Every company has a sales funnel. It’s the journey consumers go through before, during, and after they buy your product.
There are roughly five stages (maybe six or seven, depending on whom you ask) that a buyer goes through relative to your product:
AWARENESS – CONSIDERATION – ACTIVE LEAD – BUYER – BRAND ADVOCATE
Depending on the nature of your company, the price point of your brand, and your target consumer, this purchase cycle will take different amounts of time.
In the travel industry, for example. most people take 12–18 months to purchase an overseas trip. From the instant buyers get an idea in their minds about what destination attracts their fancy to the moment they take the trip, there’s a fairly long lead time.
Whatever your lead time—whether it’s 12 months or 12 days—there are plenty of opportunities to speak to your funnel according to stage.
Folks in the AWARENESS category are going to respond to totally different information about your brand than an ACTIVE LEAD. An active lead is close to the purchase point and probably will want more specific product details, or incentives to buy. On the other hand, those in the AWARENESS stage just need a broad overview of your brand—this messaging is usually more aspirational, emotional, or image-based.
Customers in different funnel stages also will interact with your brand in different marketing channels. An outdoor display advertising campaign is going to be about attracting those at the beginning of the funnel, whereas a direct mail or email campaign is usually targeted at ACTIVE LEADS or at BRAND ADVOCATES (ongoing customers).
A good exercise is to take a piece of paper and map out these categories, and think about the messaging you want to send to your consumers at whatever stage they are in. If you hit the right consumer with the right message at the right time, you’ll go a long way to pushing folks along through the sales conversion and beyond.