Mastering the Marketing Funnel: A Comprehensive Guide to Conversion at Every Stage

marketing funnel

Understanding the idea of a marketing funnel is crucial for anyone doing email marketing, or really doing marketing in general. And this is because all profits come from creating conversions. But we don’t just mean the final conversion, where the person actually makes a purchase. Most of your job will actually involve getting your customer to convert from one stage to the next, with only the last conversion being about a purchase. 

This is because leads almost never go from seeing your brand, and immediately deciding to purchase. It can happen, but those sales will always be a small percentage of your total revenue. In most situations a lead has to go through several “stages” before they purchase. This is also known as the “customer journey”. 2visions, an e-commerce marketing consulting services agency, advises: “The customer journey is critical to get right. Putting too much emphasis on bottom-of-funnel conversion will starve the pipeline of prospects and seriously limit your ability to push a significant volume of sales. In order to increase scale, you’ve got to have a healthy program from top to bottom.” They emphasize the importance of understanding that the customer journey involves guiding prospects through each stage of the funnel. Focusing solely on bottom-of-the-funnel conversions neglects the nurturing and development of potential customers at the top and middle stages, hindering the overall success of your marketing strategy.

Your primary job as an email marketer is to architect a pleasant and smooth customer journey that effortlessly guides a lead through the different stages, and ultimately to becoming a paying customer. In order to achieve all of this, you need to understand the stages in at least a general sense. So let’s get into that.

Don’t take the marketing funnel too literally

I’ve seen some people bash the idea of funnels “because they’re too rigid”. They will say something like “that’s not how the real world works, you can’t box people in like an assembly line and guide them through stages exactly”.

And truth be told, they are right, especially if they’ve primarily looked at marketing gurus who are talking about super-rigid linear funnels. I’m talking about the funnels that use high-pressure tactics to squeeze as many upsells and cross-sells as possible from a visitor. They can give the idea of funnels a bad name.

However, realize that the idea of a funnel goes further than just those super-linear funnels that get hyped up in “get rich quick” schemes. In traditional marketing and sales theory, a funnel simply refers to the idea that a potential customer goes through stages before they convert. It’s called a funnel because it starts out really wide, with a lot of people at the initial stage, and less people at each subsequent stage.

Also, consider that this is just a starting point

You don’t have to keep it linear and try to box all customers into a rigid and linear model. You can make it more flexible the more you learn about and understand your customers. The fact however is that if you look at the big picture and generalize, as an aggregate, your leads as a whole will fit into this model quite neatly.

As you progress and introduce more personalization, you can start to deal with the fine intricacies and deal with different customers differently. However, premature complexity in personalization is just a bad idea that will delay the time it takes for you to see results. 

Of course, in an ideal world you could talk to every single lead on a one-to-one basis and manually tailor your communication to exactly where they’re at. However, that’s neither realistic, nor practical. So this is why we have to approximate things and come up with models that let us see results that are similar to such a manual and personal approach, yet in a way that’s more automated and can scale.

And again, funnels are just a model. It is completely fine to start out with a more general universal model, and then tweak it to better fit your business over time. You can rename the stages, add more stages, or even have multiple models for different segments. In this guide however we’ll primarily focus on the general (more universal) model that includes the awareness, consideration and decision stages.

Understanding the Awareness stage

The awareness stage has more to do with the customer then it is to do with you or your brand. It is the point in time where the customer realizes they have a problem. They realize that they have a pain point and they are seeking to understand it. 

marketing funnelAt this point, they are still in the initial awareness and light curiosity stage. They are not even sure if this is a big problem, or if they want to bother solving it. You can think of what they’re doing as light research, so try to keep it light. The idea of buying a product or actively trying to solve the issue isn’t on their mind at this point.

At this point you want to just be helpful and stay as far away from sales as possible. You want to gently educate them about the problem, in a more fun and introductory way. Remember, they’re not yet trying to actively solve the problem.

You can of course mention your solutions, but try to avoid doing so in an overly salesy and promotional way. You want to do it in an educational way, as in something that exists, not something that they “must purchase now”. You’re still just planting the seeds at this point.

Seek to understand their needs

Now, this doesn’t have to be overly complicated and involve large-scale surveys. You simply have to ask yourself a couple of questions, just to make sure that you’re putting yourself in their shoes.

Try and consider what it would be like to discover this pain point for the first time. What would be your main questions or goals during this time? What would you be curious to find out, and what would be your main concerns? All of this will help you craft the content needed to attract and help people at this stage.

Produce free content to both grow your list, and win trust

If you spend just a little bit of time asking the questions above, you should be able to start crafting useful content. Now, the content can come in multiple forms, and we’ll talk about that in just a second. But the really important thing to realize is that it serves two purposes.

You can use content as a way to attract an audience, for example with articles, videos or podcasts that are freely available to the public. But you can also “gate” some of this content inside of a PDF or video course that they receive after they join your list (this is called a lead magnet). In general, you will want to do a combination of the two types of content. That is to say, you want to leverage the benefits of having both freely available public content, as well as gated content.

In terms of your freely available content, it should always serve as a gateway to your email list. It can achieve said goal in two main ways. It can simply ask people to join your newsletter as this is where you share the best stuff. Alternatively, you can have freely-available content advertise your lead magnets. Remember, this can be something like a free PDF that they get when they join your list. In essence, both of these ask that audience to join your list, just using a different angle.

Now, in addition to this, when it comes to the lead magnets, you can also promote them using paid advertising as well. For example you might advertise an industry whitepaper that answers a lot of burning questions relevant to a business in the awareness stage. All they have to do is request this whitepaper by providing their email, and by doing so, they get the whitepaper delivered in email, along with a subscription to your list.

Leveraging the Consideration stage

The consideration stage is the point at which they’re already thinking about solving the problem. They still haven’t decided how they will solve the problem, or if they want to spend money doing so, but it is definitely something that they are considering.

marketing funnelAt this point, your job is to help them realize 3 things. The first is to help them realize that solving the problem is a good idea. Remember, people can always put off solving a problem. So your job is to demonstrate that not solving the problem will be more painful than getting it solved sooner rather than later.

The second thing is to help them realize that a paid solution will actually help them save time and money. And thirdly, you want to start introducing them to your own solutions and how they solve the problem. However, make sure to keep it light on the promotional side of things. The harder selling comes in the decision stage.

Your content should continue to answer the questions they care about

A big prerequisite here is doing a good job of segmenting your subscribers. This is crucial because you want to send different content to the people who have reached the consideration stage.

And once they do, you should send them relevant content. At this stage, the articles, videos and emails should be just as valuable as before. The difference is that all of this content now aims to help the subscriber understand why they need to solve the problem, and how they can do so.

Examples of how others have solved the problem are especially useful, and so it makes sense to introduce case studies. In addition, you can also introduce free webinars where you answer their questions, or (depending on your business model) share product catalogs or spec sheets that achieve a similar goal.

Executing in the Decision Stage

If you’ve done a good job during the awareness and consideration stages, the potential customer should already be considering your product as a potential solution. In addition, they should have a level of respect and trust for your brand. This is the perfect time to get more salesy and promotional.

marketing funnelOffer them the tools they need to make the right decision

You know how great your product is, and you know that it is a great choice for any customer seeking to solve this problem. But you have to help them understand this as well. It is your job to provide them with the tools they need to reach this conclusion as well.

And just how do you do this? Well, it’s going to depend on your business and industry, but it always involves giving them a way to learn more about why your solution is right for them. Some of your options include:

Free trials (or samples)

Again, this is going to depend on your industry or business model. However, in most cases, there should be a way for you to help them experience what your solution can do for them. While free samples and trials are best, demonstrations can also serve a similar purpose.

A free consultation or sales call

There’s a reason you see all the most successful businesses offering free consultations and sales calls. Aside (or in addition) to free trials, this is one of the best ways for a potential customer to learn more about your solutions.

Special promotions, coupons and discounts

This is the point at which you can pull out all the hard selling, scarcity-driven tactics and special discounts. If you won their trust by providing tons of value, they will be happy to see that special offer. Instead of feeling like a hard sell, it should feel like relief. You’re helping them close that loop and make their decision easy. You’re almost giving them an excuse to purchase.

Get A Strategic Partner On Your Side

There’s no need to go at this alone. While we do put out a lot of free content to help you, nothing beats a one-on-one conversation. In these articles we try to help clarify things as best as possible. However, every business is different, so we have to generalize.

If you want to understand better how to implement email marketing in your specific business, let’s have a chat. At the moment I am still able to do some free demos, so be sure to book one while I can still do these.

I would love to hear about your specific needs, challenges and any confusion you might have about email marketing strategies. And then, help you see how you can use Emercury to improve your bottom-line.

Alternatively, or in addition to booking a free demo, you can also grab a username for our forever-free-plan while we still have it. It’s probably the most generous email marketing automation plan on the planet. We include almost every feature in this plan, with very few restrictions.

Remember, you get to keep this plan for life, for free… Provided that you grab a username while registrations are still open. Note that we might decide to pull this way-too-generous offering at any point. So click that link to check if we still allow registrations.

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