Today, we’re doing a deep dive to find out what a digital marketing funnel is, how it works, and how to optimize it to create a marketing strategy that gets results.
- Have you ever wondered why your social media campaigns aren’t getting the job done?
- Do you know if your blog posts or email marketing strategies are making a difference?
- Are you routinely frustrated when converting a current customer into a loyal brand advocate?
If so, you can benefit from a carefully designed and curated digital marketing funnel.
What Is a Digital Marketing Funnel?
A digital marketing funnel represents the different stages customers go through when they buy a product or service. The funnel begins when someone first hears about a product and ends when they become a loyal brand advocate.
You may also hear a digital marketing funnel referred to as a “conversion” or “sales funnel.” The funnel metaphor visually represents the buyer journey, showing how a target audience narrows as the marketing process guides them through the different stages.
But this idea is far from new. In fact, Elias St. Elmo Lewis developed the first sales funnel over a hundred years ago. His model has four elements:
- Awareness: A potential customer learns about your business, product, or service.
- Interest: They want to learn more about your offerings.
- Desire: They want to make a purchase.
- Action: They buy your product and become a customer.
While the core concept has stayed the same, newer versions of marketing funnels are a bit more sophisticated and better meet modern consumer preferences. In 2021, 72% of consumers reported only engaging with customized marketing materials. Companies that use dynamic email content see double the return on investment on average compared to companies that hardly ever or never use dynamic content. It’s not hard to see why sales funnel models had to evolve.
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Today, digital marketing funnels are more holistic. They require marketers to pay closer attention to their customers, understand their needs better, and continue to engage with them beyond the action stage.
By understanding target audiences, using inbound marketing materials, and creating personalized content, digital marketing teams can fill their conversion funnels, affect buying decisions, and help potential customers become loyal brand ambassadors.
The Role of Funnels in Guiding Customer Journeys
Digital marketing funnels help companies identify every opportunity they have to understand or communicate with their customers. Each of these interactions is called a touchpoint.
The role of the funnel is to guide the user experience along the funnel’s various touchpoints, from lead generation to product advocacy.
For example, a blog post about a new product might be a touchpoint at the top of the funnel, while receiving an email about a loyalty program would be further down.
As more potential customers enter the funnel, they’re divided into groups based on their level of engagement. This helps marketers determine the type of content that would be most effective for each group.
In this sense, digital marketing funnels are dynamic, versatile, and focused on individual needs as much as collective ones. While content marketing continues to be essential, what, when, and how you share that content might need to change from campaign to campaign.
Effective digital marketing teams know that long-term loyalty is just as important as individual purchases. That’s why modern marketing funnels include feedback and follow-up stages to foster relationships and convert customers into loyal brand advocates.
Digital Marketing Funnel Stages
In the past, the last stage was conversion. The funnel ended when the sale was final. But today, the paradigm has evolved to include two more stages.
1. Awareness Stage: Capturing Audience Attention
It all begins with awareness. To bring audiences into your funnel, they must first know about your brand. Many customers experience this stage by finding your brand on their own, but there are things you can do to improve your chances of capturing their attention.
Remember, while the goal is to bring as many potential customers as possible into the funnel, you should prioritize the quality of leads over quantity. Several hundred solid leads will travel much further in a marketing funnel than a thousand casual ones who are likely to drop out in the next stage or two.
2. Interest Stage: Nurturing Interest and Engagement
Now that you have customers visiting your site, you need them to stay. That’s what the second stage is: turning a visitor into a lead.
At this stage, it’s critical not to share anything that makes prospects think your content is just a recycled version of what’s already out there. That makes people lose interest and not want to stick around. Instead, focus on keeping people’s interest by helping them learn something new or unexpected about the topic or question that led them to your site.
3. Consideration Stage: Fostering Decision-Making
In this stage, your digital marketing strategy should emphasize your product’s value and differentiate it from the competition. Identifying a problem and showing how your product is uniquely positioned to solve that problem is one way to stand out.
This is also where marketing teams need to highlight their brand’s reputation. You can do this in different ways, but a few common ones are sharing success stories, discussing case studies, and sharing user reviews.
4. Conversion Stage: Turning Prospects Into Customers
As customers close in on a purchase, they enter the conversion stage. This is where interactions should get more personal.
Here, you’ll connect with potential customers individually and help them overcome last-minute doubts. Every day, about 4.3 billion people worldwide use email. That’s why a strategically thought-out email drip campaign could be just the thing to get customers over the line.
5. Loyalty Stage: Building Lasting Customer Relationships
While the old model ends with conversion, the new digital marketing paradigm adds two stages to the funnel. The loyalty stage ensures customers are happy with their purchase and addresses any questions or concerns about the product.
Regular feedback and follow-up are equally vital to building good relationships. Staying in touch with customers will help them feel supported and confident in your product.
6. Advocacy Stage: Encouraging Brand Advocates
The final stage of the digital marketing funnel is advocacy. Thanks to social media, every customer can become an unofficial brand ambassador for your company, spreading awareness of your brand and advocating for it.
Marketing tactics at this stage include:
- Referral rewards
- Social media contests
- Discounts for tagging the company
- Early access if you sign up for newsletters
Components and Strategies at Each Funnel Stage
Let’s consider some components and strategies to help you optimize each stage to have a more cohesive and effective digital marketing plan.
Top-of-Funnel Strategies: Attract and Educate Prospective Customers
Here are strategies to help you attract prospects and spread awareness:
- Use SEO techniques: Use search engine optimization (SEO) techniques on all your published content, including SEO image optimization, to significantly boost your chances of being discovered.
- Diversify your content: Ensure you share a variety of content across multiple platforms to reach as broad an audience as possible. Some examples include infographics, social media posts, podcasts, videos, and webinars.
- Provide quality information: Customers appreciate it when your content goes beyond advertising. Avoid creating clickbait or trying too hard to sell a product in blog posts. Instead, focus on providing helpful information users need to solve real-world problems.
- Score your leads: As you generate and nurture more leads, use a lead scoring system to evaluate a prospect’s potential for conversion. Lead scoring helps you focus on the most viable leads and prioritize your resources accordingly.
- Be a thought leader: We can’t overstate the importance of positioning your brand as a thought leader and trusted source of information. The content you create isn’t only about converting sales. It should also be well-researched to educate and address customers’ concerns.
Middle-of-Funnel Tactics: Provide Value and Solve Pain Points
As your funnel narrows and you approach conversion, here are some ways to provide extra value to help convert prospects to customers.
- Differentiate your brand: Emphasize the features that separate your brand from competitors and how they’ll serve the customer. For example, you can focus on customer service, pricing, manufacturing, location, online presence, community service efforts, and other factors to differentiate your company and help customers go from consideration to conversion.
- Address pain points: This is where you also remind customers of why they are there. You can show them how your company can address their concerns by emphasizing their specific pain points.
- Establish a reputation: Sharing successful case studies and posting customer reviews play a significant part in establishing your brand’s reputation. Because most online shoppers value reading user reviews, they might be skeptical of any product or service that can’t — or hasn’t — been reviewed.
- Provide free trials: If you offer a free trial, this is the time to emphasize it and remind customers to use it. A risk-free decision that doesn’t cost money can be a powerful tool to get someone to buy or sign up for a service.
- Include sponsored links: Customers at this stage are already engaging with your content, so including sponsored links that direct them to a purchase or conversion page may be just the push they need.
- Create customized campaigns: This strategy uses information from data analytics to target specific customers and address their needs individually. There are several ways this can work. For instance, if a potential customer placed something in an online shopping cart but didn’t buy it, they’d receive an email reminding them to complete the purchase.
Finally, here’s how to secure conversion rates and turn first-time buyers into loyal, repeat customers.
- Follow-up with customers: Current customers appreciate when companies follow up to ensure they’re happy with their purchases. This technique signals that satisfaction, not conversion, is at the heart of your company’s goals. Following up is one of several proven lead conversion strategies you can implement at the bottom of a digital marketing funnel.
- Implement drip campaigns: Email drip campaigns help you stay connected with your customers by touching base with them at strategic intervals, for example, when your product has an update or it’s a customer’s birthday. These simple measures can help establish rapport and retain customers.
- Reward loyalty: Offering loyal customers rewards through incentive programs secures their repeat conversion and helps create brand ambassadors who promote your product and raise awareness because they genuinely believe in it.
How To Implement the Digital Marketing Funnel
Now that you know the purpose behind each stage and various tactics for optimizing them, let’s turn our attention to three key strategies for implementing the digital marketing funnel in your business.
Map the Funnel to Your Business Goals and Audience
No two funnels are identical. Before implementing a digital marketing funnel as part of your strategy, take the time to audit your business’s specific goals and target audience.
Here are some questions to consider when mapping a funnel:
- What’s your campaign objective?
- Who’s your target audience, what do they need, and what are their main concerns?
- What is the budget, time frame, and amount of resources you’re allocating?
- What are the key performance indicators at each stage of the funnel?
Having a clear sense of your objectives and limitations helps you identify the best ways to meet your company’s needs and goals at each stage of the funnel.
Choose Effective Marketing Channels and Content Types for Each Stage
Since the marketing funnel represents the buyer’s journey, it’s important to strategically choose marketing channels and content that consider what a potential customer is going through at that particular stage of the process.
For example, email marketing can effectively retain customers, but bombarding a prospect with too many emails too early in the process might scare them away.
As another example, videos and webinars emphasizing pain points are excellent for generating interest and creating value. But these would be less impactful at the bottom of the funnel, where you’ll better serve customers by focusing on solutions.
Measure Success and Optimize
As more data about a campaign comes in, analyze the information and look for opportunities to optimize and improve different elements of your strategy. Successfully implementing a digital marketing funnel isn’t a one-time exercise but one that evolves and changes along with customer needs and marketing tools.
For instance, suppose your quarterly analytics report shows a near-30% cart abandonment rate on your site. In the next quarter, you could offer limited-time discounts or free shipping to address the issue.
Phenomenal Campaigns That Will Fill Your Funnel
The meteoritic rise of internet users, application downloads, and social media have made digital marketing incredibly competitive. Today, hundreds of companies compete for online market share, vying for the ever-shortening attention spans of increasingly complex demographics.
That’s where we come in.
White Peak is Reno’s top content marketing agency, helping businesses transform their marketing efforts into a cohesive strategy designed to generate revenue by converting prospects into customers.
From awareness to advocacy, our team will help you launch compelling marketing campaigns that account for every stage of the customer experience, improving your conversion and retention numbers. Contact us today to see how White Peak can help you take your digital marketing funnel and strategy to the next level.
Tim Woda is the CEO and founder of White Peak Marketing. He has been on the founding team of five successful start-ups and his digital marketing campaigns have acquired more than 800 million customers for his start-ups and White Peak’s client companies. Tim has been featured by The New York Times, Fox News, Forbes, The Huffington Post, and more. Under Tim’s direction, White Peak was selected as one of America’s Top Digital Marketing Agencies for 2021 by MarTech Outlook magazine.