Marketing Funnel – How Does It Work In Your Inbound Marketing strategy?
Inbound Marketing Funnel (also known as a Sales Funnel) is a tried and tested tool for understanding your customers’ buying journey. It helps you visualize your audience’s evolution from a prospect to a lead, and finally to a loyal and paying customer. Its main focus is to attract customers through relevant and helpful content. Then, by adding value at every stage, help them go down that slippery slide and finally make a purchase.
Every word and sentence on your website must be a part of this perfectly structured inbound marketing funnel. Otherwise, the spell will be broken, and the magic will fade.
Sounds a little scary? No worries.
That’s why inbound marketing funnel is split into three stages, that act as a guide to creating a truly effective inbound marketing strategy. And to know what they are, read on.
Three stages of the inbound marketing funnel
I think everyone can agree, that knowing what to say and when to say it is a skill that everyone should have. But nowhere is it more important than effective marketing. Luckily, inbound marketing funnel helps you figure out exactly what your marketing message should be at each and every step. By understanding these stages and applying the knowledge to your own content you’ll soon see your bounce rate reduce and conversion rate increase.
Stage One: Top of the funnel
Stage one of the inbound marketing funnel is not as sales-y as it is educational. Prospects that fall into this category are not at all committed to making a purchase yet. Rather, they have a problem and are looking for different options from reliable sources. At this point, it’s very important to be authentic, honest and put your prospects’ needs first.
As Forbes explains in their article, “Be transparent. Be inviting. And most of all, be yourself. The time and energy you spend on your voice (and your company’s) is precious, so instead of trying to sell with that content, build trust and pull back the curtain a little bit. Readers will begin enjoying your voice and want to hear more from you.”
Doing this will also help you establish yourself as the expert in your niche. By providing helpful and educational information on your website you’ll establish trust with your prospects. So focus on having non-promotional content that answers their questions and offers solutions.
How? By having a blog, of course.
In fact, according to research conducted by HubSpot, companies that run an active and helpful blog have 55% increase in traffic. By effectively executing the first stage of the inbound marketing funnel, and in turn also increasing their SEO ranking, they successfully attract more traffic, prospects, and leads.
Stage Two: Middle of the funnel
At this stage of the inbound marketing funnel, your prospects become leads and their commitment to actually making a purchase becomes a little higher. Your audience continues to educate themselves about their problems and possible solutions in order to determine the best option. And it’s your turn to slowly nurture them with consistent and helpful content on your active blog and email newsletter campaigns. This is the time to educate your leads about why your product or service is what they need, and not someone else’s. Create value for your brand and also use this opportunity to get to know your potential customers better.
And according to Hubspot, another great technique to implement at this stage of the inbound marketing funnel is gating your content.
Quick introduction to gating
To gate your content means to only give enough information about that piece of content to your readers so as to arouse their interest without actually giving anything useful. Then ask them to sign up by inputting their names, email addresses, etc. to receive the full thing.
By doing this you achieve three good things:
- You pick out the good leads from the bad (as the bad leads would not be making this “commitment”).
- You automatically increase the value of your content.
- You get information about what type of customer is your most valuable user.
However, gating your content also means that it will not be shared or linked to by your audience. Meaning, no increase in traffic or SEO ranking.
Stage Three: Bottom of the funnel
At this stage, the leads are ready to become the customers, and it’s your job to make sure that they buy from you. It’s time to knock down any barriers, possibly create a sense of urgency, and push for the sale. Because they are ready to commit now, they just need that final nudge to choose you as their provider and not your competition.
It’s your time to shine. Read on to find out how.
Keep in mind that your potential customers have done all the research they need, they know all of the relevant information about you and your competitors, and they are ready to pick a company and make that purchase. Now to simply persuade them to purchase from you…
The secret: don’t sell. Consult instead.
Attempting to make a hard sale at the bottom stage of the inbound marketing funnel can (and most likely will) result in failure. People don’t like to be pushed. They want to make their own decision.
The best thing to do is to use a consultative approach. This is what you can offer to your potential customers to increase your chances of purchase:
- Case studies
- Comparisons/spec sheets
- Free trial
- Free consultation
- Customer stories
- Discounts & Offers
(The last one will help you create a slight sense of urgency – an old marketing trick that still works today.)
Why is inbound marketing so effective?
When it comes to inbound marketing, pushy adverts and salesy messages are thrown out the window. Because as we have previously discussed, entertaining and educational content can sometimes be a much more effective selling tool. Especially, when it’s aimed at your target customer.
Inbound marketing focuses on educating and engaging directly with your target audience. It resonates with them so well that many prospects don’t even regard it as “marketing”. Instead, they see it as a useful resource for learning about a specific topic which will help them make the right decision or solve a problem that they have. Focussing on them rather than you sets you up as a reliable business. As another Forbes article on Authority Positioning explains, “With expertise and a willingness to share your knowledge, even small businesses can become widely renowned for their quality of work and the precision with which it is done.”
Think about it yourself – when looking into making an important purchase, would you go to a vendor that can only tell you why their product is “the best” and “the most effective”? Or would you rather go to someone who can educate you about the industry itself, how it functions, and what place their product takes within it?
Worth a ponder…
What counts as inbound marketing?
If we had to round inbound marketing up into a sentence, we’d say that any content, which is strategically written to deliver a specific message to your target audience and adapted to the stage of inbound marketing funnel they are in, counts as inbound marketing. (Hey, we never said the sentence will be simple!)
This strategically written content can come in many forms:
- Blog posts
- Press releases
- Social media posts
- Even videos
Each one of these forms is effective for different target customers. Therefore, it may take some time and experimentation to find the absolute best outlet for yours. But it’s definitely worth the effort, as the difference in conversion and sales inbound marketing can make is truly exceptional.
And this is why you need an inbound marketing funnel
By now you can see why a well-executed inbound marketing funnel is a great (and necessary) tool for any successful business. It’s like taking your audience gently by the hand and walking them straight to the checkout.
Most importantly, after the purchase, they will leave with a huge smile on their faces and always come back for more. Because they know they weren’t tricked into buying anything they don’t need or want. They made their own decision and chose for themselves.