Whenever I hear someone talk about a sales funnel, I picture the large coin donation funnels at the mall.
I use to beg my parents for a quarter to drop into them. I would be fascinated for a good 3 or 4 minutes watching it spiral down the contraption before it ultimately dived into the pile of change underneath.
If only it were that easy. Put a consumer into the pipeline and just wait for them to travel down to become a customer. Easy. “Another quarter err… consumer mom?”
Today’s sales funnel seems a bit more complicated than the steady spiraling path my quarter use to take.
People like you and me are supposed to squeeze through this sales funnel as “consumers,” getting closer and closer to a sale.
We are suppose to progress as a consumer from awareness of a company, to education about the company or product, and ultimately a purchase. It rarely seems to be that simple.
The Sales Funnel Is Half The Equation
Repeat Customers Can Be Even More Important
Then we try to get the customer to become a repeat customer. Usually without having them go back through the process of awareness, education, engagement, etc. They did that already, now you just have to keep them interested. Stay top of mind.
Repeat customers SHOULD take less work and resources than new customers, making it a more worthwhile pursuit.
The Loyalty Loop
When customers skip the sales funnel and become repeat customers, they are in the loyalty loop. Marketers keep people in the loyalty loop with many tools. We use customer loyalty games and promotions, strong customer service, low pricing, direct mail, email marketing, and more.
The goal is to keep the customer coming back to a purchase while avoiding the time and resources it usually takes to go through the sales funnel. To do this, the customer must build some level of trust in the product or service.
Inspired By: David Edelman — Branding in a Digital Age – HBR
The Fan Loop
But what about all those potential customers you have interested, aware, engaged that don’t take action for one reason or another. The ones that don’t buy your product right away? Are they in the same loyalty loop?
Can there even be a loyalty loop for someone that has never purchased a product or service from you?
The answer is yes. Relationship marketing, permission based marketing, and content marketing all subscribe to this premise. A company can build brand affinity. We can build that bond and trust by giving the potential customer value. By giving them a free benefit. Whether it be a free product, content, or entertainment.
The value exchange does not have to start with commerce to end with commerce.
I call it the Fan Loop.
And just as it’s name implies, the Fan Loop works well within Facebook. It works with blogs. And it works in email marketing. The goal here is to keep your pool of potential customers so engaged, so invested, gaining so much value from your company, that they stick around.
They get value from you. And they become invested in your company’s success, if for no other reason to make sure your company can continue to offer them value. But it can be much more than that. It can become a tribe, a movement, an army of proud advocates.
The more they come back, the richer your brand’s storyline grows.
It is one of the simplest elements of content marketing:
“The longer you keep Fans engaged the more likely they will buy something when the time is right.”
Let’s look at 3 examples:
1. HubSpot’s Webinar/Email List Cycle
Hubspot spends a lot of time and effort on their content marketing machine. Blog posts, ebooks, infographics, webinars, they do it all. All to get potential customers to fill out their lead generation forms. And ultimately to becoming paying customers.
HubSpot sends out webinar invites every week to hundreds of thousands of emails that they have gathered over time. Each time a customer comes back to a webinar, they hear more and more about HubSpot and learn more from HubSpot. Each time the customer builds a tighter bond.
2. Gordmans’ Facebook Ads and Tabs
Gordmans partnered with the Facebook experts at Webtrends to send out optimized Facebook ads to attract new fans for the apparel and home fashions retailer. It worked. They had thousands of Facebook fans. But now what?
Gordmans then sent Facebook ads to their fans to bring them back to customized tab experiences (not a sales page). Including the one previewed above where fans click to vote on which outfit is better. They target a narrow demographic for new fans and them bring them back to interact with their products in unique and entertaining ways. This builds a relationship.
3. Kissmetrics Blog and Infographics
Kissmetrics is a web analytics company that spends a lot of time producing very high quality data content for their blog. Including a large number of popular infographics. In fact, I would say they are one of the best examples to follow if you want to do infographics.
Their infographics are usually their most popular blog posts and bring a ton of visitors to their site. From there they ask visitors to subscribe to their content AND test out their product, in that order. The more they get visitors to return the more likely they are to get them to test and potentially buy their product.
Is your business using the Fan Loop?