If you want to know what is a funnel and how to build it, you will find this guide interesting.
Every day, web users insert billions of search queries on search engines, about every type of information they need. Only a handful of websites understand how to position themselves on search engines, even less those that know this is even an opportunity.
Even less is the number of websites that are able to attract visitors and generate sales by driving them through the marketing funnel.
How is it then possible to overcome these issues and make people convert on your website?
How can your website be positioned for relevant search queries?
What strategies can you implement not only to position your website on search engines but also to generate sales from those visits?
In this guide, we will go through how to build a funnel that converts. We will understand how to intercept demand, how to generate engagement, traffic and sales.
Before we start, an important note. Why am I qualified to talk about this topic? First of all, it's not the first time I have written about the marketing funnel, check out my guide on SearchEngineLand.
Also, some of the largest UK and US companies choose me as their SEO consultant, to name just a few: Linden Home, Future Fit, Tribe Organics, Away Resorts. I offer them my SEO services and consultancy.
The definition of a funnel
One accepted, shared and agreed definition of a marketing funnel, unfortunately, doesn't exist. However, many marketing pros agree on a theoretical idea of the funnel:
It's a process that, centred on consumers' behaviour, shows the theoretical path that takes them from awareness of a problem to a purchase decision.
It's still based on the AIDA model, invented by an American businessman in 1898, E. St. Elmo Lewis. Still today we use the same structure and I think it's about time we modernise it, but that's a topic for another article.
"Funnel" is actually a metaphor, very functional and effective. It allows us to understand consumers' decision processes who, starting from a variety of information (top of the funnel), they get to choose and buy one product or service (bottom of the funnel).
During this decisional process, the consumer is influenced by messages and information that are proposed to him. For example, in the awareness phase, information is very general while in the decisional phase, messages are very product-specific.
All of those phases can be built, customised and directed to attract the right type of consumers and it can become very effective for a website.
But how do we build such a funnel?
The 4 sections of a marketing funnel
There are four sections of a typical marketing funnel as seen above with the AIDA funnel: Awareness, Interest, Desire, Action. Each every one of them can be carefully crafted around the objective of generating interest, awareness, traffic and conversions.
In this guide, we will see how we can build those sections. It's important to say that there isn't any magic formula that would work for everyone, in the same way, I always advice to test and learn the best ways to build a funnel.
If something works today for someone, it doesn't mean it also works for some other website, so try to find the most effective combination with A/B tests and conversion rate optimisation.
A typical mistake many pros do in this phase is confusing awareness as it was referred to the product awareness. Awareness in this context doesn't mean that a consumer is discovering a new product and becomes aware of it.
Becoming aware means realising you have a problem, not that you need a product or service. If a prospective client doesn't have a problem to solve, he would certainly not start looking for a solution.
For example, if a person has teeth ache, he wouldn't start right away to look for medication. He would start by understanding what is causing the problem, first of all, before he looks for the right product.
So what happens is that the consumer will start his journey into the funnel looking for what causes tooth pain. There are many causes that can trigger this pain: gums infections, chewing problems, cavity and many more. It's impossible yet to determine which product is more advisable to the client.
So, the main goal of this the awareness phase is to generate information on a large scale (within the context of your offer), based on the detailed research of the topic.
How to generate contents for the awareness phase
The biggest nightmare in the marketing world is to be completely ignored, both from consumers and search engines alike.
Writing content that is not aligned with consumers' intent, Google Ads that are not relevant to their landing pages, retargeting campaigns that show products to the customers that have already bought them, and the list could go on forever.
That's why, the main task when creating content is the focus, as we will see below.
Avoid talking about your products only
The best advice I feel like giving is to show how much you actually know about your industry and have an obsessive focus on your customers. Then to transfer this knowledge to your customers using your marketing channels.
In the awareness phase, do not focus on the products you sell, but on the problems that your prospects have, that your products could solve for them.
To understand what problems they have (if you don't know them, your business depends on it!), you can do brainstorming services or ask your customer service and sales team.
Answer questions your customers have
If you are able to answer questions about the problems and the solutions your customers face, then put this knowledge and information on your blog and marketing channels, you put your website in a position to be found.
That's because you have aligned your customers' searches with your content. Going back to the example of toothache, in this phase this is the list of contents you should write about:
Articles about toothache challenges
Post on social media
Market research and trends
Podcasts with experts
White papers and thematic guides
Pro tip: do you want to know how to create a blog? Read my comprehensive guide about it.
The first question you need to ask yourself when thinking about "Interest" in the funnel is this: "Where are my potential clients?"
Do they use search engines? Or do they spend their time following influencers, listening to podcasts and posting on social media? Or all of the above?
Before you decide which content you need to produce, you should have an answer to those questions. If you do not have clear ideas, I can help you understand better your visitors and your potential clients. Start by having a read to my Hotjar tutorial and guide.
If you are able to write an e-Book, a piece of original research that involves influencers in your industry, then you might be able to not only generate traffic and leads but also to tap into a larger audience using your influencers' access.
How to connect the two phases: awareness and interest
In order for your customers to navigate towards the last phase of the funnel (the decision), you first need to connect awareness to interest.
There is nothing worse than spending time in producing interesting and valuable content to have then your customers buying from your competitors.
Let's use the same example of toothache. Let's suppose you produce content around tooth aching problems and that your customers would find you from Google.
What would you need to do in order to increase interest in your brand?
Your readers have found your content, they like your website because it provides information about their problems. In terms of communication, users can follow you on social media, subscribe to your newsletter to receive special offers or valuable content. Or they can start following influencers on the topic.
Pro tip: how to find the right influencers for your niche? Use SparkToro and start by reading my review.
In terms of action, try to determine which acquisition strategies might work well to have people subscribe to your newsletter and come back to your website for more content.
Once they land on your website, you can maybe start retargeting advertising. There is scientific research that proves retargeting increases visitors to return to your website by 14.6% within 4 weeks.
How do I know when my prospects have moved from the awareness to the interest phase?
If you notice that your readers have read your content and came back for more, then subscribed to your newsletter (or an ebook and any other form of gated content), then it means they find your website interesting and want more of it.
Before you start these campaigns to generate new traffic, you need to start thinking seriously about how you can motivate your users to make an action on your website.
Are your users more interested in certain types of content rather than others? Do they prefer approaching your brand in a traditional way (word of mouth) or are they open to new marketing techniques?
Maybe your customers like to speak to you directly, so a webchat could be a great idea to transform visitors into a lead and make them act.
Strategies for the decision phase
Let's keep talking about the toothache example. If the website selling these types of medications is noticing that people want to buy them straight away, then they can think about the following 4 campaigns:
PPC - build paid ads campaign with a dedicated landing page where people can buy the product there and then
Facebook Ads to sell them the same products on social networks
Blog articles to support product pages and inform people on the right products to buy, how to use them, when to use them, who can use them, benefits and side effects.
Optimising organic landing pages to position them better on search engines and earn more qualified traffic.
Content to be produced in this phase
Contents your audience is perceiving as valuable and provide effective responses to real problems.
Contents that provide shifting from the awareness to the interest and then decision stage, with guides that provide info about differences between this product and competitors' products.
Reviews and case studies. Are your clients happy? Have you got any case study you can create?
In this stage, you should think about what is the final goal of your website. Normally, objectives are something like this:
For a blog, get people to read the articles, subscribe to the newsletter and have them buy a course, a book or some type of digital product;
For e-commerce, sell their products and increase sales and revenue
For news website, have more readers to sell them advertising.
According to your main goal, your funnel strategy changes a lot and the communication tactics will also be very different.
Let's take it from where we left it. In the decision phase, the prospect has enquired on the website (decision stage). He has also read reviews, case studies and testimonials (interest stage).
Now, the challenge is how to convert him into a paid customer?
The answer is not simple, unfortunately. It all depends on what you sell.
If you sell, for example, B2B products to large companies, clients normally want a sale process that is easy and smooth. So in this case, you might to simplify selling processes and make them more customer-friendly:
Help prospects to feel comfortable during the entire selling process, so you can produce for example a guide about "5 ways we have simplified our buying experience".
Clarify the steps towards a sale to decrease anxiety and risks, as I have said before having an obsession with the customer is an enormous competitive advantage.
Reassure clients on how you have created wins for the previous clients, so case studies might be a great idea.
If clients spend a significative amount of money for your B2B products, have an ROI calculator ready to help customers understand what they can achieve with your company's partnership.
4 typical errors to avoid when building the marketing funnel
Four typical errors to avoid on your website:
Calls to actions that are very different from each other and the user is not sure where to click. On one side, you want them to subscribe to your newsletter, on the other side you want them to buy something. Which one is it? The more actions you want customers to take, the less they will actually take because this means more things to think about.
Impossible to find calls to action, where you completely miss the opportunity to make your clients click and take a significative action.
Technical problems and useless information. I find this issue often on e-commerce websites, where delivery costs are not communicated straight away, but only during payment. And as a result, the customer feels misled and doesn't purchase anything.
Too many efforts from the client's side. Remember that prospects are not yet customers so you don't have the right (yet) to ask them too much. Maybe you are asking your prospects to do too much work and invest resources too early by asking, for example, sensitive information ("what is your budget" is one of the most common questions).
The best websites with a high conversion rate do exactly the opposite of what you have read above, they have clear information at the right time and provide a smooth experience throughout the entire customers' journey.
Content types for the action phase
As always, content types depends on which niche and which goal you have for your website. For example, for those website selling complex software solutions (think of Hubspot or Salesforce) and it requires a solid team of sales professionals, here are a few content ideas:
Before you put in touch your sales team with your prospects in a conversation about closing a sales deal, why not clarify that this conversation is about consulting for their own benefits? Selling to people always create anxiety and high risk, you should mitigate them with emails and communication to the prospects about the importance of having a chat.
Improving your post-sale communication to avoid refunds and potential issues while at the same time providing onboarding services to help your new client succeed.
So, thanks for reading until this point, we have talked about what is a marketing funnel and how to build it to maximise opportunities for better marketing and sales.
The right funnel model for your website should be built considering different factors such as niche, the product sold, industry, type of customers, competitors and your own resources. And anyway the funnel is not equal for every website, it requires constant testing and optimisation.