As a business, the world of marketing can be daunting, with numerous channels and limited time and budgets. And if you’re not a marketing expert, it’s more confusing trying to understand how to best market a company for optimum results.

The other day I was searching the internet for a specific business on Google and noticed that one of their competitors came up on top in AdWords. They must have been paying to use the company I was looking for’s name as one of their keywords. But I didn’t want to hear from them at this point. By this stage in the purchasing process I already knew what I wanted and the company that I wanted to buy from.

It felt a bit like someone jumping out when I was already at the cash register and trying to force an alternative product into my hand.

Marketing channels like AdWords are a great tool  – a study by Google found a 6.6 percentage point increase in brand awareness by using AdWords.

It’s all very well to catch people at this stage when they’re already sold on you, but having a complete marketing campaign ensures that far more customers know about you and are looking for you in the first place.

 

What is the funnel?

If you google ‘marketing funnel’, you will come across numerous versions of the concept, all with a different number of stages and different names for these stages. But they all represent the same idea: the stages potential clients go through in the purchasing process.

A simple five-step funnel could look something like this:

  1. Awareness
  2. Interest
  3. Research
  4. Sale
  5. Loyalty

At the top of the funnel potential clients are becoming aware of your business and what you can offer them. As they move down and into the middle of the funnel, the number of potential clients has begun to shrink as people start to make decisions.

At each stage of the funnel there are different marketing channels that will speak best to potential clients.

Therefore, a successful marketing strategy can’t just focus on one channel. A good strategy needs to be continuous so that you remain at the forefront of people’s minds because people tend to forget quickly.

For example, a new chocolate company could raise awareness of its brand by advertising in magazines and TV, and fostering its social media. The company could also start a blog that informs people how chocolate is made, or the difference between cacao nibs and cacao beans. This highlights them as experts in the field, and relates back to what they do and what they can offer.

As their profile continues to rise they could produce newsletters, introduce a tour of their facilities, or create videos. At this stage, other channels such as AdWords also become more effective because the potential client base is already aware of them.

If this chocolate company only used one marketing channel like AdWords from the start it would not reach as many potential clients. This is because bigger well-known companies are more likely to have their ad clicked on because people are already aware of them. They also have bigger marketing budgets, allowing them to pay more per click for the popular keywords.

 

What can I do in practice to reach clients?

Even for B2B and trade companies with limited budgets, it is still possible to create a comprehensive marketing campaign at all levels of the funnel, for example:

  • Awareness/Branding

 

Are there any high-quality, audited trade magazines in your industry? You can use these to advertise and build your brand and profile. These are ideal as they can get your company in front of the right people. Ideally an integrated and ongoing campaign across print and online will get the best results. If that’s outside the budget, see if they have any specific features relevant to your products, or editions that tie in with relevant trade shows, to ensure you are seen there.

Pro Tip: Make sure the magazine’s audience is a good match for your target market. You’re not likely to find one single channel that has 100 per cent crossover with your targets, but make sure there are enough potential clients in their audience to make it worthwhile reaching them. Furthermore, protect yourself by only considering AAMA audited publications.

  1. Interest

Once potential clients are aware of your business they will be interested in finding out what you can offer them. There are a lot of different activities that you can do to fit in with your budget. One good option is digital advertising as it keeps awareness up and will draw clients to your homepage where you can introduce them to your product or services, and start building a relationship with them with content that is relevant.

Another great option is to go to relevant trade shows or conferences. Even if you don’t have the budget to hire a stall, these are great places to network and connect with potential clients on a personal level.

Pro tip: Make sure the content you provide on your website is educational and tailored to your audience. Potential clients want to know about your products and services and how you can help them. However, don’t fall into the trap of your content becoming too salesy.

  1. Research

Now that you’ve caught the interest of potential clients, you’ll want to convert them into a paying client. When the time comes for potential clients to purchase a product or service, they will start researching who is best company to provide them with what they need.

Here is where all your previous marketing work comes into play because you will be at the forefront of their minds when they are researching. Blog posts also become more useful at this stage as they provide information the client is looking for. They help to improve your SEO ranking so that your website is among the top searches when potential clients are searching for you directly or for related terms.

If you’ve created relevant and educational content, you’ll not only be seen as credible and knowledgeable, but you will be able to attract clients looking for a solution to a specific problem.

Pro tip: Your website now has good content, so offer clients the opportunity to subscribe to a regular newsletter. This will ensure people remember you and does the research for them.

  1. Sale

Congratulations, you’ve almost got a client, now all you need to do is seal the deal. Here’s where AdWords become quite helpful as it helps if clients can see your ad before having to find you amongst other results. It leads them straight to your website and the opportunity to do business with you. This could be over the web, via phone call, or, if you have a physical store or offer consultations, face-to-face interaction.

Pro tip: Here’s the time to push sales because people want to make a transaction with you. Let them know all the specifications and features of your product or services because this will lead them to make a purchase.

  1. Loyalty

So you’ve caught a prospect in your funnel and guided them through the purchasing process, however it’s not the time to throw them aside and move onto the next potential client. The funnel doesn’t stop just because a purchase has been made, you’ll need to develop customer loyalty so that they keep coming back, otherwise you’re wasting your marketing efforts.

Develop a relationship with them and keep providing them with content that is relevant. You can create loyal subscribers to your blog by providing them with exclusive content such as webinars, white papers and videos.

If you can provide great service and products, and good content then loyal clients will not only keep coming back but could promote your business to their friends, family and colleagues who might be in need of your service or products.

Pro tip: Marketing is not a process which has a definitive finish line, you need to keep working at it to not only get new clients but to keep old ones.
It all comes down to smart marketing. Don’t jump out at the cash register and try to slip your product into a client’s hands if they don’t know who you are because it’ll be too late. Catch them further up the funnel and keep them aware of who you are. Not only are you more likely to make more sales this way but you can build a loyal client base that will keep coming back.