The marketing funnel is a visualisation for understanding the process of turning leads into customers, as understood from a marketing (and sales) perspective. The idea is that, like a funnel, marketers cast a broad net to capture as many leads as possible, and then slowly nurture prospective customers through the purchasing decision, narrowing down these candidates in each stage of the funnel.
Ideally, this marketing funnel would be a tool to turn all of your leads into customers. Though this is not a reality for businesses, it is part of a marketer’s job to turn as many leads into customers as possible.
In the diagram below, we’ve done our best to pull out the most common and relevant funnel stages, terms, and actions so this information is useful to as many marketers as possible.
Awareness: Awareness is the first stage of the marketing funnel. Potential customers are drawn into this stage through marketing campaigns and consumer research and discovery. Trust and thought leadership is established with advertising, events, trade shows, content (blog posts, infographics, etc.), campaigns, social media, media mentions, and more. Here, lead generation takes place, as information is collected and leads are pulled into a lead management system for nurturing further down the funnel.
Interest: Once leads are generated, they move on to the interest stage, where they learn more about the company, its products, and any helpful information and services it provides. Here is an opportunity for brands to develop a relationship with the people in its lead database and introduce its positioning. Marketers can nurture leads through emails, content that is more targeted around industries and brands, classes, newsletters, and more.
Consideration: In the consideration stage, leads have been changed into marketing qualified leads and are seen as prospective customers. Marketers can send prospects more information about products and offers through automated email campaigns, while continuing to nurture them with targeted content, case studies, free trials, and more.
Intent: To get to the intent stage, prospects must demonstrate that they are interested in buying a brand’s product. This can happen in a survey, after a product demo, or when a product is placed in the shopping cart on an ecommerce website. This is an opportunity for marketers to make a strong case for why their product is the best choice for a buyer.
Evaluation: In the evaluation stage, buyers are making a final decision about whether or not to buy a brand’s product or services. Typically, marketing and sales work closely together to nurture the decision-making process and convince the buyer that their brand’s product is the best choice.
Purchase: You’re here! This is the last stage in the marketing funnel, where a prospect has made the decision to buy and turns into a customer. This is where sales takes care of the purchase transaction. A positive experience on the part of the buyer can lead to referrals that fuel the top of the marketing funnel, and the process begins again.
Some experts argue that the marketing funnel is no longer relevant because the buying process is no longer linear. Leads are coming into the funnel at different stages. Sometimes this happens because they are referred and already know they want to buy a brand’s product, so they jump in at the intent stage. It also might happen because they have pursued their own education and jump in at interest or consideration.
A sales funnel is essentially the way you design your marketing system and grow sales in your business. It's how a prospective customer first interacts with you through to the first sale, repeat sales and even referrals. Sometimes, people refer to sales funnels as sales pipelines.
Every business has a sales funnel, even though many business owners don't formally know them as sales funnels. If you map out what your sales cycle looks like, you'll have a better idea of how your sales funnel will take shape.
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