What is a sales funnel - and how do you optimize it?
Sep 20, 2019
Like a city cannot work efficiently without great infrastructure, neither can your business grow without systems that make it easy to become and stay a member of your community.
The difference between poor and thriving cities comes down to very few factors. To thrive financially and become popular, a city needs to provide safety, a warm atmosphere, opportunities to feel involved and prosper - and a great infrastructure.
Imagine if a city did not appear on Google maps and nobody knew where it is. Imagine if, when trying to arrive at the city, you went sent in all kinds of directions, there was nobody to ask for directions in a language you could understand or if there were no roads arriving at your destination.
A sales funnel is basically the path visitors take on the way to buying your product or service. Your job as a marketer is to make it easy for them to understand what your city is offering, explain who lives there so they can understand if they would like to belong to the community and create easy access to find, enter and live inside the community.
Your job is also to make sure nobody who won’t benefit from being part of it or who really desires something else than the rest of the community realise that and choose a different path and a different community with a better match.
Understanding what is a sales funnel is crucial to your business success. You can have people build a sales funnel for you, but you need a deep understanding of how different types of work, and know how to monitor performance and optimise sales funnels to maximise profit.
Let me be clear here:
There is no ONE way to do this!
And what works today, may not work equally well tomorrow. This is exactly why you need to understand the basic principles and learn to be able to evaluate what works for you and your target audience.
Using a content marketing strategy, you can influence how people move through the funnel and whether they eventually convert. Obviously, you need to know exactly who you’d like to move further into the funnel. The images, the words or copy you use and the value you are offering will determine who will move along to the next step and who won’t.
There are two important factors that you can’t overlook:
- People entering your funnel may come from different starting points, experience different challenges, have different concerns, fears and doubts - even if they really need the same solution.
- People experience different levels of urgency and are in different stages of their purchasing process. According to Google people will go through 21-14 touchpoints before they make their decision.
This means RELEVANCY becomes an important focus for you. Marketers tend to focus a lot on ATTRACTING and CONVERTING, but STAYING RELEVANT and STAYING VISIBLE is actually of huge importance to a well-converting sales funnel.
A common framework to understand customers’ mindset is the AIDA model in which the decision-making process is divided into 4 sales stages:
Attention (goal: capture lead from traffic)
- Potential customers’ attention is caught, whether is by a post or an ad or they searched for it
- Sometimes people buy immediately meaning they have already done research and know that you’re offering something desirable and at a reasonable price.
- If you are selling ie. self-help services, people may recognise the pain and problems you are describing and they are looking for a trustful source to provide a solution. They may have done no research at all. But they probably also don’t trust you yet to be that source if they never heard about you before.
- Your job at this stage is to create a system to capture the information (email opt-in, website visitor, video viewer etc.) about who stopped the scroll and paid attention to the bait you laid out.
Interest (goal: educate to be able to decide)
- This is the stage where they’re doing research, comparison shopping, and thinking over their options. Needless to say, you have to STAY in front of them offering great value to build trust.
- Help and educate them with incredible, none-salesy content that positions you as an expert on the topic without stuffing anything down anyone's throat.
- This content can be free content or only require some of their time, but it can also be content that require a small micro-commitment from the customer's side. The idea is you send a signal your content is worth something while at the same time repelling people not willing to invest, or simply not ready to commit to THEIR part to get the value (yet). Be aware peoples doubts are quite often related to their own perceived (lack of) ability to meet their goals.
- Your job at this stage is to educate them about the opportunity for transformation and turn captured leads into educated prospects.
Decision (goal: covert to customer)
- Now the customer is ready to buy, is time to present your best offer, weather is free shipping, a discount code, or a bonus product.
- Include triggers like urgency or scarcity to help them make a decision. Remember, most of their doubts have nothing to do with you. They need your help to understand if they themselves are ready to commit to the transformation you are offering.
- How much and what kind of support they need to be able to make that commitment depends completely on the service or product you are selling. The bigger transformation you can offer, the higher the price, and also the need for a real conversation is higher before investing. If they are ready to invest time in a conversation, they ARE interested. They just need help to FEEL ready.
- And they might have just one or two questions your sales copy is not answering. Getting into real conversations at this point will help YOU learn which ‘objections’ your copy needs to handle.
- Your job at this stage is to SELL which implies overcoming objections and facilitate a decision-making process.
Action (goal: take customer relationship to next level)
- Just because they purchased something from you, does not mean they will stay or won’t make use of your money-back guarantee. It does not mean you can’t sell them anymore either or that they don’t have any more unfulfilled needs. So don’t take your eyes off them at this point. Your real success is in happy customers who got results from working with you. There is no such thing as happy conversions!
- Express gratitude for the purchase, invite your customer to reach out with feedback and make yourself available for support if needed.
- The onboarding of new customer is significantly underrated in most businesses. McKinsey did a survey in 2009, which showed 2/3’s of your marketing has nothing to do with you as a selling. Sales are happening because previous or current customers are speaking positively about you. So my suggestion is you think sales funnels from cold traffic to customers acting as your marketing department!
- Your job at this stage is to give a memorable customer experience (including the desired transformation) so that customers are eager to share and buy more.
Sometimes you will hear people say you are ‘losing’ people at every stage of the funnel but that’s not how I see it.
To achieve having customers promote your business for you (remember that’s how 2/3 of marketing generating sales is really happening!), you want to make sure, the RIGHT people are entering your community and business.
YOU ARE NOT LOSING PEOPLE AT EACH STAGE.
YOU ARE FILTERING TO IDENTIFY YOUR IDEAL CLIENTS TO CREATE A HARMONIOUS COMMUNITY WITH SHARED VALUES AND SHARED PURPOSE
The further you go down your funnel, the more you effort you need to put into personal engagement with the audience. Educating them takes time and resources from your side, and you don't want to waste that time on ‘wrong’ people, that is people who are not ready for the transformation you offer.
What does a sales funnel look like
All the most common sales funnels have similar components:
- Lead capture page
- Educational content
- Sales pages
- Promotional email
Educational content can be in written, audio or video format. Live streaming is great for real-time engagement - and also will have a higher reach on social media platform than any other content.
You can even edit the live stream directly on Facebook, add title and descriptions, keywords and even captions (subtitles) to your video. And you can turn the post into a paid ad as well and target the people who watched the video offering more educational content.
Example 1: The low-tier funnel
This funnel Contains 3 core content pieces:
- FREE GIFT (also called freebie, giveaway or lead magnet) that solves some immediate problem that will make them ready to educate them further and that brings instant value to your ideal client. Ideally, not interesting to people outside your ideal audience. You deliver the free gift via email.
- Thank you for downloading page = SALES PAGE FOR MICRO-COMMITMENT PRODUCT (<50 $). The product should be a logical next step after the freebie they received. The purpose of this small product is dual: committing them to go one small step further to solve their problem (and develop a relationship with you) and to finance the promotion of the free gift.
- Thank you for purchasing = SALES PAGE FOR MINI-COMMITMENT PRODUCT (<100 $). Still a low-cost product but with a lot more value. The mental step is not too big from the first smaller product - and you are only offering this product to this already warm audience. They already showed they like you and how you teach so you can move them even further in terms of becoming ready to fully commit to a bigger transformation.
The low-tier funnel can be very interesting if your promotion budget is limited or if you can easily seal out a part of a bigger product and let your audience have some immediate results before making a bigger commitment.
Example 2: The webinar funnel
A webinar is a virtual video presentation or let’s say a meeting with a group of people all watching the same content at the same time (if you do your webinar live - which you should until you know its performing as intended).
This funnel provides a chance for your customers to get a first impression of you and of how you teach. Its an engaging visual way for you and your potential customers to have a conversation on (for them) important topics. The content will be addressing the subjects that are holding them back from committing to pursuing the results you are promising them. Again, you are educating them. Giving them the knowledge they need to be able to decide. Then after teaching and educating, you transition into making your offer.
When you do your webinars live, they get the chance to ask a question and you can answer them directly. But the really big value for YOU is that you get to learn what their questions are and you can work that into your presentation and your sales copy to improve your conversion rates. This is why I recommend doing your webinars live until your funnel performs well.
The components of a webinar funnel are:
- An OPT-IN page to register for the webinar
- An EMAIL sequence (and maybe retargeting ads) to stay in front of the registrants and make sure they show up live. You can expect about a third will actually show up live, so you need lots of registrants. If you are brand new and you only get a few, do the webinar anyway! For 2 reasons: you ALWAYS want to keep you promise, and YOU need practice!
- The PRESENTATION slide deck: have lots of slides to be able to keep your teaching interesting for 30 to 60 minutes. Also include your sales pitch.
- A SALES PAGE which can be in a shorter format since you already gave all of the information during your presentation and you really don’t want them to start considering a number of things if they already decided before hitting the YES-button. You just want to confirm they are on the right page to buy.
- An EMAIL sequence (and retargeting ads) to bring non-buying sales page visitors and webinar-viewers back to your sales page.
There are other funnels, ie. the personal call funnel which is highly relevant for high-ticket products - and for new 'brandpreneurs' looking to get their first customers.
If you are interested in diving deeper into this topic, you can consider my Sales Funnel Introduction course which will explain the funnels above in more detail.
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