No one has to tell you, of all people, that customers go through stages as they move through the buying process. As a small-business owner, you've been selling your product or service long before your sales and marketing team started casting decisions in terms of “the marketing funnel.” The marketing funnel? If this term is new to your vernacular, don't worry, you're not far behind the curve – or the tactics to help you navigate it.
Now, you don’t need a massive advertising budget or a product that targets a basic human need to use this approach. Whether its a paid search ad that addresses the main reason behind someone’s search or a paid social ad that connects your target audience’s need to what you sell, good Stage 2 marketing helps people connect the dots between their pain and your solution.
Audible is an Amazon-owned producer of audiobooks and spoken-word entertainment. This platform builds awareness and brings potential subscribers into their sales funnel by partnering with authors of books featured on the platform to promote their audiobook using a free one-month trial for the service. When users sign up for the free trial, they are given 30 days to use the service before being automatically enrolled in a monthly subscription.
Time in stage – In an ideal world, your marketing content would be so compelling that people move from the top stage to the bottom stage in a single day. But since that’s rarely the case, it’s worthwhile to know if your prospects are getting hung up in one of your stages. If so, you’ll want to add more content to your site that answers the questions that are unique to this stage of the funnel.
The last step in the sales funnel is to keep your momentum going. Follow up with all the new customers you have acquired and ensure they are happy with their product or service. A great way to accomplish this is to offer a membership-based rewards program. This will allow you to remain in contact with customers, giving you the perfect means for telling them about new deals and services.
Depending on what you’re selling and who you’re marketing to, you might answer that question in a number of different ways. For example, if customer service is a big deal to your potential customers, you may want to focus your marketing on how great your customer service is. You might want to include testimonials about your customer service, awards your customer service department has won, statistics about response times…you get the idea.
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Entry sources – Monitoring the sources from which people are entering your funnel can be useful data to track, as it gives you ideas for expanding the reach of your marketing campaigns. If, for example, you see that a large number of your prospects are coming from a single guest blog post you did, you can upgrade and expand on it, add a free consultation opportunity on that blog post, and/or find similar guest author positions.

For United/Optum, hospital services are not seen as something that adds much breadth to the top of the funnel or that draws people into the funnel—certainly not enough to justify Optum taking on the high fixed costs and poor pricing of inpatient care. Rather, hospitals are an additional interaction within the funnel that can be accomplished through partnerships rather than ownership, according to Wichmann. Those partnerships, he says, “will occur in markets where there is maybe fewer assets for us to accumulate and build from."
Some business owners are moving away from the term “marketing funnel” because they think it’s too mechanical or simplistic to describe the lead nurturing sequence by which customers move from awareness to purchase. I think it’s still a useful way to describe a complex process and it’s a good visual to imagine the entire process from start to finish.
3. Follow-Up – Not all leads are going to move smoothly from one step of your funnel to the next. And not all leads are going to be ready to make a purchase decision right off the bat. That’s where the follow-up stage comes in. This part of the funnel is meant to redirect leads who have exited your funnel and bring them back into the sales process. Retargeting ads and email campaigns make up the bulk of this stage. 
Following their information search — or sometimes running concurrently with this process — potential customers start comparing the alternatives that your article has discussed. Again, the time spent in this stage will vary based on the type of purchase being contemplated. Choosing a restaurant might be as simple as deciding, “Well, I feel like Chinese food, not Mexican, tonight.”
While everyone evaluates their options at this stage in the buying process, how carefully they evaluate their options depends a lot on their personality and the cost of the solution. Generally speaking, the more financially conservative your target audience is and expensive your solution is, the more comparison shopping your potential buyers will do.
If you're wondering what a sales funnel is, simply imagine a real-world funnel. At the top of that funnel, some substance is poured in, which filters down towards one finite destination. In sales, something similar occurs. At the top, lots of visitors arrive who may enter your funnel. However, unlike the real-world funnel, not all who enter the sales funnel will reemerge out from the other end. 
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