Article

The Marketing Funnel

October 2007, Auto Dealer Today - WebXclusive

by Rob Anderson - Also by this author

Customers come in three distinct stages of purchasing. Think of it like a funnel. Just above the top of the funnel is the general public. You don’t know them and they don’t know who you are or anything about your business. These customers may or may not be in the market for your product; your job is to get them in the funnel.

Next, you have prospects. They can be anywhere inside the funnel. Hopefully, they are on the direct path to becoming customers instead of rolling around in your funnel. These are people who are in the market for your product and you have had contact with them through your marketing efforts.

Last but certainly not least, exiting the funnel, are your customers who in their last stages of purchasing chose your dealership to buy from.

The goal in marketing is to keep the funnel full with people moving down the funnel at all times. In reality, only so many of these customers will exit the funnel through the bottom purchasing level. Some customers will exit your funnel; some will be thrown from the top because of clogs at the bottom. Some will simply dissipate because they weren’t moving fast enough through the funnel.

For example, do you have a great Web site that draws lots of attention and a terrific sales team set up at your dealership, but no call to action in order to connect the two? This could cause a dissipation or even a clog in your funnel. Everything you do must lead potential customers down that funnel.
 
Before you begin to pour customers into your funnel and lead them through, there are certain things you must define first. This will set you—and your customers—on the right path from the start. Define who you are and what you’re all about. Are you quality and service driven? Are you a relationship builder? Are you a volume cost cutter? Are you a special credit dealer? If you are more than one, that’s fine; just be honest with yourself and realize you can’t be all things to all people when funnel marketing.

Back to the Web site example. If a customer is impressed with a well designed Web site at the top of the funnel, but sees no call to action on the site, they only have hovered around the top of the funnel briefly before being shot out. You must protect the integrity of the entire funnel by keeping an eye on the parts of the process that make-up the downward flow. This begins with the initial offer down through the call to action, the creation of urgency, delivery on message and expectations, and through to the sale.
 
The funnel is the way to concentrate all of your sales and marketing efforts into one cohesive flow. Draw a mental picture of a funnel. What’s at the top? Do you offer free gifts or incentive items on a regular basis? Do you database market? Do you have a defined way in which you aggregate potential customers?

Now take a hard look at your strategies as you drive customers down the funnel.  Are your customers getting stuck in the funnel with no way to exit through a purchase? The process should be a smooth for the customer and provide the dealer a reliable flow exiting at the bottom to purchase.

Next, look at how you deliver a continual message that drives the customer down the funnel. Are you delivering on the message that brought the potential customers into the funnel? If you deliver, the message will keep them on path, so they’ll continue to flow downward.
 
Generating as many leads as possible at the top of the funnel is critical, but be wary because you don’t want too many leads at once because the funnel will overflow. Think what would happen if you increase the size at the top of the funnel without increasing the size of the spout at the bottom. It would begin to overflow almost immediately; that’s why the entire flow is more important than just getting people into the funnel. Once the funnel overflows, it’s difficult if not impossible to get lost customers back into the funnel. The same thing applies for auto leads; be prepared to push them down the funnel so they don’t overflow.

As simple as a funnel is, it’s vital to understand the necessity of flow from the top to the bottom of the funnel and how your message affects that flow.

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