Ever wondered why you lose people on the path from prospect to customer?
You’ve spent months working on developing messaging, collateral, and drip campaigns to use in your marketing campaign—all the pieces that should take someone from curious about your product or service to “sign here, please” in a streamlined manner. But, prospects aren’t biting and your sales numbers aren’t where you hoped they would be. Where did the process go wrong?
You need a funnel to find out.
Funnels are everywhere. Designed wide at the top, they slowly narrow to a small opening. Infused vodka, motor oil, and glitter—funnels are used in endless applications to narrow down and drive material to a focused point. You pour in a lot, and slowly, it makes its way to the bottom, each particle shifting and moving forward to the tiny opening that awaits filling your desired vessel to the top.
In marketing, we use funnels to map out the buying journey.
Buyer journeys start with initial awareness – that first spark of curiosity about your product or service. It then moves to deeper interest, then desire, and, eventually, taking the necessary actions to convert from prospect to customer. A marketing funnel helps map out the entire journey and provides insight into what you must do to deliver value at each stage.
Fun fact: this fancy analogy isn’t new. Marketing funnels have been around for well over a hundred years. The AIDA model (Awareness, Interest, Desire, and Action) was first developed in 1898 by Elias St. Elmo Lewis. Elias was a celebrity in advertising land—he wrote and spoke prolifically about the influence advertising has on educating the public. He was inducted into the Advertising Hall of Fame posthumously in 1951.
So…how does the AIDA marketing funnel work?
AIDA stands for Awareness, Interest, Desire, and Action. These general categories can be molded to fit any consumer buying process. Let’s take a brief look at what they mean and how they work.
- What: When someone becomes aware what you’re selling meets their needs, they’re in the awareness stage. There’s a lot of work that goes into getting people into this first stage of the funnel.
- How: It’s the widest part and typically, people are targeted through ads of all types, social media, word of mouth, direct mail, industry affiliations, etc. The goal is to drop as many people into the top part of the funnel as possible knowing many will filter out on the way down. Once someone is aware, they begin to think about the right solution for their problem. Once these individuals reach awareness, we refer to them as prospects.
- What: This is when things start to get fun. When prospects express interest in what you offer, they begin to evaluate their options by researching, comparing you to the competition, and becoming more educated about what is most important to them when making a decision. For instance, is your company local, and offers in-person support? That might be the deciding factor when you’re compared to your out of town competition. Or maybe your company has taken steps to become a B Corp, and that’s in alignment with your prospect’s value system.
- How: At the Interest level, you must have a compelling message to differentiate yourself from the competition and demonstrate value to the prospect. Here’s where things like an impactful website, eguides, checklists, sales sheets, etc. help provide detail and showcase how you are uniquely qualified to earn their business.
- What: Most buying decisions are emotionally driven. At this stage, prospects seek psychological permission to say yes. Why? Because if you end up apples to apples with your competition, you need that special something to push your prospect to your side of the apple aisle. This also applies if you’re trying to upsell a client on a product or service. Let’s say you’re shopping for a new Jeep. You have a budget and have driven a few models. The black hard-top Sahara is awesome. It has all the basics and is really nice and a sound choice. But you’ve fallen head over Keen-clad heels in love with a sexy red Wrangler with big off-road tires and a convertible-style soft top. The fire engine red makes your heart race and the heated seats and top-of-the-line stereo put it at the top of your budget. You know you should go for the more modest model—it ticks off your need list and is a more reasonable monthly payment—but just looking at that red beauty makes your heart sing. The salesperson, noticing the longing on your face as you walk by it for the 3rd time, sweetens the deal with free oil changes and tire rotations for a full year. The bottom line hasn’t changed, but you have rationalized your decision. He has given you psychological permission to justify the higher price in your mind – and he didn’t have to give away the farm to do it.
- How: Prospects need something valuable to move their emotion from “I’m not sure…” to “Where do I sign?!” Ways to give permission to sign on the dotted line include overcoming their objections, providing case studies for social proof, building trust through testimonials, throwing in added value, and providing a compelling reason why they wouldn’t want to go anywhere else.
- What: Where their fine-tipped, blue-ink Pentel meets your contract. This is the point in the funnel where the glitter hits the bottom of the jar and the prospect becomes your customer. It’s a beautiful thing.
- How: Make it easy for them. If there’s a process to switch companies, find a way to ease the pain for them. Keep contracts simple and easy to move through. The last thing you want is to have the deal fall through because of a complicated contract process.
P.S. There’s an added area down the narrowest part of the funnel – it’s the area where you develop loyalty and encourage customers to become what we call advocates – people who help spread the word about your company. Advocates are the most powerful form of marketing you can get. Cultivate them.
How marketing funnels help you meet your goal
We can’t encourage you enough to embrace building funnels. By mapping out each step in your process, you can measure when someone willingly leaves the funnel and ultimately, is removed from said process. This is super handy as it lets you pinpoint the trouble areas where you lose prospects, analyze your data as to why, and gives you insight to pivot your strategy. We always say marketing is part art, part science. Here’s where the two meet and magic happens.
Keep your funnels simple
Word to the wise: clarity comes with simplicity. Funnels should be kept simple. Bucket the steps within each stage. By forcing yourself to create a streamlined, impactful sales process, it increases the likelihood of converting prospects to customers.
Plus, fewer steps help you analyze easier. Remember: a funnel’s sole purpose is to help you document every step a prospect takes from awareness to signing the dotted line.
How to start creating your funnel right now:
Give yourself the gift of insight by scheduling a time on your calendar to map out your sales process. Gather every piece of marketing information/collateral/channels you have and bucket them within the AIDA steps.
Then ask yourself:
Where does my marketing shine?
Where does it fall short?
Put a system in place to track leads as they come, measuring the time it takes to convert from lead to customer, and the areas most likely to lose them along the way. Prioritize the exit points and work on them one at a time until you increase the percentage of people who move through it to the next step. Once you’ve reduced the number of exits at one step, tackle the next problem area.
Funnels are excellent for examining your overall sales process. They can also be used to look at individual areas too. For example, you can use a marketing funnel to analyze your customer service process (or any troubleshooting area), or create a funnel to analyze the effectiveness of getting people to join a volunteer list for a service project. There are oodles of ways to evaluate the effectiveness of your efforts.
We encourage you to view funnels as part of your marketing toolbox. They’re powerful in the insight they provide making your efforts more efficient and effective.
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