:Marketing / Marketing best practices

Funnel fundamentals: 3 steps to optimize your digital marketing and user funnels

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You’ve probably heard this term digital funnel marketing, or some variation of it before. Now, imagine an inverted triangle. The top part of the triangle is everyone that comes into contact with your business, brand, or offering, while the bottom represents those that have been funneled through all stages of marketing and actually converted into paying customers.

What’s really useful about the funnel analogy is that it can be applied to your general business plan as well as specific offerings and promotional platforms. It can also be viewed from both the user and marketer experience. In all cases, the funnel starts with a broad population, narrows down to people who resonate with what you’re offering, and ends with those that will actually purchase.

A history lesson in shopping

The concept of a digital marketing funnel dates all the way back to 1898, when advertising pioneer Elias St. Elmo Lewis illustrated the steps a customer takes when deciding to purchase a product or service. His model involved four key steps, represented by the acronym AIDA: Awareness, Interest, Desire, and Action. 

Again, awareness would be that top of the inverted triangle when a prospective client, student, or customer comes into contact with your brand; interest might be wanting to learn more; desire would be considering whether or not to purchase; and action would be the transaction at the bottom of the triangle. Since then, funnel models have expanded on this, for instance not ending with conversion (action) but adding in customer loyalty and advocacy (i.e. referrals, affiliates, etc.) at the narrowest part of the funnel. 

Microcosm: user funnels

Let’s take a look at digital funnel marketing from a micro level by applying to the user experience. A user funnel can be applied to a specific offering and how it is promoted on individual platforms, such as a website and various social media channels. 

For instance, let’s say you’ve announced a course launch on Instagram. A funnel would be a helpful way to think about the steps one of your followers would have to take to learn more and ultimately make a purchase. Your first post is the awareness phase, in which you have released information to the public.

When a user sees your post, they are in the awareness phase. If the user stops scrolling to read through the caption, they are in the interest phase. Following the call to action (CTA), for instance clicking the link in your bio to go to the landing page where they can sign up, is taking them into the desire or consideration phase. And finally, signing up would be the action phase.

Use funnels to your advantage

This can also be applied generally to user behavior on your website. A site visitor signing up for your newsletter or free opt-in offer might be the next step, navigating to your offerings would be funneling down to the third step, and making a purchase would be the final step. (Just as income can be passive, for instance with a prerecorded course of digital product, so, too, can your website be optimized to grow your audience.) If your funnel gets easily convoluted, it can be confusing for your audience and deter them from committing.

Make your sales page sing

Marketing funnels can bring in more students, so why not build a sales page that reflects what you have to offer? We have a “sales page checklist” so you can grab your students’ attention.

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A great sales page combined with your new marketing funnel strategy can bring your students to action. We have a free “sales page checklist” to help you out.

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Steps to consider when creating or optimizing a user funnel: 

  1. Consider your CTA: When someone navigates to your website or course landing page, what is the action you want them to take? Perhaps, it’s signing up for your newsletter, following on social media, or enrolling in a course. Go beyond the obvious: if you’re not actively enrolling students, might you capture future students by inviting them to join a waitlist? 
  2. Consider your messaging: What are you offering, and why should they care? Notice if you’re overwhelming the visitor with information or not providing enough. Often, too much information is a symptom of imposter syndrome; we think we need to overcompensate and convince potential customers rather than letting the offering speak for itself. On the other hand, being too vague runs the risk of customers not connecting with you or your offering. Notice which side you tend toward, and challenge yourself to say less or more. 
  3. Adapt as necessary: Fortunately, with analytics, we are able to see where users are falling off. Try to pinpoint why that might be. Is it technical, perhaps a tough-to-navigate website, or is something else deterring them? Don’t be afraid to ask for feedback. 

Macrocosm: marketing funnels

Now that we’ve explored the user experience, let’s zoom out for a wider view of how funnels can be applied to digital marketing, and even business in general. This can be how you are building your brand and attracting customers or students on a regular basis. 

Think about people walking by a brick-and-mortar clothing store. The curb appeal—what the store is displaying and advertising in front windows—will attract some of them into the store. A fraction of them will try on clothing, and a fraction of that population will decide to purchase. Similarly, what you promote on social media will attract new followers. Posting relevant content that connects, educates, builds trust, etc., will keep your brand top of mind for when your followers are ready to take action and continue on down the funnel. 

How funnels impact branding

In addition to marketing, digital funnels can also guide your offerings in general. Take a yoga teacher for instance. The entry point to their funnel would be a yoga class. This affordable offering will appeal to many people, some of which will sign up for a workshop or intensive. Some of those students will commit to a longer retreat, and some of the retreat-goers will decide to deepen their knowledge of yoga with a teacher training program. Through each phase of the funnel, the teacher is building the relationship with their students and as the student progresses, they are committing to higher-ticket offerings.

In the information age we’re living in, holding your audience’s attention can be a challenge. Despite how marketing has evolved, the funnel model continues to be a time-tested framework for helping you market not only your product or service, but also your brand in general.

Remember, your offering is not for everyone. However, by casting a wide net so to speak and paying attention to what resonates with your audience—the ones that are sticking it out through the funneling process—you can understand their behavior and adjust your offerings accordingly. 

Author: Katie Davidson, Katie is a freelance writer, copy coach, and certified yoga teacher currently based in California. Her work has been published on ELLE.com, InStyle.com, StyleCaster.com, and more. She has also been featured as a yoga expert on POPSUGAR Fitness. When she's not writing (or practicing her handstands), you can find her somewhere on a beach, cacao-chai latte in hand, with her beloved pup Toby.

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