A small business marketing funnel is similar to a general marketing funnel but differs in big and small ways to explore the concept in detail. Knowing the difference and fostering a distinct approach to a marketing funnel will help small business owners immensely.
What is a Marketing Funnel – A simple definition of the marketing funnel by VentureHow marketing experts:
A marketing funnel is a conceptual framework of various stages of evolution for a prospect to become aware of a product or a service from a company and all way to conversion, as in making a purchase, and on to varying levels of advocacy in the aftermath.
Small business marketing funnel:
A small business marketing funnel is similar regarding conceptual stages, but the types of marketing avenues and activities a small business does to foster awareness and the degree of sophistication of moving a prospect through the stages differ considerably from that of a large well-established business.
Let us get a few things out of the way:
- Not every customer goes through each stage of the marketing funnel. Some may spend a moment or an eternity in a particular stage, or they may skip some stages altogether.
- The stages are conceptual and not physical, and hence the transition does not always occur stage-by-stage or step-by-step, but someone can step back in the process and stay there for a while.
- A prospective customer may drop out of the small business marketing funnel
- Companies spend enormous time, money, and expertise trying to drive the prospects through the marketing funnel. There is an entire science around online CRO (Conversion Rate Optimization.)
- There may be a time lag between each stage as well as the overall process to come to fruition.
- A marketing funnel is not just an online phenomenon but occurs offline as well.
Awareness > Interest > Intent > Evaluation > Purchase > Advocacy
Small Business Marketing Funnel – Visual Framework
Let us explore each stage of the small business marketing funnel and understand the nuances:
Awareness is the stage where a prospective customer comes to know the existence of your product or service for the first time or are being reintroduced to it. There are two different types of awareness, and let’s understand what they are:
Macro Awareness: Sometimes, the macro awareness occurs due to the efforts of a competitor, an industry association, or experts. For example, Amazon popularized the concept of cloud services through Amazon AWS. And yet when the time came to choose one, customers may still go through the rest of the funnel.
Or in some cases, an industry association may create the awareness. For example, the notion of seeking help from an enrolled agent during tax time. That may, in turn, trigger the rest of the journey through the marketing funnel to choose a specific local enrolled agent or tax preparer.
Micro or business-specific awareness: In this case, the advertising, a business leveraging marketing means create necessary awareness of a product or a service. It could be local marketing, national marketing, free publicity, public relations, paid marketing methods, or customer word of mouth.
A prospect who becomes aware of a product or service develops a desire or an interest in the same. Interest is the stage where the desire could be in the generic product or service spectrum or specific to your brand. For example, a customer becoming interested in 4K televisions does not mean she is interested in your brand. Or on the other hand, it could be specific to your brand, even though at a later stage the customer may do a comparison and cross-evaluation of competing for products/services from the choice set.
Intent: The intent is when the user is zeroing in on a purchasing the product or service. Here, it means that the customer thinks there is value in purchasing a 4K TV. Or a brand new Air Fryer. This stage will involve broader research as well as specific features and benefits at an individual brand level.
An evaluation phase is when the customer actively compares and contrasts multiple products/services from the choice set based on common attributes and parameters. Sometimes, the choice may not be two competing services – for example, Golf Course A versus B necessarily – but for two competing options that may fulfill the desire – for example, playing golf versus going on a hike could be two options under consideration.
The purchase is the holy grail of the marketing funnel. The more leads you can convert, the better it will be for your business. Getting a customer to this stage traversing many other stages in the marketing funnel is complex and yet rewarding. It involves facilitation and optimizing the experience at each stage with the necessary tools, collateral, and support.
Advocacy: Advocacy can be split into two stages – loyalty, where the customer repeatedly patronizes the business, and advocacy, where she/he becomes a brand ambassador.
For example, a customer visiting a Mexican restaurant many times and then eventually recommending to friends and on social media.
To understand, how the marketing funnel works in a small business situation, let’s look at two scenarios.
Case 1: From Awareness to Advocacy – the entire journey of a prospect through a marketing funnel:
Terrell Friar recently moved to a new town and slowly settling down. On a bright summer Saturday afternoon, he turned on the television and on came coverage of a golf tournament. And an ad from the PGA of America go out and play. That spurred a thought in Terrell’s mind that it may be a great idea to get out and enjoy some sunshine on the greens and take a measure of his rusty golf game. This is an example of a macro-marketing campaign and subliminal cues from the golf tournament instilling a desire.
Now, Terrell searched for local golf courses on his tablet device and researched them by reading reviews. He texted a couple of friends and dropped a message on his Facebook.
Then Terrell selected three golf courses based on reviews, the response to his text messages and recommendation of his Facebook friends. Then he looked at the prices, proximity, and availability.
Zeroing on a course that met his criteria of cost, distance, and availability, Terrell booked a tee time.
He enjoyed his round on the course and of course a drink at the 19th hole and went home.
Terrell fired up his laptop and wrote a review of the course, left a note on his Facebook recommending the course, and gave it five stars on Yelp.
Well, as you can see Terrell went through various stages of the funnel, all in a couple of hours and he purchased enjoyed and became an advocate for the service – all within a span of less than 24-hours.
Now, let’s look at another scenario.
Case 2: From pulling the trigger on a purchase to pulling back.
Mary Higgins and her family have remodeled their basement and have created an entertainment space as well as a play space. For the entertainment space, the Higgins’ wanted to buy a television.
Mary spent hours on whether to buy a home theater system with a projector and the whole nine years or purchase a standard TV and supplement with surround sound and other paraphernalia.
She settled on an 85-inch 4k LED TV and went to three shops – a local specialty store, a discount club, and a national electronics chain.
Also, Mary went to online forums and read customer reviews and also purchased a professional lab’s television comparison report. She wanted to be sure about a high-ticket purchase.
In the end, while the cost at the local specialty store was $80 more, she was willing to spend the extra for the service, knowledge, and future support as well as supporting local businesses.
Mary and her spouse were planning to go and buy the model over the weekend and on Thursday, their car broke down. Given the immediate and unavoidable expense of repairing the car, the Higgins’ postponed the purchase hoping to buy the TV after receiving their annual bonus at work.
After the bonus came, Mary’s enthusiasm level waned, and she just went to the local discount club and picked the biggest TV that was on sale.
So, as you can see the customer behavior is not the same all the time. The amount of research and effort Mary put into the purchase process wasn’t the same the second time around.
What are the crucial strategies and ideas for small business owners in how to harness and make the most out of the marketing funnel?
Small Business Marketing Funnel – Dos and Don’ts.
- Cast as wide a net as possible to increase the odds of success for your business
- Leverage all marketing methods – paid and free – to drive awareness
- Do not assume every prospect is a good prospect. Having too many unqualified leads is the biggest waste of time and effort for many small business owners.
- Develop and offer a vast array of content – collateral, use cases, case studies, videos, testimonials, reviews, expert endorsements – to help the user learn more and develop a desire and interest in your product/service category as well as your specific brand.
- Do not assume everyone is going to jump from interest to purchase and that too very quickly. So try to build and sustain the interest, even if it means the prospect may come back much later. Or for a different product/service line.
- Support the intent with a variety of means to make the prospects take action. Converting from intent to action is critical. Here for example, in addition to various collateral instilling a sense of urgency with a time-limited coupon or specials is an essential market tactic.
- Don’t push the prospects so hard that they will back away. (For example, the typical case of an aggressive car salesperson.)
- Streamline the purchase process and eliminate any friction in the system
- Offer multiple ways to buy and fulfill the order
- Handhold with any support – online with tutorials or videos or human assistance on the phone or in person
- Shower the customer with all the love you can
- Provide them with opportunities to be a repeat customer
- Establish a sense of belonging so that they can become advocates
- Incentivize and reward brand advocacy – but not to an extent it seems like a quid pro quo
Best Practices applicable to All Stages of the Small Business Marketing Funnel:
- Cast a wide net
- Qualify who gets into the funnel through implicit and explicit means
- Think of each lead as a potential customer, now or later, that needs nurturing
- Define benchmarks and measure everything. Customer conversion analytics are incredibly valuable.
- Identify any friction points and eliminate (or at least reduce them) as quickly as possible
- Follow examples and best practices from your competitors as well as small businesses in other sectors.