Over the last two decades, the way customers interact with businesses has changed. Today, customers often search for business and service providers online, and that means that the way small businesses reach out to customers has changed, too.

While online marketing options like blogs and social media have made it easier and more cost-effective to reach a larger audience, the rise of internet-related marketing has also created more "noise" for small businesses to cut through as they try to reach their intended audiences.[1]

The sales funnel has always been part of the buying process, but in today's world, the processes have changed. To keep cash flowing into your business, it's important to understand the four different stages of the sales funnel — and know how to reach customers at each stage.[2]

Stage 1: Awareness

In the awareness stage, you're trying to reach customers and turn them into visitors to your site. You can do this by creating blogs or social media posts about a certain problem your potential customers might be trying to solve. As they do online searches, the keywords you've used in your posts will help them discover your business.

As you create your social media strategy, be sure to choose social media platforms that your potential customers would use. You don't have to use them all, but you do want to make sure you're using the ones most relevant to your customer base.[3]

Stage 2: Interest

At the second stage, you've gotten their attention and now want to turn them into sales leads. One way to do this is to offer something in exchange for their email information. This can be a case study that solves a problem they might be having, a webinar or even a coupon for signing up.

Stage 3: Action

There's a good reason for gathering your customers' email addresses: It allows you to market to them with additional offers, and to target these leads with promotions that align with what brought them to your business in the first place. Providing special discounts and offers can help bring them back.

Stage 4: Purchase

It used to be that the purchasing stage was seen as the end of the process. But good customer service and continuing to reach out to customers after they have made purchases can help keep them engaged and turn them into long-term or repeat customers. That sends them back to the first stage of the buying funnel, and gives you more opportunities to reach them with your services or products.

As you create your funnel, it’s important to work with your bank to ensure that you are making the most of your cash flow as customers reach the purchase stage. One way to do that is to develop a strong banking relationship that efficiently cover all your card and payment processing needs. Making it easy for customers to complete transactions is a way to keep them satisfied — and to keep them coming back.