How it Works
As a funnel or sieve analogy suggests, there are several identifiable stages in product marketing wherein a buyer (and/or seller) chooses to stay involved or to leave.
The items below give a general feel for considerations at each stage of the funnel. We like our clients to understand what is involved so they can work together with us to more quickly determine the right lead-generating recipe for their business.
Each situation is different (e.g., different products, competitors, markets, timing, tools available).
So, like putting together a new recipe, intelligent experimentation is needed to determine the right proportions at the right times to get a tasty result. Efficiently doing this takes experience, talent, time ... and, yes, often a little magic.
The subtleties of modern marketing are often challenging for a business focused on juggling what it takes just to get a good product out the door. This is where we can make a big difference -- by providing front-line marketing expertise most small businesses cannot find or afford.
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The first job is to find and get the attention of good suspects, i.e., people with the qualifications to potentially become good prospects.
This is a typically inefficient activity since one is dealing with at least partially unknowns, like who exactly is a good prospect and when are they ready, willing, and able to buy. Luckily modern Internet tools and good guerrilla marketing are much less costly than using classic tools such as advertising and direct mail.
Repetition is usually important. Most prospects need to see an opportunity several times to actually "see it" and to get comfortable enough to pursue the subject further. Adequate branding makes repetition more effective by helping a prospect recognize and get comfortable with a product on at least a subconscious level.
In practice, it often takes several online and offline components coming together harmoniously to gain any marketing momentum. For example, even if the Internet content and search engine optimization (SEO) is perfect a small new website can take time to get highly ranked by search engines. Therefore, other effective online (e.g. social media) and offline (e.g., signs, advertising, PR) means must be found to get prospects' attention to even get them to look at a website.
Over time a "good" website should start attracting more and more good prospects on its own. Even so, creative continuing offline and online efforts will keep paying off in increased profits.
In the Attention Stage is where you are trying to attract prospective prospects, also known as suspects. Interest
One good thing about SEO is that the looker (prospective prospect) at least has some interest in the subject. After all, the looker selected related words in a search box and responded to the site's description assuming it was ranked high enough for him or her to even see it.
Even once found lookers usually just glance at a web page then move on. What they see in the first second or few must attract their interest enough to stick around. Good offline material that brings lookers online is a tool which helps them stay on a site long enough to actually see what it says.
Extreme clarity is vital at this stage since without it lookers will immediately drop off. Making a site too confusing or fancy (many designers love this because it is what they really "do" rather than marketing) is a typical problem we have seen kill businesses. Designing a clear site is a talent, like good writing, that is not all that common.
Building enough relevant, useful and interesting website content is also needed to build a good site. Such content will further involve serious prospects and will help search engine ranking. Initially, a new site will start with just a few pages and then can be flushed out over time more good ideas are developed.
At the Interest Stage, you begin filtering out prospects from the suspects. At least they are somewhat interested. Rough Fit
Helping the prospect quickly decide if a particular opportunity may fit or not is critical and most prospective prospects are filtered out here. When using Internet tools this rough filtering activity happens quickly (probably under 60 seconds) whether the seller wants the prospect to stick around or not.
Usually, this is best accomplished by focusing on a very few basic emotional appeals or benefits. Sometimes it can be accomplished by indicating price range or key features, though this approach can risk losing real prospects who have set arbitrary constraints on their personal filters.
Rough filtering can help the seller too. Like the prospect, the seller certainly does not want to waste time interacting with prospects that don't fit, at least not during business hours. Both Prospect and seller, very likely, would prefer making progress toward personal goals rather than jawboning with strangers.
By the end of the Rough Fit Stage, most inappropriate suspects have been filtered out leaving only prospects. Since stages are a somewhat arbitrary concept, in practice moving from a suspect to a prospect to a lead usually involves more than one stage. Desire
Providing enough depth so that a prospect can thoroughly understand the product builds desire. Emphasizing the basic emotional appeal of your product ... pictures, videos, stories, testimonials all help.
Emotional appeal and benefits are far more important than price and specifications at this stage. If the prospect does not truly "desire" the benefit, then price and specifications (which can help build trust) are irrelevant. If the prospect has a strong desire which the product can provide then price and specification barriers can often be worked out later.
Giving plenty of excellent free information is a good way to build desire and comfort level. The Internet is a very cost effective tool to accomplish desire. But, keep in mind that just giving away information to build desire is not the only goal. You also want the prospect to become a lead for your particular product rather than to move on to a competitor carrying the enhanced desire you just built.
The Desire Stage is roughly where a prospect starts becoming a lead. Trust
Every buyer wants to make, at the least, a good, fair deal. Intelligent sellers looking for repeat business and referrals do too!
Obvious clarity, honesty, and depth help build the trust needed for a good prospect to take action. An intelligent prospect will likely check out the competitors, so you need to give him/her the rational and emotional reasons to trust your business. He/She will also be looking a the number and variety of details you present that indicate whether she/he can trust your business to meet her need.
Providing credible content that answers most questions and keeps the prospect around long enough to feel comfortable is very helpful. Solid graphic design also suggests that your company is credible. It doesn't have to be fancy, but it should fit the product category and support the company image. All this helps, consciously and subconsciously, build emotional trust.
Make it obvious why your business is likely to be better than its competitors. If you can accomplish this, then the Trust Stage is where a prospect becomes a presold lead, also known as a prospective customer. Connect
Depending on the particular business, making a positive personal connection is important to solidify the preselling which online and offline media has hopefully accomplished. This can be a critical point of failure. People want to buy from nice competent people who they like. For many customers, this is even more important than price and is most certainly the case when price and product are otherwise comparable.
Therefore be extra careful to make a good first impression and continue making further interactions just as good. Pay attention to your person-to-person contacts or your lead won't like your company and can easily move on to a competitor who is nicer.
Basically, selling continues the process of pre-selling which brought the good lead to your business. When you have plenty of good leads for a good product the fun begins. Most well-trained nice people like interacting with and helping prospective customers when there is an excellent product fit.
The Connect Stage is where a pre-sold, warmed up lead is converted into a prospective customer. This is where personal selling begins. Don't forget to pay attention to this stage or you will lose many a good lead. First Sale
Depending on the product, personal selling is still needed even when you have a good lead. Many products are complex enough that more than just order taking is needed.
In such situations, a low-key, consultative style is usually the best approach for all involved. That is the best way to find out and answer all the questions and to customize a perfect fit.
The First Sale Stage is where a prospective customer becomes a real customer. Don't hard sell, that scares good leads away, but make it very easy to buy. Repeat Sale
Due to the high costs of creating a brand new customer, most of a business's profit usually will not come from first sales. The best profits come from repeat sales or referral sales where excellent leads magically arrive near the end of the funnel almost completely "sold."
Therefore it well pays to do what it takes to make a happy customer out of each new customer your leads funnel generates. Do it at a profit. Otherwise, you are not selling the right product at the right price, but be certain to do it if you want a healthy growing business.
Success! Getting to the Repeat Sale Stage means that both "you and your customer have made it." And, a happy customer is a profitable customer in more ways than one.
Orignial Article Complements of: G.M. Sullivan