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Every industry has a process to follow, a plan to action. Otherwise, the industry wouldn’t last very long without one. All businesses need direction, and the same is true of marketing. Strategy is at the heart of every good marketing campaign; without it any efforts are doomed to fail.
Professional marketers attend university for years to understand the intricacies of appealing to an audience. However, there is one thing at the centre of every marketing strategy, the very first thing any marketer learns on that first day in university. We call it, the Marketing Funnel.
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It’s not the most majestic name, but it is very apt. After all, much like a funnel guides substances to necessary receptacle, the marketing funnel is designed to guide an audience to a conversion, that is taking a desired action within your business, whether this be making a purchase, signing up to a mailing list, or clicking a certain link.
However, something very important happened in 2015, the funnel changed.
The Funnel as it Was…
The marketing funnel was mostly represented as an image of some kind of inverted triangle split into 4 or 5 sections that outlined the linear journey of a customer going from someone who had never heard of a business before to a staunch supporter and advocate of the brand. Many companies have used the theory of the marketing funnel to guide their campaigns for years, and to great effect.
The appearance of the marketing funnel was that it was vague enough to apply to a range of scenarios. It could be the digital sales funnel, just as easily as it could be the social media marketing funnel. Its advantage was not that it told people what to do but it told them how to think. For the first time, marketers had access to a map of the typical customer’s mind. The digital marketing funnel stages were arranged like so:
Stage 1 – Awareness
Awareness was the very first thing to be concerned with when it came to the advertising funnel. This stage represents a potential customer being made aware that your brand/product/service exists. This is the stage at which you will work hardest, creating something out of nothing.
This will involve advertising, content, getting a website, formulating marketing strategies and more. This is the stage where you get your name out and get people talking about your brand.
Stage 2 – Engagement
This is where after customers have been made aware of you, you show them that you understand their “pain points.” Pain points are any issues or inconveniences working against the customer’s ease or quality of life or work. This is partly left up to you, partly up to the customer.
This is where your market research really comes in, and it will show if you haven’t properly understood your audience. During your research you should have uncovered your audience’s main pain points and made your business able to offer a solution to them. If potential audience members are finding you but not engaging at this stage, then it’s probably because they figure you aren’t resolving their pain points.
Stage 3 – Consideration
This section acts more as a kind of extension to the second stage. It really involves just positioning yourself as a viable alternative to your competitors by establishing that you are able to resolve their pain points better than others. At this stage the customer is hooked, it’s your job to reel them in.
Stage 4 – Customer
This stage is also called “conversion” and is representative of what someone actually makes a purchase from you or signs up to your mailing list. Etc. Whatever the intent was behind your marketing campaign, whenever customers meet that intent then that’s a conversion. Most people tend to think of this stage as a sale, but that is merely one interpretation of the phrase “conversion.”
Stage 5 – Advocate (optional)
The thing about the marketing funnel is, most people/companies have their own version, and while the terms may broadly be the same, most times you’ll find some variation on the funnel. Some of them include this fifth section related to Advocacy, where the customer isn’t merely another conversion, but a deeply loyal customer that often returns to your business to procure your services or items and spreads the word about your business.
In 2015, Terminus held the first #flipmyfunnel conference, during which they presented information on a new version of the digital funnel, where it was now more than an inverted triangle shape, but now a double triangle resembling more of an hourglass. Now the upper half of the hourglass is referred to as the “Pre-purchase” stage, with the bottom half being the “post purchase” stage. After this new marketing hourglass was made, it was common for people to remove advocacy from the original funnel and move it to the base of the hourglass instead. The newly developed hourglass added the following sections to the user journey:
Stage 5/6 – Adoption
This is where the business has to act to ensure the total success of the customer. Humans are irrational beings and someone who hasn’t read the instruction manual may accuse a new device of being faulty. Treat customers as though they are neutron stars – incredibly dense.
The Adoption phase consists of what is called “onboarding”, that is essentially the practice of making yourself available to make the customer’s life, and transition into regularly using a new product, as smooth and flawless as possible. Initial hitches, especially with belligerent customers, can be the downfall of the entire funnel and all the work you put into it at this point.
Stage 7/8 – Retention
Next is where we really put in some hard yards. Retaining a customer is about making them feel like you genuinely care about their success – which you do, as their success will help them associate your brand with positive times. Show the customer some love.
Put out and promote educational content, use email campaigns to offer insights into how they can use their products, keep them updated about your brand and business, conduct surveys, etc. This keeps your customers in the loop, and hopefully, with the right content, in your business.
Stage 9/10 – Expansion
This refers to expanding on your conversion. Your customer came to you to do a thing, is that one thing all you have to offer them? By keeping in contact with your customer via the previous step you can show them other products and services that may be prudent to their needs. This shows customers that you’re a reliable source of convenience and that you understand you customer’s needs exactly.
Stage 11/12 – Advocacy
…Well, you know this one already, don’t you?
The Importance of the Marketing Hourglass
This new roadmap of the customer journey is significant for a few reasons. First of all, it adds more steps, each one acknowledging that a customer can enter the hourglass at any stage, something neglected by the previous “funnel” model.
It also accounts for the fact that while the user journey does indeed have definable stages, it does not account for the fact that a user journey is often non-linear and can jump around or loop back in on itself depending on circumstances. Work with your marketing team if you find this happening to you.
The marketing hourglass also acknowledges that customers don’t always go through every stage. Some customers might not bother with comparison shopping at all.
The biggest thing that it is aware of is that it acknowledges that customer journeys vary significantly from customer to customer.
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