Last week, I shared with you an approach to creating marketing campaigns from soup to nuts. One of the things I mentioned was the importance of mapping our communications to particular audiences (remember the lemonade stand?) based on where they are in the buying process, or sales funnel.
Today, I’d like to dive a little deeper into those buying stages, or parts of the sales funnel, and share how we think about them.
Many Different Models
Before diving into our specific approach, I think it’s important to mention that there are many different ways to conceptualize ‘the sales funnel’. Some of these include:
- The AIDA Model
- The Buyer’s Journey
- Think, See, Do
Each has its merits as a framework and are valuable in their own way.
But, our model is slightly different because we think about the psychological and emotional state of the prospective customer at each stage of the sales funnel, rather than merely their behavior.
One big reason why is to remind us to think about both the psychology AND the emotions we want to evoke at different times.
This model also works for us for both sales and marketing; we use it as a way to consider communication and map campaigns across both functions.
We’ve broken down our model of the sales funnel into 5 separate stages:
- Sold on a Solution
- Sold on a Brand
Each of these stages represents a psychological and behavioral state that we use to try and trigger the next level of engagement.
In other words, if someone is ‘indifferent’, we want to make them aware of a problem and move them to “Problem-Aware.” We aren’t trying to move them to “Champion.”
Using this construct also helps us to be sure that our marketing efforts aren’t misaligned and our goals, stage, and segment are coordinated.
What These Stages Mean To Us
Stage 0: Indifferent
Indifferent prospects have a need and don’t realize it. Or, they may be aware of the need, but not feel like there’s any urgency in addressing it.
Our goal in this stage is to make them aware of a problem…OR, ask them to confront one they’re avoiding.
This stage of the sales funnel is hard.
Most people don’t like to hear bad news or confront problems head-on. But, this is also an awesome opportunity because now we have the option to help guide our prospects through the rest of the process needed to solve that problem.
And, in offering to be that guide, we build trust.
Trigger Fear, Excitement, Or Aspiration
To activate problem-awareness and urgency, we want to arouse excitement, aspiration (or sometimes fear!) about the circumstance they have found themselves in.
This is a tremendous responsibility, though, that ought not be taken lightly. We have to make sure we can back up our claims to help solve the problem or our credibility will be lost.
Stage 1: Problem-Aware
Some prospects are aware of a problem and are open to confronting it, but aren’t sure exactly how to define the problem.
If you’ve ever entered a query into Google, browsed super quickly, then re-entered another query and then another until you feel like you got enough of the words right that the results started to make sense, you understand what problem definition looks like.
In this case, you’re aware that there’s something you want answered you just aren’t sure how to describe it.
For folks in this stage of the sales funnel we want to guide them and help them understand their problem. We want to pose questions and offer perspectives. Even alternatives that have nothing to do with us or even our industries.
We just want to help them get the language they need to move forward.
In some cases, that language will lead them closer to us. In some cases, it won’t.
In both cases, we build trust.
Trigger Curiosity & Trust
In this case, we want to stimulate curiosity by posing interesting questions that approximate the questions our prospects are asking in their minds. And we want to inspire trust by providing content that helps them to get clearer about how to approach realizing their goals.
We do this because we know that generating goodwill is much better in the long run than trying to force a sale that ought not to happen.
Stage 2: Solution-Aware
As our prospective customers become clearer on the problem they’re trying to solve, and aware of the universe of solutions that can help them, they start to narrow down their options to the ones that best work for them…and start to move through the sales funnel.
Here, it’s important to realize there are always lots of possible solutions. Our services are never going to be the only solution. For many, it won’t even be the right solution.
And so, for both our prospects’ benefits and our own, we want to help them understand the different solutions and become clearer about which ones might work best for them.
Trigger Curiosity & Relevance
For folks in this stage, we want our campaigns to trigger curiosity and relevance; curiosity insofar as we’re providing interesting content and relevant to the extent that the solutions move them closer to their goals.
Stage 3: Sold On A Solution
At this stage, a prospective customer has confirmed there’s a problem to be solved, clarified it, reviewed solutions, and decided on a path.
At least, the direction of a path.
And now they’re shopping for a vendor.
This is what many of us love to talk about.
And now we’re here.
In this stage, we make our case for why we’re the best vendor to provide a specific solution and why they should pick us.
Notice, though, that these are prospects closer towards the bottom of the sales funnel and, to get there, there’s a lot of stuff that had to happen before they got here.
As a savvy marketer, you want to try and target upstream because, by the time a prospect is here, they’re shopping.
Which means they’re looking for deals and our businesses are commodities.
However, if we’d nurtured them from “indifferent” or “problem-aware,” we’d be seen as a trusted partner.
Who do you think has higher margins? The commodity or the partner?
Trigger Confidence & Relevance
Here’s where we have the opportunity to make our pitch. And our pitches should inspire confidence and demonstrate that we can, in fact, solve their problem.
And do it better than anyone else.
Stage 4: Sold On A Brand
Customers here are now “sure” who they want to do business with. Our job is to seal the deal. We do that by instilling confidence, but also urgency.
Make it really easy to buy.
Take credit cards, stripe, bitcoin, whatever. When someone is ready to buy, we need to be ready to accept payment.
I’m often surprised at how many businesses aren’t poised to take cash quickly.
Stage 5: Champion
Oh, you thought we were done once the deal was closed?
Now, we need to execute and turn customers into champions.
Because, as good as we get at customer acquisition, word of mouth, warm referrals, and brand advocates will always lead to better customers at a lower cost-per-customer.
So, after you close, be thinking about the ‘wow’ experience.
And make it happen.
Then, sit back and enjoy the ride.
‘Til next time.