Why Do I Need A Marketing Funnel?
If you have your own business and you’ve been learning best practices on how to market yourself, chances are you’ve heard the term “marketing funnel” quite a bit. But what exactly is it?
When done correctly, a marketing funnel will take your potential customer from first discovering you (via YouTube, your blog, your social media efforts, etc.) all the way to buying your products or services on a regular basis. It helps them go from being aware of your business to being repeat customers.
In short, a marketing funnel is a basic requirement of a successful online business.
In this blog, we will discuss:
Who will be going through your funnel stages
What those stages are
The four basic steps of a marketing funnel
How to collect, track, and measure data through each stage
How to set everything up
So, What Exactly is a Marketing Funnel?
A marketing funnel is a series of steps that a customer needs to go through in order to reach your conversion goal. A conversion is a particular action you want visitors to make on your website. That could mean they make a purchase, add an item to their shopping cart, sign up for a newsletter, fill out a form, etc. Basically, any measurable action that moves potential customers closer to feeling comfortable enough to buy what you’re selling.
If you were to Google “marketing funnel”, you would find a mixed bag of resources and a variety of marketing funnels that serve different purposes within industries.
We’ve narrowed this post down to focus on a basic funnel that a small business looking to generate more leads and customers would benefit from taking the time to implement.
It’s important to be aware that there are a few hoops that an anonymous user has to jump through before they are interested enough in your brand to become a customer. The marketing funnel stages are not random. They are based on tried-and-true customer behavior patterns that have kept business school professors busy researching for decades. The thinking goes like this:
1. Awareness attracts VISITORS who actually visit your website, click around, engage with your content, and maybe check out your products.
2. VISITORS who show enough interest become LEADS by signing up for your newsletter, downloading your free content, or submitting a question through a contact form. Now you have permission to communicate directly with them.
3. Desire is the motivation for LEADS to become a PROSPECT. A prospect will do everything except hit the “submit” button to place their order. For example, they’ll put items in their checkout cart but not complete the order. They’ll request a discount code, but not use it right away. They want to buy your stuff so badly they can taste it, but they aren’t quite ready (or able) to commit yet.
4. Once a PROSPECT is ready to take action, they then become your CUSTOMER. You’ve passed all their tests, and they are convinced that what you’re selling will solve a problem they have.
Just be sure that all that hoop-jumping is worth it! This means you need to be providing a product or service that actually does live up to or exceed their expectations—because once somebody makes it through all those stages, you have more than a customer. You have converted an anonymous user into a believer!
The Four Basic Steps of a Marketing Funnel
Now that we know who will be going through our funnel stages, let’s talk about the four basic steps that make up a marketing funnel: Awareness, Interest, Desire, and Action.
This step is the very top of the funnel. You’ll reach the most amount of people during this stage, which is why some companies refer to this as your “wide net”. The goal for this step is to turn people into website visitors. You can do this through social media activity, press coverage, local events, word of mouth, third-party partnerships, influencers, etc. During this step, you should be measuring the following:
Website traffic sources (where are these visitors coming from?)
The most-visited website pages
Social media clicks (what posts receive the most engagement?)
Blog post engagement (are people reading the full blog?)
Which site links are users clicking on the most?
What devices are people using to visit your site?
Where do these visitors live?
Once you’ve built awareness with your visitors, the next step in the funnel is to generate interest. An easy way to gauge interest is with your email list. You can create email campaigns to get people closer to conversion, or you can produce an email newsletter with different types of content and ways for your leads to interact with your brand. The interest your visitors are showing is measured by the following:
Email open rates or click-through rates (are your leads opening and reading the emails you’re sending them?)
Social media click-through rates
Completed contact or intake forms on your website
As you work your would-be customers through the funnel and closer to conversion, you will be able to see how much desire they have to be converted into paying customers. During this stage, your leads turn into prospects. You will know they are prospects by tracking:
If they have added items to their checkout cart
Whether or not they used the promo or discount code when adding items to their checkout cart
If they have responded to emails in your email series
If they have shared their contact info with you at a live event
Yay, you have a customer! Your visitor turns into a lead, then a prospect, and now you have a paying customer and new data you can use to create new funnels to increase your profit (or your email list, or your wholesale client list).
Let’s talk more about conversions. Conversions will look a little different for every company, and even every stage of your company. If you’re just starting out and your main goal is to generate interest, your conversion would probably be to grow your email list. Or if you have a new product coming out and you want to generate traffic and sales for that specific product, your conversion would be the sale of that specific product.
It seems kind of obvious that your conversion goal should be sales, but don’t forget about email signups. Your email list is the most valuable data you can get. Why? Because you have full control over this channel, and you can measure the outcomes of what happens with your email subscribers clearly.
Why Do You Need a Marketing Funnel?
Because every online business needs an automated, measurable system that will guide potential customers from the process of learning about your brand all the way to making a purchase.
People probably are not going to just randomly stumble across your website and immediately make a purchase. That would be great, but it’s not likely. Instead, they need a bit of nurturing, educating, and convincing before they get to that point.
Think of these funnels as a “get to know you” process that explains to people the different reasons why they should make the leap and become a paying customer.
The most effective way to communicate directly with people who are interested in your brand is via email campaigns. Once you get people to opt in to your email list, you can deliver content directly to their inboxes and track how they respond to that hand-picked content. Trust us, it’s much easier to adjust your content once you can see what your prospects are most interested in and engaged with.
Need help getting started with a data collection plan?
Intro to Data Collection is a course designed just for you!
How to Collect, Track, and Measure Data During Each Stage
If the thought of collecting, tracking, measuring data from a sales funnel makes you nervous, fear not. We have created a quick list of some basic things you can start thinking about before you dive into learning how to set up your data collection dashboard.
Use a tool like bit.ly and add some unique, trackable links to your blogs, email campaigns, and social media. Even if you’ve never looked at Google Analytics before, you can get your feet wet by seeing how many people clicked on these links, and which channel they were on when they clicked.
Your email platform will have some sort of reporting that will be super user-friendly and will give you great insight into how your prospects are interacting with your content.
In a basic MailChimp report (even with a free account), you can see what kind of “open rate” a specific email had, how many people opened it, and—even more interesting—what time they opened it. It’s important to take a peek at which links they clicked on, too.
If you have intake forms (contact forms, newsletter signups, wholesale applications, etc.) as part of your marketing funnel, you should have a notification set up to get an email anytime someone fills out the form. This is data, and all data is golden! Just from those few interaction points, you can get a good feel for how your community of potential customers is interacting (or not) with the content you have created.
The data starts to get a little more tangible at this stage, which means it’s easier to track and measure. A few examples of tangible info you should pay attention to at this stage are:
The “abandoned cart” percentage rate. If users are adding items to their checkout cart but not completing the purchase, you should make sure everything is functioning properly, then test out the process to see if you can make it any smoother. The abandoned cart rate is a statistic that can be found in your e-commerce platform.
When a wholesale contact asks you to send them some sample products. This is a huge indication that they have a desire to purchase your product. Make sure you have a system to log interactions so that you can copy the things that worked next time.
A contact collection system for when you are hosting a booth at events. If you’re going to be at a trade show or pop-up, it’s very important to have a signup sheet that will help you follow up and nurture those interested parties.
All of these are actions are measurable! They can provide valuable insights as to what your potential customers like and don’t like. Collect and leverage these free clues to validate whether or not you’re on the right track.
This one’s easy! Have your prospects done the thing you’ve been guiding them to do? Have they been willing to part with their hard-earned money because they believe that your brand offers a trustworthy solution that will help them solve their problem?
Even without Google Analytics, you can get an idea of where your funnel is and isn’t working. If people are “stuck” in the lead stage and are taking forever to become a prospect, then you can start adjusting your offers. It could honestly be as simple as changing some of your wording or the image you’re using on a landing page.
But how cool is it to have a way to identify what needs to be fixed, and to be able to pinpoint exactly where you might be able to try new strategies to increase engagement?
Once you get one funnel flowing, then you can start using more funnels to create other unique customer journeys. You might have a few marketing funnels working at the same time because you may have different target customers. You aren’t limited to using your funnel strictly for signing up and/or purchasing. You can put funnels all over your website to see how visitors move through a specific website flow.
Marketing funnels have helped us narrow down and prioritize how much money and time we spend each month on our marketing efforts. You won’t be able to do it all at once, but sometimes as a “solopreneur”, or small business owner, you have so many things going at once that you won’t be sure what needs your attention most at any given moment. But once you establish a marketing funnel and stick with it for a few months, you’ll be able to tell what’s working and what isn’t within the boundaries of that funnel—which is such a relief if you’ve been trying to implement and refine everything, everywhere at all times.
So now that you’re sold on the whole marketing funnel idea, are you wondering how you set up the damn thing? We’re not going to leave you hanging! You can follow the eight easy steps listed in the infographic below to set up and track your very own marketing funnel.
To Download a PDF version of the Infographic Below
Every time you do a checkpoint review, record your observations, changes, successes, and misses on the corresponding tab so you’ll have a readily-available snapshot of each stage of your marketing funnel. This will enable you to see what is most effectively moving users through your funnel and turning them into customers—which is the entire point of creating a marketing funnel!
As you can see, having a marketing funnel is a critical element to any online business. It may seem daunting at first, but once you begin to see what’s working and what needs tweaking, it’s pretty exciting. Why? Because you’ll be seeing your business take shape right in front of your eyes. Having a measurable way to know what makes people want to buy what you’re selling is nothing short of thrilling after all your hard work.