The marketing funnel represents the steps in a customer’s journey. It covers five stages, which in sequential order are: Awareness, Interest, Desire, Action (or purchase) and Loyalty.
fig.1 The customer journey represented in diagrammatical form, starting at the initial customer awareness of your product or service, through to post-purchase customer loyalty.
The customer must be aware of the type of product or service you offer and how it can be of use to them, or how it can offer a solution to their problem.
This awareness can be generated via such methods as advertising campaigns, blog posts, word of mouth, SEO, or a store front, but it must ensure that your target demographic knows that you exist.
A customer begins to research the products or services you offer that are available to them. It is important at this stage that any information you provide on your product or service generates an informed desire.
Providing high quality information reduces the likelihood of customers exploring 3rd party resources to give them extra information about you, or subsequently exploring your competitors (although it is impossible to remove this risk completely). The interest stage can include such criteria as pricing, and pre-empting any questions that they are likely to have with detailed information on your product or service.
The customer is at the point where they wish to make a purchase. It is important that you have the ability to answer questions succinctly, provide necessary information that is easy to access and try to overcome any potential objections. On an e-commerce site for example this could be such queries as a returns policy, shipping costs, customer reviews and testimonials.
4. Action [ or purchase ]
The customer will either purchase the product you have to offer, or one that your competitor’s offer, or not make a purchase at all. This stage often has significant overlap with the previous ‘desire’ stage.
A customer will often need reassurance, and can be easily distracted by a competitor who may have changed their product offering (e.g. they are now offering a discount). It’s vital that this part of the process is as smooth as possible as you look to move the customer into making a purchase so they can become part of the ‘loyalty’ part of the funnel.
This step also covers encouraging customers to advocate your services to others.
Advocacy and loyalty can be something as simple as a customer sharing a social media post of them using your product.
A customer who is involved in advocacy is more likely to remember their experience of you, and reconnect with you when looking to purchase any future products or services you offer. It is easier to convert existing customers to another sale than convert completely new customers. The best time to get a customer to advocate your services is soon after they have purchased them.
The marketing funnel is a broad level overview when considering the journey of a customer. It should not be forgotten that it has many variables, and people looking to make a buying decision will often flip in an out of a marketing funnel over a period of time (particularly for more expensive products or services) before a final action is undertaken. It is useful though to use as a guide to how you should approach your marketing, and how to approach converting a potential buyer to a sale.