It’s important to note that there is not a single agreed upon version of the funnel; some have many “stages” while others have few, with different names and actions taken by the business and consumer for each. 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.
Some business owners are moving away from the term “marketing funnel” because they think it’s too mechanical or simplistic to describe the lead nurturing sequence by which customers move from awareness to purchase. I think it’s still a useful way to describe a complex process and it’s a good visual to imagine the entire process from start to finish.
How to get started: Everything about SEO, including its name, acronym, and definition sounds way more complex than it really is. I recommend that you start with performing keyword research and optimizing your content. You can find all about how to do that in this blog post. After that’s done, you should look into link building, which is nothing else than getting other websites to link to your content. I recommend that you checkout Backlinko’s excellent link building guide.
Now, optimally, you’ll want to add more steps to your sales funnel (more on that later), but let’s say this is your bare-bones funnel. To generate leads and collect customer information, you offer a loyalty program, where people earn points for buying pizzas that they can cash in for discounts on future orders. Then, you email them a special coupon, and a percentage of your leads will open that email. A percentage of those opens will actually buy a pizza.
The strategies used to gather information tend to vary based on the size and scope of the purchase. Recognizing that you’re hungry, for example, might result in a quick Yelp search for restaurants in your area. Deciding which provider to use to install a new inground pool at your home, on the other hand, will involve calling around, reading company reviews, visiting showrooms, and talking with salespeople.
At this stage, your prospect is evaluating you, your company, and your products and services. They are taking a closer look at what you have to offer than they were in the discovery phase. They are also looking at other options to see how you compare to them. At this point, you have probably sent them an initial quote or proposal and are answering any detailed questions they have.
Imagine this situation: you go into a shoe store and look at a pair of shoes that caught your eye. Immediately after you enter the store, a salesperson asks you if you’ll pay with cash or credit card. You haven’t tried the shoes on, you haven’t looked at the color options, you haven’t seen other shoes in the store, but this salesperson just keeps asking you for your payment information. Of course, you’ll end up leaving the store without purchasing anything.
For example, at the beginning of your funnel, prospect interaction is low and the number of prospects is high. This is the Awareness stage, where you do advertising or another form of low-cost, low-touch, broad outreach. The next stages have fewer people in them and require activities that take more time and attention. This is where you’d send emails, make phone calls, or invite qualified interested prospects to a webinar to learn more about your offerings.
PR/Press: This tactic consists of getting media coverage for your content, brand, or business. Media outlets and publications have built large audiences over a long time—that’s what their entire business model is about—so if you can tap into that, it can mean a significant boost of traffic to your site. PR is all about having an interesting angle that is newsworthy and presenting it in the right way to journalists and reporters.
In brief, we are inclined to go along with someone’s suggestion if we think that person is a credible expert (authority), if we regard him or her as a trusted friend (liking), if we feel we owe them one (reciprocity), or if doing so will be consistent with our beliefs or prior commitments (consistency). We are also inclined to make choices that we think are popular (consensus [social proof]), and that will net us a scarce commodity (scarcity).
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.
First, try some cold calling. We’ve all gotten those dreaded calls from telemarketers, and while the number of hang-ups sales reps get is enough to make some people quit, this does still work. If it didn’t, people wouldn’t be doing it. The key to success with cold calling is to make sure you have a list of qualified leads. If you’re selling a product for men, for example, make sure your list is primarily male.
Here, I’ll explain what you need to know about the marketing funnel, and I’ll dive into recent changes and rising challenges for marketers. I’ll compare B2C and B2B uses of the funnel, break down the hype around the marketing vs. sales ownership debate, explain how the funnel can be flipped to create more leads, and explore nonlinear approaches to the funnel.