By Carrie-ann | May 08, 2017 | How Marketing Works

What is a marketing funnel?

Getting the attention of a customer and maintaining it throughout the buying process can be tricky, especially for businesses that operate online. Consumers are bombarded with marketing messages hundreds or even thousands of times every day; therefore, ensuring your message reaches its intended target audience through this ‘noise’ can prove difficult. By gaining a better understanding of customer buying behaviour and the sales journey itself, more effective digital marketing can be created that will serve to generate sales and build a loyal customer base at the same time.

The buying cycle and customer mindset
It is now easier than ever for consumers to research products and services before they buy. The majority will now do this before they even set foot in a shop; as a result, whether you have a physical store or a purely online business, a strong online presence will be a vital aspect.
Potential customers will use search engines to compare products and services, including price, lead times and reviews from fellow consumers. Creating a loyal customer base is now harder than ever, in part due to the impersonal nature of the buying process; therefore, a strategy needs to be put into place to help build trust. You can do this by ensuring your business is continually offering value for money at all stages, with the marketing funnel an integral aspect of this strategy.

What is a marketing funnel?
This is a strategy that guides people through the buying process. A little like a virtual sales rep, it is a multi-step approach that begins with the user finding your product. Customers who progress all the way through the process will buy your product and become brand advocates. Tools such as content marketing, email and targeted ad campaigns can work to enhance digital marketing funnels.
Creating customers is the first goal of the process, which means finding consumers who do not know your brand and make them aware of your product. The next step is motivating them to buy, then customer loyalty needs to be built. This can be achieved by using interesting and relevant content and highly targeted messages.
Marketing funnels are not simply about making sales; in addition, they are about building a secure and lifelong loyal customer base. As a business, you will need to make the buying process as positive an experience as possible, including post sale.

Stages of the marketing funnel
The stages of the marketing funnel are awareness, consideration, preference, purchase, loyalty and advocacy.

Key tactics
Interacting with users at all stages is essential to ensure they continue to progress all the way through the process. This means connecting at every stage through a variety of means, such as blog posts, free resources, information and special offers.
Understanding the journey all customers make during the buying process is vital in ensuring that they continue to the final stage. Added value and targeted messages at all stages of the cycle will serve to move them forward and out the other side. It is important to remember that once the customer has made a purchase or decided to use your service, you must continue to engage regularly to maintain and build upon the relationship.