How to Create a Marketing to Sales Funnel for Small Businesses through Social Media Channels

November 17, 2020

*platforms, brand, etc. kept confidential (just to keep this professional)

The worst thing a marketer can hear from a person in sales is “how does this tie to the sales funnel?”. 

I’ll admit, when I first began doing any type of marketing, I always assumed that marketing was only about brand positioning and moreover, brand awareness. I didn’t realize until I got weeds deep into the data that marketing is synonymous to the sales funnel. 

Listen, I am no guru - yet. 

But, after perusing around the digital space for a while, there’s definitely some tried and true processes that anyone can use to increase their marketing engagement. 

Lately (or rather since the beginning of quarantine), I’ve been digging into my past clients and engagements then dissecting some things that went right and some things that went wrong. 

To start off my blog that will hold my thoughts forever, I figured I’d start with the first time I really figured out what this marketing thing means to me. 

My roots, if you will. 

But, instead of getting all gushy, I’m going to focus on the nitty-gritty, process-driven funnel that I figured out. 

Step 1: Identify a Buyer Persona 

Anyone in the sales, social media, advertising, and product marketing game will tell you that this is probably one of the main objectives in your process you don’t want to mess up. Once you get that buyer persona down, you’ll be able to better target that customer. 

I might have a different approach to target marketing a particular buyer persona than most people, but the evolution of identifying the buyer persona your team wants to target and getting to know the actual buyer persona is something I highly stress. 

Businesses tend to get pretty rigid when it comes to the buyer persona, but there are so many different needs that your company may be able to fill that you can target. 

For example, at one of my previous contractual jobs, I was responsible for repositioning a target buyer. They were having trouble making this shift for the longest time because of three different factors: 1. their location, 2. their to-date marketing channels, and 3. Their advertisement campaigns. They kept staying in the same bubble that they kept themselves in, which was middle-income families, but wanted to shift to people who are interested in high-end fashion. 

Yeah, I agree that sounds like a stretch if you don’t know the company. However, as I took inventory of their product line, I found that they could position themselves as a high-end upcycle department store instead of a thrift department store with high-end items. 

Different copy can tell a different story. Doesn’t a high-end upcycle shop instead of a thrift store with high-end items sound better and have a different ring? 

In the same respect, however, I didn’t want to isolate and get rid of their old customer. 

But how does a company keep the old and incorporate the new without displacing the old? 

It comes down to understanding your buyer and knowing what makes both of them want to buy. 

Someone who is on a budget, but likes high-end things in this case wanted to see more products that had well-known “expensive” brand names, like Prada, Gucci, Rebecca Minkoff and the year it was made. This store was carrying the brands larger department stores like Macy’s, Saks Fifth Avenue, and Bloomingdale’s was carrying, but a season or two after. Someone who is on a budget just needs to know if there’s quality and how much quantity they can get with their budget. When you can identify specific buying patterns, there’s more opportunity to create content that caters to those different buyer personas. 

Step 2: Research and Find Your Niche 

However, that goes without saying that there is more research than just segmenting your market(s). Buyer research and niche research are very important when it comes to understanding how you can continue creating content and what are your buyer’s priorities. 

For example, I knew at this one company that they already had this one type of buyer, but I didn’t really know what that buyer needed the most from purchasing from their stores. There’s the first differentiating factor: this buyer needed to buy from them, not just wanted to buy from them. 

So, in your content and marketing, you need to make sure that your phrasing matches exactly what they are potentially looking for in a retailer. In our copy, we used words such as “quality,” “discount,” “multi-purpose,” and used seasonal words. For the photography, we would show quantity of clothing, price tags, and things that were more functional pieces of clothing that people could envision buying for different family members. 

This second buyer they wanted me to target wanted to buy from them and didn’t need to buy from them because they could afford higher-end deals. We needed to show the buyer why it was much better to purchase from their store instead of Macy’s, essentially. 

The execution for this was definitely tricky in the beginning, but we needed to differentiate what we excelled at that Macy’s wasn’t and could never excel at. 

Macy’s, in comparison to this department store, was much more expensive. Macy’s probably didn’t even hold some of the brand names that this store did. 

So, the way that we positioned them in comparison to a Macy’s, Saks, or Bloomingdale’s was to show the brand names, the prices, the year it was made, and how well the material was holding after being passed down from one of these stores. Oftentimes, the copy was about how someone could have gotten this at Macy’s last season, but couldn’t get it at the retail price we sold it at (this $2,000 dress being sold at $100). A lot of the photography produced was around creating outfits, like a catalogue or a eCommerce store would. I found the more you made it look and feel like Macy’s, Saks, or Bloomingdale’s, the more those types of buyers became interested in our brand. 

Their market became pretty sizable with just segmenting it based on income level. We could have focused on different demographic groups, such as age (younger typically likes trendy, whereas someone older may not be interested), but I decided against it because young people typically don’t have the buying power: women and men in their 30’s do; even better, parents in their 40s and 50s will buy themselves a designer dress/suit and then buy for their kids Free People, Gap, and Banana Republic clothing. 

What I learned from this experience is don’t necessarily isolate your old buyer to appeal to your new buyer: just target them in different ways. 

Step 3: Find best measuring practices for your business 

A lot of marketers often find themselves in this rut: how do you prove to your company that your posts, marketing avenues, campaigns, etc. are generating more than brand awareness? 

Oftentimes, a lot of social media marketers are too focused on the granular, tactician aspects of creating content. I found that there were too many times where I asked myself if I created enough content, if those pieces of content were getting enough pageviews, if the posts were getting comments/engagement. 

But I didn’t necessarily see the value in all of that especially since it wasn’t connected to any sort of value. I didn’t know if it was necessarily attracting new customers or keeping old ones. 

So, I ran a few different tests. I kept up and eventually discarded when I was able to prove that it wasn’t just loyalty to the brand that was driving revenue, but it was positioning to this newer audience. 

One test was using an exclusive discount code. Everyone following their social media channels had to present an exclusive code. The code wasn’t placed around the store, nor was it advertised except for their social media channels. After presenting it, their CRM system recorded it, along with the total value amount per shopper. 

We found that out of the 2-day weekend, out of their very small base in the beginning, about 70% of that number of followers used the exclusive code. 

We continued to use that method in order to track the marketing to sales funnel since it was really the only tangible thing we had at the time. 

Then, we added an eCommerce component to their revenue stream and we had another marketing to sales funnel. 

The only way you can measure something like pageviews or social shares is if it has some type of connection to a conversion factor, like revenue or an abandoned cart.

For the eCommerce shop, I managed their digital sales and (obviously) marketing channels. 

Since we were using a basic eCommerce platform and their inventory’s pricing was varied, I used bargain selling, discounts, email marketing retargeting campaigns, etc. a ton. It became a fun opportunity for me to use (and also, a great way to make more money) the platform and understand what makes buyers’ interests change between store-front to eCommerce store. 

There’s a ton of information to delve into that subject, but for now I’ll spare you the details. The only thing that I can really say about those buyers that’s different is when and how they buy as opposed to what and why they buy. 

Timing in eCommerce is everything, as is social media from my personal experience. 

The more people who would abandon their carts, the more opportunity for us to use special discounts to wheel them back in. A lot of eCommerce also focuses on customer success and how you’re engaging your customer. This is something I realized after the fact of being in this position, but in this case, the way we continued to engage our (potential) customers was to continue retargeting them for items they were either 1. Interested in or 2. Might have interest in our inventory depending on their current abandoned items in their cart. 

Their inventory varied in price and brand, so there was flexibility in sending personalized discount codes and bargaining with people. 

In the platform we used, we were able to interact with the customer through the entire purchase journey from ‘adding to cart’ to ‘check-out.’ This was a unique interaction because we were essentially watching them do what they were interested in on our site and had the opportunity to upsell them as well.

The benefit of watching their purchase journey informed us more or less what made them buy versus what made them ‘abandon’ their cart. This can help you assess where your product pricing might have gone wrong, your description creation needs tidying, etc. These minor things all affect the way a buyer reviews your product line. 

From there, you can have better control over how your potential customer interacts with your product line. For example, if they abandon their cart, you can follow up with them via an outreach campaign with a personalized discount, a ‘might interest you’ inventory email, etc. 

Overtime, I think best measuring practices evolve in your process. There needs to be some measure of ROI in the beginning to determine buyer’s interest types. However, allowing the buyer to shape your methodology behind the way you sell is going to better serve your brand. 

Think “the customer is always right” mentality can open up beyond your original selling methodology to inspiring your potential buyer to actually buy. 

Step 4: Assess, refine, and re-implement

Now this step in the process always comes after testing your methods and more-or-less going with the flow of your ideal buyer’s purchase journey. 

Your first steps in advertising, marketing, and content on your website is like a hypothesis that you solve over time. From my experience (which I hope will change as I grow my career), you need to go in with the mindset that there is only one type of buyer for your product, market to them the way you see fit after analysis, and then prove or disprove your initial thoughts. 

Your initial assessment is just to get the customers that you’ll value understand your product messaging. 

After you figure out how they landed on your site and decided to purchase from it, then it’s time to assess what else goes into their thought process. 

Do they purchase one thing over another because of pricing? Did they choose something very similar to their original abandoned cart item due to quality, description, fit, etc.? Did they get a better discount from you for their abandoned item and now they’re purchasing because the price is better? 

These are all things you have to consider. If any of these have that type of sentiment, then you need to adjust to how they’re buying in order to keep attracting that same customer. 

It takes a long time to really understand your customer’s needs versus what your product can offer them to satisfy that need. 

Also, always assess yourself against competitors in this process. If they abandoned their cart all together and never came back, maybe take a look at what else is out there on the market. 

What do those products have that you might not offer? If you think that your product is essentially the same, but somehow their product might have gotten your well-deserved traffic, then maybe it’s time to assess what they’re proposing in their descriptions, product line, etc. versus yours. 

No one hates a person that imitates, especially if it’s someone with a “different” product proposition. 

It’s good business to use what’s working rather than try to create a value proposition that is flat. 

Then, once you implement it again, assess how it’s working out for you. Do those product descriptions work better? Are you still gaining the traction that you want or is it confusing your buyer? 

The purchase journey, a shop, etc. is an on-going process.

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