If your marketing efforts seem stale and unproductive, it might be time to take a look at your marketing funnel--if you have one. If not, it’s likely a good time to implement this valuable asset for bringing in new leads.
What is a marketing funnel?
Think of your common kitchen funnel. It starts out big at the top and gets smaller as it guides liquids, grains and other matter through the bottom. A marketing funnel is much like this, capturing a bunch of interested prospects and further qualifying them through increasingly “narrow” stages.
It’s designed to move prospective clients in the open market into a branded funnel that pushes them into your company’s client pipeline. This funnel should be designed to target leads that are best matched with your company, aligning with your “target audience.”
With a series of strategic filters, your marketing funnel can automate the difficult task of pre-qualifying leads by the time they reach your inbox. This, of course, saves your company the time and money it would take to sort through a sea of unqualified leads. That’s why it’s okay if not everyone moves through your funnel--if anything, it’s actually preferable. That means your funnel is working.
For event professionals, there are two types of funnels that are most effective for earning new business: the Vendor Funnel and the Digital Funnel. Let’s dig into each of those concepts:
The Vendor Funnel
Vendor Funnels typically deliver the most qualified leads, as they come from direct referrals from other vendors in the industry. The idea is to build strategic partnerships in the industry where you can offer value to creative partners in exchange for referrals. This is a powerful strategy, but requires some groundwork before you can reap the benefits.
You need to start by looking for “line leaders”--the vendors who are usually booked first in the time line. Venues are the most common first choice, as the event space plays such a big role in subsequent decisions. Close behind venues are the event planners, as they’re often booked early on in the process.
You’ll find that venues often host open houses to invite booked and prospective clients, along with vendors that they work closely with. Develop an effective strategy to deploy at these events that will draw in qualified leads and move them right into your pipeline.
Don’t be afraid to get creative--today’s client is searching for an experience, so being unique can set you apart from competitors. Offer something of value to them in exchange for their time, but I recommend avoiding discounts or deals as a lead magnet. With most events and especially with weddings, pricing tends to be secondary. Using a discount to generate new business will only attract the penny-pinching clients who are more interested in saving a few bucks than receiving a top-notch experience.
Another way to earn more vendor referrals is simply to show up and do a great job at your work. If you’re on-site for an event and you finish up early, take the chance to offer a helping hand to other vendors. After all, we only give out referrals for vendors that we want to continue working with, right? Make yourself an asset and ask yourself what you can do for others to improve their experience.
The Digital Funnel
Your Digital Funnel comes in to play with your online marketing strategies in an effort to bring in new business through social media, email marketing, media relations, and other digital tactics. Social media advertising is one of the most popular options for this route, as it’s easier than ever before to create an ad that targets newly engaged couples with a call to action.
However, just because it’s easy does not mean that it’s inherently strategic. Digital ads can be extremely effective, but they should work for you. An ad’s design and copy should speak to your ideal client and nobody else--otherwise, you’re setting yourself up for that overwhelming sea of unqualified leads. If, for example, you’re targeting the luxury wedding market, use imagery and text that evoke a glamorous, elaborate image that will draw in high-paying clients while subtly showing budget-minded couples you’re not a fit for their needs.
The same goes for email marketing and other online outreach tactics. However, keep in mind that these digital strategies are only the first step. A great ad or a compelling email will only get prospects interested, but they likely aren’t ready to book just yet. Instead, that first lead magnet needs to guide prospects to a landing page that provides them with more information, which will then lead them either to a new stage in your funnel (like a downloadable, blog post or other content marketing piece) or directly into your pipeline as a new inquiry.
A note about funnels
Marketing funnels should be a highly focused process, with each step homing in on specific content with a single call to action that will lead potential clients to the next step. That’s why digital funnels perform better with landing pages as opposed to directing leads to a website’s home page. A website typically has far too much information, along with many options for your prospect’s next step. Don’t let them make that decision; instead, use your marketing funnel to guide them into the next stage where you want them to be.
If you want them to see your favorite blog post, use an ad to draw them there--then, use that blog post to provide them with another call to action that brings them to your portfolio. From your portfolio, highlight the big pieces you want to show off, and direct them to your contact page. Done deal. If they land on your home page without direction, they are far more likely to click away.
So, what’s next?
No matter which funnel you find to be most successful for your company, every lead will end up at the same place: an inquiry that requires a response, entering into the sales workflow—but that’s another topic entirely. However, just because your sales pipeline is seeing a lot of action doesn’t mean your work is done on your marketing funnel.
As with any new strategy or campaign, it’s essential to regularly assess the performance of your marketing funnel to ensure it’s working at peak effectiveness. It will require some historical data to determine an effective benchmark, so keep working at it and finding new ways to increase those conversion rates.
By being disciplined in your marketing strategy, you’ll eventually find the perfect balance for your business with a fully optimized funnel that delivers an immense amount of leads in your pipeline.
Included on the latest Special Events “Young Event Pros to Watch,” Jake Anderson is the founder and host of EventureMind TV, a channel dedicated to providing event professionals with educational resources to develop their strategic role within a business. Anderson is also the principal of FêteTech, a business solutions company dedicated to advancing the digital world for the special events industry. He maintains a role as founding partner and strategic manager of his first company, Lighting Professors, a large-scale event lighting provider based in central Virginia.