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For about as long as goods have been sold, businesses have tried to engage customers through various levels of interest in what has long been referred to as the “Purchase Funnel.”
Customers are lead from awareness to sale by way of incremental exposure to a brand or product. While these same principles still apply today, social media has shaken up the paradigm by shortening the gap between people and information, meaning that the funnel has changed and offers a new way to pull in customers and to build off brand loyalty to turn them into your public spokespeople.
Here are the 6 steps to nurturing the sales funnel with social media.
Step 1: Awareness
This is your introduction to the outside world, your first face-to-face with an unknown. Studies have proven that brand loyalty requires trust and since familiarity is the lion’s share of a consumer’s trust, awareness is the first step toward building that new relationship.
Where before awareness required expensive ad time across public mediums, social media awareness is about generating compelling content that are both visually pleasing and come with a locked-and-loaded call to action. Your logo, tagline, content and message all contribute to your overall awareness.
The consumers awareness is like a never-ending marathon. Your brand strength begins to fade the moment they avert their eyes and if left to fend for itself, will eventually fade into obscurity. People prefer brands they have heard of because there’s a built-in reference of trustworthiness. This means a customer’s likelihood of buying from you is directly tied to whether or not they have heard of you, even if they have never purchased from you before.
Step 2. Interest
Next, you must go beyond a familiar face. Social media is not an address book where you find the names and contact info of people you already know, it is a vibrant and active social community; a network of acquaintances, associates and friends.
Treat your customers online with this culture of relationship in mind. People expect a response in the digital world because that is behavior that has become normal, even for businesses.
Regular content that connects on an emotional level will give customers a reason to follow you, and again, this is before they have even done business with you. It doesn’t mean that all the stages before the Sale are necessarily time consuming, but rather that getting to know a brand is the most reliable path toward doing business.
Talk to them, answer their questions, chime in to conversations that don’t pertain to your marketing. Keep it casual as people can tell when they’re being marketed to, but still remember that your efforts are ultimately about self-promotion.
Step 3. Conversion
Once you’ve got your hooks in, you need to turn that interested customer into a paying customer.
Give them an incentive to spend money with you right on the landing page. Don’t make them hunt for a deal, throw it out in front of them. Promotions, give-aways, and loyalty programs are all great ways to put some positive pressure on their shoulders, especially if they’re already leaning in the right direction.
Consider using remarketing techniques to give them a gentle tap on the shoulder in the event they don’t convert on the first visit. Use a remarketing cookie on your company website to harness the Facebook or Google Display Network, keeping your ads in front of them later on even when they aren’t thinking about you anymore. It works like having an ally who reminds them of their interest in you without interrupting their normal activity.
Step 4. Sales
From the moment a future customer first hears about you, you have created a lead. If you successfully direct them down the funnel, you can convert that lead into a sale.
Remarketing, social media engagement, special promotions, newsletter-style communication, blog content, and the strength of your business-customer relationship are all solid ways to bridge that gap.
It is through focused, sustained effort that you will have the most success. It is important that your efforts be consistent, and that the actual purchasing experience be pleasant, because after the sale itself, your product will do the talking. If you oversold it, you may have a disappointed customer who feels misled and is less likely to come back or recommend you.
While the end goal is the sale, social should be functioning as MORE than a sales facilitator. As Loraine Kanervisto states in her article on Facebook marketing and customer service for TollFreeForwarding.com, “[social media] isn’t just a supplement to your sales and customer service strategy — [it should be] a main channel.”
Step 5. Loyalty
In a traditional marketing funnel, sales would mark the final step. As previously mentioned, the social media world is a thriving community and a sale is only a smaller step toward the larger goal of converting your paying customers into vocal advocates on your behalf.
Remember, you have to keep those plates spinning. Customer satisfaction is as easy to measure as their continued engagement with your brand. A loyal following is self-replicating in a way that a fluctuating following is not. Poor attention to your social media and online followers after you have done business is the equivalent of locking the door behind them when they leave. You may have a steady flow of new business, but your expansion will be forever limited and dependant upon the external source of said flow.
Loyalty creates new sources of customers that come with a built-in interest level due to a personal recommendation from a friend. Word-of-mouth is your strongest asset and the wider your base of loyal customers, the more you can withstand the inevitable changes to the landscape where your business resides.
Step 6. Advocacy
Marketing is a tough racket because it is by self-defeating by nature. People don’t like ads, they don’t trust ads and are usually aware when they are looking at one. People trust their friends and peers, even someone they hardly know, over the most compelling advertisement.
This is where your funnel has been narrowing down to. The golden level of customer loyalty that turns a satisfied customer into a company spokesman. If you could simply purchase this kind of trusted authority, then you wouldn’t need to market at all.
Your brand advocates are far and away your strongest marketing asset with the widest reach at the lowest cost. They will actively promote you in conversation, and whether or not their listeners are swayed, the impact of a trusted voice speaking positively about a brand will plant a more potent seed than you could ever hope to generate on your own.
The Social Funnel has certain similarities with the traditional funnel, but where it surpasses is in it’s attention to maintaining these valuable relationships with your customers. Customer satisfaction was always important, and always created loyalty with varying degrees of success, but the current digital world makes it possible to keep all those plates spinning at the same time, a feat previously beyond even the largest, most consumer-friendly company.
Guest Author: Dave Landry Jr. is a journalist and small business owner from Southern California. He enjoys writing on social sales strategies for business as well as business finance.