Before a consumer makes a purchase, they go through a process of research and decision making. This has always been the case, but it’s only recently that businesses have really started paying attention to the full funnel, and how it can be used to market to consumers more effectively.
For those that don’t know, that funnel looks something like this:
In order to maximize lead generation and sales it’s essential that marketers consider the full funnel:
- How they get new potential customers exposed to the brand.
- How they can drive people to the website.
- How they can gain a potential customer’s trust.
- What they need to do to push potential customers to convert.
- How to market to customers after they’ve converted.
Unfortunately, many marketers fall down by focusing on just one or two stages of the funnel. They don’t do enough to generate new leads, or they don’t do enough to get their existing leads to convert.
Here’s how you can make sure you’re marketing to the full funnel by implementing growth strategies that target every stage.
The top of the funnel is all about getting your brand in front of potential customers for the first time – it’s not about driving traffic to your website (although this may be a happy consequence of the tactics used at this stage).
Guest blog posts
Guest blogging offers a relatively easy and cost-effective way to get your brand in front of relevant audiences. You identify sites you’d like to be featured on, come up with a content idea (or two or three) and pitch your ideas to a relevant writer or editor. It helps if you can provide evidence of your skills as a writer and select topics that are unique and relevant to the site in question.
Take social media platform Buffer, whose initial growth resulted entirely from guest blogging. In just 9 months, founder Leo Widrich wrote approximately 150 guest posts – a strategy that took Buffer from 0 to 100,000 customers (just to reiterate – in only 9 months).
Paid social advertising
If you want to get your brand in front of potential customers without the wait that comes with most marketing channels, any form of CPC or CPM ad (CPC = paying per click; CPM = paying per 1000 impressions) can help. For targeting consumers at the top of the funnel, however, I prefer to use social ads.
This is because SERP ads (i.e. AdWords and Bing Ads) typically target those that are a little further down the funnel – consumers that already have an idea what they’re looking for. The average cost per click is generally much higher, as well (with no option at all to pay for impressions).
In fact, data released by AdEspresso and WordStream last year revealed that the average CPC of a Facebook ad in the U.S. was $0.28. The average CPC of an ad in Google AdWords was $2.32.
Of course these costs vary depending on your industry and the keywords you’re targeting, but if you’re paying in excess of $2 a click you need to be seeing a direct ROI. Turning some of those clicks into leads and customers is essential.
Facebook ads afford you a little more flexibility. Targeting people according to their interests rather than the fact that they’re actively looking to buy is okay. Better yet, if you’re paying per click rather than by impressions, you’re getting free visibility when your ad’s viewed but not clicked.
Affiliate marketing is ideal as an early growth channel because you pay purely on results – i.e. only when an affiliate sends you a visitor that converts.
Of course, we’re not expecting TOTF visitors to convert; we just want them to know we exist. Since the best affiliate sites are presented as industry interest and information sites, working with quality affiliates can help you get that visibility, totally risk-free.
If you want to start working with affiliates you have two options:
- Join an existing affiliate network (find a list of reputable networks here).
- Run your own affiliate program on your website (see an example here).
Option 2 is often preferable on account of the autonomy it offers over where your brand appears. Unfortunately it’s only really viable if you’re reasonably established in your industry – it’s unlikely anyone will find and adopt your program if they’ve never heard of your brand. For this reason, startups and many smaller brands might find the best results happen when they work with an existing affiliate network.
Partnering with a more established brand (also known as “piggybacking”) enables you to capitalize off that brand’s existing audience. This can very quickly have a significant impact on brand awareness and in turn, sales.
Take PayPal, whose early relationship with eBay proved to be instrumental to their growth. While consumers were being deterred by the hassle of making credit card purchases and the credit card companies themselves were struggling with how to tackle fraudulent transactions, PayPal was offering an instant and secure way to check out. They quickly became the leading payment provider on the site, and riding off the back of eBay’s growth, soon became the provider for making payments online.
Moving down the funnel one step, you’re aiming to drive people to your site and engage those that are already there, being mindful of the fact that these visitors are still a few stages away from being ready to buy.
Adding relevant, quality content to your site is essential for targeting potential customers at this stage of the funnel, and every stage after it. You can do this by providing answers to common pain points and questions your target audience is asking at each stage.
Tools like Answer the Public and UberSuggest can help you find out what these questions are, alongside online communities like Quora and Reddit, and even your own on-site search. Just be sure to repeat this step for every stage of the funnel, changing the subject matter of the content you’re creating accordingly.
Create 10x content
Blog posts are designed to drive relevant traffic to your website via organic search. 10x content (“Content that is 10 times better than the best result that can currently be found in the search results for a given keyword phrase or topic.” – Rand Fishkin) can do this too; however, it’s designed to dive much deeper into a given topic and is usually presented in a way that makes the content more likely to be shared and linked to.
Although 10x content takes a lot of time and effort to create – and, consequently, I don’t create much of it – it’s well worth the investment. Each piece I’ve published has driven 15,000+ visitors to my site and counting.
Collaborate with other brands or publishers on their content
This tactic lets you get in front of and capitalize on the audience of another brand or publisher. It’s something I did last year by contributing a module to HubSpot Academy’s Content Marketing Course. More than 10,000 people took that course, which means 10,000 people were exposed to my personal brand.
In order to land these opportunities, you first have to build a relationship with the person or people you want to work with. You might leverage networking events to do this (this is ideal if you want to collaborate with someone local) or you might try to further the relationships you make when guest blogging. If you’ve already made an impression with a post you’ve written, that second one should be easy.
Seek out speaking engagements
Like the tactic above, this one’s easier to leverage if you’re somewhat known in your industry. The bigger the event you want to speak at, the bigger your reputation’s going to need to be to secure that spot.
That said, even small speaking events can prove invaluable for boosting the visibility of your brand and driving potential customers to your site. Local Meetups are a good place to start. Organizers of industry events are often looking for speakers to contribute short talks, and are unlikely to mind what experience you have so long as you’ve got something of value to say.
Just be sure to leverage every opportunity to get your brand and website in front of attendees. This means opening and closing your talk with details of who you are, and including your brand and website on every slide. Ask the host whether they can put the slides on their website and encourage them to tweet about you before and after the event, too.
If you’re comfortable in front of a camera, start making videos. This is something I’ve been doing a lot of lately, largely because the results it’s gotten me have exceeded my expectations – by a lot.
Although my videos are still getting far less exposure than my blog posts (though the gap’s thinning all the time), the engagement I get is through the roof. I think this is because people can see and hear me, so they relate to me better, and they’re far more likely to react to what they see.
Trust and Credibility
By this stage a consumer is aware of your brand and what you do, and they’ve probably visited your website. What they don’t know is whether or not they can trust your brand, so your next job is to show them that they can.
84% of consumers said that they trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. Unfortunately, it can be difficult for smaller brands – B2B brands especially – to amass reviews organically. If you want reviews, you’re often going to have to ask for them. If you’re asking for reviews and publishing them on your website, they essentially become “testimonials.” This is okay. While a presence on independent review sites like Trustpilot is almost essential for B2C companies, B2B customers tend to be more forgiving (and trusting) of companies that only have reviews on their own site.
To increase your brand’s credibility and the trust potential customers have in it, ask a handful of happy customers to provide testimonials and place them prominently on your site. For extra credibility, include a photo and details of the customer providing the testimonial (at a minimum their name, job title, and company).
Here’s an example of how you might present them, from my own site:
A customer story acts like a case study (a real-world example of how your product or service helps your customers) but it feels more personal – and consequently, should be easier for potential customers to relate to. This means they’re an invaluable tool when it comes to increasing the trust consumers have in your brand, and later, for converting on-the-fence customers.
For example, at Mailshake we might share the story of a customer who’s succeeded at using cold email as a sales prospecting tool. We’ll tell the story of how they did this, and the part our software played in it.
An email sequence (or drip campaign) uses a pre-set series of emails to nurture visitors or customers, and guide them towards a specific action. You can use them to drive repeat purchases, for example, or to “onboard” new customers by helping them get the most out of your product or service. They can also be used to increase the trust a potential customer has in your brand, by including relevant blog content and the strategies above (case studies and testimonials) in your emails.
Bear in mind that in order to create and send email sequences, your email marketing provider must – at a minimum – include the ability to segment lists and move users between sequences in line with their behavior.
Check out this article for more information on creating and rolling out effective email sequences.
We know that 84% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations, but what about recommendations from people they respect, but don’t know personally?
MuseFind found that 92% of consumers trust an influencer more than an advertisement or traditional celebrity endorsement. Now, MuseFind is an influencer platform so we may need to take their stats with a grain of salt, but the proof is in the pudding – big brands are all over influencer marketing because it works. When a figure people trust endorses a brand or one of its products, that trust naturally extends to their audience.
Fortunately you don’t have to get a Kardashian, pop star or actress on board for this strategy to work. A study from Technorati reported that “when it comes to community size, 54 percent of consumers agree that the smaller the community the greater the influence.”
The study in question is from 2013, so admittedly consumer attitudes may since have changed, but if anything, I believe more consumers would agree with that statement today. The bigger the influencer, the less focused their audience is likely to be and the more followers they will have just because it’s a known name and a big account.
This means you may well get better results from working with an influencer with a much smaller pool of more engaged followers (and it’ll be cheaper, too).
By this stage you’ve gained the visitor’s trust and they’re genuinely considering making a purchase. All you need to do is provide a final push that convinces them to convert.
Retargeting ads follow visitors around the web after they’ve visited your site. They work to ensure those visitors don’t forget your brand or in many cases, the specific product or products they’ve viewed.
While they look very similar to traditional banner ads, retargeting ads are considerably more effective. Stats reported in SmartInsights state that banner ads have an average click-through rate of just 0.05% (that’s just 5 clicks per 10,000 impressions). The average click-through rate of a retargeting ad, however, is 0.2% – an increase of 300%.
A lot of the reservations those on-the-fence potential customers are going to have will stem from concerns that your product isn’t the right fit for their needs, or that they won’t be able to use it effectively. One way to overcome this is with webinars.
Webinars allow you to talk potential customers through specific features of your product and answer questions in real-time. This is a great way to overcome individual objections, while their collaborative nature means you may be overcoming objections other customers didn’t even know they had, or were afraid to ask about.
You’ll need some software to host webinars (if you don’t have access to any already). You can read reviews of popular products here.
Free trials are one of the oldest growth strategies in the book, and they’re as popular as ever for one very good reason: they work.
Take GetResponse. They made their free trial more visible to potential customers and increased trial sign-ups by 158%, while making no difference to the number of paid sign-ups they were getting.
Free trials also help resolve the problem above – whether or not the product is a fit for the customer’s needs. Both these strategies, however, are far more effective when used together.
Get potential customers onto a free trial and then encourage them to sign up to a webinar. This will help them get their head around how to use the product, and give them a chance to have questions answered and concerns put to rest.
The funnel doesn’t stop once someone becomes a customer – your next challenge is to turn them into an advocate. Do this and you’ll keep them as a customer for longer. They’re also more likely to send other potential customers your way.
Retargeting isn’t just useful for tempting non-converting visitors back to your website – it can also increase an existing customer’s exposure to your brand and with it, the odds of them becoming advocates.
For this, use the ads to highlight content or other products that the customer might find useful, and that could help with onboarding.
Adding the personal touch
Create “wow” experiences and advocates will follow naturally. For examples of what I mean look at brands like Zappos. They have gone out of their way for customers with acts of kindness such as sending a courier to pick up shoes a grieving customer wanted to return (and absorbing the cost), and spending more than 10 hours on a customer service call.
You can read some other examples of amazing customer service in my Customer Delight Playbook, but note that you don’t have to go to extreme lengths to delight customers. Something as simple as placing a handwritten thank you note in with packages or sending customers a card on their birthday is enough to make them smile, and can make a big difference when it comes to driving advocacy.
Offers for existing customers
Historically, companies that offer better deals to new customers than to existing customers have been the source of many customer complaints, and rightly so – loyalty should be rewarded.
While some brands seem to be getting the message (after years of offering a poor deal to existing customers, Sky recently launched their first loyalty scheme) you can still gain an edge in the advocacy stakes by rewarding your current customers and giving them the chance to take up exclusive, “existing customer only” offers.
Thank your customers
This might sound obvious, but it’s so easy to forget to say thank you (especially when the interaction is taking place online, and not in real-time).
Thank your customers when they buy from you and more importantly, when they do something for you – they might have referred a new customer to you, or said something positive about you on social media, for example. Whatever it is, take the time to drop them an email, tweet or PM, and let them know you appreciate them and their actions. It’s a small gesture, but it goes a long way toward making customers feel valued and increasing the odds that they’re going to become advocates.
Give out swag
This achieves two things – it puts a smile on your customers’ faces and it boosts brand awareness. It’s a huge win-win all around.
The final stage of my funnel is to forge genuine relationships with my best customers. This isn’t a stage every brand will have in their funnel. Admittedly it’s most effective for small B2B brands. If this includes you, however, going the extra mile to really get to know the people who pay your wages can have a big impact on your success in the long-term.
Offer personal account management to good customers
If this isn’t something you offer to all customers as standard, pick your best customers (those you’d label “advocates”) and let them know that since you value them so much, they now have their own account manager and point of contact. This means ensuring they have their account manager’s email and direct phone number, as well as offering service that’s a cut above what most customers receive (that’s not to say you should offer anyone bad service – just that your best customers should get faster and more personalized responses to their queries).
Create an exclusive community
Online communities act as a platform for you to talk to your best customers collaboratively. You might answer product questions, share ideas, or just talk nonsense. What you say is secondary so long as the relationships you have with your best customers get closer.
There are many places your community can live – you might, for example, create a closed Facebook group or a forum. Personally I like Slack.
Choose a platform based on what you know about your customers, and feel they would be happiest and most comfortable using.
Make the effort to network in person
Whenever I travel, I will contact clients at my destination and ask them to say hi, often by trying to set up a meeting over coffee or drinks. If there are a few people I’d like to meet up with, and I have the time to spare, I’ll arrange a dinner. I might host this myself (if I’m staying somewhere with a kitchen and dining table) or I’ll invite everyone to a restaurant.
I get that this last one might be intimidating for shy and retiring types, but if you’ve actioned some of my other suggestions, any awkwardness should be eased by your previous contact with your customers.
Do you market to the full funnel? Will you be making any changes to your strategy based on the tactics featured here? If you have a minute to share your thoughts and experiences, it’d be great if you could leave a comment just below.