A goal without planning is just a dream. You need a ‘start to finish’ plan in order to ensure effective use of resources and better results. For marketers, imagining a buyer’s journey is an integral part of planning an effective marketing strategy and there’s a perfect tool for the same: the Marketing Funnel.
Just like an actual funnel, Marketing funnels represent a buyer’s journey from awareness to the actual purchase of the product. The concept marketing funnel revolves around is that marketers spread a vast lattice to catch hold of as many leads as possible and then gradually foster prospective customers through suitable schemes, even though the numbers lessen with every passing stage.
Sounds puzzling? Let’s ease it further.
Imagine any online shopping portal, for instance. Several hundreds of people like you visit the website every day, rather every hour. You view products and choose among innumerable options. This is followed by adding items of your choice to their virtual shopping carts. Not all visitors to the site buy the products from here. Some might make inquiries; some might browse through a different site and land up buying the product somewhere else. The platform which was open to act as a magnet for millions now gradually funnels its way through different steps into achieving profits from few by selling its items away.
What is a Marketing Funnel?
A marketing funnel is a model describing the customer journey from awareness of the product to the actual conversion. It has long been a topic of contest and conjecture. We call them funnels because the probability of sales and proceeds gradually decreases at each step. Some people opt out, some lose interest, and some choose another portal. Had this not been the case, terming it as a marketing cylinder would have been better! In an ideal situation, all leads would turn into customers – ten on ten returns. The job of the marketers, hence, is to make sure that most of the leads are turned into customers so that their marketing funnels could distort its ways and turn into a marketing cylinder.
How does Marketing Funnel work?
The customer’s journey starts from awareness and ends at purchase. However, there are many other stages which give rise to the shape. In a marketer’s perspective, these stages can roughly be divided into three parts.
A customer is made aware of the product through marketing and advertising campaigns, consumer research and discovery. The awareness is followed by gathering information in some form from him. This process of gathering information is called lead generation and the information is further used in the lead management system to nurture it down the system.
Once the prospective customer is made aware of the product, it’s the duty of a marketer to nurture the lead by arousing his interest in buying the product and make him consider it over other products. This involves marketer to tap several other channels, improve its public relation strategies, and include affiliates and partners who promote the product.
The narrowest bit and the tip of the funnel. This is the result of marketer’s efforts and the customer’s journey.
Marketing Funnel Stages
The three parts of the marketing funnel are made up of six stages of the customer’s journey. These are
A marketer focuses to tap the entire set of potential customers in the beginning. This involves making them aware of the product by the use of effective advertising, marketing, public relations, and other communication strategies. Awareness is followed by generating a lead by acquiring customer information in some sort. This information is then pulled into a lead management system to nurture further down the funnel.
Once the lead is generated, it’s time to inform him more about the product and the brand. The customer learns more about the company through consumer research, word of mouth, and through many other means online and offline. The more positive information he gains about the brand, the more interested he becomes.
Marketers should tap every opportunity to develop a relationship with the buyer at this stage. This is often done through monitoring reviews of the products, testimonials from previous customers, inbound marketing, having a great graphic interface to draw attention, delivering more information to the customer, etc. This is a crucial stage of the marketing funnel as it is chiefly at this stage that the prospective buyer would want to remain in or leave the funnel.
The interest stage is followed by the stage of consideration where the lead gets converted into a marketing qualified lead. The prospective customer is now considering to buy the product and hence marketer needs to give more attention and communicate to him elaborated information about the product, offers, and discounts. This information is communicated through free trials, basic services (if applicable), targeted emails, newsletters, phone marketing, and other direct interaction strategies
An intent stage is when the prospective customer does some specified activity after the consideration stage, this includes purchase-related queries, putting the product in the shopping cart, etc. The intent stage is a trigger for the marketer to start with its remarketing and other pull marketing strategies.
The intent stage is a ringing bell for a possible conversion. The evaluation stage is the final stage before the purchase decision. This stage involves the customer to evaluate the product, price, and offer provided by the brand and makes his decision upon them. The sales team is more involved than the marketing team in this stage of the marketing funnel.
The tip and the narrowest part of the marketing funnel. It’s the result of the marketer’s effort throughout the process.
Is the Marketing Funnel relevant today?
Several debates have been revolving around the applicability of marketing funnels today, where the fashion of purchasing is no longer linear. Prospective customers might not enter the marketing funnel in the first stage itself – they might join in on different levels of the funnel. This would hold true if they are suggested to buy a particular product from a particular brand and a particular site and hence might step into the funnel towards its ultimate stages. They might also conduct researches elsewhere and derive their conclusions on their own, without any help from the B2C’s intervention. Hence several alternatives to the marketing funnel are coming up, such as McKinsey’s circular model.
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