5 Phases of the Marketing Funnel: From Awareness to Advocacy

As a marketing consultant, I take a diagnostic approach in determining why companies aren’t hitting their goals. All too often companies will assume that their current marketing campaigns just aren’t working (and that certainly may be the case). But there’s typically more beneath the surface that needs to be addressed before we can work on putting together a comprehensive marketing plan. Time and time again I refer to this chart in helping my clients identify where the real problem with their marketing seems to be. Once we figure out where the challenges are we work to overcome these obstacles. There are five main processes that occur during the customer behavior funnel that must happen (typically in order) before a company will have loyal, repeat customers. Additionally, the marketing approaches will need to be carefully tailored in each phase in order to move prospective customers through the funnel.

  1. Awareness. The very first process that occurs in the marketing funnel is creation of or growth of awareness. Simply put, if your customers don’t know that your company or your products exist, they cannot, and thus, will not buy from you. This seems pretty straight forward, but plenty of companies scratch their heads at their low sales when they haven’t done any marketing to inform their customers they are open for business. Companies must market themselves and create awareness before they can even hope for sales.
  2. Consideration. Once a customer is aware of your product, they will consider your offering. They will determine if your product is something they want or need, if it’s a fair price, and if they are willing to buy. Marketing plays a large role in this phase as well, and can often tip an on-the-fence shopper into a paid customer. Consider a scenario of two restaurants that you pass everyday on your way home from work. Clearly you are aware of them both. Now, imagine that one of these restaurants runs a well placed advertisement that is packed with enticing language for delicious meals and happy hour promotions. Which restaurant are you more likely to try? After a period of consideration (that can vary based on the product/service being sold), the prospect becomes a customer in our third process.
  3. Trial. Congratulations, you made a sale! After building awareness and telling your prospects that they should buy from you, they finally took the plunge. Now it’s up to you to not only deliver a great product or service, but to deliver a great experience! This is all part of marketing too, and it will affect not only your brand, but also whether or not your customer will continue on to the fifth phase in this marketing funnel process. (The fourth phase happens whether you’re ready for it, or not).
  4. Attitude. After the purchase, your customer will automatically make a decision about how they feel about what they just bought. Companies strive for (and invest a lot of time and money in) delivering products and services that leave a favorable taste in their customers’ mouth. No company wants to be the cause of the dreaded “buyers’ remorse”, which leads to cancellation of services, return of products, and nasty reviews on consumer reports and websites. Marketing can be difficult in this phase, but if done elegantly, innovatively, and effectively, your business can help to shape the way your customer responds to the purchase. If, and only if, your customer has a favorable attitude about the product, they will graduate to the fifth and final phase in the marketing funnel, and become a company’s dream customer.
  5. Loyalty. One of the biggest aspirations companies strive for is to have high levels of customer loyalty. Having your customers so happy that they not only purchase (and re-purchase) from you, but refer more business to you from friends and family, and become an advocate for your product is one of the biggest indicators of success. However, just because your customers have migrated through the funnel to a loyal customer doesn’t necessarily mean they will stay there. Companies must pay attention to the marketing at the top level to ensure customer satisfaction and retention. For some this involves innovating new and exciting products, like Apple. For others it involves excellent customer service, like Trader Joes. Some offer loyalty programs, like many airlines and hotels. At any rate, companies who take for granted their most loyal customers often lose them, and thus all the effort they invested in converting them through the marketing funnel has gone to waste.

With marketing permeating this funnel at every level, it’s critical to be able to identify which area of this customer behavior process is in need of repair so that you can target your efforts accordingly. Make sure your marketing communications are integrated and consistent in each phase to build a strong brand that your customers will relate to. Marketing is not simply a matter of attracting customers; it is also retaining and growing your customers into loyal, repeat buyers and advocates of your brand.

Breanna Bremer is a professional business advisor at Innovantage Consulting who helps her clients attract, retain, and grow their customers by creating and implementing customized marketing and business development strategies. Read more posts from Breanna Bremer on her websites or her LinkedIn profile.

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