Throughout our website, you’ll see us refer to the “Digital Marketing Funnel”. Anyone who has taken a marketing class or read a good marketing book is familiar with funnels, and there’s nothing magical about ours.
What the funnel provides for us is a roadmap. It gives us a starting point, and a structure that we can come back to when we start to drift. All that glitters is not gold, and there is a lot of glitter out there in the marketing world. Everyone has new ideas on the latest and greatest thing that “every business” needs to be doing. Many of these ideas are exciting and innovative, but if they’re not incorporated with the end goals in mind they can lead us off track.
Every campaign we design starts and ends with an analysis of the funnel. We explain it in detail at our first meeting with nearly every client, then revisit it regularly. Everything we do needs to find a place in the funnel. If it doesn’t help advance your audience through your custom funnel, then chances are we’re going to step back and suggest that we re-evaluate the opportunity.
So what is the funnel, and how does it work?
The model that we use for our clients consists of six basic steps. Each of these steps has specific digital tools and techniques that go along with them.
What is the first introduction of your company or organization to a prospect? How do you get your name in front of them? We firmly believe that the first impression needs to be a good one, and it’s best to start introducing yourself to your customers before they know that they’re going to become customers! This is awareness and branding.
We’d love to have everyone jump from that first exposure directly to a transaction, but the reality is that’s not going to happen. There will be a period of time that we call “consideration”. Your customer may not yet be in the market for what your business provides. No problem. This is an opportunity to cultivate an online relationship. Create repeated exposure to your brand. Establish your expertise in your own field of business. (We call this “brand authority”.)
Make sure you’re giving something of value to the customer during this period. Usually the “something” is knowledge. By sharing information, tips, and ideas with your digital audience, you create those warm positive feelings that people will involuntarily experience when they think of your brand.
The best way to kill that positive brand identity is by focusing on sales. If a customer is hit over the head with a sales pitch every time they see your company, the positive associations quickly turn negative.
The Consideration step can be short, or it may be long. Consumers may go years between purchasing durable items like cars, houses or furniture. On the other hand, purchases of consumables like groceries or even a meal out are much simpler, and the consideration process likely won’t take as long.
Someday, the time will come when the prospect is ready to become a client. Even after building a positive online relationship through awareness and consideration, most consumers will do some form of online research prior to making a purchase.
First of all, you need to determine what they’re going to be looking for. Most research starts with broad, general searches: “Where can I find widgets?” By building a good brand reputation with your audience (see steps 1 and 2 above!) you can often influence that behavior, changing the broad search to a much more specific one: “Acme Widgets Inc. in my city”.
Now we need to determine what they’ll see when they perform one of those searches. Most of the time, this will include some combination of paid advertisements, local business listings, company website(s), review pages, social media properties, and either general or industry-specific business directories. As marketers, our goal is to lock up as much of that search results page as possible for your brand, while making sure that each of those links is well populated with authentic, accurate and positive information about your company and products.
You’ve done the work. You’ve introduced yourself to this client, created long term repeated exposure, and made sure that there was plenty of positive, accurate information for them to find when they did their research.
Now, the moment has arrived, and they’re ready to buy. They want your product, from your business. How do they get it?
You need to make it as easy as possible for your customer to take the next step. If you’re in retail, this probably means getting them in the door. What are your hours? What’s your address? Phone number? Are you closed for the holiday? What about coupons or promotions? You’d be amazed how often this basic information is neglected on websites, social media, and business listings.
If you’re a service based business, you’ll have different goals for your customers. Perhaps you want them to schedule an appointment, or fill out an online lead form so that you can contact them. Maybe you require a little bit more commitment and want them to pick up the phone and call you.
Either way, it’s important that your website be carefully planned and designed to make it crystal clear to your reader what their next step should be.
Unfortunately most businesses stop at Step 4. They’ve made the sale, now it’s time to move on to other new leads. But without continuing to engage with your customers, there’s a good chance that all of the positivity and brand authority that you’ve built through your long term engagement – coupled with the outstanding experience they had as your customer – will start to fade.
This is why so much of what we do is focused on creating continuing relationships with your existing customer base. We want to reach them several times between their physical interactions with your business – keeping you, your brand, and their relationship with you front of mind so that they won’t even consider switching to a competitor.
The ultimate fulfillment of this entire plan comes when your customer becomes your advocate. This is the person singing your praises to their friends, neighbors, co-workers, and perfect strangers in line at the grocery store. This is the person who shares your social media posts, leaves glowing reviews online, and forwards your emails to the people they think would benefit from your business.
None of this is fast. Digital marketing is a long-term process that requires dedication and commitment. But the right online approach coupled with outstanding customer experiences within your business can create thriving, rapidly expanding online communities that generate amazing results for your business.
The application of this funnel doesn’t look the same for any two businesses. Most of our customers will pick and choose the areas of the funnel that are important to them, based on goals, budget, and even the amount of time and effort they’re able to dedicate to the marketing program.
We’d love to walk you through this in person as the first step towards generating a customized campaign for your business. If you’re ready to learn more about the funnel, the specific tools that we leverage at each step, and how we can generate amazing results for you, let’s talk.