Below, I’ll introduce you to the modern online marketing funnel model—the framework that should drive your entire digital marketing strategy. I’ve broken down each stage of the new buyer’s journey and provided marketing strategies and tactics that work best at each phase. You’ll also find real-world examples and expert advice on the “how” of making this work for your business. The goal is for you to walk away with a clear understanding of how the (modern) online buyer’s journey works and how best to market to your target audience at each stage.
At Disruptive Advertising, the marketing funnel is a key part of how we approach every client’s marketing. Getting into specifics about which tactics work best under which conditions in which stages is beyond the scope of this article, but if you’d like help setting up your own marketing funnel, let me know here or in the comments. Or, for additional content, check out this blog post.
As “State of Sales” finds, salespeople believe a combination of human skills and data-driven insights is needed to convert prospects into customers. In fact, the ability to listen is seen by 78% of those surveyed as an important attribute needed for landing deals. But sales reps also have to demonstrate industry knowledge (74%), trustworthiness (74%), and knowledge of prospects’ business needs (73%).
Direct email: Direct email works great if you have a list of people interested in your business. For example, people who attended one of your in-person workshops, a list of current customers, or a group/community you are a part of or manage. Important: Notice how we specify that these should be people you previously had contact with. We don’t recommend that you purchase email lists to do direct emailing as that can have a number of negative consequences for you and your business.
Retail sites are a natural first option to set up online searches that will deliver listings right to your inbox. In my experience, finding below-market deals this way can be a bit challenging, though. Try to niche down your search with words like “needs TLC,” “investor special,” “as-is,” “fixer-upper,” and “sweat equity.” Alternatively, you may need to work harder to find the deal or negotiate to get a good price.
As an example, Julie Bornstein, CMO at Sephora, has seen social media change how people buy beauty products. Recommendations from friends have always been important, but now these recommendations spread “quicker, faster, and further” at every stage in the funnel. The decision on what to buy increasingly comes from advocates who share their experience in a way that pulls in new customers and informs their purchase decision. Sephora’s response has been to bring all the stages of the funnel together into a single place, creating its own online community where people can ask questions of experts and each other about brands, products, and techniques.
Of course, if you're going the paid ad route, you could also use Facebook and Google re-targeting to keep that awareness and interest level high. For example, if you've ever noticed after leaving a particular website, that you begin to see their ad everywhere, there's a particular reason for that. Especially if they've already entered your sales funnel, this is a very powerful way to get them to act.
Now, you don’t need a massive advertising budget or a product that targets a basic human need to use this approach. Whether its a paid search ad that addresses the main reason behind someone’s search or a paid social ad that connects your target audience’s need to what you sell, good Stage 2 marketing helps people connect the dots between their pain and your solution.
Launches: If you already have an audience, then you should definitely consider going big to introduce your product to the public—that’s what launching is about. A launch can help you gain the initial traction your business needs to grow, but there is more to launching than just pushing your product live. Great launch strategies involve slowly warming up the communication with your audience and then sending them the right content that convinces them to purchase.
So where do we go from here? The funnel and Customer Decision Journey aren’t going away. They are useful models, and will continue to be helpful in certain contexts. But marketing today requires a new mental map to navigate a changing landscape. We need a model that informs marketers how to enable and empower, not just persuade and promote. There are a variety of alternatives including journey, orbit, relationship, and experience.
However, the best part about this, and the most powerful route that entrepreneurs take to scale their businesses, is that if you know that sending 100 people to your site costs you $200, for example, but you get two people to convert at $300 each, then you have a $600 return on $200 invested (300 percent). When you know that, that's when the entire game changes and you can infinitely scale your offers.
Setting up your sales funnel is the key to creating powerful prospect experiences. It is important that you map them out ahead of time to ensure your sales process is in alignment with the customer’s journey. CRM software set up to mirror your funnel activities can then help you manage and stay focused on the most important tasks during each stage in the process.
No one has to tell you, of all people, that customers go through stages as they move through the buying process. As a small-business owner, you've been selling your product or service long before your sales and marketing team started casting decisions in terms of “the marketing funnel.” The marketing funnel? If this term is new to your vernacular, don't worry, you're not far behind the curve – or the tactics to help you navigate it.