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What a Marketing Funnel Is and How to Build One for Digital Health

marketing funnel for digital health
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marketing funnel for digital health

Let’s talk about marketing funnels and how to build one for a digital health organization. Something that we’ve noticed on many digital health websites is that they lack a proper funnel—if they have one at all. People seem to have all sorts of different definitions for marketing funnels and throw around the word without fully understanding what it means.

Conversations around the marketing funnel can sometimes be convoluted. So, our goal today is not to make it more confusing or complicated, but rather, to make it simple and help you fully grasp what a marketing funnel is. We want you to know what the key components are, how you can build one on your own digital channels, and how you can funnel people into your website—ultimately generating more quality leads.

What Is a Marketing Funnel?

We need to get on the same page about this before we really dive in.

A marketing funnel is basically your customer’s journey. You just have to imagine it. It really acts like its name: a regular old funnel. At the very top of the funnel is going to be your awareness stage, where customers are just figuring out who you are. What you’re going to do from there is guide customers down the funnel using different pieces of content and various offers.

Next, the middle of the funnel is going to be your consideration stage. This is where your potential customer is probably going to be looking at a few different options—other businesses and their products, even direct competitors—and they’re going to have to decide which one they will go with in the end. So, you’re going to let them know the benefits of your products.

Then, the very bottom of the funnel is known as the decision stage, and that’s where your customer essentially makes their final choice (and hopefully is buying YOUR product).

Your Customer’s Journey

It will be beneficial for you to further examine each of these funnel stages.

Awareness Phase, or Top of the Funnel (ToFu)

At the top of the funnel, prospects may not even know they have a problem. They may be feeling some sort of pain and thinking, “What can I do to fix this pain?” This paint point is also known as a trigger. The problem may not even be well-defined yet, though. As they move through that top of the funnel stage—again, that’s the awareness stage—they become more and more aware of what the problem is, realizing, “Oh, I do have a problem. Oh, there are solutions out there that fix the problem.”

And that’s when they’re starting to move into the consideration phase.

Consideration Phase, or Middle of the Funnel (MoFu)

The goal from here is to work to eventually move the prospect to the bottom of the funnel. Regardless of whether you are a B2B digital health company and selling to hospitals or practices, or if you’re B2C and you’re selling to customers, you’re selling to people—and those people are researching their problem.

And they’re researching the solution before they even get to you—before they get to any sort of sales conversation with you or with any of your competitors. That’s why it’s really important that you are the organization that’s guiding them through the whole buyer’s journey and giving them the answers they need.

This means you have to put content out in a ton of different places. You have to put content in different distribution channels. You have to rank on Google; you have to put it on social media; you have to do paid ads. We’ll get into all of that, but basically, you want to do a lot of different things so that you are the person who’s in front of them, grabbing their attention, and then helping them move to the place where they’re ready to make a decision.

Decision Stage, or Bottom of the Funnel (BoFu)

This one is where you will want to actually let yourself get sales-y. You have held off from being pushy in the earlier stages of the marketing funnel because you were looking simply to provide people with helpful resources, build trust, and establish yourself as an authority in the space who genuinely wants to help and be informative.

BoFu is where you can name-drop and get customers to convert and actually speak to a representative who can go through the purchase process with them. At this point, they pretty much know what they want.

What Your Marketing Funnel Is NOT

To fully absorb what a good marketing funnel IS, it’s just as valuable to know what it is NOT.

A Marketing Funnel Is Not Meant to Be Linear

One thing that’s for sure, a marketing funnel is not linear. As mentioned, it’s a customer journey—and a journey is not a straight line. You might veer off to the right, then to the left. Up, down a little—it can be a bit all over the place at times. But that’s part of what makes it interesting. Don’t get intimidated if you’re feeling this way while developing your marketing funnel, as this is totally natural.

To be more visual, picture this: if you put something in a funnel, it’s going to come out at the bottom—unless it’s too big and it gets stuck. In this case, there are times where someone can be moving toward the consideration phase, and then, all of a sudden, it’s not as urgent for them anymore, and they move back to awareness. Or sometimes, they’re close to that decision, and then something else comes up.

It’s your funnel’s job to guide them in the right direction. So, keep at it.

You Should Not Be Using a Cookie-Cutter Approach

Another thing people struggle with when creating a marketing funnel is that they think it should be a one-size-fits-all approach. They might think that they can have one generic funnel that works for a lot of different people and will move them all to that final decision. The issue with this mindset is that your customers are all unique.

And while you can’t have a funnel for every single customer that you serve, you can—and absolutely should—segment your customers. Create funnels by persona and move them along with content that’s more personalized to them and their needs, demographics, challenges, and pain points. This approach will optimize your marketing efforts.

Don’t Get Ahead of Yourself—Respect the Stages

In addition, people sometimes think, “Okay, well, in a funnel, I have a paid ad. I run a paid ad to a landing page. And then, that landing page is where I get my leads from.” However, you’re really going to struggle if your entire website is not converting leads or funnel-shaped. It’s very important to have campaigns for every single stage of the funnel—especially pay-per-click (PPC). For instance, you can’t just put out a bottom of the funnel offer and expect a cold lead to convert with it.

Your customers are real people with real feelings, so you want to be sensitive to what they will think and how they will react. A lot of marketing is based on emotions. You have to warm customers up with top of the funnel offers and let them know what you can do for them, sending them down your funnel along the way. Your PPC efforts are likely not going to work if you don’t have a funnel.

Jumping in blind with the idea that it’s all about the purchase will not increase your odds of getting people where you want them to go, or to do what you’re hoping they’ll do. This is the equivalent of asking your prospects to marry you on the first date.

Of course, your ultimate goal is to get customers to make the purchase. It’s really tempting to run ads that are all about the sale, getting that person to buy, getting them on the phone with your sales rep, or getting them to a demo, but if you don’t have the earlier stage offers or funnel conversion points, you’re probably going to run into roadblocks.

Now we’re getting into why you need a marketing funnel in the first place, which brings us to our next point.

Why You Need a Marketing Funnel

It’s probably clear on our thoughts by this point, but in case you missed it, you really need a marketing funnel. It’s non-negotiable. Without a marketing funnel, it’s essentially a miracle if you get sales. Some organizations get some early successes and early sales and then get dangerously focused on that and forget that they very much need those other stages of the funnel.

When you’re focused on just a tiny number of people who are at the buying stage of the journey from the start, not only are you missing tons of other people who may need you at some point, but your lead generation and sales processes aren’t going to be scalable because you’re not going to have enough leads to feed your salespeople. And we all know the salespeople want more and more leads.

Not to mention, a funnel makes it simpler for your leads.

Building a proper marketing funnel is like taking them by the hand, guiding them to get the answers they need, and presenting a solution at the bottom. They know exactly which actions they need to take and where they’re supposed to go if your funnel is set up correctly on your ads and landing pages. Your leads know the exact buttons they’re supposed to click.

From there, whether it’s through email nurture or retargeting on your ad campaigns, you’re giving them clear-cut next steps. You’re feeding them the information they need so they don’t have to go out and look for it. Keep this in mind always: people prefer convenience.

How to Create Your Digital Health Marketing Funnel

Now that we understand what a funnel is, what it isn’t, and why we need one, we need to know how we are going to create that powerful marketing funnel—especially for the digital health marketing niche.

Buyer Personas: Getting to Know Your Customers

The most critical part of building your marketing funnel is knowing who your buyers are. You have to understand your customers. It’s really easy to just think you can launch a piece of content out there into the abyss of the internet and choose any place to throw an ad campaign up. However, if you don’t get to know your customers, you don’t know if you’re really speaking to or reaching them, or if you’re actually helping to solve their problems.

Without buyer personas, you won’t have a clear picture of what the different steps in the buying journey are for your customers. This has to be the foundation of your funnel and full health care marketing strategy. Determine which triggers work for your personas. Imagine what questions, realistically, your audience is asking and what your personas are likely to be searching for.

Creating the Right Content, at the Right Time—Every Time

Once you have defined your triggers, you need to plan content for each stage that aligns with those triggers. Remember, you are only trying to immediately sell your product or service at the bottom of the funnel. Your content should give customers something of value, build trust with them, and help them become aware that there’s a solution to their problem. This offer can be some sort of assessment, quiz, or anything else that is useful to them.

Once you have figured out the piece of content that your buyer needs to answer their question, you want to create a conversion point and to figure out at least one offer or one piece of content at each stage of the funnel. You will eventually create a conversion point around that piece of content. Make sure you’re creating a high-value content offer, then design a campaign around it that will be an integral part of your funnel.

In order to build out the campaign you need to drive people to that content offer, you will need to decide which of your channels is the best place to reach that buyer persona. The right channel could be Facebook ads, Google Ads, or even email. No matter which channels you’re using, you will drive people to your content offer strategically through those avenues. Once they’ve converted on that content offer, you will nurture them some more. The key is to never stop nurturing—that’s the secret to a successful marketing funnel.

The goal of the nurture is to get them to the next stage of the funnel and convert on another offer. Finally, you get them through to the bottom of the funnel, and that is where the sale happens—the fruit of your labors! The effort is worth it. It’s not quick and dirty, but with patience and some elbow grease, it’s effective.

Don’t Forget Forms: Making a Trade With Your Prospects

You need to come up with a way to capture your leads’ email addresses at each conversion point. You can utilize this contact information to further market to that person, which makes all of your marketing efforts worth it. Any easy way to do this is with gated content. Gating is when you set up a form and landing page where you ask a visitor to provide a small amount of information, such as their name and email, in exchange for a downloadable content offer.

You should only ask for a very small amount of information—asking for too much upfront could scare them off. They want to get answers to their questions and fill their needs quickly, so don’t waste their time or ask for anything excessive. Start with just their first name, last name, and email address—and maybe their phone number if calling leads in the consideration stage is important to your sales process.

Map out what types of information you think you would like or need in stages closer to the bottom of the funnel. Once you have offered value in different stages, it’s safer to ask them for more in return. For instance, in the middle of the marketing funnel, you can try to get a company name and organization type—are they a medical practice? An independent delivery network? A physical therapist? This information can help you further segment your lists and audiences and create tailored content that meets them where they are in their specific buyer’s journey.

At this point, it’s time to discuss exactly how to use your digital health marketing funnel.

How to Use Your Digital Health Marketing Funnel

We’ve touched on this throughout this article, but stay tuned to learn more about distribution channels and how to utilize them effectively.

They Say Content Is King—But Only if Your Blogs Are Optimized

Sprinkling just the right amount of SEO into your blog content and web pages is crucial. Don’t underestimate the value of search engine optimized articles—they are vital in helping you match search intent.

If you’re matching search intent, you can expect to be getting qualified leads, and those qualified leads will hopefully follow the call-to-action. The CTA that you put at the end of each and every blog post will help move your buyer personas down the marketing funnel.

Search engine optimized content is truly an asset in the long term. It takes some time and resources to get optimized posts going, but once you have them set up, you will continue to rank highly (although, you will want to keep an eye on Google’s algorithm changes, as they can affect your rankings). Get your keywords from research and analytics through a simple yet handy tool like Google Search Console.

More on PPC

Your inbound marketing content really is a business asset because it keeps driving traffic to your site and generating leads and conversions for you over time. When it comes to outbound marketing, you should also optimize your PPC efforts.

To do PPC well, you need to have your funnel set up, be aware of your buyer personas and their needs, and have the correct offers ready to go. To optimize your PPC strategy, you can create your retargeting audiences and start retargeting your leads down the funnel. At Uhuru, we think it’s quite exciting and cool to watch this process unfold!

Getting Social

Other channels have more organic opportunities, such as social media. Social channels are great for building your audience and getting a following around you. Posting on these platforms and engaging with people there will help you get your name out to potential customers.

Since you’re in the health care space, think about whether you’re selling to other health care organizations, patients, or consumers. Where you put your content will vary depending on your audience.

Email Marketing: Slide Into Their Inbox

And then, of course, we have email. Email is typically a further-down-the-funnel marketing effort because you need to acquire a lead’s email address before sending them anything. But if you have new content or new offers that you’re putting out, you definitely want to take advantage of email campaign creation.

Remember to nurture the people you email, too—don’t expect to keep them forever just because you have a way to contact them now. Revisiting the dating analogy, it’s a no-no to ask to bring someone home to your parents right away. However, if you really liked them after that first date and you think there’s a relationship there, don’t ignore them. Don’t ghost them—try to keep your prospects engaged and keep them coming back for more. Build a relationship with them. At the same time, don’t bombard them with emails either. Find a balance.

Next Steps to Becoming a Big Player in the World of Health Care Marketing

Once again, not every lead is ready to buy. Just because they signed up for your content offer or viewed your ad doesn’t mean they’re ready for the final stage. Don’t get cocky and push your luck. Be patient, and keep to your strategy.

Also, don’t “set it and forget it.” This applies to virtually every marketing technique we’ve talked about here—including email, PPC, and blogs. You need to learn from data and make tweaks to your funnels constantly in order to improve each conversion point.

Take PPC, for example—you can’t just deploy a campaign and then hope that it performs its best. Instead, you should check the data constantly and pivot where necessary. Test what works, drop or change what doesn’t, and make continuous improvements. You need to see who your campaign is actually reaching and make sure you’re reaching the people you want to reach. Always keep your eyes peeled and be ready to switch gears. You will get better all the time, just keep on going! Play around with your strategy—experiment. Have fun.

The marketing funnel is a journey for both you and your personas. It will get easier as time goes on and you really get the hang of it. Stay with it!

When you’re ready to really put your digital marketing skills to the test, take advantage of the opportunities that voice search offers. Get The Ultimate Health Care Guide to Voice Search and Accessibility to see where digital marketing is headed and get ahead of the trend!

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