Table of Contents
- What exactly is a Sales Funnel?
- Components of a sales funnel
- Tools for implementing a sales funnel online
- How Social Media fits within your sales funnel?
- Wrapping Up
One of the most common questions businesses have is,
“What’s the most effective sales/marketing technique that will get us more customers?”
Sadly, the question is impossible to answer. Simply because it assumes that there is one secret recipe that will turn a stranger who has never heard of your business into a paying customer. We wish it was that easy!
Even when you’re spending money to drive qualified traffic onto your website or landing page, it’s unlikely that those visitors are ready to buy your products/services right then and there. Rather than thinking about selling them right away, you need think about how you can put them on a path, so as to sell them whenever they are ready to purchase in the future. This is where a sales funnel comes in.
In case, you’ve ever thought about taking advantage of the almighty internet by selling product(s) or service(s) online, it is crucial that you first master what sales funnel is all about and how to create a powerful one. Unfortunately, most articles online don’t break this concept down to the level of a beginner. However, in this article, you’ll be able to learn everything you need to know about the sales funnel and how to use it to your advantage. We have broken the concept down to a micro basic level so that you can go from a complete newbie to a sales funnel master after you’re done reading this article.
What exactly is a Sales Funnel?
Simply put, a Sales Funnel is your customers’ journey from finding out about your business to taking action (making a purchase). It comprises of a typical process that your customers go through as they move from being a “suspect” to a “prospect” and finally be an actual “customer”. In essence, your sales funnel is what takes your customer through your sales process.
To understand the concept of a sales funnel, imagine a real-life funnel with a few filters installed. Each filter is at a certain gap from the other, only to allow the finest substances to pass through. At the bigger end of the funnel which is the top, a lot of substances are poured in. But as these substances move through the funnel, most of them are filtered out and only the most desired substances will reemerge out from the narrow end of the funnel.
This pretty much works the same way in the sales process. When you first launch your product, it attracts a lot of visitors. However, as they go through the sales process, not everyone who enters the sales funnel as a suspect will re-emerge as a buyer at the end of the funnel. It usually starts with a large number of people and ends with a much small number of people, those who actually take the desired action(s), which in most cases is making a purchase.
It is a concept that can take a business from virtually non-existent to a multi-million dollar company. Over the years, we’ve seen startups make millions of dollars in sales and in Crowdfunding. Of course, their success, no matter how it was shaped, is down to the power of their sales funnel. It doesn’t matter what you sell, your business needs a sales funnel to succeed online. Period.
Much of the process of creating a powerful sales funnel is influenced by buyer psychology. You must understand your ideal buyer’s psychological process and leverage it in order for sales to occur. Of course, the ability to influence your ideal buyer’s psychological process is what separates an experienced sales funnel creator to a newbie. The subsequent part of this article will focus on helping you understand how a sales funnel works. You will also learn how you can influence your ideal buyer’s psychology and become a sales funnel machine within just a few weeks.
Components of a sales funnel
You probably know by now that, sales funnel is a multi-stepped process. That’s because a lot happens between the time after a person is aware enough to enter your funnel, to the time when they take action & successfully make a purchase. Depending on what you’re trying to achieve, the specifics of one sales funnel might be different from the other ones. However, most of the steps can be summarized into 4 sections:
Step 1. Awareness
The first step of this process is creating awareness about how your product/service solves one or more problem(s) of your target market. Alternatively, how does it makes their life easier? For e.g., some people want to carry drinking water around, but don’t own a water bottle. And, for obvious reasons, it is a huge problem for them.
But, why exactly do you need to create an awareness?
Why can’t you just directly, sell?
The truth is that most prospects won’t purchase from your website at their first visit, especially if they’re only discovering your offerings today. It takes time. As a matter of fact at this stage, the visitors are not “prospects”, they are “suspects”. They haven’t heard of you before and do not know about the problem your product or service solves for them.
Your goal at this stage is to focus on creating awareness about the solution (product or service) you have for your target market’s problem(s). This stage usually attracts a huge number of people. Advertising is one of the methods you might use to make people aware of your products or services. You may also reach as many “suspects” as possible through social media, email marketing, Pay Per Click Advertising, Blogging, SEO, Video marketing, and content marketing.
Every sales funnel must start with this process.
Continuing with the example we started with: You decided to sell water bottle online and you’re letting your followers know that you’ve come up with a solution to their everyday problem.
Awareness, online is created when a suspect visits the website/landing page for the first time. He may have heard about the product/service through an ad on Social media, email or Google Search. Alternatively, a friend may have told him about the same.
A customer enters the proverbial sales funnel once an awareness is created. This is the first stage of the funnel and will also determine what happens in the later stages down in your sales funnel. However, getting a “suspect” to enter your sales funnel is no easy feat. A lot of which depends upon, the pre-frame through which you reach a customer for the first time and the pre-frame will also determine if he/she will enter your sales funnel or not. Recommendations from friends and family, positive reviews, social proofs are a few examples of good pre-frames.
Take for instance, those who find your business organically through a Google Search or got recommendation by a friend, are more likely to enter your sales funnel easily because the pre-frame has been set by a source they trust. This also means, you can easily convince people to enter your sales funnel when they feel that you are an authority.
Note that, nowadays consumers are smart. They won’t be interested in your product or service unless they know right off the bat, that you can provide them an immense amount of value. For e.g., if the water bottle you’re selling can be used only once, would anyone buy it? No. Because, it doesn’t have the value your customers are looking for. It is important for you to first create a strong bond with your visitors.
Ensure you show them that you are honest, trusted, and you can provide them a lot of value. If you can do this while creating awareness for your product, you won’t have any problem getting their interest at all.
Step 2. Interest
Now that you have a solution to a problem in form of a product/service, it would attract people who are facing this particular problem and have decided to make their life easier. Not everyone who come across your offerings will be interested. Thus, the number of prospects begins to significantly decrease at this stage.
At this stage, “suspects” becomes “prospects”, because now your audience is narrowed down to the ones who’re in the market for something you’re offering. People who’ve showed interest at the first stage will now try to find out more thereby increasing the possibility of a sales conversion. Most of them are hooked at this point and would want to get more information about your offering. For e.g. someone saw your ad of water bottle and is now digging more into various aspects of it. Like, its capacity, material quality, etc.
A prospect becomes interested in your product when he or she believes that you can provide a solution to the problem(s). Usually, this is where you would want to show-off your knowledge, experience and your skills at their best. This can be done online, with a combination of great content, blog posts, free case-studies, free white-paper, free video series, etc. You can also offer free trials, free consultations, free webinars, free reports, free estimates, free samples, etc. Basically, something that can showcase 3 things:
- Explicitly showing that you understand the prospect’s problem and you are an expert in solving it.
- Glimpse of your product/service.
- And lastly your product/service is THE magic bullet they need to solve their problems.
Notice how “free” is repeated several times in the above examples? Because, we want to emphasize that you need to do all this without taking a dime out of their pocket. This doesn’t mean we’re not getting anything in return. In exchange of the “free” value, we ask for their personal information: name and email (sometimes, phone number).
This is exactly how we filter out few prospects from a large number of suspects.
Those who’re interested in the value you’re offering give you their details in exchange for it. A good approach to this would be creating a piece of content, that you can use over and over like, blog posts, case studies, industry reports, webinars (sorry to break the bubble, but most webinars you’ve watched are probably pre-recorded and recycled every time someone watches it.).
Alternatively, if you can, you should give your prospects personalized reports or a free strategy session. Again, the goal here is to provide your prospects with something valuable enough to get their personal information and it should be something that doesn’t take a whole lot of your time.
Remember, his stage can make or break your entire sales funnel.
Once we have prospect’s e-mail address, we add them to an email sequence. Email sequence is nothing but a set of pre-defined emails that are sent out at specified intervals. It is a string that connects Step 2 and Step 3 of your funnel (you’ll learn more about this in the next step). Without a doubt, this is the hardest stage of a sales funnel. You will need to decide how to develop your story, how to convey it, and at what drip-rate (frequency of your emails). Take for instance, once you acquire their name and email in exchange for something valuable, you might want to send out two emails the first day and one email per day subsequently. You must never make your audience feel that you are desperate to make a sale. Instead, you will need to convince them that you are genuinely interested in providing value to them.
Step 3. Decision
When prospects reach this stage, they are paying serious attention to what you have to offer. They are also considering various packages you offer while comparing other solutions available in the market, deciding on different price points and several other stuff, to know which product/service best suits their need.
This is where email sequences helps you influence their decision. If done right, with the help of emails, you can push the prospects who’re already on the edge of buying into making a purchase. Typically, you’ll want to offer the prospects more than one pricing option so they can choose the one that best suits them. Here are few things you can do to influence a prospect’s decision:
- Use the art of story-selling. With the magic of words, explain them how a person X used to have the same problem the prospect’s facing and how their life changed after they used the proposed product/service.
- You can show them the social proof, testimonials you have from your past clients to strengthen the trust.
- Offer them a “XX-days money back guarantee”, so that they’re more confident in making a purchase from you.
- Give them a limited time discount. This would push them to grab the product/services at a discount instead of paying retail.
- Ask them what’s stopping them to make a purchase. Often times, when none of the tactics works, asking the prospect works. Occasionally, it happens that we overlook to address a thing or two in our offering because it seems too obvious for us to mention them. What may seems obvious to you may not be obvious to your prospects. Even the tiniest stuff might be a concern and stopping them to make a purchase.For e.g., a cap is always included with a water bottle you purchase. This is so obvious to us because we’ve used 100s of them. Would it have been as obvious as it is now, if you were purchasing it for the first time?
Step 4. Action
All previous steps are geared toward bringing the prospects to this stage and turning them into customers. This is where the prospects are expected to take the desired action, which mostly is all about purchasing a product or subscribing to the service you offer. At this point, the stage is set for a customer to purchase the product.
After the initial purchase is done, you may want to direct the customer into buying an “Up-Sell” or “Cross-Sell”.
In simple terms, Upselling is a sales technique you can use to get a customer to spend more by purchasing an upgraded or premium version of what they’ve already purchased.
On the other hand, Cross-selling is offering related item(s) to what they’ve already purchased.
Often times, people confuse upselling with cross-selling. Upselling normally involves switching up to a better version of what’s already purchased, on the other hand cross-selling involves offering the customer a related product or service. For e.g., an airline asking you to upgrade your seat to first-class is an upsell while offering a paid meal is cross-sell.
Tools for implementing a sales funnel online
Blogging is one of the most powerful tools you can use to generate awareness and interest in your product. In fact, this could be the major source of traffic for your product. For instance, a lot of people make use of review articles to generate interest in a particular product or service.
A great benefit of blogging is that most people who find your article organically in a search engine will more likely trust it than when you show them your product through ads. Moreover, with blogging, you have an opportunity to make use of right keywords enabling your target customers to find you from an organic search. Your blogging should be able to push people to go on a consultation (read sales) call with you or it can help you build your e-mail list. Both with an intention of pushing prospects down into the funnel.
Another way to generate awareness and interest on your product is through social media. Social media has all the features you need to make your content go viral. With the right content, you can get other people to engage with your post. You can as well promote your post with paid advertising mediums such as Facebook ads. Fortunately, social media ads are very affordable. With few dollars, you’ll be able to generate create awareness and generate significant interest in your product.
When trying to create awareness and generate interest in your product, it’s very important that you don’t force a customer to make a decision right away. Instead, focus on providing value and educating the suspect visitors and convert them into prospects.
3) Influencer Marketing
Influencer marketing is a type of marketing where you don’t communicate directly to your audience but instead you pinpoint key leaders of community and drive your message through them. These key leaders are people that have owned the trust of your target audience. Malcolm Gladwell talked about this in his book the tipping point, he refers to them as mavens information brokers who share their knowledge and thoughts simply to help others in the process of doing so they build a foundation of trust with the audience. Influencer marketing leverages these mavens to deliver their message. It’s like Apple going up to Superman and saying, “Hey, could you tell all your fans that you love the new iPhone.”
Here’s a real example in 2015, Lauren Taylor, a retail giant collaborated with around 50 instagramers and asked them to post a picture of themselves wearing a specific dress on a specific day with a 1,000 to 4,000 dollar incentive the Instagram was happily obliged and posted the pics on the given date. The posts reached a total of eleven point four million Instagram users which prompted 328,000 actions on Lauren Taylor’s Instagram account. The dress sold out in no time and most of the buyers didn’t even know they were being advertised – not that they care because the ad didn’t disrupt the experience on Instagram at all. If anything it enhanced it. That’s how effective influencer marketing can be.
Let’s look at a few stats to see, why 90 percent of customers say that they trust recommendations from strangers who were brands and of all markers have used influencer marketing. 81 percent say that they saw success that’s a pretty high success rate. Another study showed that for every dollar spent on influencer marketing marketers are generating up to $20.00 in return.
Platforms like tapinfluencer, musefind and tomson are making it easier than ever to find and work with influencers. But before approaching an influencer do you research to ensure that the influencer has a desired relevance and reach.
3) E-mail Marketing
Once you have created an awareness by offering value that attracts prospects to sign up for your email list, you will need to generate interest in your product by nurturing them. Fortunately, this is something you can easily do through email marketing.
Email marketing allows you to create email sequences that educates and adds value to your prospects. Through the email sequences, you’re able to educate the prospects on how to solve their problem. Don’t go selling to them right away. Instead, focusing on educating them. You can offer them free trials/consultations and a lot of other valuable stuff that will get them to trust you.
By offering value to your subscribers, you will be able to the gain their trust. When this happens, it becomes very easy to sell to them. Once you use blogging and social media to create awareness, ensure you use valuable email content to nurture them and create interest in your product using the steps described above.
With webinars, all you need is to convince your prospects that they are on the right track. When a prospect signs up for your webinar, there is a pretty good chance that he/she is interested in solving a problem with your help or with your product.
This particular problem could be losing weight or getting more traffic to their website. At this point, all you will need to do is to let the prospect know exactly how your product is going to help him/her solve that particular problem. Make sure that you have a strong Call-To-Action at the end of your webinar that shows customers how to buy your product. You can use something like:
- Start a Free Trial
- Request a Consultation
5) Video Marketing
Videos are as powerful as webinars. When you cannot be able to host a webinar, you can create a video that shows your prospect exactly how your product will solve his problem. The great thing with videos is that you can use them at any stage of the sales funnel. However, they are very much effective when you use them at the stage which requires converting a prospect to a customer.
There are two ways to create a powerful video: You can create a live video where you show your customers how your product will solve their problem or you can make use of explainer videos to show them. Whichever way you choose to follow, make sure your videos are very high quality and well-optimized. You can hire experts to help you create a high-quality video that can entice people to make the final step and take action. You can easily get expert video editors on a freelance website such as Fiverr, Upwork, as well as other freelance marketplaces.
With over 2 billion people on social media, you certainly cannot ignore it when developing your sales funnel strategy. One thing is for sure, your customers are on social media. It doesn’t matter what you sell, you can use social media to find majority of your targeted customers. Below, we will explain how social media fits within your sales funnel:
1) Awareness and Traffic
The first goal of a sales funnel is to create awareness about your product by bringing prospects to your website or landing page. Of course, you need as many audiences as possible at the cheapest possible way. In most cases, your email list may be too small to generate the type of awareness you need. This is where social media comes in. With social media, you are able to generate a massive awareness about your product. You can also leverage social media to drive huge traffic to your offer at a very low price.
However, don’t rush into social media ads until you understand how it works. You could be wasting a lot of money if you are not leveraging social media ads the way it should. Your goal here should be to make use of social media ads to generate interest in the product/service and not selling.
2) Generating Leads
One of the best marketing strategies you can use is to make use of paid social media advertising to generate leads along with your email marketing efforts. You can always promote your product to your leads at a negligible cost later in the future. When done well, you can sell as many products as possible to your leads.
Moreover, most people won’t be ready to make a purchase the first time they become aware of your product. You need to nurture them and get them ready to take action. The only way you can be able to do this is to get them into your email list.
Fortunately, with paid social media targeting, you will be able to attract a good number of leads that you can add to your email subscribers list.
In a recent study, it was discovered that social media has a much higher engagement rate than email marketing. A post you made on Facebook or Instagram can go viral and get so many people commenting and sharing it.
Moreover, social media platforms such as Instagram have tags designed to make your post go viral. On top of that, you’ll have an opportunity to interact with your audience in a real time. Take for instance, you can make use of Facebook Live Feature to put a face to your business and connect with your audience in real time. You can hear them and they too can hear you. It is a great opportunity to build trust and establish yourself as an authority.
When you follow the steps recommended above, you can be able to create a powerful sales funnel. However, remember that a sales funnel can always be improved. After creating your sales funnel, you need to gather data and analyze the performance of your sales funnel to find out areas you can improve on. The world smartest marketers keep on tweaking and perfecting their sales strategy until they start making more than enough sales. Remember, creating a powerful sales funnel takes an enormous amount of work and effort. Next time you are building one, focus on these points above and you will eventually reap the benefits and results.
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