Marketing Funnel Stages Explained (For Non Marketers)

October 19, 2015

Marketing Funnel Stages Explained (For Non Marketers)

A lot has changed in the world of marketing, specifically digital marketing. As this technology and the tools become more refined (and affordable) even small players have access to software that can be used to rapidly grow their list and convert those leads to new customers and sales for your business.

In fact, if set up correctly, you can literally use small business marketing automation software to put your growth on autopilot. But to do so you have to be saying the right thing at the right time, and doing so consistently.

But that “if” is a big one, and the reason why the methodology of marketing funnel stages and funnels in general is so important.

Understanding These Buying Stages Is Crucial To Your Success…

Utilizing the idea of a marketing funnel (see what is a marketing funnel) allows you to map out the buying process as it applies to your product or service. Then marketing funnel stages allow you to talk directly to people based on the stage they are currently in.

It is an incredibly powerful tactic utilized by the giants in the industry and built in to software like Hubspot, Marketo, or Eloqua. While it hasn’t made it’s way to the common man / small business software like ActiveCampaign, you can still apply the strategy and reap the rewards:

  • More sales from your leads
  • Lower cost per lead
  • Scaleable model to rapidly grow your business

Marketing Funnel Stages Explained

For simplicity I will ditch the more advanced 7 stage model (Subscriber, Lead, Marketing Qualified Lead, Sales Qualified Lead, Opportunity, Customer, Evangelist) (read more on this here) in favor of a simpler overview that I feel is much better for small business and solopreneurs.

Small Business Marketing Funnel Example

Think of these stages like mini goals, or checkpoints that a prospect passes on their way to becoming a customer.

Stage 1: Top Of The Funnel

The top stage of your marketing funnel is often your first impression to potential leads, customers, and followers. Typically these people are searching for answers to “how to” types of questions. Because of this they are not yet ready to buy and will be turned off if they are bombarded by the content listed below for “bottom of the funnel” leads.

Instead of being ready to buy right now, their mindset is one of. “This Seems Interesting.”

Types of content they are seeking:

  • Galleries and examples of results**
  • Answers to questions related to the pain your product or service solves in the form of quick wins they can apply in their life or business
  • General information about the problem your business addresses

**For examples of results I am not referring to case studies. This would be examples of people applying a general principle or tactic and giving advice on being successful in a similar manner.

Stage 2: Middle Of The Funnel

Marketing funnel stages: Middle of the funnel content

The middle stage of your small business marketing funnel is when a prospect opts in and is “known” to you. They exist on your list and you are able to email them marketing materials. Something you were putting out there caused them to go deeper and take action.

Their mindset changes from “this seems interesting” to something like, “I have this problem, how do I fix it? What are my options?” No longer is it just browsing, but they are looking for something they can take action on and go deeper.

Types of content they are seeking:

  • Mailed Samples
  • Courses or more in depth training
  • Unboxing Videos
  • Build and Customize Type App (Think Car Dealers)*

It is worth noting that these pieces of content help them evaluate the product or solution you deliver. Even if you are giving away a step by step guide to how you solve the problem, chances are they would not do it themselves and would prefer to have it done for them.

*It is debateable whether an online build and customize app like car dealers use is a middle of funnel, or bottom of funnel because it offers a price quote. I consider this middle because it’s a passive estimate and you need to take another step to get a real quote from a dealer and actually buy.

Stage 3: Bottom Of The Funnel

The bottom of the funnel is the final stop before a prospect or visitor becomes a customer. Your online and offline marketing efforts have worked and the prospect is ready to make a buying decision.

Their mindset right now is something like: “Are You The Right One To Fix My Problem?” They are certain they have a problem and have mentally decided they would like to solve it via the means you offer.

You can identify these visitors or leads because they will be seeking the following types of content:

  • Price Quote
  • Webinar
  • Test Drive
  • Testimonials / Case Studies
  • Guarantee
  • Contacting A Sales Person

In your marketing automation sequences you should be offering them an opportunity to purchase when they hit this threshold. If you use a sales team send them the lead and make sure they not only call… But make the call effective.

The prospect has momentum now and time is of the essence. There is a good chance you aren’t the only company they are contacting them so don’t drop the ball!

How To Use Marketing Funnel Stages To Rapidly Grow Your Business

All of this high falutin’ information is useless if you can’t actually apply it in your business… Understanding and mapping out these stages gives you a clear and powerful advantage by:

  • Being able to identify where a person is in the buying process
  • Using marketing automation to speak to them and their current concerns.
  • Knowing what the next step is and pushing them towards it

Saying the right thing at the right time via an automated system (automation) is incredibly powerful thing. This is the land of 80% email open rates, and Inc 5,000 fastest growing companies. Couple your marketing funnel stages with some buyer personas and watch things really take off! : )

While the idea is hot, take out a piece of paper and draw three columns labeled top, middle, and bottom. Then in those columns enter the marketing pieces or actions your prospects can take that meet that stage. If you use google sheets you can make a copy of this tool I created as well.

If you have any holes, or areas you should add to your funnel start brainstorming now. Think of content that would be valuable or add options at the different stages of your funnel and test them out.

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