Businesses sometimes forget there are 4 stages in the conversion funnel. They focus all their attention on attracting new potential customers or closing sales, but forget the other 2 stages. You’ll optimize your conversion funnel by balancing focus on all 4 stages and crafting marketing efforts appropriate to each stage in the process.

Let’s take a look at how to optimize your conversion funnel at each stage in the process. BTW, check out the great infographic from our friends from Impulse Creative at the end of this article. It summarizes some of the points I’m making here in a nice visual.

Optimize your conversion funnel

Awareness

The old saying, “Build a better mousetrap and the world will beat a path to your door,” ignores the problem of TELLING the world you have a better mousetrap.

You start conversion by creating awareness for your brand, it’s products, it’s image, and it’s reputation. Critically, the people you want to reach are in your target market (or fit your market personas). Just reaching a large audience isn’t going to help if you’re not reaching your target market.

How do you create awareness?

Obviously, the first step is to identify your target market; then determine where to reach them with your message.

Next, you need to develop a message that resonates with them. Remember, consumers (whether end users or businesses) buy solutions, not products. What problems does your product solve?

Only then are you ready to determine your tactics for creating awareness.

In the old days, traditional media were your only option — TV, radio, newspapers, magazines, and billboards. Today, digital media offer new alternatives. As a digital marketer, I’ll focus on those strategies today.

optimize your conversion funnelImage courtesy of SpinSucks

You’ll need to craft content on your blog and social networks to create awareness through owned, paid, and earned media.

Content is the new SEO, so you’ll also build organic traffic to your site if you use keywords embedded within that content — keywords that potential customers use to search for products like yours.

Occam’s Razor makes a good point about owned media in a recent post introducing the new newsletter offering. Owning media makes a lot of sense in a world where changes in social media platforms can wipe out all your hard work with a change in policy.

Another consideration in crafting content to optimize your conversion funnel is the amount of noise on most online platforms. We may already be at a point of diminishing returns where new content is concerned according to a new study. Last year the average brand created 2000 pieces of content; a 35% increase over the previous year.

Don’t be discouraged; however. Good content supported by a good marketing strategy will always win out to bring awareness to your brand.

Consideration

Only a small portion of the prospects who are aware of your brand will consider purchasing it.

Here’s what’s involved in making it through the consideration stage:

  • remember the brand and accurately recall its attributes
  • product meets buyer requirements
  • consumer has a favorable impression of the brand
  • relative performance of the brand on key decision variables
  • timing

Remember and recall.

There are a bunch of complex learning theories determining whether folks you reach with your message will ever remember it and whether they’ll be able to recall your message when it comes time to buy.

I once asked folks to tell me about a recent advertisement they’d seen. It was a mess. They did a great job of remembering the images, but often confused the brand sponsoring the ad with a competitor (or even a brand in a totally different industry) and mixed up key attributes with other advertisements.

It makes sense. We’re not really paying attention to advertising. Online we may not even see the ad, even though it’s on the screen.

Meets requirements

Price isn’t the only requirement — maybe not even the most important one — for consumers. Businesses are often even less sensitive to price as time and quality have a huge impact on their operations.

Is it the right color? Right size?

Available nearby? Available when I need it?

Are my friends using it? What will they think about me if I buy it?

Will it last a long time?

All this makes a big difference in the consideration phase

Favorable impressions

Consumers want brands that have a good reputation, are socially responsible, and good corporate citizens. All these contribute to a favorable impression of the brand.

Relative performance

How does your brand compare to your competitors?

Where does your brand excel over your competition?

Timing

Timing involves both the availability of your brand when the customer needs it as well as the time involved in acquiring your brand and setting it up.

How do you survive the consideration stage?

Some consider the consideration stage the most important part of the conversion funnel, so optimization is critical for success. And, that translates to analytics.

Know your target market, what matters to them, what their problems look like, how they view your brand, when they might see your message, what message resonates with them…Google Analytics is a great place to start, but you’ll need some more sleuthing to really understand what’s important at the consideration stage.

Once you have a good understanding of your market, create landing pages, CTA (call to action) buttons, and contact forms so you can provide information appropriate to ease prospects through the consideration stage. You may also want to qualify prospects (need, money, authority, desire) to determine the best way to approach each prospect.

Intention

Consumers may intend to purchase your brand, but a variety of factors conspire to interfere. Some researchers believe only about a third of intentions actually result in conversion due to interference.

Here are examples of those pesky factors:

  • time as in “I don’t have time to do X”
  • energy level
  • complexity of task
  • money
  • recall

How to survive the intention stage

It’s truly a shame when you get a prospect all the way to the intention phase and they drop out. After all your hard work (and money), you’re left with nothing to show for it — although you can recover from a disconnect at the intention stage by revitalizing the intention.

Optimize your conversion funnel at the intention stage by removing obstacles.

Easier said than done. Here are some suggestions:

Removing a single click from your order process (aka Amazon) improves conversion by a huge factor. An even bigger factor is making navigating your site easy. Don’t make visitor hunt for your buy button — this isn’t Easter and they’re not eggs.

Offer options for purchase. Like most folks, I don’t sit with my AMEX card on my lap nor do I have all the numbers memorized. If I leave your site with the intention of buying later when I’m near my card, you’ve likely lost a sale. Offer PayPal or some other electronic device I don’t need to look up — plus, I feel safer because they’ll take care of me if you try to rip me off.

For high price products, integrate payment options into your offer including credit.

People forget their intentions, especially if they have to go to the store to buy your product rather than simply buying it online. Use remarketing if you’re doing PPC; get them to sign up for your list or join your social network if you’re not. Offer coupons as inducements. This allows you a second chance (and a third, and a fourth) to close the deal once folks show interest in buying your product.

Conversion

Halleluja.

But, that’s not the end. It’s just the beginning.

The sale is just the start of your relationship with the customer. Why? Because it’s 5X cheaper to keep a customer than replace them.

Sell again (loyalty)

Customers often buy more items related to your product. Keep open lines of communication to sell them more products or to sell more of the same product to them.

Referrals (word of mouth)

Customers are your best salespeople.

Ensuring customer satisfaction (and hopefully delight) doesn’t necessarily translate into referrals. Sometimes, your customers need a little help to recommend your brand. Activities like contests, especially those aiming at consumer generated content are great tools for recommending your brand to other prospects.

Evangelists

Evangelists go beyond simply recommending your brand.

They advocate for it when others are skeptical or may criticize your brand. They answer questions and solve customer complaints voiced on social networks or in person.

Evangelists are the best thing going for your brand so don’t stop at hoping. Pro-actively build a group of evangelists.

Examples include the Harley HOGs (Harley Owners Group). Harley sponsors gatherings of HOGs so evangelists meet each other and indoctrinate others to the culture of Harley. It’s an incredibly effective tool to market Harley products.

Whoa. Don’t stop there.

The funnel isn’t just a funnel. It’s a cycle. Prospects flow through the funnel, but they also fall out at various points. I’ve discussed strategies for reducing the fall out and moving prospects back into the funnel — optimizing your conversion funnel.

I’ve also discussed how folks who flow through the bottom of your funnel can both flow to the top again — or into the middle — and how they can help fill your funnel.

So, think of this as an ongoing process to manage your funnel across different contexts and buying motives.