Marketing is all about relationship building. In the end, you’re creating a community that consists of you and your customers. The only way to build an effective marketing strategy is to create value for this community, and nurture leads throughout. It takes time, creativity, and a bit of patience, but the payoff is a more qualified customer with a stronger loyalty to your brand and business.
A marketing funnel is a strategy used to build and nurture these relationships. Building a marketing funnel involves developing key stages:
- Awareness — Start with a campaign that lets people know that you and your products or services exist. Websites, social media, advertising, and industry events all fit into this stage at the top of the funnel.
- Lead Conversion — Once a prospect enters the funnel, the goal is to convert them into a lead. You’ll offer something of value to encourage them to give you that most precious of resources — their contact information. White papers, free product trials, discount codes, online seminars and free training are all good tools for capturing leads.
- Lead Nurturing — Once you have ‘em, what do you do with ‘em? You nurture them by continuing to add value. At this stage, your value proposition becomes a bit more targeted (“narrower,” if you will), and focused on your products as a solution to their problems or needs. Email campaigns are the number one tool for lead nurturing. An email inviting leads to try your product, followed by a few “how’d it go” or “we haven’t heard from you” emails over the course of the next few weeks—these are proven and effective for the next part of the funnel—
- Customer Conversion — A lead is great, but in the end you want them to buy something. Soft sell is almost always better than hard sell when it comes to converting leads to customers, but don’t underestimate the power of “Hurry! While supplies last!” Once someone has shown interest in your business, to the point of signing up to be in your database, the occasional hard sell offer is fine. Creating a sense of “scarcity,” or (better yet) “exclusivity” is a great way to encourage leads to make a purchase.
- Loyalty Nurturing — Once they buy, that’s it. It’s all over. You never speak to them again! Right? Of course not. The goal is to create a base of qualified customers who are loyal to your brand and business. That means the relationship is just beginning! You’ve closed the deal, but the courtship continues. Ongoing value-add campaigns help keep happy customers happy. And, thankfully, a lot of this is identical to what you did at the top of the funnel! Offering freebies to your customers — such as infographics, white papers, and online seminars — helps keep them engaged. Keep the awareness going, and keep the relationship alive.
A free funnel you can use right now!
Those are the general rules for funnel building, but here’s a free “starter funnel” you could try right away:
- White Paper — Start with a topic that’s near and dear to your target market. You can leverage materials you already have for this, and pretty effectively. Anything you’ve ever used to educate your employees or your customers on a given topic is now fodder for a white paper. Hire a skilled copywriter to do some research and to write a well-organized white paper on a hot topic. At the end of the paper, insert a call to action (CTA) that leads the reader back to your website for more information.
- Infographic — Now that you have your topic thoroughly explored, break it down to its basics. Have your copywriter outline the topic of the white paper, and include some ideas about how this topic could be explored in graphics. Then hire a graphic designer to turn that outline into a one-page infographic. This is meant to be eye-catching, and highly shareable. At the end, insert a CTA that tells the reader to go to a special landing page (more on that in a second), and register to download a white paper (see above) that expands on the topic.
- Landing Page — Birthplace of dreams! This is where all the funnel magic happens. Have your copywriter create crisp and effective lead copy that describes the basic topic of the white paper. This is where you want all the power a good copywriter can bring to the table. Everything on this page is value- and benefit-driven. What problem does this paper address? What questions will it answer? How will it help the reader lead a bigger, better, fuller life? The answer to all those questions, and more, can be found when the visitor signs up on the registration form built right into the page! By handing over their name and email address, they get exclusive access to the white paper that tells them all they need to know. That’s it. No other CTAs on this page, no upsells. If possible, you should even avoid having your regular site navigation on the page. Brand it with your logo, give one (ONE!) link to visit your full website, but focus entirely on the value and benefits of the white paper.
- Social media posts — Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, Pinterest — it doesn’t matter which social media site (or sites) you use. Focus on those where your target market hangs out. But for the top of your funnel, you want to start making your value offer loud and proud. Having something valuable to offer (for free) to your platform (audience) means you aren’t constantly barraging them with sales materials. Instead, you’re inviting conversations. Offer the free infographic, then follow up a day later with “Did you see our infographic about X? What did you think?” And please, for the love of all that is holy, respond when people actually tag you in a post. If you can’t get to it within two hours, you’re dead to them.
- Email your database — You should always ping your database when you have a new freebie to offer. “Check out this infographic on X!” is a good way to keep your audience engaged and aware. It invites sharing. And sharing is caring.
- Email your new leads — This is the narrowest part of the funnel, and maybe the most important. When leads come in, you should immediately email them with a quick “Thanks for downloading the white paper!” Encourage them to email you with any questions or suggestions or feedback. A couple of days later, email them to ask how they liked it and what they thought, and “Oh, by the way, we have a product related to that topic, if you’re interested. Here’s a free trial/discount code/free incentive to buy.” Three days after that, send an email asking how they liked their freebie, “and here are some more infographics/videos/white papers you might like!” Repeat regularly.
The magic of a marketing funnel is that it’s a way to start and keep a dialogue with your customers. When you’re in tune with your target market, it becomes a great deal easier to create sales opportunities. Keep adding value to your community, and you’ll keep seeing benefits for your business. There is no better way to help a business grow than to narrow things down with a marketing funnel.
Kevin Tumlinson is a Wordslinger and Marketing Smartypants. He is a fiction author with numerous young adult titles, including his latest “Sawyer Jackson” series. Connect and learn more about Kevin and his work at www.kevintumlinson.com.