Understanding Marketing Funnels The concept of the marketing funnel is an old one, but it is enjoying some much deserved renewed currency. The basic concept is fairly simple: as anyone makes a purchasing decision they go through some fairly predicable steps. If a business understands each of those steps and how to best facilitate the transitions between them, then the purchasing process can be enhanced and optimized. Pretty simple, if you can forgive the buzzwords, right?
Well yes and, of course, no. The basic marketing funnel can be overly simplistic. Marketing and sales are not linear, time-based activities. In an ideal scenario a business is ALWAYS marketing and ALWAYS selling. Remember, marketing is about acquiring new clients and retaining your old and if that is true then you market continually. It's a mindset, remember? Marketing is a context in which sales takes place. Marketing conditions the sales process and makes it easier. Further, and especially with relationship sales, there is more than one sales/buying process occurring. You are selling yourself and the client is buying travel. We can get lost in the semantics here, but it is not really necessary to do so.
Marketing and Sales operate best when coordinated in one big bio-feedback loop. Marketing conditions the sales environment. The Marketing Funnel helps you to understand, organize and optimize the process.
The Marketing Funnel Stages and Components As you read more and more about marketing funnels, you will see many variations and labels applied to the various stages. Don't worry overly much about the particulars, but the basic concepts are important to grasp. Equally important, as I have already mentioned, however, is the truth each of the "stages" blur into each other and are not necessarily linear. Not too the funnel shape. Typically, fewer people make it to each stage of the funnel. The number of people who actually become clients at the bottom of the funner are fewer than the people who become aware of you at the top of the funnel.
Awareness: All of the marketing tactics we put into place to achieve our goals are designed to increase people's awareness of our company, it's business and our services. Each marketing campaign has as its mission making people aware of our existence in the most favorable light. So when we take out an advertisement in a newsletter or we do a webinar or social media marketing or a trade show or a networking event, each of those individual efforts will generate leads, making people aware of us. The more intriguing the campaign, the more likely the client is to move to the next stage.
Interest: If our marketing is well constructed, some of those who become aware of our existence will be intrigued and want to learn more about our company. This is a crucial stage as this is our first opportunity to begin to engage with the individual. Our initial efforts paid off and now there is movement on the part of the consumer. We have to begin to nurture these leads, peaking curiosity by demonstrating in our advertising, content, copy and each effort how our services meet some basic needs of the individual. It is typically at this stage the lead reaches out to us and the opportunity to engage is realized.
Consideration: The prospective client is asking questions and providing us with the opportunity to provide answers. It is here we can undertake the beginning of educating the client and clearing up more directly any misunderstandings about what we do as travel consultants. This is also where clients can provide information allowing us to simultaneously continue selling our consulting services while gather information on the transactions to follow.
Intent: At this stage the prospective client is developing confidence in the travel consultant's branding. The more authentic the approach has been the easier this transition can become. At this stage the consultant aspect comes to the front of the relationship. Here is where the travel consultant's ability to draw information about the client's preferences, travel history, likes and dislikes is important, as well as information the the next travel planned which may well be the motivation for this client's inquiry into the relationship. Typically this is where the travel consultant takes all of the client's information and develops a proposal for the upcoming transaction, i.e. the next trip planned.
Evaluation: In the context of travel consulting, this is the stage where the travel consultant has handed over the proposal to the client and the client is evaluating the degree to which the proposal meets the client's needs. Note at this juncture the client is evaluating both the travel consultant AND the transaction. If the client has done a good job training the client and meeting the client's needs, moving onto the next step has a high degree of likelihood. If, however, the client's needs are not met then the client will move on. If, and you may recognize this one, the needs are met but for some reason the travel consultant has failed to sell their own value, then the client may take the information and book elsewhere.
Purchase: The client is happy with the proposal, happy with the travel consultant and moves forward booking the trip.
Wow! There is a lot to unpack here isn't there? Here's the good and bad news: You will spend the reason of your career doing just that!
Finally, there are a many steps beyond the bottom of the funnel. This version of the funnel is largely modeled on transactions. However, as I earlier stated, I believe is is more of a bio-feedback loop! If the travel consultant continues to market well and delivers great customer service on the current transaction and in follow-up, then the client becomes a repeat client and, in the best of all worlds, an evangelist.
A simple example Let's take the most simple example of how a new acquaintance might move through the first stage of your funnel. You are at a Chamber of Commerce meeting and meet someone for the first time. You begin with some small talk. The new acquaintance says "What do you do?"
Scenario 1: You say "I'm a travel agent." Client thinks "I know what travel agents are and what they do. I didn't know they still existed. Sort of like rotary phones." The client may even say this out-loud and give you the chance to redeem yourself. The client who is now Aware you exist, may, or may not, move to the Interest stage.
Scenario 2: You say "I'm a travel consultant." Now you have hit the new acquaintance from a slightly different angle. They may say, "Is that like a travel agent?" If they do, now you have the opportunity to further engage, to peak their interest to say something like: "Travel agents once sold travel, but my mission is different. I don't sell travel. I help travelers make intelligent buying decisions." You are more likely to move the client to ask more questions and suddenly you may find yourself in the Consideration phase.
We are going to have many opportunities to chart our funnels, so let's begin with one of your own.
Note the title of this Lesson is Your Marketing Funnels (plural). Every marketing effort you undertake should be built with the concept of a marketing funnel whether your networking, advertising, website or any other marketing tactic. We will explore as we move through each tactic how the funnel applies.
Exercise: Think through several of your last few encounters with clients. Pick one that went very well and pick one that went not so well. Plot their course through the funnel. Then, think back through a recent full blown marketing effort you may have undertaken, perhaps a networking event or a speaking engagement. Did you generate any leads? If so, where are those leads right now in your funnel? In each instance, what would you say went right and what went wrong? We want to begin doing more of those things that facilitate progress through the funnel, enhancing each step.
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