What is the sales funnel?
In marketing circles, you’ll often hear about the “lead nurturing funnel” or the “sales funnel.” This funnel represents the customer journey—the steps a customer takes between their initial interest in a product or service all the way to the purchase of that product or service.
The funnel concept has been around for decades, but it’s grown more complex in recent years due to advancements in technology and changes in shopping habits. Today, customers have more choices than ever when making their way through a sales funnel. Customers can research online, make purchases from their phones, and shop 24/7 from anywhere.
But while the complexity of the purchasing process has increased, the path through the funnel has remained largely the same. It has 3 basic stages:
- Awareness: This is when potential customers first find out about your product or service. As noted earlier, most customers reach this initial touchpoint through an online search. To get your prospects to this stage, you need to ensure that you’re ranking high in the search results.
- Consideration: After their first broad search, most customers will move on to a deeper consideration stage. It’s during this stage, while they’re researching a product or service and thinking about their purchase, that lead nurturing can make or break your ability to stay on a customer’s potential purchase list.
- Decision: Finally, the customer reaches the stage where they’re ready to make their purchase. They’ve finished their research and are in the process of making a final choice. Lead nurturing plays a vital role here in tapping into the emotional side of a purchasing decision.
Throughout every stage of the funnel, focus on how you’ll meet the needs of your customers—and how you’ll set yourself apart from the competition.
How do you design a lead nurturing program?
An effective lead nurturing campaign is one that’s planned out well in advance, with every element thoughtfully considered. The following steps will help guide your strategy from start to finish, ensuring you get the best return on your marketing dollars.
1. Gather customer data
Before you can begin nurturing the leads you’ve generated, you need to understand your target audience. Think about it the same way you would a personal relationship. It would be hard to develop a relationship with someone if you didn’t know who they were or what interested them.
Fortunately, modern technology makes it possible to learn a lot about your potential customers, including their age, location, interests, and, if they’ve bought something from you in the past, their purchase history. Using this detailed information, you can hone in on your target audience and start to create personas for your customers. These personas will help you build a meaningful, personalized relationship throughout the lead nurturing process.
2. Outline the customer journey
Now that you know who your customers are and have designed buyer personas, it’s time to outline their journey.
While the basics of a lead nurturing funnel remain the same across most businesses, your customer’s journey might contain details that are unique to your product or service. Take the rough outline of the basic customer journey and make it your own. Ask yourself questions like:
- What information does my customer need during each segment of the journey?
- How is my customer feeling during the journey?
- What values will play a role in a customer’s perception of my brand throughout the journey?
- Does my customer bounce between segments of the journey?
3. Create a targeted content strategy
After you’ve built out a detailed map of your customer’s journey, put together a content strategy that targets each segment. This can include blog posts, articles, press releases, social media content, email, videos, and more.
The goal is to create high-quality content that helps establish a connection between your customer and your brand and answers any questions customers might have along the way.
One popular way to do this is through automated emails—also known as drip campaigns. Emails that target the customer’s needs during a particular stage are sent automatically throughout the customer journey. The next message can be selected and queued up based on how customers interact (or don’t) with each email.
4. Reach your customers through different channels
Once you decide the content of your messages and when you’d like to send them, you can think about how you’ll get those messages to customers. Different customers will have different preferences, so it’s a good idea to interact with folks across as many channels as possible.
As you test different channels, pay close attention to the effectiveness of each. Monitor which portions of your audience tend to interact with each channel, and keep track of which channels lead to the most engagement or sales overall. In time, you’ll learn which channels are most effective for your business, and you’ll be able to make smart decisions about how to spend your marketing dollars going forward.
5. Retarget throughout the journey
Because customers might take days, weeks, or months before they decide to purchase your product or service, placing retargeting ads throughout their journey can keep your brand top of mind. With a small snippet of code, you can serve your ads to people who previously visited your website while they’re browsing other websites or social media. They’re a way to remind your potential customers about the items they viewed (or similar ones) on your website.
For example, if you sell clothing online and a customer browses a particular dress shirt, you can make sure that the customer sees an ad for the same item they were viewing at some point later on.
6. Close with a personalized touch
Often, lead nurturing involves sending customers, whether via text, social media, or email. These messages can be birthday greetings, discount codes, or simple reminders of a company value that aligns with that specific customer.
For example, when a lead you’ve been nurturing approaches the decision stage, you could send them an SMS message. You can greet them by name and tell them that they’re welcome to reach out via text for any further information they might need.
Taking a personalized approach right as a buyer comes close to making their purchase can go a long way in establishing a loyal relationship. It’s one of the fastest ways to set your brand apart from others that don’t go that extra mile.