What is a Marketing Funnel?
The marketing funnel is the path users take during their journey with you, from introduction to, ideally, conversion. You are trying to get users to a specific destination, and in order to get them there, you’ll need to leave signposts and rest houses along the way to keep them on track.
Let’s face it, funnels can be awfully boring (unless we’re discussing the fried carnival variety). That’s why I’m using an ice cream cone for my funnel breakdown! For those of you losing interest, stay with me, for there are tasty treats involved.
Introducing the Ice Cream Cone Marketing Funnel! Let’s dig in!
Although funnels look like pretty stable objects, in the marketing word, it’s still easy for users to fall through the cracks and wander off the trail, where they can get eaten by bears (i.e. your competitors).
In this post, We’ll talk about various stages of the marketing funnel and how you can guide users towards their final destination (the good kind of final destination – not the Final Destination where everyone dies).
Would you believe this gem only got a 33% on Rotten Tomatoes?
Top Of The Funnel: Get People Interested In You
At the top of our ice cream cone funnel, it’s all about seduction. The sprinkles, the whipped cream, the chocolate sauce – it’s all there to entice users.
In marketing, seduction appears in the form of fun and informative free content. The specific media of this top-funnel content can vary depending on your industry. Here are some examples of top-of-funnel content:
- Engaging marketing videos
- Informative ebooks and how-to articles
- Pinterest-style quote images
Still, just having your top-level content isn’t enough. No one is going to go crazy over that delicious ice cream cone if they don’t even see it.
To showcase your top-funnel content to your audiences, you’ll get involved with:
- Social Media. Build your audience on social media and broadcast your killer content across social networks.
- PPC and SEO: Get users to your content through organic SEO and paid Google searches (with awesome, ultra-clickable headlines).
Awesome, now you have users engaging with your top-funnel content. The next question is, how do you usher them further down the funnel? We want them to keep eating that ice cream cone!
Exchanging Info for Content
Nothing in this world is free, and users understand that they’ll probably need to surrender some info in exchange for high-quality content.
example from spoongraphics
For high-value resources, ask users for their contact infomation (for most, an email address is ideal) in exchange for your content. Achieve this by crafting tailored landing pages for your most valuable resources.
On the landing page, give a brief overview of what the user can expect from your content. For example:
- If you’re offering a collection of free art vectors, explain what kind of art they’ll get, the format it will come in, and any licensing info.
- For an ebook, explain what the ebook covers, and recap what they’ll learn.
example from QuickSprout
Another method some marketers use for longer-form blog posts is to provide 95% of the content for free, with extra bonus content users can obtain by joining your mailing list. For example, a post with “10 Quick and Easy Paleo Recipes” may have an offer at the bottom of the post, promising 3 bonus recipes that will be emailed to them if they sign up for the mailing list.
An Example of Great Top-Funnel Content
I’m going to give you one specific, unusual example of top-funnel content that got me to take out my wallet. That’s a pretty big deal because I’m a nearly notorious cheapskate.
It’s an example from a YouTuber by the name of ComicBookGirl19.
OK, at risk of making it public what a huge nerd I am, I watch a lot of Game of Thrones YouTube videos.
a glance at my YouTube watch history shows my true level of geekdom
I stumbled upon a couple videos by ComicBookGirl19 and was really impressed. Her videos are great quality, she has a very likeable presence, and her passion about Game of Thrones is obvious.
Warning: This video does contain some language and adulty stuff
After watching one video, I continued to watch more. In a following video, ComicBookGirl19 discusses how she plans on making special, extra-long form videos detailing the history of various Game of Thrones houses. The videos would be on sale at Vimeo for $2.
I already knew from past videos that this YouTuber created really high-quality content, and I didn’t hesitate for an instant to buy access to her new video on Vimeo.
What’s also cool is that she even put those videos – which I know took many, MANY hours of work – onto YouTube for free after they were out for several months.
Before this incident, I had never paid (or planned on ever paying) for online, user-generated videos. Now, I’m much more open to the possibility. Also, in true word-of-mouth fashion, I’ve been telling all my friends about ComicBookGirl19’s videos, and they’ve been impressed as well.
Granted, ComicBookGirl19’s marketing funnel is much more truncated than those of traditional services and products, but it still serves as a golden example of how introducing quality free content to a user can later convince them to convert.
Middle of the Funnel: Up the Ante With More Targeted Assets
In the middle of the funnel, you’ll begin nurturing the leads you obtained from your earlier top-funnel content efforts. This nurturing is often done through email marketing, using contact information you obtained earlier to send users targeted content.
Nurturing involves building your existing relationship with users. They’ve sunk their teeth into your ice cream cone, now it’s time to help them explore its flavors.
Slowly, when you’re in the middle funnel, you’ll want to trickle in targeted content that relates more closely to your product or service. Buying guides are a great example. It can be tricky to hit the right mark, as you want to be promoting high-value content, but still shouldn’t come off as too salesy.
Here’s a great example – let’s imagine that you sell coffee grinders.
A top-of-funnel idea might be detailing the differences between light and dark roast coffee. The middle funnel might involve a content piece that talks about why fresh grinded coffee is better than pre-ground coffee. You’re explaining why a coffee grinder could be useful, but aren’t directly pitching your product – at least not yet.
The middle of the funnel is also where you may want to consider discreetly promoting user testimonials and user-generated content. You’re gently steering your users towards reminders about why you rock, without rubbing their faces in it.
Bottom of the Marketing Funnel: It’s Game Time
When you hit the bottom of the funnel, it’s time to get selling! When people are ready to buy, their behavior changes:
- They use keywords with high commercial intent, so this is where you should be bidding high with information-rich PPC ads that deliver exactly what they want. Think Shopping Ads and other extensions and formats that provide lots of product and price info as well as images.
- They might just call you directly. Make sure you're using click-to-call in your mobile ads (with call tracking, so you know where the calls are coming from) and have your phone number plastered all over your site.
At the bottom of the marketing funnel, you’ll be handing a lot off to your sales team. Your sales team probably helped with your research for developing some of your high-value content in the middle of the funnel (pieces like buying guides), but now they’ll be taking the reins by reaching out and getting in touch with leads ripe for the picking.
Using lead tracking software like Salesforce, you should be able to see which offers users have taken advantage of and where they’re engaging with you.
If they’ve engaged with some of your higher-value content, it’s time to reach out and promote your product. Some bottom of the marketing funnel actions includes:
- Free Trials
- Promotional Offers
Marketing Funnel Conversions Ahoy And Looking Ahead
Hopefully your bottom funnel actions are enough to get users to convert. However, that doesn’t mean your job is over. You still need to work to retain customers and, ideally, get your new customers to promote you to their friends and family.
Wait until I tell you guys about this awesome tree I found
Remember, 92% of customers say they trust word of mouth over any other form of online advertising. Consider setting up a referral program to encourage current customers to introduce you to new users.
Stay on your customers’ good side by continuing to provide value and top-notch customers service. And that’s how you create a great marketing funnel that will keep users licking to the bottom of the cone.