5 Phases of the Marketing Funnel: From Awareness to Advocacy

As a marketing consultant, I take a diagnostic approach in determining why companies aren’t hitting their goals. All too often companies will assume that their current marketing campaigns just aren’t working (and that certainly may be the case). But there’s typically more beneath the surface that needs to be addressed before we can work on putting together a comprehensive marketing plan. Time and time again I refer to this chart in helping my clients identify where the real problem with their marketing seems to be. Once we figure out where the challenges are we work to overcome these obstacles. There are five main processes that occur during the customer behavior funnel that must happen (typically in order) before a company will have loyal, repeat customers. Additionally, the marketing approaches will need to be carefully tailored in each phase in order to move prospective customers through the funnel.

  1. Awareness. The very first process that occurs in the marketing funnel is creation of or growth of awareness. Simply put, if your customers don’t know that your company or your products exist, they cannot, and thus, will not buy from you. This seems pretty straight forward, but plenty of companies scratch their heads at their low sales when they haven’t done any marketing to inform their customers they are open for business. Companies must market themselves and create awareness before they can even hope for sales.
  2. Consideration. Once a customer is aware of your product, they will consider your offering. They will determine if your product is something they want or need, if it’s a fair price, and if they are willing to buy. Marketing plays a large role in this phase as well, and can often tip an on-the-fence shopper into a paid customer. Consider a scenario of two restaurants that you pass everyday on your way home from work. Clearly you are aware of them both. Now, imagine that one of these restaurants runs a well placed advertisement that is packed with enticing language for delicious meals and happy hour promotions. Which restaurant are you more likely to try? After a period of consideration (that can vary based on the product/service being sold), the prospect becomes a customer in our third process.
  3. Trial. Congratulations, you made a sale! After building awareness and telling your prospects that they should buy from you, they finally took the plunge. Now it’s up to you to not only deliver a great product or service, but to deliver a great experience! This is all part of marketing too, and it will affect not only your brand, but also whether or not your customer will continue on to the fifth phase in this marketing funnel process. (The fourth phase happens whether you’re ready for it, or not).
  4. Attitude. After the purchase, your customer will automatically make a decision about how they feel about what they just bought. Companies strive for (and invest a lot of time and money in) delivering products and services that leave a favorable taste in their customers’ mouth. No company wants to be the cause of the dreaded “buyers’ remorse”, which leads to cancellation of services, return of products, and nasty reviews on consumer reports and websites. Marketing can be difficult in this phase, but if done elegantly, innovatively, and effectively, your business can help to shape the way your customer responds to the purchase. If, and only if, your customer has a favorable attitude about the product, they will graduate to the fifth and final phase in the marketing funnel, and become a company’s dream customer.
  5. Loyalty. One of the biggest aspirations companies strive for is to have high levels of customer loyalty. Having your customers so happy that they not only purchase (and re-purchase) from you, but refer more business to you from friends and family, and become an advocate for your product is one of the biggest indicators of success. However, just because your customers have migrated through the funnel to a loyal customer doesn’t necessarily mean they will stay there. Companies must pay attention to the marketing at the top level to ensure customer satisfaction and retention. For some this involves innovating new and exciting products, like Apple. For others it involves excellent customer service, like Trader Joes. Some offer loyalty programs, like many airlines and hotels. At any rate, companies who take for granted their most loyal customers often lose them, and thus all the effort they invested in converting them through the marketing funnel has gone to waste.

With marketing permeating this funnel at every level, it’s critical to be able to identify which area of this customer behavior process is in need of repair so that you can target your efforts accordingly. Make sure your marketing communications are integrated and consistent in each phase to build a strong brand that your customers will relate to. Marketing is not simply a matter of attracting customers; it is also retaining and growing your customers into loyal, repeat buyers and advocates of your brand.

Breanna Bremer is a professional business advisor at Innovantage Consulting who helps her clients attract, retain, and grow their customers by creating and implementing customized marketing and business development strategies. Read more posts from Breanna Bremer on her websites or her LinkedIn profile.

Why Integrated Marketing Communications is Like a Brick House

Have you ever seen a print advertisement in a newspaper or magazine for a beauty product, food product, automobile, etc., and seen an advertisement on TV for the same product? Maybe you also hear a commercial on the radio for the product, and it sounds very similar to the TV ad you saw. Perhaps you noticed that the company uses the same (or very similar) backgrounds or landscapes, models, and other visual indicators. Did you also notice the verbiage of what the company is advertising and how they are advertising it? Did you recognize that the same promotion or value proposition was clearly referenced and advertised in each marketing channel? This isn’t due to lack of creativity, it’s just the magic of marketing, plain and simple!

There’s an important concept in marketing called “integrated marketing communications”, which supports an idea of consistency in all marketing efforts. Why is consistency important? It’s the difference between building a house out of bricks and building a house of stones. Let’s consider a hypothetical situation to illustrate the point:

While reading your favorite magazine, you come across a beautiful, artistic, and elegant full page ad for a new model of a vehicle. The advertisement emphasizes luxury and comfort that this car encompasses. Later on, while driving to dinner, you hear a radio ad for this vehicle that is comical, features a noisy family, and emphasizes the safety of this car. While watching TV before bed, you see a commercial for this vehicle racing through town while dodging obstacles, explosions going off in the background, and a gruff man narrating about the performance element of this car. Maybe you also receive a piece of mail advertising the spectacular price the car is selling for at the dealership down the road.

This is like building a house out of stones. Stones are strong, they can support weight, and they are relatively functional. Similarly, each ad, on its own, may be very effective in accomplishing its purpose. For example, after reading the ad we know the car is luxurious, after hearing the radio spot we know it’s safe, after seeing the commercial, we know it’s a performance vehicle, and the mail clearly states the great price.

However, building a house out of stones is very challenging, as they are all different sizes, they don’t balance well, and the walls can easily topple over due to instability and the edges that just don’t line up. With each advertisement focusing on a different element, the audience is left conflicted about what the take away is. Do we want this car for its luxuriousness, safety, performance, or value? Each form of marketing ends up competing with the other, and the effectiveness of the advertisements are diluted.

Now let’s imagine that each form of marketing focused on the same message: “This car has a very sleek design and a luxurious interior”, for example. The message from the print advertisements would be supported and reiterated by the messages heard on the radio and the messages seen on TV. After being exposed to all the different forms of marketing, one would have no doubt about what the company was trying to convey, as well as the value of owning this new car. This is like building a house out of bricks. Each element is strong and they work together due to their matching clean edges. Like bricks, these elements are very easily stacked, built upon, and strengthened by the presence of other pieces.

Integrated marketing communications is all about clarity, repetition throughout media, and consistent branding and messaging. You want your customers to know exactly what you’re trying to convey, and you want to reinforce this message throughout all of your marketing efforts. Try to shape each form of marketing: traditional/print, radio, TV, social media, direct mail, etc, to communicate the same message so that your target audience doesn’t get confused. In fact, leave them no opportunity for confusion. Be clear and be consistent.

The point of integrated marketing communications is that each marketing effort is supporting and adding to the effectiveness of the others. Like a series of well positioned bricks, strategic integrated marketing communications initiatives stack on top of each other, creating a strong, cohesive, well rounded campaign. Each element adds more support and value to the integrity of the campaign, as they repeat the important and desired information, and communicate them in a consistent manner, across diverse and complimentary channels. This is a strategic marketing process aimed at developing the strongest and most productive outcome.

Integrate your desired message among all forms of marketing and communication, and have the elements working together to enhance your initiatives. Build your campaigns with strong and sturdy “bricks”, that compliment each other and work together to enhance your desired goals.

The Most Effective Sales Strategy: “What’s in it for me?”

When I consult with my clients who struggle with marketing or sales initiatives, I always start out the session asking: “what’s in it for me”? In other words, if I am a potential customer you are trying to attract with your marketing campaigns, or you are trying to sell your products or services to, what is the benefit I will get from buying from you? Always frame your value proposition as if the customers were asking you “what’s in it for me?”

Many people at this point will start rattling off all of their differentiating factors, nifty product points, or explain that they have the best customer service in the industry. This is all well and good, but it is far from relevant unless they can identify what that means to the customer. Don’t focus on the features you offer, or why you’re different from the rest; all of that information is important, and you can dive into that as needed, but what’s most important, and what you should focus your efforts on, is how you will directly affect the customers’ pain points and make their job, life, or business situation better.

Finding a pain point can be tough, and often you will need to dig deep. You could conduct market research in the form of surveys, interviews, and/or focus groups, you could ask current clients how your product or service best helps them individually, but the easiest way is to simply ask your prospect. After all, every customer faces different challenges, and what troubles some may not trouble others. Additionally, people genuinely appreciate when businesses care about their individual struggles. So get to know the prospect you’re selling to, and don’t feel uncomfortable asking them what they are looking for from your product or service. People love to talk about themselves and their business, and it makes them feel more connected to you as a salesperson or company.

Once you know what your prospective customer is really struggling with you can focus the sales efforts on their individual situation. Show the prospective customer that you relate to them and understand their unique problems (even if they aren’t so unique). Make them feel understood and special. Once you have gotten an understanding of the pain point and have communicated to the customer that you know how their struggles are affecting them, you can present your value proposition in a “what’s in it for me?” perspective. By explaining to your customer what they will gain by working with you or using your service, you will illicit a much more interested and positive response. Be sure to frame your sales pitch around how your offering can help their particular situation, make their life easier, save them time or money, etc.

Don’t make your sales presentation too feature rich; keep it simple and always address and stress how your prospect will benefit by being your customer. Don’t leave them wondering “what’s in it for me?”