5 Essential Stages of Your Sales and Marketing Funnel
Often overlooked, top of the funnel sales and marketing techniques tend to get less preference.
Those that are at the middle and end of the funnel get more attention as they tend to be conversion focused.
In addition, techniques that are fantastic for building your awareness and your audience (at the top of the funnel) like ads, SEO and trade shows are being used to promote end of the funnel conversions. Which comes off as aggressive and does not work well when dealing with a cold audience.
When you have goals to meet, the urge is to take quick action and jump in with two feet.
These goals are then tackled it in a way to get the most results in the shortest amount of time and often without a clear plan.
I get it.
But, as a result of skipping around in your marketing funnel, you will have less qualified leads.
You will also need to put more resources, time, energy and revenue towards educating and warming up these leads.
Lower conversion rates and higher investment of time is NOT the goal.
So, before you “go in for the kill” there is a reason that there are levels of the funnel and therefore you cannot push people through your funnel or pass over steps.
If you want to be successful, it is important to use your funnel to build the know-like-trust factor (in this order) with valuable interactions.
When you try to skip stages you will leave gaps in your funnel and trust will not be established, and people do not purchase from those they do not trust.
When your funnel is set up properly, cold audiences will become aware of you and your brand.
They will become part of your audience, engage with your nurture campaigns and offerings, and become an ideal client.
Let’s take a look at these stages of a marketing funnel:
Stage 1: Initial Planning
This stage is often overlooked but is a key ingredient to an effective funnel.
This sets the stage for who you will be targeting and where to focus your efforts.
You will use the demographics that you outline here to create your ads and find collaborative partners.
You will also use your research to locate ideal publications and events where your ideal clients will be in larger numbers.
Take the time to plan exactly:
- Who you will target.
- Where you can find them in large numbers,
- How they prefer to keep up on their industry (and yours)
- How they prefer to purchase
- What types of things they research before they purchase
This will all play into how you can quickly target the most ideal audience.
Doing a bit of planning before you begin will be less expensive and very effective in the long run.
Stage 2: Awareness Development
Just as important as the planning stage, you are essentially introducing your company to strangers that may not have heard about you.
Up to this point they have no reason to trust you.
You need to think like your ideal client and how they may be researching questions they may have around your industry, products or services.
Your ideal client’s initial connection with you will probably start with an internet search.
Simply answer their questions.
Make it easy for them to find these solutions on your website or blog.
By offering solutions on your site, you will generate more ideal traffic.
This is the main entry for most people that enter your funnel.
So, it is important to note that as you target your audience it is imperative that you target your ideal audience; as the quality of your efforts here will be reflected throughout your entire funnel
Stage 3: Audience Building
At this stage you want to encourage your new website guests to take a deeper dive with related content.
Invite them to take advantage of associated resources that they can opt-in to receive.
Remember, your guest are researching a problem they may have.
You want to make sure you are not just giving them fluff but an actual solution.
Having valuable content on your blog or website will position you as a go to resource that they can return to for more, print out to bring to a meeting or to validate their research.
In addition, providing content they can opt-in for will allow you to see what you audience is interested in. This will let you know what to focus on as you create more relevant content. All at the same time you are growing your list.
This will further establish trust and keep your audience engaged. Best of all it is built around your expertise.
When done correctly you will clearly see where your buyers (aka your website guest) goals are merging with your companies goals
Stage 4: Lead Generation
This is the stage where a lot of small businesses start when building their funnel.
However, by starting with a bit of planning as demonstrated in the previous stages, building awareness and your audience, you now have a warm list of potential leads by the time you are at here.
You have established trust and authority and have qualified your leads by what they have opted-in for.
In doing so, it is less expensive and time consuming due to having to established trust and authority at the same time as qualifying the prospect as a potential lead.
This is why it is important to build awareness and your audience first and then build trust with these guests on your site.
Once trust is established, you are ready to incorporate more lead generation strategies into your marketing campaign and invite your audience to learn more.
Now that you have people on your list you have a good idea about what they have been researching by what they have opted in for.
This is why you have provided relevant content all the while.
You can now:
- Provide more tips with your nurture (email) messages.
- Offer a quick training or direct them to valuable short videos you have created that are also relevant.
- Invite them to take the next step with working with you.
But, I do want to caution you that you do not want to sell, sell, and SELL some more!
You need to make sure you are providing value as well as your promotions because just as easy as it was to join your list, it is just as easy to opt-out.
A good rule of thumb is for every 4-5 emails your send with tips you send you can send an email with a promotion.
Better yet, invite them to a webinar where you can provide value and answer any questions they have in real time.
I will share more about this in the next stage.
Stage 5: Sales Generation
This is where everything comes together.
By this point “strangers” have been supported with quality content that provided solutions to what they have been researching and are now part of your audience.
You have engaged with them through your nurture messages and offered additional value though:
- Additional content upgrades, and
- Relevant information.
All the while answering any objections that may have come up.
You now have highly qualified leads on an engaged list. This alone will allow you to have better conversion rates with potential ideal clients.
Your next step is to invite your guest to:
- A sales call,
- A consultation,
- A webinar
- A demonstration, or
- Work with you directly.
It is also a good time to simply contact them directly to see how you can help them.
Be available to answer question and tune into any feedback and objections that may arise in this final step.
Use this feedback to in your nurture messages and in the future content you create.
Where to Begin
Review where in your current funnel you need to dedicate your attention and begin there making refinements.
Ideally one stage should seamlessly flow into the next.
Marketing can become overwhelming when you are trying to implement strategies, techniques and best practices.
Not to mention trying to fit in fresh ideas from team members and from the new book you were up all night reading.
However, when you have an understanding of the bigger picture, you are able to refine and attend to those areas of the funnel that will bring the results you are looking for.
All this with less investment of your time and the ability to gain more qualified leads.