The advent of the internet has proved the ability for businesses to target and expose their brand to more consumers than ever; ideally, of course, converting them into loyal customers at some point along the way. Yet it can be difficult to know what marketing channels to utilise and how; so let Skein cover the basics and help you find your way with funnels.

What is a Marketing Funnel?

A marketing funnel is the perceived customer journey with a brand, imagined mapped out in a funnel shape toward the end goal of conversion; be that a purchase, repeat purchase, subscription sign-up, contact information provided or other desired action completed. A marketing funnel focuses on nurturing the customer through their journey toward conversion and when properly analysed and understood, can supply the business with workable strategies to drive sales, promote customer loyalty and grow brand awareness amongst relevant target audiences.

The Types of Customer that a Marketing Funnel Involves

Generally speaking, a marketing funnel involves three types of customers, and each can be nurtured differently through the journey. The Oblivious customers are those who don’t know the brand, don’t realise they have an issue and don’t yet understand how the brand’s products and/or services can rectify or resolve that issue. The Afflicted customer group are those who have a basic understanding of their needs but don’t yet know how they can interact with the brand to benefit. The Informed customer group are those who understand their needs, have an idea of the solution and need just a little encouragement to convert to the brand.

The Stages of the Marketing Funnel

If you consider the marketing funnel to be a customer journey, drawn out as a funnel shape with the end being the act of conversion, consumers must first travel through other stages of the funnel to reach the end point. These stages range from the consumer being made aware of the brand’s existence right through to them making the choice to become a customer. 

The Oblivious customers tend to enter the marketing funnel at the widest and most open point, the furthest away from conversion – awareness (where marketing communications aim simply to promote the name and products/services of the brand). The Afflicted enter a little further through at the consideration stage, where further detail and social proof is provided to help nurture enthusiasm, and the Informed at the conversion stage, where focus is on driving them to make a purchase or interaction.

Each of these customer groups will interact with touchpoints throughout the marketing funnel differently but all can be supported and empowered throughout to eventually reach conversion. But how? Read on…

Top Tip: Capitalise on every lead

There are now more opportunities than ever for brands to interact with consumers intelligently and in a highly targeted manner – so no lead generated need go uncommunicated with. Where contact information is received or insights understood, brands should move to learn from this and target. It needn’t cost money or require heavy resourcing but where every lead is considered a potential sale, potential can be derived and reached.

Top Tip: Simultaneously run Multiple Funnels

A business should never rely on a single form of marketing communication activity in order to drive consumers through the funnel to conversion – because not all consumers frequent the same consumption spaces, not all consumers will interact in the same way and not all consumers will have the same requirements being targeted. Instead, it is crucial that a variety of funnels are running at simultaneously to cover as many bases and capture as many potential customers as possible. 

Funnel Touchpoint and Destination: Website

In many instances, a brand’s website is the destination for conversion from another funnel channel; the last stop before the consumer purchases. However, the design of the website itself can also be considered in its ability to encourage the consumer to an action point. Is the website navigation laid out clearly and is it easy to use no matter which device it’s being accessed on? Are calls to action and the benefits of the action clear? All of this can be addressed through user analysis to ensure the website is optimised to best nurture user behaviour in a positive manner.

Funnel Touchpoint: Social Networks

It is rare for a business not to have its target market present on a social media network of some type; although exactly which will vary between demographics and audience segments. The strategic use of social media can play into almost all parts of the marketing funnel. Advertising and general brand awareness campaigns help promote brand recall amongst target consumers and useful, educational, content to assert thought leadership and field expert status through the likes of video. 

Funnel Touchpoint: Email Marketing

Email marketing is often misunderstood and underestimated as a tool out-of-date – but in fact, remains a useful and valid communication touchpoint for many. Now available as specifically targeted and heavily automated, email marketing can provide consumers with tailored communications based on their previous brand interactions and can help expedite their journey toward conversion. Marketers should consider setting up a variety of hyper-targeted communications based on all available intelligence on a customer – with a clear-cut ‘unsubscribe’ option should the consumer wish to ‘opt-out’ of such communications. Email marketing can be particularly helpful in nurturing the Afflicted customer group into the Informed group. 

Funnel Touchpoint: Business Peer Groups and Networking Groups

Industry peer groups, both localised and larger, can prove beneficial forums for organisations operating in both B2B and B2C spaces in growing brand awareness, asserting thought leadership and establishing a reputation within the industry in which they function. What’s more, the learning possibilities from such groups should not be underestimated – there are lessons to be learnt from both individuals as well as the successes and failures of other related businesses in the same sector. Indeed wider-pitched networking groups may also prove fruitful with both the Oblivious and Afflicted customer groups in bolstering strategic relationships.

Funnel Touchpoint: Webinars, Podcasts, Blogs and Articles

Webinars are an often underutilised but hugely impactful content tool that can provide evergreen educational content for those looking to learn more on an issue, product or service. Webinars can help cement an organisation’s reputation for knowledge and expertise whilst informing and encouraging consumers of the content to move throughout the marketing funnel toward conversion. Blogs and articles published on both the brand’s own domains online as well as through other channels also reinforce an expert standpoint, and podcast appearances where relevant can do the same while opening up exposure to a fresh audience. Providing the data shared is perceived as useful by consumers, it is also likely to be shared onward; further recruiting new individuals to the funnel.

Funnel Touchpoint: Loss-Leader Offers

Loss-leader pricing provides a product or service for sale at a price below its minimum profit margin (although rarely below cost) in order to lead the consumer to it and for them to go on to purchase further from the same company. Loss-leader offers can often tip a customer to the conversion stage, where this is a purchase, and accelerate this conversion to a rate that would be faster than business-as-usual may be able to achieve. Ideally, pricing that will maintain a healthy profit margin should be offered to the customer first (and repeatedly) but where the conversion needs to be pushed, loss-leader offers can tip the balance and complete the funnel.

Funnel Touchpoint: Nurturing of Business Relationships

While often difficult to measure in tangible terms, brands often forget the importance of nurturing and maintaining healthy, strategic business relationships in their day-to-day operations and amongst all their marketing efforts. The preservation of such relationships can help aid recommendations and smoothen the ride for future collaborative working; beneficial for all parties and end users or customers. Although perhaps not immediately apparent, business relationship building and maintenance can help convert customer groups at all stages of a marketing funnel and can feed into the hastening of the journey no matter what other channel they have interacted with.

Funnel Touchpoint: Lead Magnets

Lead magnets are free resources available to download or access upon the presentation of personal or contact information, for the brand in question to then hold on file and utilise to qualify and nurture the lead. These can be helpful at all stages of the marketing funnel and for all customer groups but are considered especially useful for the conversion of Afflicted customers into Informed, and Informed into taking a conversion action. Lead magnets can include PDFs, infographics, checklists, printables, e-books, templates, scripts or toolkits; and need not give too much more data than anything that would require payment to the business.

Funnel Touchpoint: Social Proof and Testimonials 

Social proof remains a hugely important tool in customer behaviour influence and translated digitally, far spans the confines of traditional word-of-mouth marketing. Online consumer reviews, testimonials and other digital social proof can encourage customers at all stages of the marketing funnel to travel through it and convert – if managed correctly and positively. There are now a variety of independent customer review analysis systems that provide a facility for such content as well as a comprehensive set of behind-the-scenes tools to derive further value from them; and their benefit when applied properly and worked from productively can be vast. Furthermore, the social proofing of incentivising (or at least encouraging) satisfied customers to recruit new clients can work well and reinforce positive public perception of the brand.

Further Funnel Touchpoints

Almost any public-facing activity that a brand participates in can be considered part of the marketing funnel – even if it will only be seen by those who are unaware of the business or uninterested. It is crucial to marketing function and cohesive branding that organisations remain consistent in their approach to all communications and that no matter who is being interacted with, comms remain professional, in an appropriate tone and are rational in their messaging to remain on-brand. While it would not make sense for every customer touchpoint to be formally mapped into a marketing funnel (there are usually far too many to consider such a resource-heavy job), any interaction with anyone outside of the business should not be underestimated in its power over business perception. 

Funnel Action: Closing Sales

The closing of a sale has long been considered amongst salespeople a real skill; and even when not being completed face-to-face in a standard transactional retail or meeting environment, should not be underestimated in its trickiness or importance. Statistics amongst online retailers show that over 70% of users frequently get to the final stages of a marketing funnel and yet abandon the process at the last possible moment (for online retailers, usually the ‘checkout’ stage). This reiterates the significance of the sale closing and just how easy it can be to draw consumers through the funnel before losing them entirely and requiring the whole process to start again. It is always recommended that businesses involve specialists in the design of their closing processes should they be online or off, in order to present a removed, impartial point of view and to help smoothen the journey in the most effective way possible. 

Funnel Action: Sales Loops

Sales and marketing loops ensure that once a customer converts and purchases, they’re not immediately discarded. Instead, the behaviours displayed are analysed and any improvements implemented; tailoring the marketing funnels to make them more effective and developing them to continue to reach success amongst varying customer groups. What’s more, the use of sales loops can further the journey of the customer and extend their lifespan with the brand through the use of retargeting, exit pop-ups, bespoke communications and incentivisation to encourage repeat purchase and persistent use of the organisation to foster a loyal, long and strategic relationship. Retaining customers is well-documented as costing up to five times less than recruiting new ones and so the retention of them makes financial sense as well as eases up resources.

Marketing funnels need not be complex but their applications can be made more efficient and streamlined with the interaction of specialist knowledge and expertise. Skein’s expert team are able to design, shape, map and implement unbeatably successful marketing funnels for businesses of all shapes, sizes and types – just get in touch to discuss the creation of yours!