What is the Strategic Digital Marketing Funnel, and How to Create One?

If you’ve made any effort to promote your business in any way, you have technically already created a digital marketing funnel. It may not have been deliberate, well-researched, or necessarily successful, but you are attempting to turn people who have never heard of your brand into loyal customers via advertising. That is essentially all a marketing funnel is. Even if your entire marketing plan is an accurate Google Business listing and an ad in the yearbook of the local high school, you technically have a marketing funnel.

But just having a funnel isn’t enough.

Understanding your marketing funnel—truly grasping how it works and why—is the key to guiding buyers through the funnel effectively and finally seeing the growth you’re capable of.

As you know, most people don’t see a single ad and immediately make a purchase. Once the average buyer becomes aware of a brand or product, they either dismiss that brand or product entirely, or they mentally file it away as a possibility that they’ll keep in mind for the future. Time goes by, and they either remember the product or they don’t, they either bother to compare it against other products or they don’t, and in the end, they either buy it or they don’t. 

The objective behind the strategic marketing funnel is to put the right content in front of buyers at the right time to encourage them to keep considering your product until they finally make a purchase.

Sounds good, right? So . . .

How Does the Digital Marketing Funnel Work?

Imagine the digital marketing funnel as an upside down cone, “funneling” buyers into your bank of loyal customers by systematically narrowing your focus with increasingly customized advertising.

The top of the funnel represents the Awareness phase. This is when your audience first becomes aware of your product and brand.

The middle of the funnel is the Consideration phase. That’s exactly what it sounds like. In this phase, buyers are already conscious of your brand and what you offer, and they’re now weighing the possibilities.

At the bottom of the funnel, your audience (hopefully) reaches the Conversion phase. This is when strangers officially become customers by doing whatever it is you wanted them to do, whether that’s clicking “checkout” or scheduling an appointment.

Your job—or your marketer’s job—is to design a marketing road map to usher your audience through each phase of the funnel swiftly and organically. All your advertising content should align with the phase your target customers are in. In other words, you don’t want to make an aggressive sales pitch to an audience who doesn’t even know who you are, what you offer, or why they should trust you.

With that in mind, here’s a guide to intelligent strategy at each phase of the digital marketing funnel.

Top of the Funnel: Awareness Stage

Buyers who are just entering your strategic marketing funnel know nothing or almost nothing about you. This is when they are first getting to know:

  • Your brand voice, messaging, and values
  • What you sell
  • What pain points you address
  • Why they should care enough about your product to consider it

Depending on what you’re selling, you might also need to make customers aware of the problem your product solves. For example, if you sell a banana slicer, you may have to help buyers see that their life has been harder than it has to be because they’ve been slicing bananas with knives this whole time.

What Does the Buyer Need in This Stage?

Consumers need a crystal clear picture of what you sell. They also want to know who you are. Anything you can do to humanize your brand and communicate values at this stage creates a greater sense of familiarity between you and your prospective buyers.

This is also a great time to validate the needs of your customer. Look for ways to confirm that their pain points are both real and significant. For example, if you run a cleaning company, you might reach out with content acknowledging that the modern homeowner has enough on their plate without having to also worry about keeping a pristine house. Then, you go one step further and introduce a struggle that hadn’t occurred to them. For example, you mention that your company only uses eco-friendly, non-toxic products to ensure the safety of children and pets.

What are the Best Tactics to Move Buyers Through Awareness and on to Consideration?

The most important thing to remember in this phase of the marketing funnel is that this is not the time to make the hard sell. You are building trust with the consumer, which means you need to focus on content that is open, unbiased, and informative. Some great options include:

  • A behind-the-scenes video posted to social media
  • A blog post to share the company story
  • Social media ads inviting buyers to attend a free webinar
  • Affiliate marketing or influencer marketing to align your brand image with a popular personality
  • The offer of a freebie

This last item, the freebie, can be a very powerful maneuver for taking the next step into consideration. More aptly referred to as a “lead magnet,” a freebie is often a white paper, ebook, demonstration, consultation, or any other informational product offered for free when the buyer signs up for your newsletter or shares their contact information.

To create a truly effective lead magnet, brainstorm the questions your target audience might have that they won’t find for free anywhere else. Think in terms of divulging secrets or revealing new problem-solving strategies. Or offer more in-depth information about your product or service. Just make sure it’s compelling. People might offer up their email address for a free demonstration of an exciting new software, but they’re probably not going to come running for a PDF entitled “7 Reasons to Buy Our Sneakers.”

Once your prospective buyer has clicked “learn more,” “follow,” or “join the list,” they’ve moved on to the middle of the funnel.

Middle of the Funnel: Consideration

Now that your audience knows your brand exists, they have some thinking to do.

They may be making yes-or-no decision about your product alone. They may be weighing your brand against other options. Or they may be deciding whether they even need the kind of product or service you offer in the first place.

If you’re a business owner, you may think of Consideration of the phase when you need to convince buyers to purchase your product. As marketers, we suggest thinking in terms of helping the customer make a decision. The content you share in this phase should be informative and compelling enough that the consumer feels increasingly confident about their choice to buy from you.

What Does the Buyer Need in This Stage?

In a nutshell, the customer needs to know why they can feel good about choosing your brand. This includes information such as:

  • Product features
  • The value of your product
  • How your service compares to that the competition
  • Case studies
  • What your current customers say about you
  • Any additional perks or benefits of selecting your product

Your job in this phase is to make the purchase feel smart, responsible, and life-enhancing.

What are the Best Tactics to Move Buyers Through Consideration and on to Conversion?

The Consideration phase is the perfect time to make use of all those email addresses you collected thanks to your lead magnet. Create carefully strategized email sequences to share case studies, customer reviews, product features, and special promotions.

You should also be running targeted ad campaigns. In Awareness, it’s best to create ads that lightly introduce the product. In Consideration, it’s time to get more personalized with ads promoting special deals, local events, or products the user clicked on while browsing your site.

And make sure your website is primed to serve consumers who are in the middle of the funnel with a compelling “About” page and useful FAQs.

Make it easy and comfortable for consumers to buy from you, and you have a good shot at making it to the next phase.

Bottom of the Funnel: Conversion

This is the phase we’ve been waiting for. This is when the buyer takes the action you want them to take and becomes a customer.

But just because they clicked “confirm order,” it doesn’t mean you’re done catering to this group of buyers. In fact, the survival of your company depends on your ability to turn today’s customer into a long-term brand advocate. Here’s how you can do that.

What Does the Buyer Need in This Stage?

The buyer needs to feel really good about their decision to do business with your brand. This not only means providing them with a quality product but also following through with stellar customer service and a warm welcome to the company community.

It may sound like none of those needs are connected to the digital market, but they most certainly are.

What are the Best Tactics to Drive Online Conversions?

The first key to ensuring repeat service is to make the purchase and onboarding process as easy as possible. The more complicated or glitchy it is, the less likely the customer is to come back or recommend your company.

Make sure your website is easy to navigate and contains all the resources your clients might need, including FAQs, manuals, live chat customer service, and blog posts about getting the most out of your product or service.

Don’t forget to continue targeted ads encouraging customers to return. You can also use experiential marketing techniques to keep customers engaged with your brand even if they don’t have any practical reason to make another purchase right away. And remember to create an email sequence to thank them for their purchase, invite them to share feedback, and encourage them to leave reviews.

Strategizing Your Digital Marketing Funnel

You see the big picture of what it takes to connect with buyers and guide decision-making at each stage of the funnel. Now it’s time to use that insight to create a strategic digital marketing funnel. Outline your entire plan before you jump in by following these essential steps.

Step 1: Know Your Buyer

Identify and research your customer persona. What marketing channels are most effective for reaching this person? Which value propositions do they find most compelling? How much education do they need in the awareness phase? What drives their decision-making?

Step 2: Build Your Online Content Strategy 

From ad copy to video marketing to email blasts, make sure all the content you create has a specific purpose and is designed for one section of the funnel. Know how you’re going to capture your audience’s attention at the top of the funnel, how you’re going to turn their interest into genuine consideration, and how you’re going to turn consideration into a sale.

Step 3: Select Your Tools for Creating Content and Monitoring Your Funnel

It is very, very, very important that you monitor the performance of your strategic marketing funnel. You need to know which ads are succeeding and which are not. You need to know if you gathered a ton of interest in the awareness phase but lost way too many buyers in consideration. You need to see which source leads the most traffic to your landing page.

These insights allow you to adjust your strategy for the best possible performance. Before you execute your marketing strategy, select the behavioral tracking and analytics tools you need to observe and optimize.

Step 4: Execute Your Strategy

Put your plan into action using automated systems to generate personalized and targeted ads. Pretty much any PPC platform including Google, Facebook, and Instagram makes it super easy to create campaigns and target audience segments. You can also set up email marketing campaigns for automation and customized messaging.

Step 5: Monitor Your Strategic Digital Marketing Funnel

Watch the results of everything you do. Track audience engagement on social media, traffic to your website, hashtag and keyword performance, and every other choice you’ve made in building this strategy.

Step 6: Optimize and Repeat

Finally, use those metrics to optimize your campaign and make your marketing funnel more effective. Look for clues as to which messages, media, and promotions appeal most to users. Pay attention to brand mentions and customer feedback to learn more about what your customers value and what they want from a product or service like yours.

Always be learning, and always be prepared to adjust your marketing strategy depending on the needs of your customer and the evolving objectives of your company.

And remember that “strategic digital marketing funnel” is marketing-speak for “building a relationship.” As you guide buyers through your marketing funnel, you are teaching them to trust you and believe in your product. You are making it easier for them to like you and look forward to interacting with your brand.

Just as you would with regular human relationships, you need to take it step by step.

If there’s anything we can do to help you create a powerful digital marketing funnel, please reach out for a free consultation.

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