A funnel is often used to help visualize the conversion of prospects to customers; it’s just as valid an analogy in the digital world as it’s ever been. And, we all know how important conversion is to your small business marketing: it pays the bills.
But what’s different about the funnel in digital marketing and how should you account for that in developing your marketing strategies?
No doubt that small business marketing has changed with the digital revolution, and the funnel has changed with it. As you set up strategies, you need to take those changes into account to set realistic expectations.
Let’s compare two funnel models: a traditional retail model and our digital model. The percentage of prospects that enter a store who become customers is hundreds, if not thousands, of times higher than the conversion rate we’ll experience in digital marketing.
[If you’d like a visualization, the traditional funnel has a relatively narrow mouth and very steep sides; the digital funnel has a very, very wide mouth and very shallow sides. Far more prospects enter the top of digital funnel than exit the bottom as customers.]
This does not mean that digital marketing isn’t effective. After all, it usually costs a great deal less to get those prospects into the funnel in the first place.
Components of the Digital Funnel
If you look at the funnel in the digital world, just like in traditional marketing, what’s important is what gets people into the top of the funnel (leads), what progresses people through the funnel (prospects), and what converts people (customers).
What is a bit different is the distinction between paid leads (gained through advertising) and organic leads (leads earned through great content, great SEO, and strong social media activity). And that’s really only important at the top of the funnel.
The first step in moving prospects to conversion is visibility: they have to be able to find your content. If you’re not paying for visibility, the first part of this battle is getting listed by search engines. They’re looking for relevant and current content, lots of it. They’re looking for a social media presence.
Your efforts at SEO and your investment in great content pays dividends here.
SEO is a complex and changing subject beyond the scope of this post. Here are some great resources:
For B2C businesses, they also look for listings on business directory and review sites like Yelp and Manta.
Earning a Clickthrough
Once your site is listed in the SERP (search engine results page), you have to get the prospect to click on the listing. And that’s where you have a fair amount of control. In the organic listings (the ones you aren’t directly paying for), if you write an interesting and compelling SEO title (the headline, in effect) and meta description, you’re much more likely to get that clickthrough to your page.
What information is displayed in the sponsored results (the advertising) depends on what type of listing it is and where it appears on the page. Still you have some control over the listing and should do everything you can to optimize it to earn a click.
Guarding Against Bounce
Once you’ve got the prospect to your site, you have to keep them there. Digital information consumers have a notoriously short attention span (recent studies suggest about 8 seconds). They also have nothing invested in your content; it takes a fraction of a second to exit your page.
You must have great information, up-to-date and right on topic. You have to present it just right. Use charts and infographics to present complex data. Consider video and animated content for product demonstrations and to highlight particularly important features.
Invest in your content, because at this point in the funnel, you’re about ready to earn conversion.
And, speaking of that, you always want to give the prospect the opportunity to convert if they are ready. (By that we mean don’t just have a single button at the bottom of the page).
After you get the prospect to your site, you just can’t afford to let them go away quietly without converting. You have to use the selling momentum you’ve generated with this prospect and make one last attempt at conversion!
There are two parts to this: first, detecting that the prospect is ‘headed south’, and second, making your last, best pitch. Lots of software is available that combines both capabilities.
For example, you may decide that once a prospect has been on a given page for a minute, you want to offer additional assistance. This is an example from our site where we’re soft selling more information. But you may decide instead to make a special offer to prospects who appear to be leaving your site.
Managing the lead funnel has always been part of small business marketing. In the digital world, the funnel is a bit different, but managing it is just as important.
Let us know how you manage the funnel in your small business marketing. We’d love to hear from you!