The sales funnel is the buying process customers “fall” through when making a purchase.
Things like your industry, business model, product, pricing, and audience mean your funnel won’t look like every other funnel – B2C customers, for example, often spend less time in the middle of the funnel, whereas B2B customers need more nurturing in that stage.
Usually, however, you can base your strategy around a three-stage funnel:
- Top of the funnel: The "awareness" stage, where people are looking for answers, resources, education, research data, opinions, and insight.
- Middle of the funnel: The "evaluation" stage, where people are heavily researching products, including yours, to determine the best fit.
- Bottom of the funnel: The "purchase" stage, where people choose a solution and become a customer (hopefully yours).
Top of the Funnel: Awareness
Someone has a problem or a question, and they’re looking for an answer. When they discover your brand (which is your goal in this stage, by the way, introducing your brand), they become a prospective customer.
In this stage, they don’t want you to jump down their throats with your product or service, especially with the internet being so ubiquitous. (Eighty-one percent of shoppers conduct online research before buying, and it’s because they don’t want to talk to anyone.) Don’t talk about yourself yet – figure out what your ideal customers want/need to know and give them/teach them those things.
Offer non-committal (but still high-value) content in this stage – prospects aren’t ready to give away their contact information, so
- social media content
are perfect ways to teach them about your brand from a distance and guide them to the conclusion that your products or services would be useful to them.
Those who find your content helpful and interesting will “fall” to the middle of the funnel.
Middle of the Funnel: Evaluation
In the evaluation phase, your brand has captured prospects’ attention, and they’re, well … evaluating you. (This is arguably the most critical stage because it’s where prospective customers eliminate solutions that aren’t a good fit.) It’s ok to talk about yourself in this part of the funnel – although they may not trust you yet – so offer content that differentiates you from competitors.
Include “meatier” content for the prospects evaluating you:
- case studies
- fact sheets
- targeted email campaigns
As we mentioned, this stage is longer and more complicated in B2B marketing, as B2B sales cycles are more complex and prospects require extra nurturing, so keep that in mind.
Bottom of the Funnel: Purchase
Everyone who’s made it to the bottom of the funnel is interested in what you offer, you just must convince them to pull the trigger. It’s time to ‘wow’ those prospects in their final moments of indecision with:
- product comparisons
- how-to guides
Also, now is the time they might call, so be ready to answer the phone!
Another important aspect of the bottom of the funnel is an easy sales process. Have you ever been shopping and loved a product but buying it was just too dang complicated? Or been in a store, looked at the lines, and left without buying anything?
And finally, don’t assume that top-of-the-funnel or middle-of-the-funnel (or even bottom-of-the-funnel) content won’t be useful to prospective customers at any stage (aka never stop producing quality content for every stage of the sales funnel).
What content do you find most useful at each stage of YOUR sales funnel? Let us know in the comments, or contact us if you’d like help sorting out what needs to go where.