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What Is Through The Funnel Marketing?

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through the funnel

Every day I see tons of articles talking about top and middle of the funnel content but I rarely see anything on through the funnel content. Today’s article is to help bring some light to what it is and why it’s important.

There are two big mistakes I see businesses make on a fairly consistent basis. The first is to assume that awareness alone will result in a conversion. I talked about this a little bit in the first article in this series, top of the funnel marketing.

If this was true there would be no reason for middle of the funnel marketing at all. Bottom of the funnel marketing would come into question as well but just because somebody is at the bottom of the funnel doesn’t mean they will always convert either.

The second is to assume, at least from a marketing standpoint, that a sale is the end of the journey. I would argue that while one journey has ended, a new relationship has begun. After all, marriage isn’t an end state. It’s the beginning of something new.

In essence, when your prospect (or lead) converts, they have started a new relationship with you. You can think of it using the marriage metaphor or another way.

In a marketing sense, I think of it as going through the funnel because your relationships with your customer has entered new territory.

As you have gone through this series I have broken down each step of our conversation into five areas. I will do the same for this article. The five areas I will talk about today are:

  • Through the Funnel Meaning
  • Through the Funnel Customers
  • The Objectives of Through the Funnel Content
  • Through the Funnel Content
  • Through the Funnel Marketing

Through the Funnel Meaning

For those of you who haven’t read the other articles in this series, I have been looking at these with the aid of three concepts that are slightly different but related.

These concepts are the marketing funnelthe buyer’s journey, and the five levels of awareness. When I talk about the different levels of the funnel, I’m pulling these three concepts together.

What do these three concepts look like?

I define the marketing funnel as:

  • Awareness
  • Interest
  • Consideration
  • Conversion
  • Retention
  • Evangelism

The buyer’s journey is defined as:

  • Awareness
  • Research
  • Purchase
  • Advocacy

The five levels of awareness concept, developed by Eugene Schwartz in his book Breakthrough Advertising, is defined as:

  • Unaware
  • Problem Aware
  • Solution Aware
  • Product Aware
  • Most Aware

The marketing funnel and the buyer’s journey are both interested in the same thing though they use different words to describe it. In the marketing funnel, it’s called evangelism while the buyer’s journey calls it advocacy. For the sake of this article, I’m going to lump the two together and call it evangelism.

In the five levels of awareness, at this point, you are talking to the most aware.

Your first question is likely, what does through the funnel mean? It means that your prospect has converted to a customer.

As I said in the introduction, you’re in a different type of relationship now. You made a promise that you would solve their problem. They expect you to follow through not only on your promise but also for you to meet expectations that they brought with them.

If you sold a product, there is an expectation of quality that comes with it and something goes wrong, they need your help to fix it.

If you a service, the expectation is that you will deliver and if you don’t, they will end the relationship.

The second question is what’s on the other side of the funnel?

I already hit on this in part a couple of paragraphs ago. Retention.

You want to retain customers. Don’t assume that just because somebody purchased from you that they will again and again. If they really like your product or service they have a higher likelihood of returning but that doesn’t mean they will.

If you can retain your customers it’s possible they could become evangelists. This is rarer but it is gold if this happens. Evangelists are more than happy to talk about you to everybody they come across both on and offline. In other words, they will market for you. I’ll talk more about evangelists in the next section.

Through the Funnel Customers

Notice I changed the verbiage from the previous articles. In the top of the funnel, middle of the funnel, and bottom of the funnel I called people a prospect (or lead if you prefer).

The difference between a prospect and a customer is the difference between not yet converting and converting. What a conversion means will depend on your definition of it but it essentially your prospect took an action you desired. It could be volunteering or making a donation but in most businesses, it will be making a sale.

Now that your prospect is a customer, it’s part of your job to keep them happy. Every organization is going to have a different of what that means and it’s something that you likely used in your marketing before they ever even converted.

You’re marketing to them post-conversion is likely to focus on reminding them of how happy you are they are here and how you can help.

If you exceed expectations, there is a chance that they could take the relationship more seriously and decide to evangelize on your behalf. This could come in the form of sharing articles, products, or giving testimonials. As I said earlier, they will start marketing on your behalf.

The Cult of Mac was essentially people who loved Apple and the Mac so much that they raved about it to everybody who would listen. You may know Ford or Chevy people who love the brand and are happy to talk it up. This can happen for any brand but that doesn’t mean that it will.

If you follow the blog or have explored my website, you’ll notice a lot of references to Gini Dietrich and her site, Spin Sucks. I strongly believe in her vision so she’s had an enormous influence on me both directly and indirectly. It’s hard not to have an individual have this type of impact on your life and not do some evangelizing on their behalf.

However, it’s not all sunshine and roses. Evangelists can be a double-edged sword sometimes. Yes, they will be more forgiving than most of your customers but that doesn’t mean they will turn a blind eye to whatever you do. At times they will be some of your fiercest critics.

How you respond to their criticism will be important. Just because they are your biggest fans doesn’t mean this can’t change. Nothing is static so keep that in mind when it comes to your evangelists. Don’t take them for granted.

Through the Funnel Objectives

I’m sure you figured out the objectives at this point so I won’t harp on them.

Your main objective is to retain your customer. This is common business sense because acquiring new customers are much more expensive than retaining your current customers. If you want to keep the business healthy while improving your profit margins, it’s best that you don’t have a high percentage of customer churn.

A secondary objective will be for these people to become evangelists. As I stated earlier, this is rarer and it is going to be harder to cultivate because some of how they feel will be out of your control.

Let me clarify my previous statement. You can work to create great products and experiences for them but it is up to them to create their own meanings. Just because you think you’ve created a great product doesn’t mean they will. Likewise with an experience. You can work to influence people but It all comes down to how they interpret what they have experienced.

In past jobs, I would go to work and my employer would have a personal computer (PC) running Windows on it. When I went home I worked on a Mac with Apple’s OS. Both worked great but I preferred my Mac and there was no amount of marketing and PR was going to change that. It doesn’t mean that Microsoft made a poor product, it just meant that they weren’t my preference.

Through the Funnel Content

Similiar to bottom of the funnel content, through the funnel content, is going to be more personal.

After all, they are customers now. You want to continue to build a relationship with them. This means the tone of the content will be different just as it was with every step that was taken down the funnel before it.

The channel you use for the content will also be impacted. I’ll talk about this more in the next section.

For now, let’s talk about the types of content that you can use for your customers.

You will need to provide post-conversion information.

When you order something from Amazon, what happens? You get a confirmation at the time of purchase. They will also hit your email box with a confirmation that tells you what you bought, the cost, and your order number. When it ships, you’ll get an email letting you know along with a tracking number if appropriate. They give you the information you need to know.

It’s not always “need to know” information though. If you have ever signed up for an email newsletter, you may have got an email welcoming you. It’s a simple note that says, “I’m glad you’re here.”

If you sell a product, you might send information alerting people to a sale, to give them coupons, or alert them to a new product they might be interested in. You might also include information on how to contact you if there is an issue or give a link to a support page.

When I bring in a new client, the first thing I do is set expectations. I want them to feel good with their decision and setting expectations helps do this.

The bottom line is, you are creating content that makes people comfortable with doing business with you and is influencing them to stay.

Thorough the Funnel Marketing

In each article, I’ve looked at this through the lens of the PESO model which is:

  • Paid Media
  • Earned Media
  • Shared Media
  • Owned Media

While your customers may still be exposed and give your paid, earned, and shared media some attention these aren’t where you are going to be engaging your customers in most cases (nothing is absolute).

Owned media is going to be the main component. Remember owned media is where you own both the channel and the content. You own two things: your website and your email list.

While your website was a great way to engage your prospects as they were going through the funnel, it’s not going to be a good way to communicate with your customers in most cases.

Part of the reason is that it would confuse the heck out of your prospects. The second piece is that the way you talk to your customers is different than your prospects.

Your website is a great place to have conversations with your prospects. Email is a better way to communicate with your customers. That said, you could have gated content specifically for your customers but to communicate it you would likely use email.

To cut to the core, email will be your primary method of marketing to your customers.

A Quick Review

Once again we have covered a lot of ground so I will sum up.

This is what you should remember about through the funnel marketing:

  • You are targeting the most aware (you’re customers)
  • You are trying to deepen the relationship
  • Your primary objectives are retention and creating evangelists
  • Content will focus on making your customers feel good about their purchase and setting expectations
  • Owned media (email) will be your primary tactic

*Image by ejaugsburg from Pixabay

Shane Carpenter
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through the funnel