What Does it Mean to Build a Funnel in Marketing?

A marketing funnel fundamentally means delivering marketing messages that speak to people who are in different stages of the buying process. The funnel concept also refers to the amount of awareness potential customers have about a brand and what’s being marketed. The intent of marketing is to gain customers but there’s a lot that goes into each individual person’s decision to buy. It is rare that someone is ready to buy after seeing something only one time. In fact, online the average conversion rate on a website is around 2.5% on the first time of seeing a brand or webiste.

Fill the marketing funnelOn average, customers need to see a company brand and message seven times before making a buying decision.

Therefore, businesses have seven chances to speak to someone and make an impression. For digital marketers, those seven opportunities could be through word-of-mouth, organic social media posts, content marketing, email, or paid search ads and paid social ads. So, for marketers, delivering different messages, in different formats, on different platforms, at different times (all while tracking and evaluating data and results) is the best way to move buyers through the funnel.

Marketing professionals must take time to understand their funnel and adjust messaging and approach accordingly. To convert customers starting at the top of the funnel, they have to move through the middle of the funnel, and finally convert at the bottom of the funnel.

Top of Funnel (TOF) – Cold Audience

Customers at the top of the funnel have not heard of your brand, don’t know about your company, and are just becoming aware that you exist. It’s likely that they haven’t considered introducing this product or service into their life. A marketer’s job in this stage of the buying process is to make a solid and clean introduction. Convince the customer that they should be interested.

Questions TOF Customers Ask

  • Who is this company?
  • What does this brand stand for?
  • What can this product or service do for me?
  • Am I interested in this?

Middle of Funnel (MOF) – Lukewarm Audience

Customers at the middle of the funnel may have heard of your brand and been to the website. Perhaps they are even researching similar products and services to compare with your competitors. A marketer’s job in this stage of the buying process is to educate and show why they’re the best option. Clarify why you’re the best choice and convince customers they need your product or service.

Questions MOF Customers Ask

  • Do I need/want this product or service?
  • What other similar products or services are available?
  • What is the best choice and why?
  • Am I ready to make a decision at this time?

Bottom of Funnel (BOF) – Hot Leads

Customers at the bottom of the funnel have heard of your brand, have been to the website multiple times, and may have even searched for you. They may be lingering, just waiting to be convinced to buy. The marketer’s job at this stage of the buying process is to communicate at the right time, make it easy for customers to convert, and ask for the sale. Prompt the customer take action via a form fill or contact and make the process both accessible and intuitive.

Questions BOF Customers Ask

  • What are the specific details of this product/service?
  • How much does it cost?
  • How can I get it and when?
  • What action will I take to buy?

Timing of Marketing Communications & Ads

Not everyone will need a product or service at the time it’s being delivered. Therefore, to experience the best conversion results, strategic and ongoing marketing efforts through a variety of channels is the best approach.

The hard truth is that 98% of people who visit the website don’t convert the first time they visit.

If you’re not developing a funnel with different touchpoints designed to be placed strategically throughout your audience’s buying process, then you’re not marketing for the client to convert. Also remember that in marketing, your website is the hub of everything. Without a great website, none of the other marketing matters because the traffic driven there will bounce quickly. Business owners need to understand that they have to continue putting their brand and their message in front of people repeatedly and strategically.

Use Data to Lead People Through Your Marketing Funnel

There are many kinds of marketing opportunities that will lead customers into your funnel. In the digital marketing world, this includes SEO, email, organic social media posting, and paid advertising on all of the networks. All platforms have integrated tracking tools to recognize user patterns when interacting online. Using the demographic data available to target the right messages to several channels at different times will drive people into your marketing funnel. The types of marketing can flow into different parts of the funnel and there is overlap according to messaging and user tendencies. Here are some general ways to think about where the different types of marketing can fall into the funnel.

SEO marketing is usually at the top of the funnel (TOF) because people are searching online and asking questions. This may be where they are seeing a brand, product, or service for the first time.

Email marketing is usually at the bottom of funnel (BOF) because the messages are sent to existing contact lists. Having an individual’s email address insinuates that they’ve already interacted with your business. While there are ways to obtain purchased email contact lists, it is not recommended.

Organic social media marketing mostly speaks to the middle of the funnel (MOF) because those following your page have already engaged. If they have liked your page, then that is the main way they will see your message so they are likely a past client or have been recommended.

Paid ad marketing can strategically be built for all parts of the funnel. Ads can be created for ‘interest’ targeting at the top of the funnel (TOF). Ads that are built for those who have interacted with the brand before are middle of the funnel (MOF). Google Ads (those ads that show at the top of a search) are bottom of the funnel (BOF) and consequently a more expensive placement.

Cross-channel marketing to all levels of the funnel will yield the best results and just doing one type of marketing is a mistake. Use all parts of the funnel together and send different messages over time. Get in front of customers and lead them to that final decision.

Again, however traffic is driven to a website, people do not make an immediate decision to buy. Remember, almost no one will buy on their first visit to a website and it takes several touches from a variety of different sources for a customer to convert. Understand your marketing funnel data and guide customers through their buying decision through several marketing channels.

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