What Is The Buying Funnel In Marketing?
Something happens between a prospect being a complete stranger and being a committed, returning customer. That ‘thing’ is known as the buying funnel in marketing speak, and there are several stages to it. We think funnel sounds a bit clunky and impersonal, so we prefer to think of the process in terms of a relationship, or story.
A couple who got married last Saturday will have a story to tell about how they met and how their relationship progressed to the stage that they tied the knot. People who have been through the process themselves will probably be able to discern recognisable stages in their relationship that are common to other people in the same situation.
The stages may be the same, but the experience is unique and individual. Please bear this in mind when we describe the stages of the buying funnel below. It is a useful tool to position yourself with when building relationships with customers, but it is no substitute for the genuine experience itself. To make the buying funnel work for you, you will need to live it and personalise it, rather than attempt to tick off the stages formulaically.
Funnel Or Hour Glass?
Below is a summary of the buying funnel in marketing. If you were to draw it on paper it would look more like an hourglass, with the pre-purchase stages converging on the point of sale, which in turn is the launching off point for the post purchase stages. You may have seen different versions of this funnel elsewhere on the Internet, with different ordering or names for the stages. This simply illustrates our point that the funnel illustrates a process rather than a scientific law.
A common mistake businesses make is to weight their sales and marketing resources on the first five steps of the plan, ignoring the importance of marketing to existing customers.
Gaining new business is extremely important, but it should also be remembered that it costs far less to increase the value or gain additional sales from existing customers, than it does to bring a complete stranger in from the first to the fifth stage of the funnel.
1) Brand awareness – initial engagement.
2) Interest – problems are identified and prospects are educated about the service or product.
3) Research & Evaluation – the prospect investigates different solutions and assesses your service based on how it satisfies their needs and requirements.
4) Decision - the prospect justifies a purchase based on value and ROI.
5) Purchase - the prospect converts to a customer, perhaps on a one-off or trial basis.
6) Implementation – the customer adopts the service or product and makes it part of their way of doing business.
7) Assessment, Troubleshooting & Retention – the customer analyses the service based on how well it creates the expected value and solves their problems. This is a critical nurturing stage because at this point many new customers are lost if they are dissatisfied.
8) Loyalty & Expansion – the customer becomes an established or repeat client, and increased their value by up selling or adopting additional services.
9) Brand Advocacy – the customer becomes an active advocate for your brand, informally promoting your service with positive feedback and bringing in new prospects through referrals.
Marketing, Sales & Business Growth
Marketing is not a single process, nor are the stages of the buying funnel dogmatic, one off events. There is significant crossover between the stages, with some prospects skipping one or more stages or seeming to ‘regress’ from one stage to a lower one. As useful as the marketing funnel is, it should not be viewed in isolation.
Marketing goes hand-in-hand with sales, or at least it should, in order for it to result in business growth. To find out more about the buying funnel and the implications this has for your business growth strategy, please get in touch with one of our business development specialists today.