Exploding the marketing funnel

Exploding the marketing funnel

The marketing funnel has traditionally helped businesses map the conversion of prospects into paying customers. However, the growth of digital communication channels has led to dramatic changes in consumer behaviour. 

The difference between traditional and digital marketing funnels

The goal for marketers should be to understand the routes customers are taking from initial awareness to purchase, which takes into account this non-linear, channel hopping activity. Arguably, this should determine a brand’s entire digital strategy.

A traditional marketing funnel is usually described as: awareness, interest, consideration, intent, evaluation, and purchase.

A marketing funnel redesigned for the digital age simplifies this construction to: awareness, consideration, conversion and retention.

While the structure is similar, there are several key assumptions that underpin a digital marketing funnel: customers can easily skip stages; customers have widely different levels of product awareness and sentiment when they arrive at your site; post-conversion and retention is essential; and data is key. 

Capturing your audience’s attention still matters

Awareness involves acquiring the interest of your audience through a variety of channels, such as social, web, traditional media, or word of mouth. Each of these channels can prompt a journey to your site.

The largest growth area in terms of traffic to commercial websites has been organic search. It’s important to appreciate that users with no experience of your messaging whatsoever (i.e. with zero awareness) can travel to your site via a Google search – providing you are high enough in the rankings.

It’s possible to boost traffic to your site through Google Adwords or pay-per-click (PPC) campaigns. The advantage of using PPC to drive traffic is that these users will be pre-conditioned to some extent, or warmed-up to your product; warmer prospects are more likely to progress further down the sales funnel.  

Also, by analysing web-user data through Google Analytics, or monitoring social media with listening tools, marketers can check where visitors are coming from, which can help focus and refine your activity to raise awareness. 

How to convince prospects to become customers  

Once a user has clicked through to a website, they need to be convinced a product meets their requirements. In this phase of the funnel, visitors are researching a company actively – by clicking between pages and accessing content – and passively – drawing conclusions based on the website design and user interface.

Design elements and site structure are a crucial element in the consideration process. New users confronted with dated graphics, or an unintuitive interface, are likely to navigate away to find another retailer. The key analytics metric here is the ‘bounce rate’, which describes how many users are leaving after viewing only one page. 

By featuring an offer on the landing page, such as a free e-book download, or money-off voucher, marketers can hold the attention of a potential customer, initiate a relationship, develop interest and generate goodwill.

It’s worth remembering that during consideration, consumers actively research businesses through social media and online reviews. While it might not be possible to avoid or control negative statements, responding quickly to comments can go a long way to mitigate any damage.  

Customer satisfaction after the sale is vital

A key drawback of the traditional funnel model is that it ignores the customer experience beyond the point of purchase. In reality, the complete customer journey extends into fulfilment, feedback and retargeting.

The penalties for ignoring this can be high. A business that mishandles an order, or passes on customer data without consent, for example, can expect negative online feedback and angry social media posts. Not only will this cost a potential repeat customer, but their experience is likely to dissuade others too.

Also, by maintaining a database of previous customers, marketers can develop a user-base that can be targeted with specific, future offers. This technique can offer businesses ‘quick wins’ with a high return on investment.

Keep the route to purchase consistent simple and seamless

At each point along the digital sales funnel, a brand has the opportunity to communicate its values to a prospect, from an initial PPC advert to a landing page to email communications. A clear, consistent approach will be more effective than ingenious or overly smart messaging.

In short: the response to an increasingly fragmented digital landscape is to offer potential customers a seamless, trouble-free journey to purchase. 

To learn how you can overcome the challenges of engaging with customers through multiple channels in today's 'always on' world, attend CIM's Summit on The Changing Face of Marketing. 

James Richards Freelance Journalist
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