You’re likely familiar with the basic idea of a marketing funnel, that wonderfully adroit way of understanding the evolution in how customers interact with your brand. In my experience, it’s one of the most powerful concepts a marketer can employ because it helps in multiple regards, whether it’s planning a content strategy, creating segmented campaigns or identifying bottlenecks that could be costing you sales. It’s surprising, then, how many companies fail to integrate this fundamental concept into their planning. I thought it would be valuable then, to provide a refresher course, if you will, and explain how many brands are falling short.
The marketing funnel is a behavioral model that helps us understand and map the customer’s journey, which is often expressed in marketing textbooks with five steps. The brand’s first job is to grab the customer’s attention and make them aware of your product or service offering. From there, the aim is to pique their interest by showing that you offer solutions to their product. If you’re successful, you’ll create a desire to purchase your product and, hopefully, turn it into a sale.
THE MARKETING FUNNEL
The marketing funnel is even easier to remember at a high level. The following is a simplified way of explaining the same basic path:
Inevitably, there’s going to be attrition in the process. No brand, no matter how savvy, is going to convert everyone who makes it to the awareness stage. But the successful ones increase their conversion rate, bringing more leads from the top of the funnel down to the bottom. How do they manage that, exactly? It’s simple. By developing content that reflects the full funnel, not just part of it. In doing so, you grease the skids between each stage, making it easy for the customer to deepen his or her relationship with your brand. And you avoid those bottlenecks where high-quality leads encounter friction and end up opting for another solution their need.
Top of the Funnel (ToFu)
The best way to get a prospect through the entire funnel is to provide content that meets them where they’re at in their journey at a given moment in time. It starts with top of the funnel, of ToFu, content that first makes them aware of your solutions. It may be a blog that makes it easier for the prospect to find your company in a search, but it can also include social media posts about company news or even about a recent blog post. This can be amplified through pay-per-click advertising, further widening your reach into the target market and increasing awareness. There are lots of other options at your fingertips, too. How-to videos and even podcasts can be a great way to raise consciousness about your brand and start to cement your perception as a thought leader.
Take a manufacturer of power tools, for example. Having landing pages that grab organic and PPC traffic can help attract potential buyers who may be looking to take on new projects around the house. Perhaps instructional videos on YouTube can show viewers how to tackle specific woodworking challenges, generating even more visitors through targeted keywords.
Middle of the Funnel (MoFu)
Quite frankly, ToFu is where a lot of businesses excel. They put a series of blog posts together. Perhaps they upload some helpful content to their YouTube channel and then they leave the prospect there. The bigger challenge — and the one that fewer brands master — is driving that lead further down the funnel. Sure, you’re good at getting their attention. But now you have to help them evaluate your brand as a viable answer to their need. If you don’t have content that succeeds in that goal, you’re not unleashing the full power of the funnel.
The middle of the funnel (MoFu) is where you want your leads to evaluate your product and deepen their engagement with your brand. There are any number of tools that can help you do that. For example, you could put a link to your services at the bottom of your blog post to actually direct them toward your solutions. You can also make case studies or white papers available on your site, driving home your accomplishments and expertise in a particular area. In the case of the latter, you might even provide a brief form that lets them download the white paper, enabling you to identify those prospects and push them toward the next stage of the funnel.
A skin care company could have an online form where prospects can get a free sample of their latest product. And in the case of the aforementioned tool maker, it might consider producing a series of instructional events at hardware stores, enabling prospects to see the product in action. Capturing the audience’s attention, while necessary, isn’t enough. As consumers gets deeper into their journey, they want to see how your offerings stack up against the competition. Your campaigns need to make it easy for them to do that.
TOOLS OF THE TRADE
Bottom of the Funnel (BoFu)
You’ve acquainted the prospect with your brand and even provided additional content that helps them understand what makes you unique. At some point, you need to convert them into buyers. To do that, you have to give them a little nudge. There are a lot of great motivators out there: promotions, discounts, limited-time or quantity offers, flash sales and so on. The most effective bottom of the funnel content makes this final stage as friction-less as possible. So it should seamlessly integrate with your MoFu tools.
It certainly helps if you look at your content through the eyes of the would-be customer. Perhaps they downloaded a white paper or ordered samples through your site. Do those same materials prompt them to buy, or in the case of a service business, set up an introductory consultation?
If they made it to the MoFu stage, you know they’re interested in what you offer. What you don’t want to do is leave them there, potentially losing sales that are ripe for the picking.
Make your funnel customer-centric!
As mentioned earlier, the marketing funnel is a way to build campaigns based around the customer journey. The implication there is that you know the customer and have a pretty good idea of what his or her journey might look like.
Too often, that’s not the case. Instead, some marketers develop content with a one-size-fits-all mentality. They don’t know what their most promising customer groups look like or think about. And they don’t understand what pain points they’re experiencing, either. What a shame. It’s pointless to build a “full funnel” strategy without building a customer profile. That means asking some basic questions. Who are our customers? What’s their age and gender? What other activities are they interested in? What basic attitudes fuel their buying decisions?
You’ll probably find more than one customer group that you need to address — and that’s a good thing. Among the many benefits of the digital marketing funnel is that it allows segmentation. A tool company may want one section of their website geared toward professionals working on advanced projects and another targeting new homeowners just learning how to use a hand saw. A more generic approach, on the other hand, might turn off one or both of those groups.
The bottom line
We know how important content marketing is in the digital age. But unless you think about your campaigns holistically, you’re not getting the impact that you should. The marketing funnel provides an important framework for understanding the customer journey as a series of steps that lead them, hopefully, to an ultimate sale. The brand has to be a guide on that journey, or else the customer will get lost along the way. By easing those transitions from one stage to the next, you’re virtually guaranteed to get more prospects to the finish line.