The sales funnel is a framework that outlines the different stages a potential customer goes through on their path to becoming a paying customer. Each stage has unique characteristics and goals, and as a business owner or marketer, you need to tailor your content and messaging to each stage to better engage potential customers and guide them towards making a purchase.
In this blog post, we'll delve into the different stages of the sales funnel and explore how you can match your content to your customer's intentions at each stage. We'll look at how customers' needs for information change as they move down the funnel and discuss the types of content that work best for each stage.
What is a sales funnel and how does it work?
When it comes to digital marketing and creating content as part of your digital marketing strategy, a sales funnel is a crucial concept that can help you better understand your customers' journey towards acting like clicking on a button, submitting their contact details, or making a purchase. At its core, a sales funnel is a framework that outlines the various stages that a potential customer goes through on their path to becoming a paying customer.
The typical sales funnel consists of several stages, each with its unique characteristics and goals. At the top of the funnel is the "awareness" stage, where potential customers first become aware of your brand and its offerings. At this stage, your goal is to grab their attention and educate them about what you have to offer.
Once a potential customer is aware of your brand, they move down the funnel to the "interest" stage. Here, they are actively seeking out more information about your products or services, and you'll want to provide them with in-depth content and resources to help them make an informed decision.
The next stage is the "decision" stage, where the customer is weighing their options and deciding whether or not to make a purchase. This is where you'll want to focus on providing them with a clear and compelling call to action, as well as any incentives or special offers that can help push them towards a purchase.
Finally, the last stage of the funnel is the "action" stage, where the customer makes a purchase or conversion. This is where you'll want to focus on providing a seamless and enjoyable customer experience that helps build trust and loyalty with your brand.
Understanding the sales funnel is essential for any business looking to maximise its digital marketing efforts. By identifying the key stages of the funnel and tailoring your content and messaging to each stage, you can better engage potential customers and guide them towards making a purchase.
As you will see from the following image, a sales funnel is often depicted as an upside-down triangle because it represents the decreasing number of potential customers as they move down the funnel towards a sale. At the top of the funnel, many potential customers are aware of your business and consider your products or services. As they move down the funnel, some of these potential customers will drop off, either because they decide not to make a purchase or because they are not a good fit for your business.
The funnel shape reflects this process, as the number of potential customers gradually narrows as they move towards the bottom. At the bottom of the funnel, there are fewer potential customers, but they are typically more qualified and closer to making a purchase. This shape also reflects the idea that the sales process is a journey, with potential customers moving from awareness to interest, evaluation, and ultimately, a decision to make a purchase. By understanding the shape of the funnel and the different stages that potential customers go through, you can optimise their sales and marketing process and improve conversion rates.
How to match your content to your customer’s intentions.
Content is a powerful tool for engaging customers and driving them through the different stages of the funnel. However, if not used effectively, it can hinder the sales and marketing process and result in lost opportunities. To better understand how the information in your content needs to change to cater for each stage of the sales funnel, let’s look at how your customer’s needs in terms of information change as they move down the sales funnel.
As customers move down the sales funnel, their intentions for searching for information change. At the top of the funnel, customers are usually just starting to explore their options and are primarily looking for general information about a product or service. They might be searching for terms like "best shampoo for oily hair" or "how to help my child with math". As you can see, the top of the sales funnel is all about awareness. At this stage, customers are just beginning to explore their options and are not yet ready to make a purchase. They're in the process of identifying a problem or a need and are looking for information to help them better understand their situation.
Customers' intentions at the top of the funnel are generally to gather as much information as possible. They're looking for answers to their questions and are seeking out content that will help them learn more about their problem or need. They might be using search engines to find articles and blog posts related to their issue or exploring social media to see what other people are saying about the topic.
Because customers at the top of the funnel are still in the early stages of the buying process, they may not be aware of all the possible solutions to their problems. This means they are likely to be receptive to a wide range of content, including educational articles, how-to guides, and videos that explain the basics of their problem.
It's important to note that customers at the top of the funnel are not yet ready to be sold to. If you try to push a product or service on them too soon, you may turn them off and lose their trust. Instead, focus on creating helpful, informative content that establishes your brand as an authority in your industry and builds a relationship with your potential customers.
As customers move further down the funnel, they start to become more specific in their search queries. They might start looking for reviews, comparisons, and other types of content that help them make a more informed decision. For example, they might search for terms like "tutoring reviews" or "compare coffee machines". Moreover, as customers move from the top of the funnel to the middle, they have likely shown some level of interest in your business or product. They may have engaged with your brand on social media, signed up for your newsletter, or downloaded a piece of content from your website. These actions indicate that they are open to learning more about what you have to offer.
As shown in the search examples above, at the middle of the funnel, customers are looking for information that helps them evaluate and compare different options. They are trying to determine whether your product or service is a good fit for their needs. They may be considering similar products from your competitors and looking for features and benefits that set your offering apart.
At this stage, it's important to provide detailed and specific information about your product or service. This could include product demos, case studies, and reviews from existing customers. You want to make it as easy as possible for customers to compare your offering to others in the market and demonstrate why your solution is the best fit.
In addition to providing detailed information, it's also important to continue building a relationship with the customer. This could include personalized emails, retargeted ads, or follow-up phone calls. By staying in touch and continuing to provide value, you can help move the customer closer to making a purchase.
At the bottom of the funnel, customers are typically very close to making a purchase decision. They might be looking for things like pricing information, special deals or promotions, and more detailed product/service specifications. At this stage, customers are likely to search for terms like "buy echo-friendly shampoo" or "price of [insert your product/service]". As you can see by these search examples, at the bottom of the sales funnel, customers are much closer to making a purchase decision. They have already done their research, compared options, and narrowed down their choices to a few top contenders. Now, they are looking for more specific information that can help them make a final decision.
At this stage, customers are looking for things like product demos, free trials, pricing information, customer reviews and testimonials, and any other details that can help them make an informed decision. They may also be looking for information on shipping, returns, and any warranties or guarantees offered by the company.
Customers in this stage are often the most engaged and interested in what you have to offer. They are actively seeking out information that can help them make a purchase decision, and they are more likely to convert into paying customers if you can provide them with the information they need.
As a business, it's important to have a clear understanding of the type of information that customers are looking for at this stage. Make sure you have detailed product pages that include all the information customers need, such as product features, specifications, pricing, and customer reviews. You can also provide a live chat option or a customer service hotline to help customers with any questions or concerns they may have.
By understanding the information needs of customers at each stage of the sales funnel, you can create a more effective digital marketing strategy that targets their needs and helps guide them towards a purchase decision.
Let’s look at a practical example to better emphasise this point. Let's say you are a small business selling a range of healthy snacks. At the top of the funnel, you create a blog post about the benefits of healthy eating and share it on social media to attract new visitors to your website. However, when these visitors arrive at your website, they are immediately directed to a product page and encouraged to make a purchase, without having any opportunity to learn more about your brand or products.
This is an example of incorrect content usage in the sales funnel because it skips the middle of the funnel entirely. By doing so, you risk losing potential customers who may not yet be ready to make a purchase and have not yet had the opportunity to learn more about your brand and products.
Instead, a better approach would be to include the middle of the funnel content, such as product guides or comparison articles, that help educate your visitors on your products and why they should choose your brand. By providing helpful information and establishing trust, you can increase the likelihood that visitors will make a purchase when they reach the bottom of the funnel.
It's important to keep in mind that not all customers will follow this exact path down the sales funnel, and some may jump around or skip stages entirely. However, understanding the general trend of how customer intentions change as they move down the funnel can help you create more targeted and effective content that meets their needs at each stage.
Recommended content for each stage of the sales funnel
As we've seen, different types of content are effective at different stages of the sales funnel. In this section, we'll dive deeper into the specific types of content that work well at each stage, and give you some examples to help guide your content creation efforts.
Whether you're looking to attract new customers at the top of the funnel, nurture leads in the middle, or close deals at the bottom, having the right type of content can make all the difference. By understanding what types of content work best at each stage of the funnel, you can create a strategic content plan that helps move your potential customers closer to making a purchase.
So, let's explore the content types that are most effective at each stage of the funnel, and how you can use them to drive more conversions and grow your business.
Top-of-the-funnel (Awareness stage)
Blog posts on topics related to your industry or niche
Infographics that explain complex concepts in a visually appealing way
Videos that introduce your brand and offer helpful tips or advice
Social media posts that engage your audience and share interesting content
Free e-books or whitepapers that offer valuable information
Social media posts
Middle-of-the-funnel (Consideration stage)
Case studies that highlight successful customer stories
Webinars or live video events that provide in-depth education on a topic
Product demos that showcase the features and benefits of your products or services
Email newsletters that provide helpful tips and exclusive offers to subscribers
Quizzes or assessments that help potential customers evaluate their needs and find solutions
Bottom-of-the-funnel (Decision stage)
Customer reviews and testimonials that showcase the value of your offerings
Pricing pages that clearly outline the cost and benefits of your products or services
Personalised emails or messages that offer exclusive deals or incentives to close the sale
Retargeted ads that remind potential customers of your offerings and encourage them to take action.
Limited-time offers or discounts
Remember, the key is to create content that is aligned with the needs and preferences of your target audience at each stage of the funnel and to provide value and build trust with them over time.
As we've discussed, understanding the different stages of the sales funnel is crucial for crafting an effective digital marketing strategy. But it's also essential to consider which channels are most effective for reaching customers at each funnel stage.
At the top of the funnel, when customers are just becoming aware of your brand, it's important to cast a wide net and reach as many people as possible. That's why channels such as social media, display advertising, and content marketing are effective at this stage. These channels allow you to generate brand awareness and attract a large audience to your website.
In the middle of the funnel, as customers begin to consider your products or services, it's important to provide them with more detailed information and begin to establish a relationship with them. Channels such as email marketing, webinars, and retargeting can be effective at this stage. These channels allow you to provide customers with more targeted information and build trust and credibility with them.
At the bottom of the funnel, when customers are ready to make a purchase decision, it's important to provide them with a clear path to conversion. Channels such as search engine marketing, product demos, and customer reviews can be effective at this stage. These channels allow you to provide customers with the information they need to make a decision and encourage them to take action.
By using the right channels at each stage of the funnel, you can improve your overall conversion rates and create a more effective digital marketing strategy. However, it's important to remember that these channels can also work together to create a cohesive customer journey that spans the entire funnel.