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Funnels. They make everyone’s lives a little easier. From chemists to homeowners to mechanics, funnels allow streamlined passage from point A to point B. Marketing and sales funnels are no different. Funnels are one of the simple tools that we often take for granted. But the tricky thing about them is if you don’t have all of the necessary parts in the right places, or if your funnel is full of holes, funnels become irrelevant as only a fraction of the number of materials you pour through them make it all the way through.

What are marketing and sales funnels?

The idea of conversion funnels is nothing new. In fact, they’ve been around since 1898 when ad agency executive Elias St. Elmo Lewis developed the developed the concept. Today’s conversion funnels are based on his work. However, slight variances have emerged with advancements in technology.

We all use marketing and sales conversion funnels (yes, even you). Perhaps you know them by other names such as customer journey or acquisition funnels.  But the truth is, these are all the same. The term “funnels” describes the track a consumer takes through an internet advertising or search system, navigating a website and finally converting to a sale, lead or whatever goal your company has set.

There are many types of funnels depending on what the overall goal of your company or marketing strategy is, and perhaps you are even dealing with multiple funnels at once. But in the end, a funnel represents the path that your prospects take with your brand or organization until they have transformed into the lead, recruit, demo, or sale that is set as the final stage (or bucket if that helps you visualize) in your strategy. Funnels can range from broad awareness strategy to in-depth tactic analysis, which is why many times you will be dealing with multiple funnels at once.

How does one create a funnel?

Before you can optimize a funnel, you first have to solidify one. Chances are you are already marketing in some way, shape or form whether it be direct mail, email, digital advertising or even social media. The good news is if you are marketing you have the basics of a funnel already in mind.

Every social media post, every direct mailer, every tactic is a step in your conversion funnel as it interacts with the customer journey. But a lot of times those tactics are implemented a la carte instead of analyzing how they will interact with each other.

The first step in creating a strong conversion funnel is to sit down and analyze how a prospect interacts with your brand or organization. This puts you on the track for a very simplified funnel like the example above. Each tactic contributes to a step in your marketing and sales funnels. Once you have gathered all of the tactics that your customers or prospects will interact with, and organize the pathway of which they will interact with them, you can set goals and metrics (also known as KPIs) for each stage of communication that will indicate when a prospect has moved from one stage of the funnel to the next.

By reviewing all of your individual tactics and the stages of which your prospect will interact with them, and assigning metrics to your basic funnel, you can begin to optimize each stage of the funnel.

How does one optimize a funnel?

Optimizing your funnel is a process of mapping out your customer’s cognitive progression with your brand or organization as opposed to the literal path they take through your digital marketing tactics. Your customer or prospect will become the key to the steps you take to optimize your specific funnel.

For instance, if customer engagement and direct communication through phone calls prove to be the most effective for your audience to keep them on the path to conversion in each stage of your funnel, then you must make sure your conversion funnel gives that individual direct communication in every stage of your funnel. You can determine the tactics to use in optimizing your funnel and communicating with your audience through AB testing. This will help you solidify your theories on what works and what doesn’t in terms of design, calls to action, communication cadence, and other tactics you already have in place.

If you are struggling for a place to start when analyzing your customer or a prospect cognitive progression, the best place to start is the heart of your organization, your website. How did they come to your site, where do they go when they are on the site, where does your site rank in terms of your competitors. The touch points that intermingle your website and the cognitive progression of your audience are inconceivable. But don’t allow that to deter you from streamlining your message through your website via contact forms, content marketing, SEO ranking etc. Because once you optimize your website, the rest of your digital tactics will follow. This is due to the fact that many organizations, especially e-commerce websites, rely heavily on their websites to convey different messages and the ability of websites to contain a multitude of value propositions for individuals at every stage of the funnel. Emphasis must be placed on continuous engagement with your audience online due to the speed of which they can drop from the funnel process and the number of distractions, including your competitor’s digital tactics.

In a way, optimizing your conversion funnel is the most worthy pursuit of your digital marketing. It puts your customers and prospects first. This will allow you to optimize every other aspect of your marketing strategy to convert more leads, while also attracting a larger audience which in turn increases your bottom line.

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