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What’s a sales funnel?

When it comes to buying, your customer goes through various stages before finally settling on a purchase.  This is the sales funnel, the process through which a prospect travels until becoming a lead and then finally a customer: from the initial discovery and awareness stage, moving to interest stage, then the consideration stage, decision and finally action (usually the actual buying of the product or service).

At each of these stages, content plays a strategic role, enabling you as a brand to build trust with your target market.  This relationship can be enhanced at different stages of the sales funnel, using content to improve the customer’s experience and interaction with your brand across the relevant social media platforms. Used correctly, this can be employed as an opportunity to position your brand as an authority in the industry.

Although there may be various sub-divisions or steps when it comes to the sales funnel, we will be looking at the sales funnel in three main stages – Awareness/Discovery Stage, Consideration Stage and Decision Stage.

The awareness stage of the sales funnel

This is the stage where you are discovered via search engines and social media. This stage is focussed on attracting and engaging a qualified prospect.  This is someone who fits your ideal buyer persona, a person who is most likely to engage in your content and move further down the sales funnel to become a lead.

In this stage, your visitor is in the research phase.  This is the time to start building a relationship, creating avenues for your customer to give you permission to communicate with them.  Communication in this stage is via email, subscribing to a blog, RSS feed, push notifications.

As your customer is in the research of discovery phase, content needs to be informative and educational.  Ideal content includes the following:  How to guides; best practice guides; white papers; eBooks; social media; blogs; videos providing insight into a product and services.

The aim is to familiarise your potential customer, providing content which educates and informs them about the product, service and industry.

Content themes can be developed using Google’s Keyword Planner to research keywords and competitor keywords. However, it is important to make content interesting and valuable for your prospect.  Here the prospect’s needs come first, without any mentioning of buying your product.

Calls to action (CTAs) are important in each stage.  And the awareness or interest stage of the sales funnel is no different. CTAs serve to guide your prospect, moving them further down the funnel.

Effective CTA examples include:  leave comment; download; free guide/report; follow us on social media; subscribe to our newsletter/blog; share this post – all of which start to engage your prospect in some way.

The consideration stage of the sales funnel

This is the middle of the funnel where your brand and its offering are considered and evaluated.  In this stage, you are able to deliver targeted content via email.

This stage still involves nurturing your lead, developing trust.  It is here where you set the scene to create a qualified lead by providing you audience with reasons why they would benefit from choosing your product or service.

Your visitor is now a qualified prospect (and some prospects have become leads).  You can include the occasional sales pitches as long as the offer works in the favour of your prospect.  For example, you can let your audience know about certain offers coinciding with a significant day such as Valentine’s Day, Easter or the like.

CTAs in this stage are mainly focussed on motivating your prospect to move further down the sales funnel by providing your audience with reasons why they would benefit from choosing your particular product or service.

This can be achieved through content which shows ‘proof’ about your industry, your product and your company.  Content examples include: social media; whitepapers; case studies; webinars.

This is further underpinned by the following types of CTAs:  View a video; Sign up for a free trial; download a resource; register for a webinar.

The Decision Stage of the Sales Funnel

In this stage, your qualified lead is almost a buyer.  Previous content has been used to establish trust.  Now, content needs to be used to position your brand as a thought leader and a desirable one at that – a brand with whom they would like to be associated.

This is the stage where you want to put your lead at ease, showing them the value of your offering.  Providing the right information is of utmost importance, nurturing your connections so that they move towards the action stage.

The best content to use is as follows:  Events; ROI calculators; e-Books; detailed tutorials, pricing information; in-depth how-to articles which look at using your product; testimonials play an important role, showing social validation of your services.

Despite the fact that your leads are ready to take action and buy your product, it is important to keep your content valuable and light, without too much salesy information.

Rather softly direct your lead with the following calls to action such as:   Calculate ROI; claim your special offer/discount; reserve your spot at our event; live chat; order today

The Reconversion and Advocacy Stage (Customer Retention)

Anyone who has bought from you is a potential brand advocate, promoting your brand to other customers within the parameters of your target market. This is the stage where you nurture repeat business, developing a relationship established on trust and underpinned by loyalty.

Content for this stage needs to be structured according to your aim of creating a return customer.  The following formats are effective:  Surveys; feedback forms; competitions; newsletter

Although different businesses and brands result in a variation of this model, the main strategy is to pair strategic content in line with the relevant phase and its objectives.  This ensures that content resonates with the person in the right way, at the right time in harmony with the prospect’s needs, nurturing them along their journey with the brand until they are secured as a customer.

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