13 Aug Do You Have a Modern Marketing Funnel to Drive Sales?
In Part I of this series, I shared with you the critical question you must answer before you try to sell anything to anybody. In Part II, I showed you the three crucial “ingredients” you need in order to grow a successful business. And now, in the final post of the series, I would love to share with you the final piece of the framework that lets you put everything together to close sales — and drive revenues.
That missing piece is the modern marketing funnel, which has replaced the outdated traditional sales funnel. I’ll start by explaining why the traditional sales funnel is irrelevant in the world of modern digital marketing.
The original sales funnel was developed for a completely different world. The entire concept of advertising was completely different from what we — consumers and marketers — see and experience today. In particular, marketers saw themselves as salesmen (and yes, they were mostly men — at least at first). They had to sell themselves to clients, and they had to sell their clients’ products to everyone else. So it’s only natural that they thought about the experience from their own point of view.
Hence, the sales funnel. Marketers worked to push leads into the top of the funnel. The theory was that with enough time, cold calls, billboards, and magazine ads, leads could become prospects, and some of them would even go on to become customers.
But as the years passed, marketers began to explore this crazy concept that maybe — just maybe — we ought to try thinking about things from the customer’s point of view. Yes, the modern marketing funnel focuses on the buyer’s experience, from start to finish.
The Modern Buyer’s Journey
Let’s take a closer look at that “start to finish,” shall we? The buyer’s experience with your brand starts long before he or she becomes a customer. Thanks to television, the Internet, and the 24-hour news cycle, people have incredible access to information about whatever they want — whenever they want it. So if your brand is out there, people are forming impressions about it well before they think about opening their wallets.
That’s why you need to embrace the modern marketing funnel, with its many stages — each of which is an opportunity for you to connect with a potential buyer and give him a unified and integrated experience that results not just in a customer, but in a brand advocate.
I have a lot to say about every single stage of the modern marketing funnel. Like, A LOT to say. But let’s start with the 25-words-or-less version:
The modern marketing funnel provides a way for you to create an immersive experience across channels, devices, and more, to interact and engage with potential buyers — and ultimately turn them into advocates who will bring more buyers directly to you. If you want to see the full marketing funnel in all its splendor, click here.
Okay, that’s 40 words — and it makes a lot of promises. But I believe in each of these 40 words — and the promises they hold — with all my heart. I started IN THE KNOW and the Marketing IN THE KNOW Podcast because this is what I believe. So let’s take a closer look at this framework and how it can help you grow your business and increase your revenues.
Planning: The Most Important Thing You Can Do
Ready to go and create that immersive experience? Not so fast. Before you can dive in, you need to put in some time to figure out exactly what you’re doing.
Within the framework of the funnel, you have your People, Processes, and Platforms — but you can only start working on those after you’ve determined your Why and done the work of StoryVesting.
Your People must be vested in the Story of your company. They should be overflowing with ideas and excitement. With the right, growth-minded People in the right places, you can take even the tiniest seed of an idea and nurture it into something awesome. Everything always goes back to your People. So make sure you put in the time to get the right People working for you.
Then, help those People lock down the Processes that will get the job done in the most effective and efficient way. As tempting as it is to settle for what works, doing so will cost you dearly — in time and in money — down the line. Better to make mistakes when you have a mailing list of 20 than when you have a list of 20,000. Perfect your Processes from the start — and review them regularly to make sure they’re still working the way they should.
Use the right Platforms to save time and money and to keep your People from getting unnecessarily frustrated. Recognize the difference between making a strategic decision to use a free or low-cost alternative that does 90% of what you need and forcing your People to use a cobbled-together solution that requires significantly more time and energy without producing real results.
The first stage of the marketing funnel is all about planning, which is why I’m harping a little bit on getting your People, Processes, and Platforms (3Ps) right. Because until you’ve put in the time to answer the critical WHY, do the work of StoryVesting, and get your 3Ps in place, you can’t even move on to the next level, let alone optimize your site, personalize a campaign for particular prospects, run your A/B tests, and all the other cool stuff that most of the big names in digital marketing talk about all the time.
You have to start where you are. You have to plan properly. You have to use the framework to guide your actions. You simply can’t run an A/B test until you have an audience. I realize exactly how overwhelming it is to build a modern digital marketing plan. I get it. I’ve been there. Which is why I’m in favor of taking a step back, starting from the basics, and building an integrated digital marketing machine within the framework of the modern marketing funnel — which means that you start with planning.
The Next Step: Attracting an Audience
So now all that planning is done, right? Well… no. I don’t think you’ll ever finish planning. Planning is an ongoing part of creating a digital marketing machine that runs smoothly and generates revenues. It never ends — but after a certain point, you can move forward. You do so, however, with the knowledge that you’ll constantly revisit and re-evaluate your plan. You’ll change what isn’t working, incorporate new Platforms that can do the job better than your old ones, replace People as needed, and check that your Processes are optimized.
You’ll also check in regularly with your plan to ensure that the work you’ve put in on StoryVesting is still relevant. Because over time, your ideal customer might grow and change — and his needs will grow and change, too.
At any rate, when you’ve done as much planning as you can for now, then you can start to create and distribute valuable content written for your ideal customers. Which is easy to say, but bear in mind that this is a huge process.
Way before I launched IN THE KNOW and the Marketing IN THE KNOW Podcast, I started planning. And when I “finished” planning (remember, you will always plan, you’ll never finish), I started working on developing content, which took around eight months. I started working on distribution only after I had put several months into the content development, and I only launched after I had created a significant stockpile of content assets — blog posts, a graphic library, podcasts, infographics, eBooks, and more.
So trust me when I say that it won’t be overnight — and it won’t happen by magic (how cool would that be?) — but it will happen. And this is the framework that will get you there.
Nurture Your Growing User Base
If you’re lucky enough to have an audience — people who read your blog and comment, people who subscribe to your mailing list, people who are taking the time to hear your message — nurture those relationships.
To nurture your users, strive to be worthy of them. Every piece of information you put out should offer value to your list. Notice how your marketing strategy is inextricably linked with your business strategy, sales, customer service, and every other part of your business. And, of course, always remember that your focus must be on the buyer’s experience at every step along the way. Optimize your web site so that it loads quickly, because users don’t like waiting for slow-loading pages. Make sure the mobile experience is seamless, because users want to use whatever device is handy. Be in tune with what your users want and need, because they have plenty of choices — and the competition is just a click away.
If you’ve put in the planning and development necessary, this is when you’ll find that you can you can take advantage of the many tools and technologies available to improve the buyer experience — and drive even more growth. But if you try to jump right into this step, you’ll find that your business falls flat — or worse, crashes and burns. You must start where you are right now and build your business with growth in mind from the ground up.
Convert Users to Customers
Here’s an awesome bit of information: by the time users get to this stage, they have already decided they want to make a purchase. You have them exactly where you want them — and it’s up to you not to blow it.
This is where you will really see all your planning pay off. If you’ve mastered the Processes — if you’ve made sure that the buying experience is easy, without needless steps, without confusing requests, without unnecessary delays — your users will sail through the shopping cart and put money in your pocket.
On the other hand, if you didn’t bother with all that silly planning and plunged right into slapping up a storefront, the users who eventually find it may simply… click away.
But you’re here, reading this post, so I’m pretty sure you’ve put in the planning. What if you’re still not getting the conversions you crave? That means it’s time to take a good, hard look at the buyer’s experience and work on your conversion rate optimization. When they click that big “Buy Now” button, what happens? Wait… you do have a big “Buy Now” button, right? That’s the first thing to check. Did you make it easy for your customers to buy? Make it simple. Streamlined. Easy to spot. And once they do click? I hope you’re not suddenly asking for 3 pages worth of demographic information.
Ask for the absolute minimum amount of information necessary to complete the purchase. Name, address, credit card. This is not the time to start asking about your user’s education level, family status, and more.
You also don’t want to suddenly surprise the user with additional shipping fees — or even taxes. Estimate these costs up front so the user is prepared. No one likes pulling out a $20 bill only to hear, “Well, actually…”
Conversion rate optimization covers a broad spectrum of testing and tweaking, but your guiding principles? Simplify. Streamline. Make it easy.
Get Customers to Become Your Brand Advocate
You’ve put in a lot of work to get your user to convert to a customer — so don’t make it be for nothing. Your new customer is in a perfect position to spread the word to all his friends — many of whom are probably also right there in your target market. And they are significantly more likely to trust a recommendation from your user — their friend — than from you. So put your customers to work, as brand advocates across the various social media channels.
And don’t stop there. Make it easy for customers to encourage others to buy. Get those sharing buttons in front of them. Continue to offer value. Remind your customers of the reasons they made their purchases in the first place, and keep exceeding expectations.
Use the Funnel to Drive Growth
Within each stage of the modern marketing funnel, you incorporate the People, Processes, and Platforms your business uses. If you take a look at the graphic of the modern marketing funnel earlier in this post, you’ll notice that each stage contains several cogs. I think of those cogs as individual micro-machines within the larger digital marketing machine.
The beauty of simply altering your thinking slightly — viewing each of these micro-machines as its own unit that makes up part of a greater whole — is that you can concentrate on the individual micro-machines one at a time as you begin building. Yes, they all need to work smoothly together, or the entire machine will screech to a halt, but when you’re getting started, you can focus first on your blog and then on your SEO, for example.
You can call it a game of semantics, but it’s a game you’ll appreciate greatly when you’re three months into implementing a new team or a new platform and feeling overwhelmed. Returning to this framework will help you focus your energy and efforts in the right places for the most effective results. And by appreciating each micro-machine in its own right, you’ll ultimately be able to tweak and optimize each one in turn, so that your entire digital marketing machine is honed to maximize growth — and revenue.
Can Your Funnel Replace Your Sales Department?
Here’s an interesting thought to ponder: if you create the ultimate marketing funnel, do you need a “sales” department? Moz doesn’t think so. If you change your focus from a sales department that depends on outbound marketing tactics to a growth development team that uses modern marketing strategies, tactics, and tools to bring customers into the funnel, what do you think would happen? Are you interested in finding out? Yeah, so am I.
Like I said, I have a lot to say about every phase of the marketing funnel. So there will definitely be more posts on this topic down the line. In the meantime, I’d love to hear your thoughts on all three parts of the series. If you have questions, please ask!