A funnel is the digital marketing equivalent of a factory’s production line, in that it charts how a lead makes the journey from hearing about your business to becoming a client. Much like a product’s journey from a collection of raw materials to a finished piece, a funnel maps a client’s conversion journey with your business.
Funnels are crucial to the success of any lead generation and conversion campaign, especially for DTC businesses, and can reward you with bumper profits when done well. Your first marketing funnel is equally as important for the following reasons:
- It creates the initial impression of your business in the clients’ eyes
- It sets your business off on the path to generating leads and sales
- It serves as a reference point for fine-tuning future funnels
Creating a marketing funnel is a nuanced endeavor that requires a degree of subject matter knowledge and skill. With that said, this instructional guide will show you the steps you need to follow to get your first one running.
First, we’re going to understand the different stages in a funnel, and then we’ll go over strategies to convert leads at every given stage.
The Different Stages of a Marketing Funnel
Most marketing funnels can be segmented into three key stages. While there might be more nuanced representations of the concept, the three-tier visualization is always the easiest to discern and apply to direct to customer businesses:
The first stage or top of the funnel is mainly focused on the first-time discovery of your business or website by people who were previously unaware of its existence. Here, you’re trying to attract new visitors who fall into your target demographic. Exposure and visibility are the key areas of focus at this stage, and the tools we will discuss in the next section will show you how to optimize these two aspects of your website.
The second stage, or the middle part of the funnel, primarily focuses on building and reinforcing brand loyalty. Here, you want to offer visitors value-packed content, in the form of website copy, visuals, or email newsletters, to show that your product can add to their lives or solve a particular problem.
The middle is often ignored by marketers looking to create marketing funnels – to a great detriment. This is the stage where you implant the idea in a visitor’s mind of taking that final conversion step – whether it be an email signup, requesting the business’s contact details, or making a purchase.
Finally, we get to the third stage or the bottom of the funnel. This is perhaps the most important level in a marketing funnel.
The final stage is when the client finally makes the purchase or completes whatever the desired action is. Here, you’ve built up a sufficient level of trust in your brand and have managed to convince the client to give the ultimate vote of confidence: the kind where they hand over some of their cash. In some instances, the bottom of a conversion funnel includes deal sweeteners like price discounts, bonuses, and so on.
How to Optimize a Marketing Funnel at Every Stage
Now that you understand the three main stages of the marketing funnel, let’s examine the different strategies for optimizing at each of these stages.
The Top of the Marketing Funnel
As we previously discussed, the primary objective at the top of a marketing funnel is awareness. Attracting eyes with high-quality and well-placed website content is core to success here. To that end, there are several measurements and metrics that can give you an indication of your funnel’s first-stage performance:
- Visits: This is simply the sheer number of times users have made it onto your website over a given period. This metric is often referred to alternatively as web traffic. When creating a marketing funnel, the top should be given attention so that a high number of potential leads are captured.
- Percentage of new visits: This is perhaps an even more important measure than the conventional visitor count. It measures the fraction of visitors that came to your site for the first time. You want to keep this figure increasing steadily to maximize your conversion of the untapped audience demographic.
- Bounce rate: A little more complicated than the previous two, bounce rate tells you the percentage of your website visits in which a visitor viewed only one page on your website and did not take any other action. If your website is well designed with crisp, relevant content, your bounce rate should ideally be on the lower side.
The differentiating factor of content at the top of the funnel is that it’s free of traditional advertising. Ideally, you should try not to sell the customer on anything at this point, or they might feel discouraged and walk away. Informative and entertaining content like blog posts, articles, and social media videos are great for this stage of the content marketing funnel.
Soda Sense is a DTC company that sells a home carbonation kit called the Soda Sensei, allowing customers to create their own fizzy drinks. In the example above, the link in the Facebook post directs you to a recipe for a holiday punch. The recipe itself doesn’t sell Soda Sense products. Instead, the instructions call for you to use the Soda Sensei:
Once you get to steps 7 and 8, you’ll start wondering what a Soda Sensei is. Fortunately, the recipe page has a button that leads to a sales page. This way, the brand manages to sell its products without directly telling the user to buy them.
First-stage content shouldn’t end at your website, either. Leverage the power of social media for optimum post reach. In this example, Soda Sense shares snippets of recipes or blog posts to its social media handles like Twitter, Facebook, or Pinterest. These social media platforms can get people through the virtual door and kick off your sales funnel.
The Middle of the Marketing Funnel
Mid-funnel tactics require a slightly more strategic approach than those for the first stage, especially since your goal here is to convince the visitor to consider your products, then persuade them that your products meet their needs.
The primary goal at this stage of creating a marketing funnel is converting visitors into leads. Leads are visitors who have expressed an interest or given you a bit of information through which to reach them, even if they haven’t made a purchase on the first visit. As you can already tell, remarketing strategies like email list building are crucial here. A good idea here is to verify the email addresses to maintain the quality of your email list.
In addition, the sheer number of options means you have to choose those that are right for your business. For DTC businesses, the “right” option will depend on what they’re selling. If your business sells items that a customer must see to appreciate, you can use visual media to showcase new products to your market.
Shoe brand Allbirds posted a Facebook video to announce an upcoming collaboration with fashion brand Staple Pigeon. Because Allbirds’ target market consists of young, athletic individuals who also care for nature, the video also highlights the low carbon footprint of the shoes’ production process, reinforcing its reputation for sustainability.
Aside from announcing the upcoming sneaker, the Facebook ad also tells users to download Allbirds app for iOS devices. The app provides news about the brand and updates about upcoming events and shoe styles, making it equivalent to an email newsletter.
Webinars are also handy at driving people down towards the final stage of a conversion funnel. You create a landing page with sales funnel software like Clickfunnels, and then send people to an educational webinar.
Here, you are given the opportunity to show your subject matter expertise and ingratiate yourself directly with your target audience by providing in-depth, valuable information for free. Not everyone who attends your webinars will become a customer, of course, but they are proven to be highly effective in generating leads.
The Bottom of the Marketing Funnel
This is the last stage of the conversion funnel, the most important, and the trickiest to get right. Converting at this stage of the funnel is indicative of the strength of your entire lead generation and conversion strategy.
The metrics that measure final-stage performance in a marketing funnel tie closely to business metrics. They include:
- Total Revenue
- Revenue per customer
- Conversion rate
Of these three, the conversion rate paints the clearest picture of your business’s performance since it tells you the percentage of visitors that made a purchase.
The final-stage content strategy is more directive, and here, you are at last attempting to sell the lead on your product. In an ideal scenario, your content from the two earlier stages of the marketing funnel should have enticed the visitor to the point that they are willing to pay for that value.
Tactics like sales page promotion copy, bundle selling, and discounts can help improve final-stage funnel conversion metrics. The last method is particularly useful if you want to drive traffic to your sales pages and generate revenue from seasonal products. But beware of discounting too heavily – this can actually decrease the perceived value of your product.
Sitka is a good example of a discount done right. It promotes a seasonal discount (in this case, just in time for spring even if it’s still snowing in some parts of the country). However, the discount only applies to certain items instead of everything in the online store. By doing discounts this way, Sitka is able to increase its seasonal sales while maintaining its reputation as a premium outdoor brand.
While it needs to occasionally be tweaked to keep up with changing contexts and the evolving demands of the market, a great marketing funnel eventually reaches a point of automation, where it converts with little to no oversight. This can be a godsend for online DTC businesses, especially small ones that have a limited workforce.
A marketing funnel for DTC businesses consists of three major stages: the top, middle, and bottom. The top of the funnel aims to draw prospective customers into the brand through non-sales content. The middle of the funnel is designed to convince the prospect that the brand can meet their needs. Finally, the bottom of the funnel is intended to get the customer to click “Buy Now”.
Aside from metrics monitoring, which you can perform with platforms like Google Analytics, a great funnel is something you only have to nail the first time. So what are you waiting for? Get building your first marketing funnel, and you’ll soon see those leads and conversions rolling in!