Before understanding about the marketing funnel and its importance, let us first comprehend what inbound marketing means.
What is Inbound Marketing?
Inbound Marketing is the process of attracting users through attractive and gullible content. Inbound Marketing follows the concept of the prospect customer approaching the business thus increasing the chances of conversion. A business may make use of websites, blogs, SEO or social media to attract customers. Inbound Marketing contradicts traditional marketing practices (also called Outbound Marketing) wherein businesses used to make sales calls, have trade shows, do email blasts etc. The main disadvantage of Outbound Marketing is that the business targets a large audience in which not all maybe their prospect customers. Therefore most of the marketing efforts go in vain. However, Inbound Marketing gets the prospect customer to the business thus improving the efficiency of the marketing efforts.
Now that we know what Inbound Marketing means, it’s time to acquaint ourselves with the marketing funnel.
What is a Marketing Funnel?
A marketing funnel is a model which describes the journey of a customer right from the time he becomes aware of the product/service to the point he purchases it. It is also known as the Purchase Funnel. The marketing funnel is based on the AIDA model given by St. Elmo Lewis in 1898 where AIDA is the acronym for
A – Awareness
I – Interest
D – Desire
A – Action
This model was modified to suit modern marketing efforts thus giving rise to the marketing funnel or purchase funnel. It is the process which a prospect goes through to finally become a customer.
The funnel has stages from the broadest to narrow. There are six stages namely awareness, consideration, preference, action, loyalty and advocacy. In short customers first become aware of the products/services, seek information about it, and decide whether to buy or not and finally advocate or refer it to their social circle.
People nowadays take to the internet to research about any product or service they wish to purchase before actually buying it. Therefore the internet has become an information providing source for companies and inbound marketing has become a priority in digital marketing. The marketing funnel helps companies to understand the various stages a prospect goes through thus helping them plan their inbound marketing efforts in various stages. Let us now go through the different stages of the marketing funnel individually and understand their importance in Inbound Marketing.
This is the top-most stage in the marketing funnel. In this stage, prospect customers may come across an advertisement, a blog post or a search engine result speaking about the business’s product or service. There is an equal possibility that the prospect may or may not have heard about the product or service before.
This stage brings in a lot of people in its realm. Thus to maximize the awareness quotient, it is important for companies to lay out a web on the internet. They must ensure that information about their products and services is provided on all mediums the prospects are likely to visit or be present on. This can be achieved by blog posts, search engine optimization, viral campaigns, webinars, social media etc. The more people become aware about the product or service, the better are the chances of them considering it. If people are unaware about your business, then they may end using or buying your competitors product.
The next step in the marketing funnel is consideration. In this stage, the prospect, if interested will try to find out more about your product or service. If the prospect is not interested, they may simply scroll away. If the product or service is something that the prospect was looking for, they may look for more information about it.
Therefore companies in this stage must be more specific about their offerings. Product features, competitive advantages all must be conveyed to the prospect. The content must be tailored in a manner wherein it does not seem too salesy. The content should focus towards promoting the benefits and how it solves the prospects problem. Companies can direct them to their product page, a free webinar session or a blog post to create a preference. It is important to capture the prospects data like name, email-id, contact number etc. at this stage.
In this stage, the prospect develops a preference for the product or service. To be more specific, the prospect starts considering your product/service over the competitors. This is the most important step in converting the prospect to customer.
Companies need to focus on a more targeted and personalized approach here. Since the prospect’s data was captured in the previous stage, personalized emails and re-marketing can be done to influence the buying decision like providing a trial period, special discounts, and promotions to compel the purchase. One can create a limited period offer to allure prospects to make a purchase.
This stage is closely linked to the previous stages. Action determines whether the prospect has decided to buy your product/service or settle for your competitors. What you do in the previous stages determines the action taken by the prospect in this stage. Therefore the benefits offered by your products/services should be conveyed in a compelling fashion to lure your prospects into purchasing your offerings.
The loyalty stage comes after the prospect becomes a customer i.e. if they purchase your products/services. Loyalty largely depends upon the quality of the product/service and how well did it solve your customer’s problem. Marketing efforts do not stop after the purchase. It is important for marketers to take feedback of the customers and provide after-sales like none other. In this extremely competitive environment, after-sales and relationship management play a key role in generating customer loyalty.
Companies should keep in touch with the customers even after the purchase has been made to make sure they were satisfied with their offerings. Any wrongdoing on their part can make the customer write negative reviews on social sites thus impacting the image of the firm. Providing them with personalized offers, loyalty cards, frequent shopper programs can help maintain customer loyalty and compel repeat purchase.
This is where the customer becomes like a family member. No matter what, the customer will always purchase your products and services. The customer may also become a salesman by influencing their social circle to purchase your products and services. They will speak of your offerings in high regard and defend your brand in negative situations.
It is extremely important for companies to keep such customers happy as they help increase sales and spread positive word of mouth. To maintain such customers, marketers can make them feel special by sending gifts on their anniversaries, personalized offers and promotions and giving them priority treatment.
Inbound marketing is the priority in today’s digital age and using models like the marketing funnel helps companies to strategize their inbound marketing efforts more efficiently. It helps to understand in what stage a prospect or customer is and plan activities accordingly. The marketing funnel plays a fundamental role in determining the various activities that need to be undertaken to attract customers. As the prospects keep progressing from one stage to another their number reduces hence the narrowing shape of the funnel. Thus it can be said that the marketing funnel plays an important role in inbound marketing and provides a framework for companies to follow a more targeted approach.
Image Credits: Single Grain, Smart Insights