The Online Marketing Funnel
The online marketing funnel is the different stages of behavior and types of needs that customers move through on their way through the purchasing process. As an online marketing specialist, I have witnessed companies and clients that often narrowly focus on specific marketing channels. It is easy to get lost in a specific channel and the efforts you are putting forth there.
However, it is our job as marketers to remember that a compelling and consistent message should be delivered throughout the entire digital marketing funnel. Our responsibility to our clients is to create and implement an online marketing strategy delivered starting with exposure, through customer relationship and retention.
Online Marketing Channels
Exposure / Awareness
The exposure and awareness stage of the online marketing funnel is where the message you want to deliver to your consumer begins. It sets the tone of the visit to your website for your audience. The goal of this messaging is to entice the potential customer to find out more. Often, a strong call-to-action can be successful in this channel; however, it is important that we do not lose human aspect in messaging. The conversation should start as realistic and natural as possible and continue to be throughout the entire marketing process.
This channel consists of:
Inbound: social media, blogs, forums, organic search, content, community, press, referring links, email, word-of-mouth, etc.
Sponsored: paid search, display, video, affiliate, social, etc.
The discovery stage of the online marketing funnel consists of the first few visits to the website. Visitors are often focused on consuming content and learning more about the company and your products/services. Often considered the research phase of the purchasing process, consumers are looking to learn more about why they should choose your company. While quality, unique content is imperative at all stages of the funnel, during this stage, content is extremely important because users are seeking out information. Additionally, it is direly important that you have completed marketing research and implemented a content strategy that delivers your company’s message. In this stage of the digital marketing funnel, the goal is not to overwhelm the consumer with offers, but provide the necessary information to be considered during the purchasing stage.
At some point, a visitor becomes a potential customer when they consider whether the service or product offered is a match for their needs. This may happen during their first visit to your website or months later. We often get lost in conversions and forget about the number of returning visitors. Our content and its messaging should speak to consumers who may be on-the-fence or just doing research at the time and return later for their purchase. A single serving message that attempts to get the visitor to convert now is usually the case for the majority of websites content. We lose sight that not everyone will convert on the first visit. However, at this point in the online marketing funnel, we want to make our unique value proposition clear and provide information that the user needs to make the purchasing decision.
The completion of an action on your website converts a visitor into a customer. This may be a purchase on an ecommerce website, an application completion on a university website, or a ‘contact us’ form completion on a website like Risdall’s. The train does not stop here! At this point, it often feels as if the job is done, but it is not. Your company’s narrative should not end at conversions. The messaging you provide during and post-conversion needs to convey your marketing communications plan – all the way down to the content on your receipts.
The level of customer service, fulfillment, and happiness with your customer’s product or service all play a part of the consumer’s post-conversion experience. It is important that communications with your customers continue after the purchase; now that you have the consumers business and contact information, it should be easy to continue the conversation. Understanding the importance of good customer service is essential for a healthy business in creating new customers, keeping loyal customers, and developing referrals for future customers.
If a customer has a great experience, they will often return to your company when they need your product or service. The value of the entire future relationship with your customer (a.k.a. Users Lifetime Value, or, LTV) is not something to disregard. Selling is harder than ever nowadays; consumers are increasingly tuning out advertising and sales conversations, instead, they are choosing to re-engage with brands much later in the marketing cycle. They may have done most of their research and nearly settled on their choice, or after purchasing your product or service. Unfortunately, if consumers are in charge of the conversation and tuning out your attempts to reach them, replacing lost customers is that much more of a challenge. This is why retaining customers and creating brand advocates is crucial to business today. Additionally, when consumers have a good experience with a brand, they often share that information with their friends. These seem like prehistoric marketing tactics that do not apply to online marketing, but they do.
Without delivering your marketing communications strategy throughout the online marketing funnel in its entirety, none of your online marketing efforts are going to work. In order for your online marketing efforts achieve the highest level of success, an investment must be made to develop an online marketing strategy before specific tactics are executed. This takes a significant amount of time and effort, but is key to producing the best results.