At some point in your marketing career you may have come across the term 'Sales Funnel.'
If you're anything like me when I delved into the marketing world (and for 99% of most new marketers), I had a number of questions come through my head, in particular... what the heck is a Sales Funnel?!
Simply put, a Sales Funnel is a real world-funnel.
At the top of that funnel, some water is poured in, which filters down towards one defined destination. In sales, it has a similar concept. At the top, a lot of visitors who arrive may enter your funnel. But there is one key difference, unlike the real-world funnel, not all who enter the sales funnel will come out from the other end.
What is a sales funnel?
At its core, a sales funnel is the series of steps someone has to take in order to transition into your customer. In marketing terms, it’s a customer-focused marketing model designed to help you gain qualified prospects and turn leads into a new loyal customer.
A typical sales funnel leads a prospective customer through each step of their journey, be it through social media posts, videos, landing pages, and blog posts. The end goal is the purchase: the moment a potential buyer turns into a buyer.
Why is a sales funnel important?
Understanding your sales funnel is essential for the conversion rate of prospects to customers.
Picture this for me, you build a marketing strategy, gain a decent number of clicks, but no one takes the final step to convert. How will you know what’s wrong? This is where your sales funnel management comes in. With a thorough understanding of the customer journey your prospects are taking, you’ll be able to better identify the weak points.
The sales funnel is a strong marketing tool that lets you take control of your buyers purchasing decision. Without one, you’re essentially flying blind and creating cold prospects.
The four sales funnel stages
Now that you know the low down of what a sales funnel is and why it’s important, let’s take a look at the stages in depth. There are four sales funnel stages that make up a handy acronym: AIDA.
Lets get educated on what each of these stages are...
The awareness stage is the moment at which you catch your potential customer’s attention. It might be a social media ad a tweet, a Google search, or anything else that brings you to their attention.
Essentially, your prospect is now aware of your business and what you have to offer.
At this stage of the sales funnel your potential buyer is doing research, comparing your products, watching video testimonials, and thinking over their options.
But hold the bus! This is not the moment to push your product. Instead, you ought to offer them some relevant marketing content that solves a problem for them. The goal is to establish yourself as an expert in your field and help your prospect make an informed decision.
The delicate decision phase. At this stage of the sales funnel your customer is prepared to buy. They may still be juggling options (hopefully, including you) but they’re set in their decision to spend money.
This is the moment in which you should present your best offer. This can include free shipping, a bonus product, or a discount code. Whatever the offer, make sure it’s relevant and attractive enough that your lead will want to take advantage of it.
Welcome to the bottom of the sales funnel. The action phase is where the customer acts. They purchase your product or service and become an official part of your customer pool. Woo!
However, just because you’ve gained a new customer, doesn’t mean your work is over. You want to turn your new customer into a repeat buyer and advocate for your brand.
This is the stage at which you ought to thank them for their purchase, deliver on your promises, and reach out to them for feedback. It’s all about customer retention: look after them and they’ll look after you.
How to build a sales funnel
Okay so we now have a better understanding of the sales funnel and its steps. Now what?
Let's have look further at example sales funnels that hits all the relevant points above.
Analyse audience behaviour
Knowing your audience is key when it comes to any marketing efforts. The better you know your target customer, the more effective your sales funnel. After all, you’re not marketing to just anybody. You’re aiming to pique the interest of those who are a good fit for what you’re selling.
When designing your sales funnel you need to have a good grasp of your target audience’s behaviour. You should know what platforms they frequent, what they share, how they interact. This information will help you develop customer personas that will be able to further improve your marketing efforts.
Your sales funnel is only as strong as its first stage. After all, if you can’t lure people into it, the process becomes moot.
This is the point at which you want to put content in front of your target audience. Go organic and post heaps of content across multiple platforms, focusing, of course, on those your target demographic frequents. Diversify the types of content with product demo videos, infographics, Google Ads, and other types of media. The goal here is to make your target audience aware of your brand.
Build a landing page
Your content needs to take your prospects somewhere. This is where building a landing page with a can’t-miss offer comes in. Just remember, now is not the time to push a hard sell. Instead, you should focus on capturing leads.
Your landing page must steer your visitor to the next stage of your sales funnel. Ensure it has a bold call to action that tells them explicitly what to do next. This could be signing up for a newsletter or downloading a free eBook.
Create an email campaign
Pique your target audience’s interest further with a steady, but non-intrusive email campaign. At first, you want to make your audience aware of your brand and your product or service, but not give them a hard sell.
Your campaign should introduce the concept of a sale to your lead gradually. Build their interest with relevant and educational material through an email sequence. At the end of this drip feed, hit them with an incredible offer they won’t be able to refuse.
Stay in touch
Keep your existing customers in the loop. Reward them with thanks for their purchase and perhaps a discount code for future ones. The key here is to make them feel supported, listened to, and valued.
Measure your success
Measuring the success of your sales funnel is essential for fine-tuning the process. Things like A/B testing your landing page or email campaigns are great strategies for measuring and monitoring your funnel’s progress.
When in doubt, always monitor your conversions. How many people clicked through from your posts? How many subscribed to your newsletter? How many went on to become buyers? Tracking these numbers will enable you to measure your funnel’s success and check for weak points in the process.
Finding cracks in your sales funnel
Like any marketing process, the sales funnel isn’t infallible. When you first delve into the development of your funnel you’ll likely make mistakes. The important thing is that you find any leaks in your funnel and plug them up fast.
Finding cracks in your funnel needn’t be tricky. Simply follow the numbers.
Did a lot of people click through from your social post but not a lot acted on your call of action? This indicates a problem with your landing page. Perhaps it isn’t optimised properly. Maybe your copy is turning people off. This is where hiring a professional designer and copy editor will be a boon for your business.
Have a lot of email signups but not a heap of conversions? This is an indication to look to your email campaign performance.
Phew! With all the good examples in mind it's time to balance it out with the not so groovy times for when the sales funnel has been implemented and what we can learn from it.
Your content is published, your landing page live, but you’re not getting any interest in your posts. This can indicate a failure to understand your target audience. Are you posting on the right platform? Are you posting at a time when your target audience is online? What sort of content are you posting – is it relevant to your target audience?
To fine-tune the awareness stage of your sales funnel you must look to your audience. Develop customer personas and use them. You’re going to get nowhere blindly publishing content and hoping it sticks.
At this stage, your potential customer has likely signed up for your newsletter or followed you on social media. Well done! This means they’re interested in what you have to say.
To ensure you keep their interest you ought to publish relevant, targeted content for them. Educate them on your product or service without hard selling. If you’re losing people from your sales pipeline at this stage it can indicate a problem with your content, your approach, or both.
Now is not the time to get pushy with a hard sell. Nor can you afford to phone in your content.
If you’re losing people at the desire stage it might indicate your irresistible offer isn’t as irresistible as you thought. Now’s the time to look to your competitors. What are they offering that you aren’t? How can you make your own offer more enticing than theirs?
Nail this stage and you’ll be one step closer to a sale.
You’ve done the hard yards, your content was killer and your offer a must-have. Now’s the time for action. Or is it? If you’re losing people at this stage of the game it can indicate a problem with your buyer’s journey. Perhaps your website is hard to use or your contact details are not obvious enough.
Whatever the cause, it’s something to be fixed ASAP.
Optimising your sales funnel
Optimising your sales funnel is an ongoing job. As your business grows and changes, so too will your marketing efforts. Ensuring your sales funnel continues to pull its weight is essential to the success of your business.
The following list are a number of ways to optimise your sales funnel.
1. A/B testing
A/B testing is the act of splitting your content into two versions and then testing each version on a small portion of your overall audience before choosing the most effective version to send out to everyone.
It’s common practice in email marketing and campaign development. For example, if you have an email list of 10,000 people, you might test one version of a newsletter on 5% of that audience and another version on another 5%. Whichever version performs better will than be sent to the remainder of the 10,000 subscribers.
A/B testing is a great way to trial run your content without sacrificing efficiency.
2. Using a test audience
Test audiences aren’t just for movies. They can prove incredibly helpful when it comes to optimising your sales funnel.
There are a number of sources through which to find a test audience. Just make sure the demographic you’re using to test your content is the same as the one you’re wanting to target.
Let’s talk about content
However you read it, a sales funnel runs on content. You use content at every step of the funnel, making it one of the most important aspects of the process. If you’ve spent hours upon hours developing your sales funnel strategy, only to phone in your content, you’re going to have a bad time.
But what exactly makes for effective content?
Your content, no matter the medium, should be relevant to your target audience. It’s no use waxing poetic about hair straighteners if you’re a dog grooming business. Every piece of content you develop, whether it be landing page copy or email newsletter content, should be targeted to your customer personas.
If in doubt, test your content with A/B testing. Find content that performs well and you’ll be well on your way to gaining conversions.
Good content is clear content. The last thing you want to do is confuse your audience. This is where hiring professional copywriters or designers is a good idea.
A good copywriter knows the ins and outs of writing clear, parseable content. With their expertise, your copy will be effective and well-written. Similarly, a designer knows their way around effective infographics and other media.
You don’t have to do everything yourself. If in doubt, call in a professional.
Not every piece of content has to do everything. When you’re crafting a piece of content, decide on your subject and any keywords in advance and stick to that. Don’t be tempted to cram in extra filler for the sake of it.
Consumers know when you’re spreading yourself too thin. Keep your content focused and relevant to the subject and your conversion rates will thank you.
4. A killer hook
Your hook should appear within the first few sentences of your content (if not your first). It’s the way in which you interest your audience and encourage them to read on.
When developing your hook, think about what will interest your target audience. Using a snappy statistic or a bold statement is ideal.
Beyond the conversion funnel
We’ve spoken about nurturing people through to the buying stage, but we should also touch on what happens after that. Ideally, your customers will become repeat buyers, but that doesn’t just happen – you have to guide them through another funnel and beyond.
Rewarding your existing customers goes a long way to making them repeat buyers. Whether you’re offering repeat discounts or simply engaging in remarketing campaigns, the key is to ensure your existing customers don’t feel forgotten.
The good news is because repeat customers are already interested in your product, you don’t have to go to the trouble of acquiring their interest. This essentially cuts your funnel down to three steps instead of four.
At this stage of the resale funnel, you ought to be piquing your customer’s interest. This might be with the knowledge of a new product or new information about an existing service. The key here is not to push a hard sell. Keep your marketing efforts informative and relevant but don’t push your product or service too hard.
At this stage, your return customer has made the decision to spend more money with you. Now is the time to offer them a shiny new deal to turn their head.
This step ought to be much smoother for return customers. Perhaps your checkout automatically populates their information. Maybe a discount code automatically applies itself during checkout. Either way, you want to make this step as smooth as possible so as to encourage repeat buying.
Create a killer sales funnel
Creating an effective sales funnel takes time, skill, and effort – but it’s well worth all three. With a killer sales funnel you’ll be able to guide prospective customers through the process of buying in an easy and effective manner. So what are you waiting for? Copy needs to be written, email sequences needs to be scheduled, pixels need to be installed. You'll be capturing all that is flowing through that sales funnel in no time.