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How great would it be if every person that came to your website made a purchase? In reality, only a small percentage of all visitors will ever buy anything from you. This is because people come to your site with different intentions. Your goal is to adjust your marketing efforts so that the right message hits the right consumer. Why it’s important?

Understanding different stages of a sales funnel

Imagine someone lands on your website just looking for information. While in the “research” phrase, he or she is more likely to read an educational blog post than to spend any money. Many of those doing the research are not interested in buying your product just yet. That’s why trying to appeal to them using a hard-sale approach won’t be effective.

marketing presentation with a bored audience

Trying to sell to customers who are not ready is like talking to people who are not interested in what you have to say – they will ignore you

Similarly, people who are already in a “buying mode” and looking to spend money to solve a problem will appreciate you pointing them in the right direction. These people make the best buyers, and usually, they don’t need much warming up. But, as you know, the majority of people is not ready to make the final move.

This is where an understanding of different stages of a funnel will benefit you. You’ll be able to:

  • Target the right audience with the right message
  • Greatly increase your marketing ROI
  • Build a stronger relationship with more loyal customers
  • Take over some of the clients from your competitors
  • Increase your profits and sell more products

Even by simply distinguishing between those who are ready and those who are not you can save thousands of dollars on your marketing. But usually, the decision is more complicated than a simple yes or no. That’s why every funnel has different stages.

Different names for the same stages

Let’s take a quick look at a simple breakdown of two funnels. The first one is probably the most popular funnel featuring AIDA – awareness, interest, desire, and action. Here is what each stage is about:

attention interest desire action funnel

AIDA is one of the most popular and effective ways of analyzing your funnel.

Attention – Your goal here is to introduce your brand to potential customers and generate leads. Because you are no Microsoft or Google, you need a little work before you reach your audience. In this stage, you make your customers aware that you exist and are a potential solution to their questions or problems.

An effective way of building awareness using paid traffic is banner advertising. This includes non-search Google campaigns using their Display Network, Twitter cards, and Facebook ads. Of course, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t bid for any keywords. But you can avoid transactional KWs at this stage. Instead, go for informational ones. This is also why it is critical to group your keywords by intent.

When it comes to Facebook, it works best with video ads (especially for eCommerce) or ads featuring educational and other helpful content. Promoting your fan page helps in building awareness too (but those ads are not super-effective). If you are pointing traffic to your website, don’t forget about opt-ins – you will need them to collect emails.

Interest – In this stage, your customers become interested in what you are offering. They’ve researched what the solution to their problem is and got back to searching for the best one.
That’s why search traffic is so important here. Because your audience is more knowledgeable now, it’s time for targeting longtail keywords.

And if you have established a relationship already, interest phase is where you keep educating and warming up your prospects. To do that, use soft email marketing campaigns (don’t push for the sale just yet) and retargeting ads. The goal is to position your brand as a go-to-choice and make your audience want your products.

Desire – By interacting with your potential customers, you can set yourself apart from your competitors. Not to mention all the precious data that you can gather in the process. Of course, the more data you have about your customers, the more effective your marketing efforts will be.

That’s where marketing automation and CRM systems come in handy. Score and tag your leads and segment your audience. This will allow you to personalize your communication, build desire and inspire those who are ready to act.

Action – Now it’s time to overcome your customers’ last-minute objections. This is where good reviews, testimonials and other trust elements on your landing pages play their part. Depending on your marketing strategy, you can also offer discounts, bulk sales or other types of (often time-limited) promotion.

And that’s it. Although it sounds simple, every funnel can be planned, broken down and analyzed using these four stages. But sometimes, especially when the buyer’s journey is long and bumpy, it’s good to add a few more steps to it.

The Extended B2B Sales Funnel

When should you use the “extended” funnel? While you could use it for any product or service, it’s best to apply it to high-ticket items or B2B sales. The ones that require a stronger relationship and more than one person to make the final decision. This is how a B2B funnel looks like:

business to business 6-step sales funnel

When it comes to B2B transactions, your sales funnel might involve a few more stages

Awareness and Interest – The first two stages are quite similar to the AIDA’s attention and interest. In these two stages, your customers are looking for information. Your goal is to make them aware of your brand and capture them as leads. Once you do that, you should provide them with materials that can help them move them towards the next stage – consideration. How does that look like in practice?

Imagine an SMB employee who is looking to implement a marketing automation system in the company he is working for. It’s highly unlikely he would make an uninformed and impulsive purchase. Instead, he or she would use informational keywords to look for advantages of such system and learn how to pick one to fulfill all the company’s needs.

Then, it’s quite probable they be interested in a webinar or a White Paper. Naturally, assuming that those would provide them with information that’d help them make the right choice. But don’t try to sell them your product at all costs here. The goal is to show them you’re a good pick, but if they have different priorities than what you offer, they would be a short-lived customer anyway.

Consideration – Your leads have read some of your content, opened a few emails and have a good understanding of what it is that they are looking for. They also know that you are a potential solution to their problem. This “promotes” them from leads to qualified prospects.

Your goal is to keep nurturing them to position yourself as an expert and make them reveal their intention of making a purchase. To see if they are ready to show it, offer them a trial, invite them to a product demonstration (either offline or online) or a webinar.

Intent – In this stage, your customers usually openly demonstrate the fact that they are interested in a product just like yours. They frequently send you questions, are in touch with you and/or their lead score is pretty high. The goal is to show them that you are exactly what they are looking for. Especially that they are still researching other options.

Elements that can help you achieve that include customer success stories, product reviews and comparisons. Of course, you shouldn’t use those exclusively in your email marketing efforts. Make sure they are easy to find on your website, for your leads and their co-decision-makers to see.

Evaluation – This is where your customers demonstrate an interest in your brands’ offer. They are still unsure, but they are putting together all the information that they’ve gathered so far. This step is all about reassuring them you are what they want.

If you have enough data, you can focus your communication on exactly the features and benefits that they are interested in. Emphasize what they’re looking for by using needs-specific testimonials. If they are still negotiating, offer them additional consultations or an OTO (one-time offer). If it’s a high-ticket sale, the communication might leave the online funnel. Of course, assuming that your sales team hasn’t reached out to your leads yet.

Purchase – The customer is at the very bottom of the funnel. But that doesn’t mean your job is over. Now it’s time to put them in the “customers” segment. Provide them with a top-notch customer service experience and keep warming them up. After some time, come back to them and offer them up-sells. And don’t forget to ask them about their testimonial and a success story. You might need those to convert your next prospect.

Not All Customers Are Ready the Same Time

The readiness of your customers depends on many different factors. Those include your advertising methods, specific product features, its price and urgency. Sometimes, prospects can take months or even years to convert. That’s why there is no bullet-proof blueprint that you could follow, and you will need to do a lot of testing to maximize your ROI.

It’s also important to remember that not all funnels will be linear. Sometimes customers will jump in in the middle of the funnel, and most of them will leave the funnel before getting to the very bottom. Keep in mind that your job is never finished once they make a purchase. The very best thing you can do is keep strengthening your relationship. That way you can turn your customers into loyal brand advocates, what can bring you even more clients down the road.