St. Elmo Lewis first conceived of the marketing funnel in 1898 to educate customers and help them make informed purchasing decisions. That’s an impressive feat for any framework, but the concept is now 122 years old — it wasn’t designed for the internet, smartphones, or even modern relationship marketing strategies. For this reason, the funnel must periodically evolve to account for changes and new marketing touchpoints of each generation.
So, what does the marketing funnel of 2021 require? What must change, and what can stay the same? And most importantly, what is needed to reach customers when a pandemic is keeping people apart?
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The marketing funnel in 2021
The classic funnel model has four core steps to keep in mind:
- Awareness: Learning about a brand, product, or service
- Interest: Becoming interested in a particular product or service
- Desire: Aspiring to a specific brand or version of a product
- Action: Completing a chosen purchase
Funnel terminology is quite similar today, but the context around each action is quite different. There are a few crucial distinctions between the classic marketing funnel and our current relationship with customers:
- Funnels are relationship-focused instead of product-focused. Modern businesses rarely try to sell products and services as one-time transactions. Instead, they market themselves as trusted brands that customers should use again in the future.
- Search engines let customers enter the funnel from any point. While the classic funnel gets smaller as leads fall away during each step, modern funnels must be more flexible. Potential customers might arrive in the “middle” of your funnel or speed through awareness, thanks to the power of word-of-mouth messaging.
- The funnel is not necessarily linear. Today’s marketing funnels might loop customers back to early stages after a purchase, spin into retention cycles, or even branch off along various decision trees.
The result of these changes is different industries — and individual marketers — can have their own approach to marketing funnels. Thankfully, there isn’t necessarily a right or wrong approach. What’s key is to consider how brands reach customers wherever they happen to be in their personal journey instead of sending them along a fixed path.
To illustrate this point, let’s take a simple model and look at the types of content that will enhance a customer relationship at each stage. This funnel will use the Awareness, Engage, Decide, and Delight structure.
The attract or awareness stage is typically the first and largest segment of the funnel. It represents every potential customer who has heard of your brand, most of whom will not convert. The value here is to generate visibility and position your company as an expert in your field so potential customers will know you can address their problems.
Any content can generate awareness, but you typically want to emphasize accessible and informative formats that will engage your target audience. They should have enough jargon to be relevant without demanding the reader’s time or offering a lengthy sales pitch.
Before 2020, conferences and expos would be ideal for generating awareness through speaking opportunities or distributing infographics. The realities of COVID-19, however, mean that marketers will need to focus on digital opportunities as much as possible. Attract-based content can include:
- Social media posts
- Blog posts
- Byline articles with industry publications
This step goes beyond awareness to engage readers at a deeper level and convert them into leads. Once complete, you should have enough background information to understand the potential customer, as well as their contact information. Marketers can usually achieve this in a digital environment through landing pages that offer content downloads in exchange for personal information.
Engaging content can build on the previous stage in various ways. For example, attract blog posts might link to more detailed engage-level content. Some content marketers also use the pillar post strategy to create interlinked blogs that cover related topics in detail while enhancing overall SEO rankings. This approach enhances each piece of content’s visibility while maximizing engagement with the brand — eventually guiding readers to that gated landing page.
Some ideal engage-level content includes:
- White papers
- Case studies
At this stage, leads decide to purchase your product or choose between your brand and competitors. Before making a purchase, however, they need some final information that highlights why your brand is the right choice. Content at the marketing funnel’s decision stage takes a closer look at product features, pricing, and other details that incentivize a sale. Directing leads to third-party customer reviews is also a promising strategy.
Don’t be afraid to highlight current promotions or free trials for leads at the decision stage, if applicable. While not strictly related to features, doing so can increase the value of a high-quality product. Materials to aid the decision process often include:
- Product documentation
- Product comparisons
- Customer reviews
- Free trials
If everything’s gone well, you’ve completed a sale and created a fan. Great work! But you don’t need to stop there — the goodwill earned throughout the funnel can drive a continued relationship with your brand or organic marketing opportunities. Newsletters and special promotions communicated by email is a great start. You can also direct customers to product review sites, reinforcing your value to leads higher up in the funnel. Finally, highlight relevant social media pages to anyone who wants to keep track of your business.
- Email newsletters
- Special promotions
- Product review reminders
- Social media invitations
The marketing funnel is always changing and will continue to do so as new technologies emerge or customer habits change. But the core goals remain the same — drive awareness, highlight your value, and encourage positivity towards your brand. By emphasizing digital opportunities during this process, you’ll be well-equipped to reach and assist potential customers at every point in their personal journey.
The post Reaching Customers Anywhere on The Marketing Funnel in 2021 appeared first on Post Funnel.