Did you know that the original consumer purchase funnel is over 115 years old? Even back then, there was a definitive pattern in which customers moved through a buying cycle, starting from awareness to the end result of making an actual purchase. The original model was AWARENESS, INTEREST, DESIRE and CONNECTION = SALE.
It’s a fact that the consumer's mindset and actions change as they move through this process. The question is how do you as an advertiser stay in front of them and impact their final decision? How do you make them choose you?
There is no one right answer. This task is more difficult than ever with the fragmentation of media. People are consuming media from different sources, on different devices, and often simultaneously. That means you now have to buy as many touch points as your budget allows.
The question remains, how do I capitalize on every potential consumer when they are all in different phases of the purchase cycle?
Here’s my advice: Take the traditional Purchase Funnel and flip it upside down. In this reversed hierarchy, each level represents a stage or an opportunity where you can capture business. In my mind, there are only three marketing objectives your business needs to address to be successful:
- Driving brand awareness among passive consumers. (AWARENESS)
- Being found on the Internet by active users that are considering a purchase of your product or service. (INTEREST)
- Direct marketing on Search Engines to drive leads through your door quickly. (DESIRE)
For each of these stages – there are products and services to drive results. To capitalize on all potential consumers that may eventually use your product, you need to be addressing each level with its own marketing strategy and budget.
You will see that I have added two new levels to the traditional funnel. The bottom layer called OPERATIONAL stage refers to your Web Presence. The very top layer, LOYALTY, refers to your ability to engage with your best customers- your regulars.
You may be doing well at some of these levels already. The challenge is to seek to improve the areas where you are failing. What stage are you neglecting? If you build your budget and strategize around your needs you will improve your ROI and your bottom line.
Have an honest conversation with yourself about your business. Do a Needs Analysis on yourself. You have to be willing and open to evaluating where your business is weak and not moving the needle. It’s difficult for business owners to actually stop and think about their business. You are too busy trying to run it.
Taking this step can be more profitable than a sale. How you stack up against your competition, who you’re currently reaching, and understanding who you may be missing, can be a turning point for your business. At the very least it can give you a fresh perspective on the value of your current marketing budget.
For each stage of the process there are questions you need to ask yourself:
Operational Stage: Again, this refers to having a web presence, essentially a functioning website. Google is the new Yellow Pages. What people see when they click is no longer a luxury: You need to have a great website.
You have to stand out from the pack. You have to offer the best first impression. You have to showcase your business in its best light and offer a call to action. Your website has to be visible to users on a desktop, smartphone and a tablet. Piece of cake right? If you don’t know the term responsive – Google it now! Judge yourself honestly against your local and big brand competitors. If their site is more enticing to you, then it probably will be to regular consumers. 89% of consumers expect you to have a good website. If you don’t give them what they want, they will move on.
Consumers are rarely loyal anymore. They will check out a few and choose the business they want to work with based on the experience they had with your website. Gone are the days when people would walk up and down Main Street to determine which local store they will patronize. Google gives consumers so many choices that first impressions mean everything.
Armed with technology, consumers can connect with your brand before they decide if they’re interested. Your website is your first touch point, so it has to appeal to everyone.
Here are some questions to ask yourself at this stage:
• Can my phone number be seen easily at the top of every page on my website?
• Does my website collect leads from interested consumers?
• Does it present my product selection comprehensively and visually?
• Does it convey my best attributes and/or differentiating factors?
• Does it compel people to come in or buy from me with a specific call(s) to action?
• Does it display a bit of my personality?
• Do I know how many people are visiting it every month and where they are coming from?
• Is it mobile friendly? (Seamless visibility on all devices?)
• Would I buy from my business based on my first impression?
If you answered “no” to any of these you have some work to do. The good news is you’ve identified a weakness. The first step in turning it into a strength.
I often hear the objection from business owners that word of mouth is the #1 way people find their business so they don’t need a website. That may be true, but most people research online before buying, so even with a recommendation many people will go online for prior reconnaissance. If they have a poor online experience, they may decide not to use you. You are losing customers you don’t even know about.
Consumers are judging you based on your website. It is your digital storefront offering data and means to measure its success. If you’re maximizing your site, all of your advertising drives people to it. Don’t let it cost you new customers or sales.
Branding/Awareness Stage: This is the one you are most familiar with but it’s a phase many business owners neglect. Branding represents an opportunity to stay in front of consumers at all times. Especially when they may not need your product. It is the opportunity to make your name and your service top of mind to consumers who may use your product if or when they move into the consideration phase. You need to be so well known that people think of your business when your service/product is mentioned. Branding is something you should put marketing dollars towards continually, but how and what mediums you use may vary seasonally or based on your budget.
You have a branding issue if you hear from customers:
• “I’ve never heard of you”
• "Oh – I didn’t know you carried/offered that.”
• “I had no idea you were located here”
• “I thought you only sold...”
Branding is the first step in communicating your message to consumers who are “passive”. Remember, they are still seeing it and filing it away. On a local level, if you are not known as the “local resource” for what you do, you will be beat out by your competitors. If you miss consumers at this step – it may be hard to get them back.
Consideration/ Intent Stage: Here is where things get interesting. All advertising back in the day was passive in nature. Advertisers spoke at consumers through traditional media formats. When Search Engines came onto the scene, the power shifted to the consumer, and they are now in control. They search for what they want, when they want it. All the information they need is readily accessible. Your job is to make sure you are there on the page of answers when they search your product/service. There is a science to getting on the coveted first page of the search results. There are even three distinct sections on the page (Paid, Organic and Local) that you can occupy. If you are not there at all, you are missing out on reaching the majority of consumers who now use Google as their yellow pages.
97% of customers search for local businesses online
More than 76% of people used a search engine to find a local business
Page One results get 91.5% of Google Traffic
You need to make sure you are an option as people search. If you’re not there, you’ll miss a click, a phone call, or a new customer. Google your product/service. Search with your town (i.e. Veterinarian, Plymouth Ma) and then try the six towns surrounding you.
Do you show up on the first page in any of the sections or in all three?
If the answer is no, you’re not talking to the active users who are warm leads. These people are going to make a purchase and you want them to choose you. You need to convince them early on in the process that you are the best choice. It could be the only chance you have. They may not need you for three to six months, but they’re doing their research now.
LEAD GENERATION/DIRECT RESPONSE: This stage represents an opportunity for immediate and direct results for your business. Many businesses will say they need bodies in the door or more money in their cash register now. They have to drive the bottom line. Direct Response Marketing is the act of putting out an ad and driving an immediate call to action that can be tracked.
A great immediate option for driving clicks to your website is a Pay Per Click advertising (PPC) or Google Ad Words campaign.
Buying keywords, when done correctly, can generate leads immediately. These leads are hot. These are high intent customers who have already shown interest in your brand and are extremely likely to make a purchase. If you need immediate action PPC can be a solution.
The tracking ability it offers is second to none. It provides direct consumer data, insight into your customer service via phone recordings and you only pay when you actually get a lead to your website. It offers the most targeted ROI for your advertising dollars.
LOYALTY: Finally, with the emergence of social media, if you are a business that has been around a long time and you have a strong and loyal customer base, you can build on Loyalty.
Social Media is a great way to use your engaged and loyal customers to drive more business. Social media is one of the least expensive advertising strategies. By the nature of its process, if you posted just once a week and you have 1,000 followers you will talk to 200,000 people. Each Facebook user having an average of 200 friends allows you to virally reach a passive and active set of users for a fraction of a dollar. If 1,000 people enjoy what you have to say and are compelled to pass along an offer, new product, new feature, or helpful tip from your business then you are building your name (brand) and offering calls to action to new potential customers with one click. It’s an advertising model offering exponential growth at no cost. You must remember through these mediums that online reviews are the new word of mouth. You need to monitor what people are saying about you and your brand. Today, every person’s opinion counts.
70% of people trust reviews by absolute strangers.
Again, here comes that judgment factor. People you don’t know are judging you based on someone else’s experience. Reputation Monitoring is a great tool for all businesses so that you can control the situation and manage any negative comments that may be lingering.
All in all, there is no slam-dunk answer on how to advertise. You have to recognize your weaknesses and identify the actions you need to take in order to overcome them. And then you need to track the performance of your actions; gather, observe, and analyze. Arm yourself with information.
So ANALYZE your business, PRIORITIZE what your immediate needs and budget are, and then EXECUTE it.
Your business depends on it!
Jenny Farrell is Digital Training Manager for Wicked Local Media Solutions and can be reached at email@example.com. Need help with Digital Ammo for your business?