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7 Steps To Build A Successful Marketing Funnel




I have spent the last 11 years building high performing marketing acquisition funnels for companies including Google, Oxford University Press, and the NHS. While the products, audiences and objectives may differ greatly, the underlying principles remain the same. So, here are my 7 steps to build a successful marketing funnel:


1. Strategy


Goals

All good marketers start with an objective. What is the goal that we want to achieve? Good examples are making sales over the phone, or acquiring new members. The objective should be simple, and measurable.


In most cases we will spend money on advertising to achieve the objective, so the Key Performance Indicator (KPI) will be Cost Per Acquisition (CPA) - how much does it cost us to meet the objective, or convert audiences. Marketers love acronyms and jargon, and convert is an important term - it is when we convert someone into being a customer.


To illustrate the above I am going to use the example of a gym. Their objective is to get new members who will pay a monthly subscription, and their measure of marketing success is the Cost Per Acquisition for acquiring new members. Members will pay £40 per month for their membership, and the gym would like to get payback on their marketing investment in month one, so their target CPA is £40. This means they want each new customer to cost £40 in marketing spend.


User journey

Outlining a specific user journey is crucial to any successful marketing funnel. It helps us measure how many people are moving from one step to the next. Additionally, people like simple journeys; they like to know where they are in the journey, and where they should go next. To return to our example of the gym, our user journey is going to be:


Clicks on ad > visits a landing page > submits enquiry in exchange for a discount code > pays to become a member on the website


Marketing channels

Next up, which marketing channels are we going to use? The key differences between marketing channels are whether they are push or pull marketing. Social media is a good example of push marketing. People use Instagram to see photos of their friends; they don't use it to buy a gym membership. Conversely, pull marketing is when users are actively looking for a product, such as searching on Google for a gym. In general, customers from pull marketing channels have more intent, and therefore have higher engagement.



2. Proposition

Messaging is king. It is what drives action, and it is too often overlooked by digital marketers. Powerful propositions can transform performance, greatly reducing the cost per acquisition. One excellent framework for building propositions that convert is Cialdini’s 7 Principles of Influence:


  1. Reciprocity. If you give something to someone, they are more inclined to give something back. This could take the form of a voucher code, for example.

  2. Commitment. If someone takes a small initial action, they are more likely to take the next action. For example, if someone agrees to having a free call, they are more likely to agree to have a more indepth workshop afterwards. There is momentum.

  3. Social proof. Whether we like it or not, we are sheep. Next time you are in the supermarket standing next to someone else, pick the product you want and see if the person next to you picks it too. They often will. Good examples of social proof in marketing messaging are reviews, customer statistics, and product ratings.

  4. Authority. People trust brands they recognise. In the example of our gym, we might feature Joe Wicks as a regular user of the gym, because he adds credibility to the brand.

  5. Liking. People listen to people they like. This is why companies take time to understand their customers’ values, and their mindset.

  6. Scarcity. This is a powerful tool in driving action, and is focused on the fear of missing out. For example, 2 places remaining, or sale ends tomorrow.

  7. Unity. By communicating with people as if they are family or a close friend we form strong bonds with them. Humans are social, and like to feel part of a community.



3. Ads

All large advertising platforms such as Google Ads, Facebook Ads, and Twitter Ads follow a similar pattern, splitting campaigns into objectives, audiences and ads. Here is a simple outline of each of those areas:


Objectives

We already covered this in the first section about strategy, so we’re ahead of the game! Let’s use our gym example - we want to acquire new members. However, we are going to set our objective in the ad platform as enquiries. If you look at our user journey outlined above, you’ll see that we want people to submit an enquiry to get a discount code. We are going to use enquiries as our ad platform objective, because far more people will submit an enquiry instead of paying to become a member, therefore we will give the platform more data to learn from, so it can see which ads and audiences are meeting our objective. The ad platform will find it hard to learn what works if there are only a handful of conversions.


Audiences

This is where we start to split out our audiences. We want to find out which audiences have a lower cost per acquisition. So for our gym we are going to split our audiences four ways:


Men, 18 - 35

Men, 36 - 55

Women, 18 - 35

Women, 36 - 55


After running our ads for a while, we may learn that our 18-35 audiences across both genders have a significantly lower cost per acquisition. Therefore we would choose to focus our advertising efforts on these audiences.


Creative

This is where we put our propositions to the test. As best practice, we will create three different variations of our ad creative. In the example of the gym, we are going to create carousel ads on Instagram ads, testing the three following propositions:

  1. Emotional-led proposition (message: feel better, do more)

  2. Fact-led (message: 25 running machines, free classes)

  3. A blend of the two


With our clear objective of cost per lead, we will see which ad creative drives the lowest cost per acquisition, which may differ for different audiences!


4. Landing pages & CRO

What happens after someone clicks on an advert? Best practice dictates that they will go to a page that echoes what they have seen on the ad. The more targeted our landing page content, the better. For example, we split our audiences into four, so we may create four landing pages, one for each audience, and tailor our content to e.g. women aged 18-35.


The landing page functions to convert audiences from click to lead. Therefore, we can judge its success on the conversion rate from click to lead. We can run A/B tests on landing pages, creating two versions of the page and splitting the traffic 50/50 between each version to see which page has the highest conversion rate. This is what we call conversion rate optimisation. This is also a very powerful way to learn which messages resonate with our audiences.


5. Nurture

Why did we decide to collect enquiries on a landing page, rather than encouraging people to become gym members straight away? Because most people aren’t ready to commit straight away. By offering users an incentive, such as a discount code, we are able to get their contact information, and send them emails, encouraging them to take the leap and pay for a gym membership at a later point.


It is common for companies to send a series of automated emails to nurture users from being an enquirer, to becoming a customer. Nurture emails should have rich content in them, humanising the brand, and reinforcing the core proposition. Using our gym example, we might feature one of our customers, and tell their inspiring story about how they turned their life around and improved their confidence, helped by the gym.


What is the goal of the emails? (Marketers love goals). The goal is to generate email opens, clicks, and ultimately, gym memberships.


6. Automation

How do you connect all of your platforms together? One simple answer is Zapier. Powerful integration tools such as Zapier and Make allow you to connect platforms and build smart automations. Using our gym example, we will use Zapier to send enquiries on our landing pages into our CRM database. Zapier can add an enquirer to our database, and tell our email sending platform to send our nurture emails, because the enquirer has not yet become a customer. There are so many marketing platforms out there these days that simple, powerful integration is very important.


7. Reporting

Marketers are obsessed with data because it tells us what is and isn’t working. Which marketing channels have the lowest cost per acquisition? Which audiences? Which ads? Marketers add tracking codes to everything they do, and this information is passed into the CRM, or database. This helps us build end to end reports showing us not only which channels have the best cost per acquisition, but where the best return on investment coming from. Facebook ads might look like our best channel on the face of it, but they may be unsubscribing from our gym after three months, compared to Google, where they stay for 12 months. Simple, powerful reporting is key!


Conclusion

That’s the end of our whistle-stop tour on how to build a successful marketing funnel. We have created the strategy, built a powerful proposition, created the ad accounts, set up landing page tests, nurtured enquirers with automated emails, integrated the whole lot with Zapier, and produced insightful reports to tell us what is working.


While we have outlined the hard facts, the secret sauce is missing. The secret sauce is inspiration. Inspiration leads us to create richer propositions, to test unique landing page experiences and think bigger. It is the energy and drive to achieve better results which really turns the dial.


So, go forth, and build your successful marketing funnel. Good luck!


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