In-depth sales funnel: A closer look at the Audience stage

From time to time I break out the blogging microscope and take a really close look at some aspect of the sales funnel. I this post, I’m talking about the Audience stage of the sales funnel.

WHAT IS THE AUDIENCE STAGE?
This is the first stage in your sales funnel. It contains a general group of people who could be listening to you through various channels. Think of it as the people in your target market who have, in some loose way, encountered you. For example, it might include your Twitter followers or people who search for your keywords on Google or people who have stumbled across a web article.

If you think of the world’s 6.5 billion+ people as being “the masses” who are poised at your sales funnel’s opening then your Audience is the group of people who are starting to filter into your sales funnel as your target market.

The Audience stage comes before the Lead stage and it’s generally the first stage I define when I work with clients on their sales funnels.

WHO IS IN IT AND WHAT ARE THEY THINKING ABOUT?
The contacts at the Audience stage are focused on themselves and are starting to become aware of their problem or need. (Compared to those who are later in the sales funnel who are starting to focus on their problem or need rather than on themselves).

Your Audience contacts may not be aware that a solution exists, or that a solution can help them, or that their problem is big enough to require a solution. They’re just living their life and starting to understand that something isn’t quite right or could be better than it is.

So, for contacts in this stage, engage them and their situation and bring up their problem in the light of their context. The sooner they realize that their problem or need is big and can be solved, they’ll be ready to move to the next stage of the sales funnel — the Lead stage — where they start to think about solutions.

WHAT CHANNELS SHOULD YOU USE?
There are several channels you can use and I can’t possibly provide a definitive list. And, some of the channels listed here can be used in other stages (concurrently to this stage or instead of in this stage).

  • Search and SEO-friendly tactics
  • Twitter
  • Quora
  • Press Releases
  • Web articles
  • Guest blogs
  • Newspaper advertising
  • Magazine articles
  • TV commercials
  • Blog commenting
  • Blogs

You can probably think of several more.

WHAT SHOULD YOU DO WITH YOUR AUDIENCE CONTACTS?
First, attract their attention by highlighting the problems they face. Then, walk them step-by-step through a series of smaller goals until they become aware of the acuteness of their problem and discover that there are solutions. An example of the Audience-stage “baby steps” you might walk them through include:

  1. They have a problem or need — use keyword-rich article content to get searchers to click and read the web articles.
  2. This problem or need is bad and getting worse — use the web article explain the dire situation that could result if they do not resolve their problem.
  3. Others have the same problem or need — use the signature line in your web article to drive them to your Twitter account.
  4. There are solutions out there — use your Twitter account to highlight the problem and give tips to potential solutions.
  5. One of those solutions could be you — send them to your blog or website.

You’ll need to customize the steps for your particular situation, but this is a good example of moving people through a series of steps.

WHAT SHOULDN’T YOU DO WITH THEM?
A fast way to empty your sales funnels of Audience contacts (and ultimately shut down your business from lack of sales) is to ignore this advice:

  • Don’t sell to them
  • Don’t pitch your product or service as the only solution
  • Don’t spam them with details about how great you are
  • Don’t draw attention to them as someone who has a problem
  • Don’t talk about the expense of the solution
  • Don’t talk about yourself exclusively (although it is okay to be personable when engaging them)
  • Don’t aggressively try to solve their problem today in your Audience-specific channels

WHERE DO THEY GO NEXT?
Audience contacts become Leads when they realize that their problem or need is one that can be solved, and that other people have had the same problems solved, and when they realize that their problem or need is an acute one that can be articulated.

Aaron Hoos

Aaron Hoos is a writer, strategist, and investor who builds and optimizes profitable sales funnels. He is the author of The Sales Funnel Bible and he's a real estate investor and a copywriter for real estate investors.

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