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The Marketing Funnel in Practice

Have you come across the term ‘marketing funnel’ and wondered what it means? The simple answer is that it’s a way to visualise the customer journey. It’s the various stages from awareness of your brand, through to making a purchase, signing up for something or making a booking. Here we take you through the phases of the marketing funnel and explain why conversion shouldn’t be the final interaction.

Phases of a Marketing Funnel

The four key phases in a marketing funnel are referred to as AIDA:

  • Awareness – making prospects aware that you offer what they are looking for
  • Interest – appealing to their needs to prove that you offer what they are looking for
  • Desire – building rapport to reassure them that they are making the right decision
  • Action – the final call to action that persuades them to commit

There are numerous models that imply the way a consumer moves through a series of steps in order to make a purchasing decision. You may come also across other terminology such as ‘attention’ or ‘decision’, and maybe ‘consideration’, ‘intent’ and ‘evaluation’, rather than ‘desire’. These terms and other models are all completely viable, but today we’re focussing on the four key phases referred to as the AIDA model.

Mapping out a marketing funnel is a means of building an understanding of your customer’s journey and your planned marketing activity at each phase. It can help you identify gaps or blocks that might prevent your prospects from becoming customers.

However, we must be aware that the process isn’t straightforward. Disruptors, customer experience and fresh information can all interrupt the flow. This is explored in the McKinsey article Customer Decision Journey.

What Activity Applies to each Phase of the Marketing Funnel?

The objectives of marketing are to build brand awareness, secure brand reputation, encourage sales and retain interest. These steps obviously apply throughout the marketing funnel, but each is prevalent at a specific phase. Ensure your content marketing plan takes into consideration each of these phases.

  1. Awareness – Building Brand Awareness
    At the awareness phase, the funnel is wide and visibility can be achieved with marketing activities such as paid advertising, print media, trade shows and networking events With a consistent and targeted approach, these promotions will help raise awareness of your brand and ensure it becomes familiar to your target audience.
  2. Interest – Securing Brand Reputation
    Whether the prospect is ready to buy or not, if you’ve sparked their interest, the next stage is research. They’ll check out your website and social profiles, ask questions, read articles and case studies or maybe sign up for a webinar or newsletter. They’re testing the water to explore whether your business can provide what they need. Their evaluation will likely extend beyond products and services, to include shared values and synergy.
  3. Desire – Encouraging Sales
    When a prospect has filtered down various options, they might request a sample, meeting or quote. They could visit your store or showroom to try it on, see the full selection or measure up. Personalised relationship building and matching their perceptions is crucial for providing reassurance. And a responsive and informed service, a free trial, samples and an enticing call to action all play a part in building desire and influencing their purchasing decisions.
  4. Action – Retaining Customers
    The decision to sign up, book or buy has been made. However, the final action is very much dependent on a positive customer experience. Have you ever abandoned a shopping cart? Maybe you’ve hung up the phone or walked out of a restaurant because you’ve waited too long. It’s not a conversion until you have fulfilled all of the customer’s requirements. Positive outcomes are the result of positive interactions!

The End of the Marketing Funnel

In the past, conversion was highlighted as the end of the funnel, but this is no longer the case. We now understand that this is a circular, not a linear process and the customer journey continues post-purchase.

In a world where peer influencers, reviews and recommendations are powerful, our post-sale marketing strategy can generate brand ambassadors and advocates for your products and services. Loyal customers are not only likely to buy from us again, they can also help us build brand awareness and essentially refill the funnel.

What is Post Purchase Marketing?

Post purchase marketing could include product care advice and recommendations to help customers gain the most from their purchases. Some brands use ‘How to’ videos, product demonstrations and tutorials, which are all ways to retain customer interaction.

Other examples include discounts on future purchases, referral or recommend-a-friend offers and priority booking for future events. Equally, helpful reminders and tips can be valuable, for example, a plumber might send a reminder that a boiler service is due, with tips on how to bleed your radiators.

Equally, responsive complaint handling and returns procedures can help keep customers on side, even if the purchase didn’t match their expectations.

Small Business Marketing

It’s important to understand that consumers aren’t passively waiting for you to promote your goods and services, they are actively researching. By delivering the right message, in the right place at the right time, you can encourage them along your marketing funnel.

It’s a case of using insight to inform what influences your target customers’ purchasing decisions and tailoring your marketing activity to deliver what they value.

As a SME, this might sound daunting and costly. However, small, local businesses are in a strong position to establish relationships with your customers. You are more likely to know your customers personally, talk with them, listen and able to adapt more so than a big corporation. In addition, you have a vested interest in providing a responsive and personalised service. At Alison Page Marketing, we support small businesses, like yours, by offering a 2-hour marketing consultation and by preparing realistic marketing strategies and plans. Our advice and support are based on how best to engage with target customers, based on available resources and budget. By increasing the number of customers coming through the marketing funnel, we know our services generate returns on investment.