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How Does a Marketing Funnel Work?

sales-funnel

If you’ve been looking for marketing ideas and strategies you may have come across the term marketing funnel, or sales funnel. What exactly does that mean? Where is this funnel everyone speaks of and why are my people being thrown into it?

A Marketing funnel is a way for you to track the journey your customers take from never hearing about your business before, to becoming a regular returning customer. By understanding where in the funnel, or where in the journey your customers are, you can decide what kind of marketing to send them.

The marketing funnel is simply a visual representation of a sometimes difficult subject to visualize. Think of it as a map of your businesses marketing and sales processes, procedures and strategies. In order for you to achieve your marketing goals you need to set a route to get there. Understanding the concept of a marketing funnel and setting one up for your business is one of the first steps to increasing sales and brand equity.

Why is it a funnel? Because the top of the funnel includes your broadest marketing efforts and is narrowed as potential consumers move through it. The deeper the funnel goes the more focused your potential customers become. Eventually you will weed out all the consumers that are not willing to make a purchase and left with the most valuable sales qualified leads.

Setting up your business’s marketing funnel

The reason why marketing funnels are so effective is because it makes you take a hard look at exactly how your business acquires and retains customers. What steps do consumers take before they become a paying customer? How do consumers first hear about your business and what are the ways you expect for them to react to the discovery?

All marketing funnels are unique based on the type of business you are running and the kind of distribution model you employ. For instance, a services provider, like a landscaper, will have a different marketing strategy than a retailer that sells hard goods. No matter your industry, most marketing funnels are based off the same basic principals.

Before you begin to break down your businesses marketing funnel, and in turn illustrate the journey your customers take, you need to identify who exactly your customers are. Once you know who your potential customers are, you can begin to create marketing to attract your ideal customer and convert them from potential customers to paying customers.

The top of the funnel - lead acquisition and traffic

Understanding the top of the marketing funnel will help you figure out why it’s a funnel to begin with. At the top of your funnel you want to attract traffic, you need to think about how people can find your business’s brand. So, at the top of your funnel you should be implementing marketing efforts to attract people using broad channels to reach the kind of consumers you identified to be your ideal client, we’ll call them leads.

Top of funnel marketing can include promotional direct mail campaigns, web advertising and or advertising in print publications. At the top of the funnel these leads or potential customers are cold. The further down the funnel they get the warmer they’ll become and more likely to make a purchase.

Breaking down the first interaction potential customers have with your brand can help you identify what works best, allowing you to gain important insights on what you should invest your marketing dollars into, what you should scale back, and what you should eliminate all together.

Beginning the conversion process - calls to action

Congratulations you've attracted some of leads -- potential clients -- to your business in some way or another. For this case let's assume you sent out a direct mail postcard and out of the 1500 leads you sent the postcard to about 150 actually responded. Those customers that responded to the postcard have moved on from the top of funnel or acquisition phase into a conversion process.

Your lead is now interested in your product, they opened you email, or received a direct mail postcard, and then visited your website, or stopped by your storefront to see your products for themselves. Your job is to now entice your lead into making some sort of action. If you’re selling a small product like, candy bars, well that action might be to sell them a few. For more expensive items, lets say a boat, your lead may want some more information about the boats you are offering.

This is your chance to provide your lead with a call to action or CTA, you need to offer them information of some kind about your product, service or industry to help answer their questions, address their pain points and better understand the purchase that they are considering.

This call to action is a commitment from your lead that represents them being interested in what you've to offer. At this point, your lead has taken information and is now strongly considering doing business with you, they have moved from being a cold lead to a warm lead, and thus moving further down your marketing funnel.

Nurturing your lead and making the sale

At the top of the funnel you’ve thrown out a huge net to attract as many leads as possible, you may notice at this point that there are not many of them left. That’s ok though, the leads that have traveled down this far are highly valuable and very engaged.

These highly engaged leads, we’ll call them hot leads, are very close to buying, but may need a small push over the finish line. This is where the marketing team may take a few steps back and employ the power of your sales force to use their closing skills to make a sale.

Since your marketing team has done the work of finding these hot leads, a skilled sales team will be able to easily convert them from a lead into a paying customer. But your marketing team’s job is not over yet. Before your hot lead is ready to take out their wallets, they may need a little more time and/or information. You sales and marketing teams should be working together to provide hot leads with helpful information or content that will slowly nudge them into the embrace of your sales team.

This nurturing processes can sometimes take days or even months for larger deals. So it's important to create processes that ensure hot leads are not neglected but also not overwhelmed. Finding the balance is all about being helpful not forceful.

Closing - making the sale

The bottom of the funnel is in the hands of your sales team, you've provided them with the best possible leads you can and they should be able to close a deal. Your marketing team has done everything they can to attract the hottest leads possible and nurture them into buying, The time has come for them to make a decision.

This is where all the work you’ve done higher up the funnel pays off. At this point you should know your client very well, you should know exactly what they are looking for, their buying persona, how much they are looking to spend, and have made an offer to them. Making the first sale to a hot lead is just the beginning though.

Following up - encouraging customer to return

Just because you've made a sale does not mean you are done with your customers. You’ve invested a lot of time and frankly some money into attracting them to your business, it would be crazy to just shake hands and forget about them. Customers that you've acquired through your sales funnel are the most valuable asset your business has. If you treat them right they will return often and become good will ambassadors for your brand by recommending you to friends and family.

Be sure to check in on your customers often, track their buying habits and contact them when you know they will need a product or service the most. Send them regular emails about new products and services, promotional offers and useful advice.

By mapping out the sales funnel for your business you can provide your sales team with the highest quality leads possible. You’ll create long lasting relationships with customers that could last for decades. Most importantly, you’ll increase the return on investment for your marketing dollars and grow your business.

At Conquest Graphics we can help you set up your marketing funnel and implement direct mail into your marketing automation. Call us today to find out how!

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