Funnel Marketing, as you might well guess, has nothing to do with the physical funnel you keep in your storeroom. It is a marketing concept that maps the stages through which the customer passes while buying a good or receiving a product or service. The stages range from the broadest to the narrowest and when they are pictorially represented one after the other; they take the shape of a funnel.
Awareness: In this stage the consumer becomes aware of the product or service for the first time. This is primarily an educational phase in which the marketers will try to educate the consumers about the generic product before moving on to showcase their particular model. For example, if you were creating awareness about a particular car brand then you would first explain what the brand of the car means, what its features are, what its advantages are and why it’s better over others. Although it might not seem so, marketers and companies try to be the first to create awareness as those that are the first to reach the consumers create a brand association with the generic product in their minds and often emerge on a better footing than competitors.
Consideration: This is the stage in which the consumer thinks whether he will become a customer by buying the product or availing the service to which he has become aware. He contemplates his needs and equates and balances them against the propositions made by the product. This is the stage where the marketers must strike hardest. The consumer’s waking hours need to be filled with references of the product/service and their benefits and special emphasis should be given to the conveniences the product offers.
Action: In this stage the consumer becomes a customer by acting on his considerations and purchasing the product. For example, now he will purchase the product of a particular brand and make as he feels will suit his needs the best. This decision is invariably based on the contemplations of the consumer during the consideration stage and the brand choice will swing heavily in favour of the brand which influences him the most in that stage.
Loyalty: Once the customer uses the product or avails the service and receives the desired satisfaction, it is evident that he will show loyalty towards the product or service, towards the brand and also towards the company. So what started as increased focus on the consumer in the consideration stage resulted in immediate results in the action stage and further benefits for the company in the loyalty stage due to great satisfaction delivered. That is the magic of the marketing funnel.
Advocacy: Originally, there were only four stages in the marketing funnel but it was expanded to include an extra stage in the mid-1990s due to increased focus on Customer Relationship Management or CRM. The customer is the end-all and be-all of business and the key of success is to understand and satisfy the customers desires not only with the product, but also with certain added benefits on purchase of the product- such as after-sales services. Advocacy is that stage of the marketing funnel when the customer is so satisfied with the use of the product or service concerned that he will advocate and recommend the product to all people with similar dispositions and needs known to him. Therefore, marketing funnel is a self-perpetuating and self-sustaining marketing tool.
While the five stages of the marketing funnel still stand, neither the business world nor the practices of marketing are at a standstill. With the advancements in technology, we have seen drastic shift in marketing practices. It is imperative that while preparing the marketing funnel in this modern environment, the marketer must reinvent the funnel with regard to the present condition of technological advancement in mind.
In such a scenario, the outlook to the five stages might change. Almost all the stages- with the exception of loyalty- will have to be re imagined for creating a successful present day marketing funnel in somewhat the following fashion:
Awareness: In the past, awareness used to be focused around campaigns and road shows and television adverts and what not. However, the consumer today is far more educated to put his faith in paid advertisements. There is a huge impact created by various types of digital media. People read reviews online, visit the brand’s website, check social media pages, etc. and do thorough research before opting for any product or service.
Consideration: Considerations in the past used to be made based on representations of the marketers alone. Now consumers have a number of options to help them decide which product they should choose. Social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter provide a great platform for asking friend and family’s opinions and also have groups of pages dedicated to the product or service concerned where present customers share their experiences for all to see. This heavily colours the decision making process of the consumer. Furthermore, the consumer also has access to user reviews at online stores. Add to this the large number of reputed sites featuring product reviews and you will understand how powerful the consumer is these days.
Action: Action stage hasn’t seen much change except for the fact that consumers can now buy products and avail services by placing orders online. Everything from groceries to high-end electronics to insurance policies can now be ordered online. Any marketer does not have the luxury of ignoring this fact.
Now that we have successfully gauged the importance, relevance and even the evolution of a marketing funnel we shall take a look at how modern-day marketers should utilise this tool to their benefit. In this endeavour it is essential to, once again, revisit the stages of the funnel to see how we can take advantage of their evolved status. However, before that, we have to consider the need for the marketer to reinvent the business, radically reengineer his marketing processes and throw out old views and ideas. Only then can a successful marketing funnel be created. The product or service too must undergo radical redesign in order to conform to the latest consumer requirements. The marketer should learn to distinguish between fads and trends and concentrate on the latter as it is more permanent. The following steps will be helpful in taking better advantage of funnel marketing:
It is natural that loyalty and advocacy cannot be fully controlled and your best option as the marketer is to make the product or service as fitting to the consumer’s needs as possible and hope that he likes it. If the product works for him, he will stay loyal and advocate your products to others. You can only take advantage of loyalty and advocacy. These two stages are extremely important and can upset the efforts put in the previous three stages unless proper marketing research has been conducted and innovation added to make the product appealing and desirable to the consumer.
Funnel marketing is a science and like all sciences you have to experiment to find out the truth. The thing is, this science has many truths and that’s what makes it such a challenge. If you have asked yourself whether you are ready for the challenge, and have doubted the yes, do so no longer. After reading this article, you are as ready as you will ever be.