The cash flow of most event industry professionals has come to a standstill because of COVID-19. Calendars are blank for the next several months, bills are mounting, and stress levels are rising. With every elongation of the “safer at homes” order, you feel a worrisome pain in the pit of your stomach. You might be asking yourself, “How long is this all going to last and will my business be able to survive?”
Yes, there is a lot of instability right now, but there are still proven systems and tools you can use to support your business now and into the future. Building a marketing funnel will help you develop a strong foundation for your business, make genuine connections with your customers, and generate future revenue on demand.
What is a Marketing Funnel?
A marketing funnel is a framework businesses use to turn strangers into customers. It helps you attract, convert and close more customers. Without a marketing funnel, you would be rushing into the sale too quickly and possibly costing yourself money.
To help illustrate the concept, imagine this situation: You go into a car dealership to look at your dream car. Immediately after you enter the dealership, a salesperson asks you if you’ll be needing financing or paying cash. You haven’t even test-driven the car, let alone asked any questions, sat in it, or found it on the dealership floor. This salesperson just keeps asking you for your payment information. Of course, you’ll end up leaving the dealership without any intention ever to return, and you immediately start looking for a new dealership to buy your dream car.
Getting and closing a sale is a multi-step process in which you have to establish “know, like and trust” before someone will buy from you. That is what a marketing funnel is for.
The Three Parts of a Marketing Funnel
- At the top of your funnel, you attract your customers. The top of your marketing funnel is all about increasing the visibility of your business and making your ideal client avatar aware of the fact that your business exists. People at the top of your funnel are not quite ready to buy from you—they are just getting to know you.
- In the middle of the funnel, you convert acquaintances to interested and engaged connections. This is where email list building really shines. Your job in the middle of the funnel is to provide enough value that your website visitors are willing to give you their email address. This turns them from a cold audience to a warm lead and you can now start nurturing that relationship.
- The bottom of the funnel is where you close the sale. Your job at the bottom of the funnel is to present your services in a compelling way that inspires those on your email list to take action. Your leads should feel like your services are a solution to their problem and that it’s a no brainer to book their event with you.
After you close the sale, you can use email list building to sell add-on services, sell other events to past customers.
Right now, you should be focused on building out the top and middle of your marketing funnels. Focus on the changing needs of your current and prospective customers and produce content on social media and via email that is solution-oriented.
For example, you could create a “Wedding Planning while Quarantined” social media challenge to encourage couples with postponed weddings to accomplish the top five tasks to make sure everything is ready for their new date. You could include things like sending out date changes, reaching out to vendors, and updating their decor ideas to match a new season. Promote the challenge via social media ads and ask for email addresses to sign up.
Tools to Build Your Marketing Funnel
There are specific strategies that work in each part of the marketing funnel.
To attract strangers to your business at the top of your marketing funnel, you should create and promote content that identifies their pain points and helps them solve them. You can package that content as a PDF guide, quiz or video series. Promote your content via social media ads. You could also reach out to your network to write guest blog articles or participate in someone else’s podcast. Those are great ways to reach a new audience and demonstrate your value.
If you choose to create a simple two-page PDF guide, you could call it “The First 5 Things to Do When COVID-19 Postpones Your Wedding” and spend about $5-plus per day on Facebook ads to spread the word about it. You could also include a link on your website and in your email signature to download the guide. The goal is to capture the email addresses of qualified leads and add them automatically to your email list.
Once you’ve attracted people to your business, it is time to build relationships in the middle of your marketing funnel. Write blog posts, record podcasts, or create videos that continue to add value to the lives of your customers. A great blog post title could be “How to Celebrate Your Would-Be Wedding Date During Quarantine.” Make sure to create content on a regular basis and share it to your email list weekly.
While now is not the time to be focused on selling at the bottom of your marketing funnel, when the time is right you can use email marketing to send out promotional emails and specials.
Why You Need an Email List (Especially Right Now)
Email marketing is the No. 1 tool to use to move your audience through your marketing funnel. An email list provides you a captive audience that is eager to learn more about your products and services. You have people ready and willing to listen to you when you host a webinar, create a video, or write a blog. Now is the perfect time to start building your email list because you can offer specific solutions to how to navigate through the changes caused by the pandemic.
Once you have built relationships using timely advice and support, your new email list subscribers will see value in what you offer and will be ready to buy from you. An email list allows you to gut-check new ideas, pre-sell, and launch new products and services to an audience who is already familiar with you and feels an affinity for who you are and what you offer.
Once you turn strangers into first-time customers, it is time to turn them into second-time customers and advocates. By continuing to build relationships via email post-sale, you will be able to get a surge of cash from existing customers by matching them with other products or services that you offer that meet their needs and encouraging them to spread the word to their friends.
An email list has higher conversion rates than social media and search combined. It is a powerful and growing asset that generates revenue on demand.
Use the marketing funnel to build a system that keeps clients flowing into your business and provides the first-hand connection you need to pivot when circumstances change. After we are allowed to get back to the business of helping our clients celebrate their key milestones, you will be in the perfect position to produce profits based on the relationships you have attracted and developed.
Aleya Harris, an award-winning marketer and former chef and catering company owner, is the owner of Flourish Marketing, an agency that provides marketing education, strategy and tools to help wedding, catering, and event professionals get and keep a consistent stream of clients. She is the current marketing committee chair for NACE and a top speaker at conferences and events including The Special Event and Catersource.