A marketing funnel is the process of converting a visitor into a paying customer and plays a fundamental role in determining the various activities that you need to undertake to attract customers. It begins with the initial stage where someone learns about your business to the purchasing stage, as well as post-purchase follow-ups to increase retention and repeat buying.
5 Stages of Consumer Behaviour Included in a Marketing Funnel
In 1910, John Dewey introduced the buying process. According to the Dewey theory, consumers go through 5 different stages in making a purchase.
- Problem or need recognition
- Information search
- Evaluation of alternatives
- Post-purchase behaviour
These stages make up the top of the funnel (TOFU), the middle of the funnel (MOFU), and the bottom of the funnel (BOFU). To give you a better understanding of buyer behaviour and marketing funnel creation, let us look closely at these 5 stages.
Stage 1: Problem or Need Recognition (TOFU)
Recognizing the need of a product or service is considered as the “Awareness” stage. Shoppers usually buy something they need or want versus something completely useless, at least 80% of the time.
It is your responsibility to make your brand reach that audience through developing a marketing plan. There is no single recipe to succes in attracting a wide audience who could potentially be customers. You can organize an event, advertise through print and digital, collaborate with an influencer, sponsor a blog post on a high authority website or run paid ads on Google or Facebook. Improve your website rankings by creating SEO friendly content and website. The possibility is endless. It is up to you to craft the right message using the right venue for your product or service.
Stage 2: Information Search (MOFU)
Once a problem or need arises then interest is triggered, your leads will move on to this stage. In this stage, the potential leads have become more interested in your products or services. They do what everybody does before making a purchase. That is doing more research about the brand, product and services. Any information about your products from customer reviews and knowledgeable content is valuable in the research process.
This is your opportunity to build a relationship with your leads and position your brand as an industry leader. You can do this with email marketing, inbound marketing and social media marketing. As leads progress further into the funnel your content should be more personalized.
Your website visibility is important to reach as many leads as possible. Potential consumers use search engines such as Google as a reliable tool and source of information. The more SEO friendly your website is, the better search visibility you will have that results in more website traffic. An SEO friendly website comprises fast page speed, a website with good UX design, keyword-rich content, and backlinks. You need to create content with keywords that has high volume traffic that matches the user search.
Build a series of SEO-friendly engaging content for your inbound marketing such as blog posts, infographics, white paper and videos linked to a landing page on your website. A landing page is where you convert a lead into customers where you gather their data and begin the sales process.
Social Media is the venue where brands connect to customers on a personal level. You can build trust and set the tone of your brand message and expertise on social media. Use helpful content to engage your audience.
When these would-be buyers become interested enough in your products and click on your CTAs, consider them as hot leads. Follow up with your salespeople with email, call or an online demo to close a sale.
Stage 3: Evaluation of Alternatives (MOFU)
With the information provided in your article, potential customers will start comparing the options available. The time spent in this stage will vary based on the type of purchase being contemplated, going through a careful and thorough evaluation process. Price points, as well as employment basis for services, will play a major role in decision making. Some may also request free trials, online demonstrations, or training videos when applicable.
Stage 4: Purchase Decision (BOFU)
At this stage, the potential customers have already determined that they have a problem, investigated their options, and made a decision on which one is best for them. Bottom of funnel content, such as case studies content showcasing the success of previous customers with different profiles, verticals, and business sizes can help them feel more confident with this decision. However, there are still factors that may hinder them from moving forward. These include negative feedback from fellow customers and the impact it will create.
Although they don’t make you feel good, complaints and criticisms give you important signals. Whatever decision your potential buyer makes based on negative feedback, make use of these criticisms to make changes, improve, and grow your business.
Stage 5: Post-Purchase Behavior (BOFU)
What happens after the purchase is as important as what happens prior to it. A friendly onboarding process, personal attention, and provision of all the resources they would need will make them feel that they made the right choice.
However, nothing beats a great product that does what it says it would. If your product truly solves a problem, you don’t have to worry about post-purchase behaviour as it will take care of itself. Product satisfaction will result in recommendations and product endorsements. On the other hand, disappointment will result in refunds, negative reviews, and unlikely recommendation from your dissatisfied customer’s social circle.
An FAQ content will also make it easier to get customer support and solicit feedback on the buying process.
AIDA Model: Another Way to Remember Sales Funnel and Content Creation Stages
Another way to remember the stages of the sales funnel and match them to content creation is by using the acronym AIDA. The AIDA model was developed by the American businessman, Elias St. Elmo Lewis, in 1898 and is used in marketing, describing the steps a customer goes through in the process of purchasing a product. It stands for attention, interest, desire, and action.
Research your target audience’s problems and passions then create content that solves their problems and focuses on their passions. Your content should also be easily discovered by your target audience through Google, social media, or another website. This will help boost brand awareness. If your content can grab their attention and deeply engage them, then your target audience will start to become curious about your company and brand.
Help your target audience learn more about your brand, the benefits of your solution, and your potential fit with them by doing the following:
- Feature your mission statement on your website
- Explain exactly what you do on your homepage
- Describe the benefits of your solution on your product pages
- Offer ungated case studies
Providing instant access to this information will help your target audience visualize a pleasant future with your solution in their lives.
Keep serving your prospects with content that they will enjoy and which will help them think that your product or service will be even better. To generate excitement and help them envision a future with you, make sure they subscribe to your blog, follow you on social media, and download your offers. The more prospects you get to interact with your brand, the more they will trust you. This will compel them to act on that purchase.
After you’ve piqued your prospect’s attention and desire with content creation and relationship building, you can generate action from them by placing “request a demo”, “free trial”, and “contact sales” call-to-actions (CTAs) on your homepage, pricing page, and product pages.
A Proven Formula
In theory, consumers who learn about your brand will develop certain feelings or emotions about your product or service as they progress through each stage of the model. This is what compels them to act.
Brands use the AIDA model to determine the way they should craft and distribute marketing messages to their target audience at each stage of the buyer’s journey. When applied to your content marketing, you’ll be leveraging a proven formula that can consistently engage, persuade, and convert an audience into customers and just like a typical marketing funnel, each stage will have fewer consumers than the previous one since many will drop off as they move through to the bottom of the funnel.
Some people enter the sales funnel at the top while others enter at subsequent stages. Whichever entry point they take, the process remains the same. They go through a process of discernment and choose to either move to another solution or purchase from you. The action at the end of the funnel—the purchase—concludes the stages of the sales funnel.
Content for Each Stage of Your Marketing Funnel
To create appealing content for every stage of your marketing funnel, you must know how your customers at each stage will find you. This is why it’s important for you to know what kind of information you need to provide them with to help them move from one stage to the next.
- Cold Traffic or TOFU Content
Cold traffic is made up of people who have not heard of or interacted with your brand before. They click on your ads simply because they are intrigued by what you are promoting. They are not searching for a solution but for information.
Content shared with your warm or hot audiences is not the same content that should be shared with your cold audiences. They need to be specifically top of the funnel and non-promotional so as not to scare them away for good.
The goal of TOFU content is to increase offer awareness, grow your retargeting list, increase engagement, and grow website traffic. The most common types of content for this stage are blog and social media posts, interactive quizzes, videos, podcasts, surveys, infographics, ebooks, and guides. The first two are most used as they are extremely entertaining and engaging, help to grab the cold traffic’s attention and make them want to learn more, and hopefully convert them into customers down the line. A helpful strategy is to establish yourself as a thought leader and industry expert.
- Warm Traffic or MOFU Content
Warm traffic is made up of people who know about your brand but have not yet made a purchase. They may have read your content, visited your site, followed your social media pages, or signed up for your email list and were interested in your brand enough to engage with you. What you need to do is to keep them interested and nurture them through the sales funnel since they still don’t know enough to make an educated decision on your products.
In this stage, it is essential that you create content that will help them decide to purchase your product. You can share a video or infographic explaining how your product compares to others and why it is better than another product on the market. You can make use of landing pages with lead generation forms for customers requesting online demonstrations, competitor comparison charts, case studies from successful customers, and pop-ups such as “Need help with [that service]?’ link on site relevant to pages the lead is on.
- Hot Traffic or BOFU Content
Warm traffic is made up of people who already know about you, your brand, products or services, and most likely have bought from you already. Your goal, therefore, is to remind them about your brand or products so they keep buying from you again.
You can create new checkout page content and post-purchase email funnel that you can roll out over time. It will also be helpful to set up PPC ads for this traffic that will send them to sales pages, landing pages, product pages, offer pages, and service pages.
Two Types of Qualifying Leads in Your Sales Funnel
Reality-wise, not every prospect will complete all the stages of a sales funnel for reasons that include lack of financial capability or authority to buy. This is where Marketing Qualified Leads (MQLs) and Sales Qualified Leads (SQLs) come in.
- MQL refers to a prospective customer who has shown a particular level of engagement but is not ready for the buying stage although is more likely to become a customer than other leads.
- SQL refers to a prospective customer that has progressed past the engagement stage, has been thoroughly analyzed by both marketing and sales, and has been qualified as a potential customer.
Salespeople qualify leads by looking at interest and fit. Interest refers to how invested the prospect is in moving forward with your company’s type of solution while fit refers to how closely the lead matches your company’s definition of an ideal buyer. This includes factors such as company designation, industry, and budget.
There are four possible primary combinations in qualifying leads:
- Low interest/low fit – These leads don’t meet your company’s target criteria and are unlikely to make a move soon.
- High interest/low fit – These MQLs are often people who are searching for a solution, but are unlikely to go with yours.
- Low interest/high fit – These leads closely resemble your target customer, but may not be a good fit right away. They may still be worth pursuing to create brand awareness that will eventually pay off when the need becomes apparent.
- High interest/high fit – These MQLs are actively seeking your type of solution and are likely to convert to buyers. Needless to say, they should be prioritized by your sales team.
These parameters are helpful in identifying marketing campaigns and content leading to the newest qualified prospects and ensures that you’re using your salespeople’s time effectively.
Marketing Funnel Metrics You Should Track
Tracking how well your funnel is functioning using a set of metrics can help you improve and optimize. You can work with your SQL and MQL data to see who closes and how they interact with your site, content, channels, and ads. This is the last process of funnel creation that you need to take.
Listed here are some of the different metrics that you can choose to focus on.
- Sales funnel conversion rate – This metric tracks the number of prospects that enter your funnel at any point and how many convert into customers. As you make changes to your marketing strategy in the future, seeing this number improve will let you know you’re on the right track.
- Entry sources – Monitor the sources from which people are entering your funnel to get ideas for expanding the reach of your marketing campaigns. These can be from a guest blog post, a social media post, and others.
- Time in stage – This will help you know if your prospects are getting hung up in one of your stages so you can add more content to your site that answers the questions that are unique to this stage of the funnel.
- Exits from stage – Track the number of people falling out of a particular stage so you can better address your shortcomings. It could mean that you aren’t answering their questions or you’re asking for commitment too soon. (e.g. don’t ask for a phone number or credit card number when they’re downloading a free e-book). Add more content to give them the information they need to move forward or convert.
- Content piece engagement rate – Track which calls to action are sending the most converted customers through your funnel so that you can replicate your success. You can upgrade/update that piece of content, send paid traffic to that blog post, promote it via email, and/or create more content pieces like that. You can get the information by tracking engagement rates on each CTA via Google Analytics.
- Opportunity arrival rate – Track the number of opportunities that are currently in your funnel and see how changes to your marketing strategy impact it.
- Close rate – Track how many deals you’ve won to get ideas on how to improve the success rate of your marketing funnel. You can check if your content level is a good fit for your ideal customer so you can continue sending your sales team qualified leads.
Utilise the different tools on the market today to help you track these and other metrics. You can opt to use Google Analytics just like most businesses since it provides the most comprehensive, easy-to-implement solution, and more importantly, is free to use. You can always switch if you feel that you need a more advanced sales analytics program or a complete marketing automation program.
Creating a sales and marketing funnel is not a simple undertaking, but it helps drive significant improvements in your efficiency and effectiveness when closing deals. It provides you with a useful model for visualizing the customer journey from initial awareness all the way through conversion. Make sure to take advantage of this useful framework to help you analyze your business and identify areas for improvement.