Top to Bottom Approach of a Marketing Funnel
There is a lot of discussion happening about the marketing funnel- from who owns it, marketers or sales, whether it is still relevant to current consumer buying behavior.
In this article, we will be describing basic marketing funnel framework, stages and uses of funnels, nonlinear approach to funnel and inverting the funnel for generating more leads.
What is marketing funnel all about?
The marketing funnel is visualization for understanding the process of converting leads to customers. The idea here is marketers cast this funnel to grab as many leads as possible and slowly take actions on prospective customers through the purchasing decision, by filtering down prospective customers at each stage of the funnel.
In reality the marketing funnel would be a marketing cylinder, for most of the businesses. Marketers try to convert as many leads as possible into customers, thus making the funnel more cylindrical. There are different versions of the funnel with varying stages, names and as per actions taken by the business and consumers. In the given below diagram we will be discussing the most common and relevant funnel stages names and actions so that most of the marketers can use this information.
Funnel stages and conversions
We will go through funnel stage by stage, so marketers will have clarity on how it works.
Stage 1: Awareness
Awareness is the first stage of marketing funnel. Potential customers are pulled into this stage through various marketing activities and market research. Thought to purchase and trust of brand/product are established at this stage with different marketing channels, such as social media, campaigns, email marketing, webinars, trade shows, advertising, events, blogs and infographics. Here potential customer information is stored, and the lead generation process takes place to dive deep into the funnel.
Stage 2: Interest
Lead information from the lead management system moves on to the interest stage, where potential customers spend time and know more about the company, its services & products and other useful information provided. At stage 2, marketers have the opportunity to develop a healthy relationship with its leads and position it. Lead nurturing happens through emails, content which is more targeted around different segments with various brands and classes.
Stage 3: Consideration
The third stage is consideration. Leads get converted into qualified leads and are considered as prospective customers. In the process of nurturing, marketers share more information about products, services, discounts and offers through monitored automated email campaigns with free trials, product brochures, case studies, PDF downloads and many more.
Stage 4: Intent
To promote a prospect from stage 3 to stage 4, they must demonstrate that they are interested in purchasing a product. This can happen through a survey, or after a product demo, or when a product is showcased in an ecommerce website. Marketers need to utilize this opportunity to demonstrate strong product features for why they should choose their product.
Stage 5: Evaluation
In the evaluation stage, buyers take the final call whether to buy a brand’s product or not. Generally in evaluation stage marketing and sales teams work together and participate in the decision-making process to convince buyers that their product is the ultimate choice in hand.
Stage 6: Purchase
Purchase is the final stage of marketing funnel, where a buyer already made a decision to buy and convert into a customer. This is where the sales team comes into the picture to negotiate and close the deal. If the buyer has a positive opinion, it will lead to referrals and ignite the top of the marketing funnel once again and the process continues stage by stage.
Nonlinear Marketing funnels
Some of the experts say that, these days the buying process is not linear so marketing funnel concept is not applicable.
Leads enter the marketing funnel at different stages. This happens when they are referred, already aware about what they want to buy, and it can also happen when they have pursued their own education and jump in at interest or consideration.
Due to rise in internet usage, people are having access to information through various technology devices so prospective leads search and do research on their own. Alternative to the marketing funnel is McKinsey’s consumer decision journey (shown in the above image), which explains the buying process in a circular model, showing the touch points. There is no perfect model; both customer decision journey and the marketing funnel are used by marketers.
Inverting the funnel
Most common practice of marketing, sales, and customer service and experience managers is to “invert the funnel” into a customer experience funnel. This funnel guides the process of converting customers into advocates, which again refuels the top of the marketing funnel by steering awareness and lead generation. Below is the diagram of the customer experience funnel.
The ultimate aim is to increase the number of leads and purchases and push referrals to effectively run the marketing funnel stages.