Infographic by Lindsie Bergevin / CIA

What is a marketing funnel? Does it (or should it) apply to a craft business? A marketing funnel, or purchasing funnel, describes a someone’s theoretical journey from not knowing anything about your product, service, or business, to becoming a paying customer for your product or service. It’s a useful way to look at your marketing activities and how to create and measure your marketing goals. Thinking about your efforts in terms of a marketing funnel can be an effective way for craft businesses to increase awareness, sales, and customer loyalty.

You can manipulate the funnel in different ways for according to your goals, but in its simplest form it starts broadly with brand awareness, gets narrower in the middle with customer acquisition and becomes smallest at the bottom with purchase intent.

Nicole Stevenson from Dear Handmade Life and founder of Craftcation uses a marketing funnel for her business. “Our strategy is multi-pronged, which I think is essential these days. Gone are the days of building a large social media following and using that as your only marketing tool,” she says. “Perhaps because we started our business before social media existed, we’ve had a multi-faceted strategy from the start. This includes brand awareness, customer acquisition, and purchase intent marketing.”

Let’s see how the funnel might look for a handmade business.

Brand Awareness

At the top of the funnel is brand awareness. This is the start of the journey. The goal of brand awareness marketing is for potential customers to learn about your product or service. The funnel is wide here – this is where you throw out your largest net. Some people will filter down to the next section of the funnel, but not all, and that’s okay. You’re looking for your potential customers in this pool of people.

How do you create brand awareness as a handmade business? Because you’re trying to reach a large number of people, the type of marketing you do at this stage is usually educational or entertaining. This might include videos, free webinars, free tutorials, and eye-candy – content that people can like, view, and share with little investment. At this stage, you want them to get to know you and just become aware that you exist and have something to offer.

This type of brand awareness marketing worked well for Jamie Bourgeois of Bourgeois Baby. “I created a video tutorial several years back on how to sew a tutu. At the time, hand-tied tutus were all the rage and I wanted to provide a more professional looking tutu option for customers. The video remains on YouTube and has received more views than I anticipated. It’s still a lead generator to my website.”

How do you measure the success of your brand awareness marketing? The goals of your marketing at this stage are usually measured by how many people were reached, how many views your videos received, and how many impressions were served (if you are doing brand awareness advertising). Sheer numbers matter here.

Customer Acquisition

Also known as the middle of the funnel, the goal of this stage is to engage your potential customer. The people in this segment know about your business and may be considering purchasing something. After an initial purchase, your customer returns to this part of the funnel.

How could you go about customer acquisition marketing as a handmade business? Any content that you create that is designed to have a user engage in a meaningful way would fit here. That might include groups such as a Facebook group, social media, and blog posts designed to elicit responses or trial periods for a service. Newsletter sign-ups are an important tool at this point in the funnel. These customers have signed up to engage with your business.

Stevenson employs multiple tactics in the customer acquisition phase. “We do this through trying to create engaging content and relationships on social media, our newsletter, podcast, blog posts, brand and craft videos, in-person workshops, our ambassador program and good old fashioned word of mouth. Is it a lot of work keeping up with all those avenues as opposed to just having one Instagram account? Yes, but for our business, where our goal is to create community and resources for purpose-driven creatives, it’s essential.”

Platforms for this stage of the funnel include social media groups and engaging posts, but because of changes to algorithms on social media, it may be difficult to achieve a decent level of engagement. Your most important platform may be your newsletter. Your website will also be important to acquire newsletter signups, trials, and to host engaging content.

Bourgeois finds that her Facebook group is an effective way to engage her target audience. “Recently I opened a Facebook group for customers, calling it Bourgeois Baby Elite, offering special sales, products, and insider info. This was entirely experimental, and frankly I didn’t think it was going to work all that well. I have pushed the group via email newsletters and boosted posts to our Facebook page followers. The group has a little over 100 members, but they have proven themselves to be a highly dedicated group of customers. To incentivize people to join and remain engaged I have posted special sales as well as having the group members choose fabrics for our baby bibs. It has worked exceedingly well.”

How do you measure success for marketing activities at this point in the funnel? You might look at the number of newsletter sign-ups, number of opens and clicks on your newsletter, number of engagements on a post and number of free trial sign-ups. Engagement matters at this stage in the funnel.

Purchase Intent

At the very bottom tip of the funnel is the purchase. The marketing activities just above that point are geared towards creating purchase intent. Everything you’ve done prior to this should lead potential customers here. Of course, there are times when customers show up at this point in the funnel, perhaps through a Google search, and are theoretically ready to purchase despite not having been in your funnel previously.

What would a craft business’s marketing activity look like for this part of the funnel? Here’s where your product or service descriptions or portfolio will be most important, along with a clear call to action. Reviews and testimonials are also helpful to give customers confidence in purchasing from you as is ease of use of your shopping cart. This is the last place a customer will make a consideration before purchase.

Stephanie Capps Dyke of Creative + Mindful finds that providing as much information as possible is important. “In pursuing opportunities, it’s been important to maintain a portfolio of work. Artists and small businesses are leery of working with a service provider – particularly for work like I do, which tends to be intangible (time management courses) or somewhat mysterious (instructional consulting) – unless they can touch the goods, so to speak. Testimonials can be helpful here, too.”

Your most important platform at this part of the funnel is your website, or shop. This is also where any SEO work and search engine marketing might fall. When people perform a targeted search for a specific product, they are most likely towards the bottom of the funnel and ready to purchase soon.

You will measure success for marketing activities at this point in the funnel by purchases or transactions. You may also want to measure by items that are put into carts. Sending targeted emails to customers can increase sales at this point in the funnel. Abandoned cart emails, notifications when sold out items have been restocked, and special coupons for loyal and lapsed customers are all effective tactics worth trying.

Rather than scattered or ad hoc marketing efforts that may not work in concert towards your end goals, why not think about your marketing in a more structured way. A marketing funnel helps you to think strategically about how you introduce potential customers to your business and guide them through the process of getting to know you and eventually make a purchase (or repeat purchase). It’s a simple, but powerful concept that works for businesses of all sizes.

How to Put the Marketing Funnel to Work for Your Creative Business

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