Understanding the Marketing Funnel (and how you close sales)

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How are you marketing your products or services? Do you know what’s effective? Have you evaluated your marketing funnel to see what’s working? Do you even know you have a marketing funnel?

You may or may not have a formal marketing funnel but you have one nevertheless. And it’s worth a discussion as to why it might be good to be more focused on your marketing funnel processes to increase your overall close rate. The marketing funnel could also be called your sales funnel and typically outlines your customer journey from first awareness of your product to raving fan.

Marketing Funnel Helps to Get Your Raving Fans

You want your customers to become raving fans!
You want your customers to become raving fans!

And that’s what we all want right, raving fan clients. They are the ones that become loyal repeat customers and recommend your products and services to others. So how do you get to that point? How do you create an effective marketing funnel?

Well, a marketing funnel is typically broken down into 5 sections – like an inverted pyramid, larger on top and narrow at the bottom.  It helps you track (and guide) a prospect or browser to a paying and hopefully happy long –term customer (raving fan).

The five stages include:

  1. Awareness of you or a need or both
  2. Recognition that a solution exists
  3. Evaluation or consideration of alternative solutions
  4. Purchase Decision
  5. Post Sale

Broad Based Marketing at Awareness Stage

At the awareness stage you may be doing broad marketing to attract possible customers that may not realize they have a need for your product or service. It’s your opportunity to cast a wide net and grab many prospects into your sales funnel.

To be effective in even catching a possible prospect headed into your funnel, you need to make

Communicate with potential customers the way they want
Communicate with potential customers the way they want

sure you have a clear understanding of who your clients are. What do they think? How long before purchase do they research options? How do they research? And finally, how do they like to purchase?

Understanding these critical questions help you to target your marketing at the awareness stage to pull individuals into your sales funnel. It also makes it easier for you to develop more effective custom content to reach your audience.

Maintaining Informative Blogs Increases Recognition

Once a prospect has become aware that they may have a need or want for a product or service they typically don’t just go out and buy, they first recognize various solutions are available. For example:  maybe you have a pop-up ad on one of their favorite sites and they thought, “need to look into this further” or maybe their car just broke down again and they’ve decided it’s time for a replacement. At this stage they really begin their research and consider options. Now’s the time when your marketing efforts need to be focused on answering the questions most asked (I am not talking specifically to one person – I mean that you have your “answers” available to be found).

This is why you’ve been writing blogs, how to videos, are on social media, sponsor events  and more. This is where your great online reviews come into play and why it’s important for you to show up in google search options.

Marketing Funnel Narrows During Evaluation Stage

You start with a large audience and end with those willing to buy
You start with a large audience and end with those willing to buy

So now that they’ve recognized a need and have some general idea of possible solutions, this is when most people move into the full evaluation stage.

This stage is where prospects really begin their serious research to determine if your product or service is a good fit. At this stage, they may dig deeper into reviews, watch product demos, look for sales or coupons, visit a brick & mortar location or ask for a free trial.

Obviously the evaluation stage varies widely based on the purchase price. If you’re buying a $50 shirt versus a $30,000 car! For the $50 shirt you may see it on the shelf, like it and purchase it all in a matter of minutes. But, if it is a more expensive purchase, then this is the stage where the buyer will spend most of their time. This is why it’s important to understand your target customer. Is your information where they are looking and is it helping to move them toward a purchase?

Middle of the Marketing Funnel Ideal Time for Offers

Are you offering a free trial, live demo, consultation, limited time offer or discount? This is

Always good to increase pressure to buy now
Always good to increase pressure to buy now

where your sales promotions can be extremely effective. Remember, your marketing is trying to convince them that the right time to buy is now and from you, not sometime in the future. Each communication should be nudging them with a compelling call-to-action to make the purchase. If they wait, they may well decide they do not need the item or that an alternative is a better purchase and therefore you lose the sale.

The evaluation stage is also typically the time you may start to really bond with your potential customer. This is the time where you gain their trust. This is not the time you want bad reviews to surface or an ineffectual customer service person handling the potential customer. How many times have you hung up or walked out of a store because someone wasn’t paying attention?

Closing the Sale Can Derail

True story, a friend was shopping for a new car. She really wanted a BMW SUV. She’d done extensive research online and gotten a few recommendations from friends. So one Saturday she made an appointment to go for a test drive and make sure it was the car for her. She didn’t feel she was warmly greeted at the dealership and they kept her waiting. While she did go for the test drive she felt rushed by the salesperson. She walked out questioning her potential purchase (she was prepared to buy that day but did not). Another friend recommended she check out a Land Rover SUV. She hadn’t even thought about one. Well, she did the same thing. Set up an appointment for a test drive.

They greeted her warmly, took all the time she needed to walk her through the whole process and she bought the car on the spot.

Final Stage – After the Sale

Customer should be the focus of all you do
Customer should be the focus of all you do

To further illustrate the post sale importance we’ll stay with the car purchase story. She couldn’t drive her car off the lot that day (she’d wanted a few amenities added) so they arranged for it to be delivered to her office the next day. The same salesperson delivered her car and spent an hour going over all the features of her new SUV. She’s had the car about six weeks now and Land Rover has stayed in touch. For her, just enough, not too much. The salesman texted her in the week following the purchase to make sure she was happy. Then she received an email from him after a month, again, checking in. She also got a couple of emails from the “corporate” entity as well as a very nice thank you gift.

She’s now a very happy long-term customer. She’s even convinced me that maybe I should look at them when I’m ready for a new car. And that’s what you want!!

So as a reminder, understand your marketing funnel, understand your target and how they liked to be reached (online or in the mail for instance). Plus, don’t stop the sale too soon or you could lose the opportunity and finally always follow up!!

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