The role of marketers in feeding the sales funnel

By Caroline Devereux, Strategy, eCommerce and Digital Marketing Specialist

Have you created the perfect Sales Funnel for your business? Sales funnels are as varied as the products and services they’re designed to sell. The concept is simple, but the creation and execution may not be as easy. There is simply no one version, template, or design that works for everyone and with more information and more choice than ever before, consumers are moving outside the traditional linear Sales Funnel by changing the way they research and buy products.

Some initial questions that must be considered include; are you operating in a B2B or B2C environment? Which model best suits your business? What is your goal? Is it a simple online purchase or a more complex transaction that requires the intervention of sales personnel? 

As a model, your Sales Funnel is simplified out of necessity; it traces the most straightforward path a lead can take from awareness to sale. A customer’s real journey from lead to customer, however, is rarely so simple, which means you shouldn’t rely on your Sales Funnel alone for insight.

Audience Persona
Source: Shutterstock

Crafting audience personas

As marketers, the first step should always begin with understanding your customer or potential buyer. Crafting a well designed persona, to represent your key customer types, based on facts, analytical data and research. Effective personas are not imaginary profiles created internally; they should always be based on real people in the companies your team is selling to.

A persona documents your buyers’ situation, needs, motivations, key concerns and objections, and their buying journey. It captures their voice with direct quotes, and connects with their decision making process. It provides insight into the buyer’s role and documents how that person typically goes about influencing other buyers. It captures the key criteria that made it possible for the buying process to progress at each stage and identifies common sticking points.

Customer Journey Mapping
Source: Shutterstock

Telling the same story

Although they are different, your Sales Funnel and Customer Journey Maps should tell the same story. Collect data on the touchpoints your leads encounter as part of the customers end to end journey and use it to inform your Sales Funnel. Using these tools in tandem with each other is a powerful way to ensure your content reach the right leads, while creating a smoother and more user-friendly path to purchase.

Map out their Customer Journey (the link includes a great tool to help the mapping) by creating a detailed outline of each step a lead takes to become a paying customer. Start with the point at which they understand they have a problem to be solved or an opportunity to take advantage of. The potential buyer will then gather information, seeking to include and exclude brands as they evaluate the choices they face. They consider their alternatives and make a decision to become a customer. Simple, no?

ToFu, MoFu, and BoFu, may sound like food products, but they actually represent the different stages of the buyer’s journey (top of funnel, middle of funnel, bottom of funnel), each of which requires the right content to be delivered at the right time to move the prospect through the funnel. 

ToFu

ToFu – Attract a wider audience

At the top of your sales funnel a much larger audience is targeted, with the average conversion rates between 1 and 3%. However, it is vital that your content targets the right audience, those most likely to become leads or those mostly likely to convert. To develop inbound traffic you must earn the attention of customers ensuring the company is easily found, drawing customers to the website.   Some 55% of marketers claim that blogging is their top inbound marketing priority, focus on the content your customers value by conducting research and  interviews.

The goal with ToFu content should be to educate your audience on a specific question, need or pain point that they’re looking to address, but without a sales tie-in. From there, calls-to-actions should lead ToFu prospects to conversion opportunities

MoFu

MoFu – Interest & decision-making stages

Developing their interest with the right content.

Once you have attracted website visitors  with free blog posts, videos, and infographics, visitors have reached the interest stage in the sales funnel.  They are doing research, comparison shopping, and considering their options. It is now time to wow them with incredible content that has a real value to the  customer.

If you are pushing your product or service from the beginning, you will turn off prospects, causing them to leave your site. The goal here is to establish your expertise, provide content that helps the consumer make an informed decision, and be there to help them in any way you can.

Decision – converting visitors into leads by gathering their contact information.

They’re aware of you now, but are they interested in what you have to offer? It’s time to convert them from prospects to leads using forms, calls to action and landing pages. And to do that, you need an irresistible lead magnet. What would your persona find most valuable or useful? Here, you want to start to solve a problem, need, or want for them. Your lead magnets could include templates, e-books, research or offers.

Up to 80% of lead generating content is gated, encouraging leads to sign up  for content in exchange for their contact information for the valuable content inside. Your unique offering and value proposition should be clear to the customer at this stage, clearly outlining why is your solution better than another competitor. And lastly, A/B testing is vital at this stage to ensure your landing pages are effective.

BoFu

BoFu – Close and delight your customers but it doesn’t end there!

Building trust is key to developing successful B2B relationships. These customers often go on to become advocates of the company. Excellent delivery is the starting point for this  relationship which helps build credibility and greater trust between you and your customers. Customer reviews, testimonials, and other forms of social proof are a great way to promote this hard earned trust, making the selling process easier next time round. 

The bottom of the funnel is not the end of the process, post funnel is often shown as an hourglass. If you want to grow revenues, customer retention ad growth is key.  Satisfy the customer with value nurturing, retain them to generate renewals  and up-sells. Delight them to inspire referrals and empower them to become advocates for your brand. 

Lastly, effective marketing is driven by analytics, collect data on the touch-points you manage and on the leads as they go through the  sales journey and use it to effectively inform your future marketing activity.

Putting it all together

Those companies that provide the customer with the best experience from start to finish along the journey can expect to enhance customer satisfaction, improve sales and retention, reduce end-to-end service cost, and strengthen employee satisfaction. At each stage, buyer needs and behaviours are different, and the content you use to attract customers with must align with both your Sales Funnel and your Customer Journey. 

Caroline Devereux

About the author

Caroline Devereux has an MSc in Digital Marketing and has worked in marketing for a number of years. Specialising in strategy, eCommerce and digital marketing, she has experience in many sectors including PR, advertising, promotions, market research, business planning and now as a founding director of EASE with key responsibility for marketing and IT.

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