amount of independent research a consumer performs before buying has increased and much more in depth. By the time a consumer contacts your business for the first time, the consumer has already been through the discovery process and has researched your products, services and reputation.
The change of the classic sales funnel means that marketers must adapt to the changing and learn the multiple channels and audiences within the ever growing funnel. How do you engage, inform, and delight audiences, turning them into qualified leads?
- Identify your buyer personas: buyer personas are fictional, generalized representations of your ideal customers. Personas help marketing and sales better understand our prospective audience and help shape our strategies to attract, relate and build trust with our customers as humans. Personas are critical to creating content that gets noticed, helps nurture leads into customers and helps turn customers into advocates. Hubspot offers a great Persona Template.
- Identify the average buyer journey for your business. Every business is different and the simple truth is that your customers will have a different buying experience than other industries. Solid sales and marketing alignment and open communication are vital for this process.
- Create your sales funnel from your buyer’s journey. Your marketing sales funnel should include more detail and stages than your sales funnel. Marketing is responsible for attracting the audience, nurturing the audience into leads, reaching out to the customer as they move through the actual buying stage and delighting the customer to encourage them to be advocates. Marketing is important at every stage of the buyer’s journey. To be effective, marketers need to address the customer or prospect at each stage of the sales funnel with quality content that focuses on the specific needs as they move toward purchase.
- Communicate and define stages with sales. Your marketing sales funnel should serve as a starting point and outline to create a solid marketing strategy that meets the needs of your prospects and customers as they move through the buyer’s journey. Marketing and sales language should be the same to build the relationship. Spend extra time creating language alignment and definitions.
- Align your sales funnel and your marketing funnel. Organizations with good alignment between sales and marketing teams achieved 20% annual revenue growth in 2010, according to a study by the Aberdeen Group. By contrast, companies with poor alignment saw revenues decline by 4%.
A pretty standard sales funnel has three stages: awareness, evaluation and purchase. The standard marketing funnel starts with those basics and elaborates.
Top of Funnel
The top of the funnel, “awareness” stage, is the stage in which marketing attracts and educates the audience, not on specific builds trust using knowledge, not gimmicks.
Just because the “awareness” stage is the widest part of the funnel doesn’t mean your information should be general. Your content should be engaging and most importantly encourage the prospect to take action to move them forward in the marketing funnel. Content should be useful, relevant, entertaining and educational. Show your personality and your values.
Resources for the “awareness” stage: eBooks, Tips, Checklists, Whitepapers, How-to’s, Blogs, Infographics, FAQ pages, Relevant Links, Social Media posts.
Middle of Funnel
The middle of the funnel, “evaluation” stage, addresses prospects questions, concerns and needs at a deeper level. Content in the “Evaluation” stage should address more specific issues or concerns and lead the prospect to products or solutions through valuable information. Keep in mind that prospects at this stage are comparing your business, products and services to your competitors so use use your experience and don’t be afraid to share your knowledge.
Your content should make the prospect think differently about solutions and provide additional education including data, facts and reviews.
Resources for the “evaluation” stage: Email blasts, buying guidelines, consults, product demos, case studies, stats, comparisons, testimonials, long format blog posts.
Bottom of Funnel
The bottom of the funnel is the “purchase” stage. Content at the “purchase” stage should help the prospect overcome final objections and empower the prospect to make an educated decision and purchase
Content should reinforce the information provided from the prior stages and really set up your products/ services as the solution. This is a stage for proving expertise on specific topic matter content. Don’t neglect your prospect after they become a customer. Your marketing plan should have clearly defined follow up tools and content to continue to provide helpful information AFTER the sale.
Resources for the “purchase” stage: free trials, extended demos, follow up consults, surveys, custom estimates, coupons/promos, in-depth and specific long form content, customer feedback, long form/specific testimonials.
Your business is not out of the box and your buyer’s journey and sales funnel may differ and it’s important to define your own to effectively reach your audience and move them through the sales funnel. Use analytics to continually monitor your funnel content and make changes to continue to be effective and improve ROI.
How does your business manage your sales funnel?