3 Secrets to Marketing, in my Expert Opinion;
1. Have a Clear Customer journey broken-down into actionable steps.
2. Continually ask yourself "Can I automate this?"
3. Tell people you have an Expert opinion.
3. Never use more than 3 steps & always end in a question.
Jokes aside. I wrote this article to help people break down the customer journey. The first step to automating any form of your marketing effort is knowing the steps involved. Do you know of any other good marketing material thats helped you?
The current digital marketing landscape has excelled in the area of marketing automation, through the use of lead nurturing sales funnels. If you’re unfamiliar with the term, just like an actual funnel (starting wide at the top, and getting smaller at the base to help direct the substance into the container), marketing funnel automation helps lead website visitors through the sales process and nurture them through the buying process.
There are multiple variations of sales funnels, some have 3 tiers while others have 6 and so on, but in the end they all move in the same direction and offer the same result, sales. No matter which model you subscribe to, they all start with website visitors at the top of the funnel that eventually filter through the system, being delivered marketing messages in order to nurture them towards a sale.
Sales funnel automation is a multi-tier process. There are many things that need to happen to ensure that your leads are aware enough of your company and product to make a purchase. It takes time for your prospects to be aware enough to even enter the funnel, let alone purchase your product.
The strategies behind automated sales funnels draw directly from buyer psychology. They walk leads through the psychological processes that the average buyer goes through to go from having a small interest in your product to being an active participant and buyer.
Let’s breakdown each stage of the customer journey, when moving through the automated sales process:
Marketing Funnel Stage 1 – Awareness
This early on in the journey, most customers are undergoing preliminary research. They’re in no way committed to any particular brand and are definitely not far enough down the funnel to be hearing a sales pitch. In the research phase, customers simply want to gather information about your brand and its offerings. If you can further educate them, the consumer will naturally begin looking into specific solutions.
The awareness stage is the first and most important part of the marketing funnel. Simply put, for your leads and prospects to get to the end of the funnel, they have to actually enter it in the first place. Customers need a reason to go to a brand’s website before going ahead with the Internet search, a reason to “Like” the Brand, a reason to give their full attention, a question they want answered.
The majority of visitors who come to your website will be in this early stage of the buying process, so it makes sense for most of your content to be geared towards this group. Content at this level should provide an introduction to the industry, and guide the audience through beginner level concepts and ideas. Top of the funnel content is a valuable educational resource for consumers, while from a marketing perspective, it introduces consumers to your brand and demonstrates your industry authority.
There are a variety of ways that you can use automation to convince new leads to enter your funnel. Some of the most common strategies include facilitating email newsletter signups by offering something of value — like an ebook, introductory white paper, newsletter updates, or other lead magnets.
By the time prospects near the end of your sales funnel, you want them to know that your product is the solution to their problem. Up until that point, you have to get them interested and engaged with your marketing messages.
The process of getting them to sign up for your email list and enter your funnel is often referenced as the “awareness” stage, but the truth is that building awareness is something that continues for some time after they first enter the funnel. It depends heavily on why they entered your funnel in the first place.
For instance, if they downloaded an ebook that is only loosely related to your product, they may not be fully aware of what you have to offer. This is something that takes place in the early stages of the funnel. In these stages, you aim to create a bond with prospects by delivering value and facilitating awareness.
Other prospects may enter your funnel with a solid understanding of your company, product, and industry and require less nurturing throughout.
Marketing Funnel Stage 2 – Interest
After a prospect is aware of your company and product, then you begin to build interest. If stage 1 of the marketing funnel created a problem awareness for consumers, then stage 2 should be creating a solution awareness for them.
Consumers at this stage of the buying process understand that your product or service could meet their needs, but know that other vendors could too. The goal with content at this stage is therefore to help consumers recognise that your business is the best choice. This content should exhibit your company as an expert in your field, and show how your specific solution will fulfil the consumer’s need. Weaving storytelling into your messaging also helps prospects connect with your brand on a deeper level. You want prospects to connect on a more personal level. Sometimes, that means that you need to put a face to the name and share personal stories with your audience.
The “interest” stage is all about building a relationship with the prospects in your lead database and beginning to introduce the positioning for your product. In this stage, you'll continue to deliver new content to your prospects on a regular basis. This content doesn’t have to be custom-made for prospects at this point.
In this stage your goal is to really dig into your company, your products, and the helpful information that you are able to provide. Content ideas for this stage of the buying process include, demo videos, product or solution based white paper, FAQs and so on.
Marketing Funnel Stage 3 – Desire
Next comes the decision-making process. Prospects are aware of your company, the products you offer, and how they can help them to solve the problem that they are currently facing. However they are simultaneously evaluating the worth of your competition and alternative options.
This is where the rubber really starts to hit the road, as everything up until this point has helped lay the groundwork. This stage is where you want to start sending the more transparent sales materials in order to influence your prospect’s decision-making process.
A few of the common types of content and strategies employed in this stage of the marketing funnel include; customer testimonials, case studies, advanced white papers, free samples and so forth.
The social angle of customer testimonials manages to cut through the divide between consumer and brand. When you can point a prospect in the direction of a satisfied customer, it allows for the prospect to identify with the person in the testimonial and how it applies to their current problem that needs to be solved. The decision-making process becomes a lot less daunting for prospects when they see that others have gone before them on the customer journey and have ended up satisfied with their purchase.
Much like customer testimonials, case studies can shine a light on a previous customer engagement. It may not be as personal but it can be a lot more in-depth and numbers based, giving customers a very analytical overview of past customer journeys.
For a completely different approach, White papers give your prospects insight into the technology or industry considerations that drive your product and your interaction with customers. White papers can be delivered at every stage of the marketing funnel automation process, but are particularly effective as customers start to make their buying decision.
One of the best ways to help a potential consumer get across the line, is to let the product speak for itself. When you offer a free sample of your product or service, the curious prospect no longer has to speculate. They either want more of what you offer or they don’t.
The content that you deliver during the desire stage plays a key role in whether or not they buy your product. Ensuring that you have the right content on hand before designing your automated funnel is critical for delivering value in the right way during this stage.
Marketing Funnel Stage 4 – Action
During this stage, you begin to make direct call to action requests and hard-sells for your product. This is where you ask the leads to take action. Ultimately, your conversion rate in this stage provides direct insight into the effectiveness of your funnel as a whole. It’s the key metric used for optimising your nurturing process and growing your revenue over time.
After you have put in the final push with offers such as free consultations, free trials, discounts and other calls to action. You will both deliver on sales materials and reroute those that choose not to buy back to an earlier stage in the funnel, as some customers will require more nurturing than others.
Some might be willing to buy at an earlier stage in the process. The great thing about marketing automation is that it can identify these issues and handle the placement of your prospects within the funnel for you, based on their actions and interactions throughout the process.
Marketing Funnel Stage 5 – Post-Purchase Behaviour
Finally, don’t think that the sales process is done just because a purchase decision has been made. What happens after the sale has been completed is just as important as what went into bringing about the sale in the first place! That’s right, a lot of modern sales funnels fan back out again on the other end of a sales conversion, with an effort on cultivating loyalty and advocacy from the growing customer base.
If your new customers are greeted by a thoughtful on-boarding process, personal attention, and all the resources they need to use your product successfully, they’re more likely to confirm to themselves that they made the right choice. When customers are feeling confident, they’re more likely to pass on their satisfaction to others in the form of recommendations and product endorsements. If, on the other hand, your new customers experience disappointment after their purchase, they’re more likely to request refunds, write negative reviews, and recommend that others in their social circles purchase from your competitors.
There’s not much content you can create to help facilitate a good post-purchase experience, just small prompts like webinars, surveys, advanced ebooks and loyalty discounts, to help keep front of mind with your customers while not overdoing it and driving them away. Ultimately if your product or service is doing a good job of what it needs to do in order to solve your customers problem, it will do most of the heavy-lifting beyond the sale.
Although most people enter the funnel at the top — the “problem/need” recognition section — not everyone does. Some will enter at subsequent stages, but the process remains the same no matter which stage someone enters the sales funnel, so make sure you have quality resources readily available for each tier of the funnel.