Customers have virtually limitless options and access to diverse brands and products. With this level of choice, brands have a unique challenge in marketing: how can you rise above the noise, highlight your brand identity, and establish a connection with your customers?
The key is personalization.
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Why Personalization Matters
Whether your company is a long-standing business with a brick-and-mortar presence or a digital native, customers are looking for personalization. Loyalty is elusive, but when you tailor your offerings and communications to the right audience at the right time, you can achieve it.
Research reveals that 72% of consumers expect businesses they buy from to recognize them as individuals and know their interests.
Most consumers associate personalization with positive experiences that help them feel special and brands that demonstrate their investment in the relationship, not just the sale.
When it comes to the sales funnel, personalization is key to ensuring that your customers are guided through each stage according to their needs.
Creating Awareness and Attraction at the Top of the Sales Funnel
In the awareness stage, the buyer is experiencing a problem or symptoms of a pain point. They’re seeking out solutions to alleviate it. In some cases, the customer doesn’t have a name for that problem or understand it well, so information can help them frame it and identify it to find the ideal solution.
For example, a customer may search for something like, “how do I get stronger?” This is a broad query that doesn’t immediately point to a solution, so they’re not looking for products, services, or brands yet. They’re looking to contextualize the problem.
While they’re searching for this information, they may come across your brand and learn about your products or services. Though they may not be ready to buy just yet, they are potentially seeking brands that satisfy their needs.
Awareness can come from many places, including a Google search, content shared on social media, and offline activities. The goal for your brand is being helpful, not pushing for a sale, and showcasing your expertise to encourage the next stage of the funnel.
A good example of effective content is this retirement income calculator from Bankrate. It helps a customer figure out their retirement income without pushing advisor services – it merely educates and assists.
Encouraging Evaluation and Consideration at the Middle of the Sales Funnel
The consideration stage happens after a customer clearly defines their problem and gives it a name. They’re researching and evaluating all of the options they have to solve that problem, so they may look for listicles or comparisons like “the best books on branding.”
To go back to the previous search example, the search query may go from “how do I get stronger?” to “is it better to go to a gym or hire a personal trainer?” They’re not yet ready to buy at this point, but they are considering their solutions.
At this stage, the customer will be evaluating not only your brand but your competitors. You have their attention, but now you have to position yourself as the best possible solution. This is when you build trust and a relationship.
Videos can be powerful. If you can share a captivating event or story that you can use to capture attention, you can sway the customer to your brand. If you can personalize that video, even better.
One exceptional example comes from Facebook. You’ve probably had a “friendversary” on your Facebook page celebrating the length of time you’ve been “Facebook official friends.’ The video shares highlights of the friendship with tagged photos, most engaging photos or videos, and other details that feel highly personal.
Another way to deliver personalized videos is by using data to deliver the types of videos that serve your audience’s needs, such as Q&A videos and customer success stories. These can help you establish credibility and convince the customer that you’re the ideal choice over your competitor.
Here’s a great example of a customer success story. The College of Business at Willam & Mary created a series of testimonials from their Online MBA students highlighting their successes in the program.
Delighting the Customer at the Bottom of the Sales Funnel
By the decision stage, the customer knows that they are going to buy, but they’re considering options more seriously. They may be weighing price, customer service, quality, and other factors to make sure they’re making the best choice for their needs.
Following the gym example, the previous query of “is it better to go to a gym or hire a personal trainer?” may become, “Gold’s Gym vs. Planet Fitness.” They’re ready to decide, but they want to go with a brand they know and trust.
This stage comes down to helping customers overcome their final hurdles and providing support. In some cases, offering a demo or trial can help the confirm the decision to choose you,
There are many different ways to connect with the customer at this stage, depending on the type of business. Case studies can be especially effective, such as this long-form case study from Unbounce. This helps the customer understand how the product or solution will provide results in real-world context and shows social proof.
Tips for Success
Your sales funnel offers an opportunity to influence prospects and keep them from dropping out, while also nurturing the ones who may not be ready to buy. Here are some tips to help your personalization go smoothly.
Know the Audience
If you want to personalize the experience for your customers, you have to know them on a personal level. The more you know, the better you can tailor your messaging to them, show them you understand them, and convert them into paying customers. If you have your sales funnel set up to target the wrong personas, you’re only wasting your own time and money.
You should also understand your competitors, especially with their web traffic. You can evaluate their top-performing content to understand what’s attracting customers and connecting with the audience, which can inform your own strategy.
Provide Value First
Your ultimate goal is to sell, but you can’t push sales throughout the process. The early stages of the sales funnel are about providing value and information to help your customers. Focus on educating them about their problems and the possible solutions.
Making it about the customer first positions your brand as an expert, builds trust, and indirectly drives future sales.
Get Your Keywords Right
The keywords that your customers use will help you get inside the heads of your target personas. You can use a keyword research tool to create awareness-based content around specific keywords or common question-based search queries.
Don’t forget to search for related keywords and your own insights. You likely have questions that you’ve heard your customers ask, and those are a great place to start.
Getting email addresses helps you build relationships and earn trust to nurture a customer through the sales funnel. This is much easier to do when you can deliver personalized, relevant content directly to their inbox.
Ideally, you will do this with compelling content and a visible sign-up form that customers can use. They’re already engaging with your content, so they’re more likely to seek out more.
If that’s not enough, you can offer gated content that requires an email. It’s important to use custom landing pages that showcase the type of quality content you’re offering to boost sign-ups. A great example is HubSpot’s downloadable persona templates.
Leverage Reviews, Testimonials, and Customer Stories
Trust is a key part of a successful sales funnel. It’s important to work social proof and trust into your funnel to nurture that relationship.
You have plenty of opportunities to share this information. You can include reviews with your products and on your home page, but you should also have testimonials and customer stories available for customers to get more in-depth information.
Another helpful form of social proof is having a list of brands you’ve worked with, especially for B2B brands, and case studies.
Reduce Friction in the Experience
Cart, checkout, and form abandonment are barriers to the purchasing process that may cause customers to drop out of the sales funnel, even after all the research they put into the process. You’ve put work in, too, so you don’t want to lose conversions because of unnecessary friction.
There are several reasons someone may abandon a cart, including:
- Extra fees and unexpected costs, like high shipping costs
- No guest checkout option
- A long or complex checkout process
- An unclear returns policy
- A lack of different payment options
- No trust signals to make the customer feel safe with card details
In some cases, these issues apply to forms and lead customers to abandon them. Customer may also abandon forms if they fields aren’t customized or they run into formatting issues that are frustrating or cumbersome.
It’s important to go through the checkout and forms processes to see if there are any issues and correct them.
Make It Personal
Personalized buying experiences help customers feel valued and understand, which in turn makes them trust more in your brand and show more loyalty.
Targeting customers across every stage of the sales funnel and providing personalized experiences – bolstered by data and brand strategy – provide an immersive and valuable experience that will keep customers coming back for more.