How the Marketing Funnel Works From Top to Bottom

There’s a lot of debate surrounding the marketing funnel — from who’s responsible for it, sales or marketing, to whether or not it’s still appropriate to today’s consumer purchasing procedure.

This article will explain what you need to know about the marketing funnel and dive into current modifications and rising obstacles for online marketers. I’ll be comparing B2B and B2C funnel uses, breaking down the hype around the marketing and sales ownership debate, explaining how the funnel can be flipped to develop more leads, and exploring nonlinear methods to the funnel.

First, let’s develop a fundamental structure for the funnel to better attend to these problems.

What is the Marketing Funnel?

The marketing funnel is just visualization for understanding the process of turning leads into consumers, as understood from a sales and marketing perspective. Like a funnel, marketers cast a broad web to capture as many leads as possible. After that, marketers would gradually nurture prospective clients up through purchasing decisions, narrowing down these prospects in each funnel phase.

But why, you’d say, isn’t it a marketing cylinder instead? Isn’t it better to turn all your prospects into actual customers at the end? The truth is that out of the wide net you’ll cast, only very few become customers. This is why it’s important to turn as many leads into clients as possible.

At this point, it can be noted that there are actually different ‘versions’ of the funnel. Some have lots of “stages,” while others have just a few, with different actions taken by the business and consumer.

Marketing Funnel Stages and Conversions

Below are the generally accepted ‘stages’ found in a marketing funnel. 

Awareness

This is the first stage of the marketing funnel. Possible consumers are drawn into this phase through marketing campaigns and customer research and discovery. Trust is developed with events, advertising, trade conventions, content (photos, infographics, videos), webinars, direct mail, viral campaigns, social media, search, outbound media, and more. 

You can also build a rapport with founders and gain your consumers’ trust. Here, lead generation occurs, as info is gathered, and leads are pulled into a lead management system for nurturing even more down the funnel.

Interest

As soon as leads are produced, you can proceed to the interest stage, where your consumers would find out more about your company, products, and any valuable details and research you provide. This stage is the chance for brands to develop a relationship with individuals in their lead database and present their positioning. You can nurture and support leads through emails, more targeted content around markets and brands, classes, newsletters, and more.

Consideration

In the consideration phase, leads have been changed into marketing certified leads and are seen as potential customers. Marketers can send prospects more info about products and their uses through automated email campaigns while continuing to support them with targeted content, case studies, complimentary trials, and more.

Intent

To get to the intent phase, potential customers need to demonstrate that they’re interested in buying a brand’s product. This can happen in a study, after a product demo, or when an item is put in the shopping cart on an eCommerce site. In this stage, marketers have the opportunity to make a strong case for why their product is the very best choice for a purchaser.

Examination

In the examination stage, buyers decide to purchase a brand’s services or products. Typically, marketing and sales interact carefully to nurture the decision-making procedure and convince the buyer that their brand’s item is the best choice.

Purchase

Purchase is the last stage in the marketing funnel, where a potential client has decided to buy and developed into a customer. This stage is where sales take care of the purchase transaction. A favorable experience on the part of the buyer can result in recommendations that fuel the top of the marketing funnel, allowing the whole process to begin again.

The Difference Between B2B and B2C Marketing Funnels

Key distinctions between B2C and B2B marketing funnels:

The majority of B2C customers navigate the funnel alone or with a little group of trusted consultants (usually friends and family), while B2B consumers generally have a larger, cross-departmental buying group. The typical B2B buying group is 5.4 individuals.

B2C consumers might never directly communicate with a business representative, specifically on eCommerce sites, while B2B customers usually interact with a sales agent in the lower end of the funnel.

Nonlinear Funnels

Some specialists argue that the marketing funnel is no longer pertinent because its purchasing process is no longer linear. That’s to say; you don’t always necessarily have to start with a group of leads — narrow your audience down until they purchase from you. 

Leads are entering into the funnel at various phases, and not just at the start. In some cases, a customer automatically jumps to the intent phase because they’re looking for that product, and it was recommended.

The internet has allowed for the democratization of information regarding products. In fact, clients are significantly doing their own research and depending on digital content to notify them about items. CEB reports that B2B consumers pass through 57 percent of the funnel before encountering a sales rep.

McKinsey’s customer choice journey is one alternative to the marketing funnel, which employs a circular model to show the buying process and highlight pivots or touchpoints. However, some specialists question this approach. “Brand names might put the decision at the center of the journey, but clients don’t,” said Bonchek and France in a Harvard Business Review article.

There’s still no perfect model, so both the customer decision journey and the marketing funnel will continue to be utilized by marketers and would still be relevant.

Marketing vs. Sales: Owning the Funnel

There’s a heated argument occurring in the marketing and sales worlds over who exactly owns the funnel.

One side argues that as customers have ended up being more focused on digital content to inform their purchasing choices, online marketers have actually handled more duty for the funnel, as they continue to support potential customers through the purchasing process.

Nevertheless, some businesses see the funnel as split vertically, with both sales and marketing owning the full funnel. They argue that the salespeople are increasingly ending up being thought leaders to drive awareness by doing outreach campaigns to bring in customers. In this situation, both marketing and sales would nurture leads and prospects from awareness to acquisition.

Flipping the Funnel: Marketing and the Client Experience

An increasingly typical practice for marketing, sales, and customer support managers is to “turn the funnel” into a consumer experience funnel. This funnel describes the process of turning customers into advocates, driving awareness and lead generation, and refueling the top of the marketing funnel.

I’ve distilled the most important phases of the customer experience funnel and described them below.

Repeat

Repeat clients are born after a customer has made a purchase. This implies improving retention and nurturing clients to make more and larger purchases. Marketers continue to the bottom of funnel activities to motivate repeat actions by the consumer.

Loyalty

In the loyalty stage, customers develop a brand preference, beginning to identify with it and customize products. This is where engagement is essential, and online marketers can help nurture this personal connection to a brand through local development, engagement, and outreach.

Referral

Once consumers are loyal to a brand, they’re most likely to provide business referrals and advise brand products.

Advocacy

Turning your consumers into advocates is the ultimate goal for supporting existing customers. Evangelism can help drive more brand-new leads for your marketing funnel in the form of writing product reviews or posting about products on social media. 

Having external recommendations not connected to a brand can strongly affect potential customers. Online marketers can establish their communities to become better advocates by asking them to participate in case studies or engaging them around consumer-generated content on social media.

The ultimate goals are to increase the number and size of purchases and drive more awareness and referrals to fuel the marketing funnel. At the end of the day, this is what matters — knowing your system worked in turning leads into customers. And that’s an invaluable tool for marketers right there. 

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