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.
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.
Principle of commitment & consistency -- When people commit to something, they're far more likely to purchase from you. That's why getting them to agree to something like a free + shipping offer or by agreeing with something you've said in some way. This is a powerful principle in sales and if you pay attention to some of the best marketers in the world, you'll notice that they work fervently to get your commitment to something, even if it's very small in the beginning.
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.
Your website's landing page is the first impression potential customers will instantly have of your business. Therefore, take time to make sure that it looks great. A good landing page will also encourage visitors to sign up for some sort of list, or subscribe to the website. This gives you that all-important contact information, which becomes your first line of communication.
First, a common language needs to be set up to ensure marketing knows when a lead should be moved from marketing’s control, and placed in the sales funnel. There are two terms, "marketing-qualified lead" (MQL) and "sales-qualified lead" (SQL) or “sales-accepted-lead,” which all sales funnels must embrace to keep both teams aligned. When marketing has a lead ready to talk to sales, the lead should be marked as an MQL, meaning marketing has gotten it to the point where they believe sales should take over. If sales agree the lead is sales-ready, they accept the lead and move it from MQL to SQL (or SAL), and the handoff is complete. If not, the lead goes back to marketing.
However, say the customer is evaluating marketing automation programs to help improve the sales funnel they created. Because these programs can require investments of $1,500 a month, they’re likely to undergo a much more careful and thorough evaluation process. They might request free trials of the different systems they’re considering, have online demonstrations with each company’s representatives or view training videos to get a feel for how each system will perform.
OK, so really there are 11 steps to creating your sales funnel, but 10 just sounded more “precise”! Lastly, your email system should tell you how successful your emails are. Use this information to tweak and improve them over time. You should also track your blog posts, Twitter followers and Twitter activity, Facebook ad success, etc. Hubspot is a great tool for this kind of thing.
We’ve written a bit about defining your target audience, but suffice to say that if you still haven’t done this, then don’t bother moving on to the next steps in the sales funnel. You must have some idea of what people are interested in your topic, where they are hanging out online and what motivates them in order to begin creating awareness of your course at the top of the funnel. If you just start sending out emails and tweets willy nilly with no real plan, your efforts (and you will read later on that it is a lot of effort) will be wasted. You need to know that you are creating the right content for the right people.
“Aligning marketing and sales during the sales funnel does more than just align the teams — it creates better business outcomes,” said Mathew Sweezey, Principal of Marketing Insights at Salesforce. His stance is validated by a SiriusDecisions study that found brands with tightly aligned sales and marketing operations achieve 24% faster three-year revenue growth and 27% faster three-year profit growth. The three easiest ways to ensure marketing and sales alignment will succeed is a common language, co-created shared programs, and a policy to abide by a service level agreement.
Content that introduces the company and intrigues potential customers enough to move to the next stage of the buying process. For example, a Facebook post called “Behind the Scenes at Molly Marketer’s Company. This works especially well if you have a company with a corporate citizenship mission, such as selling sustainable, environmentally friendly goods.
The sales funnel metaphor is somewhat misleading; in real life, the process never goes as smoothly as liquid down a funnel. In the last decade, digital marketing, artificial intelligence (AI), and CRM have drastically changed the process of converting new leads into customers. Given this, it’s increasingly important that business-to-business (B2B) sales and marketing teams are aligned in their views on a sales funnel strategy and lead generation as a whole.
For instance, if you’re running an accounting business, at this stage your leads would be comparing plans offered by different service providers. They might need resources like how to evaluate the landscape of accounting services (i.e. whether to hire a solo accountant, an agency, etc.), pricing guides (so they know what ballpark rates are), or how to choose an accountant.
Of course, regardless of how they enter into your funnel, your goal as a marketer is to move them through the multiple stages that will take them from prospect to buyer. And once they're aware of you, you need to build their interest. To do this, you need to establish a relationship with the customer. You might have enticed them with a great offer (lead magnet) to grab their email address, but actually moving them through the funnel is a far greater challenge.