Business owners are always looking for ways to generate consistent streams of leads.
Every successful online business uses sales funnels to create consistent lead flows. Sales funnels are a simple concept, but successful funnels often become more complex.
A business that takes the time to build, understand, and improve its sales funnel will have more leads than its competitors.
This article will be a high-level discussion on sales funnels, specifically:
What Is a Sales Funnel?
A sales funnel is how a brand turns a potential client into a paying customer.
The sales funnel encapsulates what goes on in the sales process, from top to bottom. Because buyers go on a customer journey, sales funnel stages often get compared to roadmaps.
Most sales team think about their funnel in 3 stages:
Content at the top of the funnel creates awareness. The middle of the funnel facilitates evaluation. At the bottom, the end of the sales process, we convert leads to paying customers, and our content should match that goal.
Let’s use a brand that sells coffee to consumers with sensitive stomachs as an example to see this in action.
Blog post titled, “Why does coffee hurt my stomach?”
GOAL: To inform and create awareness for the consumer that your brand is a credible source to help them solve their problem.
A quiz at the end of the blog post that asks specific questions about what digestive issues the consumer is experiencing and gives suggestions for products that fix their problem.
GOAL: Identify the problem and allow the consumer to evaluate if our product solves their problem.
An email with a discount code for our product.
GOAL: Give a reason for the consumer to act now and purchase our product.
Combining channels form a sales funnel.
The most popular channels are paid ads, SEO, social media, and content marketing. To prevent getting overwhelmed, tailor your sales funnel to address specific audiences. The prospective customers that enters your funnel will vary.
Some may already be familiar with your business and its products and services, while others have never heard of you. Depending on where each individual enters your funnel, you need to guide them to the next step.
The easiest way to think about it is that different stages of the sales funnel has one goal. The goal of the top sales funnel is to feed the middle of the sales funnel.
Don’t try to sell people your product in the top of the sales funnel. That is just the awareness stage, this will confuse prospective customers who are not ready to buy. Wait until the final stage of the sales funnel.
Note: A sales funnel that prospects drop from is known as a leaky funnel.
Consider the examples below:
Blog: A prospect makes a Google search and finds your blog, they read the Blog and they like what they read, so they sign up for your mailing list. According to SEO expert Neil Patel, an influential blog will have a conversion rate between 2% and 5%.
Podcast Ad: A prospect hears about your site/landing page from an ad on their favorite podcast. This prompts them to check out your website or landing page.
Facebook Ad: An ad on Facebook encourages a prospect to visit your landing page.
Influencer Post: An influencer’s post on social media convinces a prospect to check out your landing page. Although a variety of factors determines the effectiveness of each influencer campaign, the consensus seems to be that an effective influencer post has a conversion rate of 3% or higher.
A sales funnel may seem straightforward on paper, but new customers will experience the sales funnel stages differently.
Many new customers don’t follow a straight path when navigating a sales funnel.
This isn’t to say nobody goes from top to bottom in a linear fashion.
Some leads go through a sales funnel quickly, skipping steps. In contrast, others take their time and may get stuck, go backward in the sales funnel, or even you might experience some prospects drop.Note: A sales funnel doesn’t end when you successfully convert prospects. The best funnels then convert them into repeat customers and use them to generate more prospects and even more prospects.
A sales funnel is beneficial for both existing customers and businesses. For one, they help new and existing customers find the products and services they need. and help the business build a gran marketing strategy.
For example, a member of your target audience searches Google for a solution to a problem they are facing. Then, they read the Blog and are presented solutions to fix their problem.
The Blog may list various solutions, one of which may be a product or service.
The Blog will start by educating the member of your target audience on their possible solutions. Then, the Blog aims to lead the reader to a link for a product or service to solve their problem.
It is essential to understand why the Blog did not present the product/service to the reader first. A successful funnel “warms up” your target audience before trying to sell anything to them. The Blog is then a resource to the reader instead of an advertisement. Also, check out B2B sales, SaaS sales and tech sales.
Sales funnels are also excellent for collecting valuable data and feedback.
This is known as a marketing funnel report. A business can use this data and feedback to understand:
Of course, a marketing funnel report will offer more relevant and actionable insights. Fine-tuning your sales funnel whenever possible will maximize the effectiveness of each sales funnel. One of the best ways to do this is by studying where your customers first learn about you.
Once you know this, invest more in that channel.
For example, 50% of your customers first heard about you from a podcast. If you know this, you should make sure the first thing they see on your website or landing page matches what they heard. This will let you answer any initial questions a podcast listener may have. It will likely be different from the first question someone has after reading a blog post.
So how exactly do a sales funnel work from top to bottom?
There are three sales funnel stages.
The top stage is where the majority of leads will enter the funnel.
The middle stage of the funnel is where many leads will “leak”. This stage is where people are somewhat familiar with your business.
Then there’s the last stage at the bottom of the funnel, and this is where the warmest leads enter. Again, these leads likely know your products or services could solve their problem.
Tip: Think about how you navigate a sales funnel as a consumer.
Walk yourself through one of your favorite brands’ funnels. Does it start with an email about a new product or service?
If so, what do you do next? Do you go to their website/landing page, check their Instagram, and search Google for reviews? Thinking this way while building a funnel can help you avoid needless trial and error.
Below, each section of the sales funnel is briefly outlined:
Once a member of your target audience decides to address a problem or need, they become a consumer. This is when they are likely to enter the top of your sales funnel.
Remember, just because an individual seeks a solution doesn’t mean they know exactly where to look. A potential customer may enter your funnel at the top and have no idea what your business does. You must clearly show them what your business offers once they’ve entered. Some examples of top of sales funnel informative content are:
After becoming aware of your offer, many consumers will believe you can help them and flow to stage two.
It’s important to note that there may be many people in this stage for whom you have zero contact information. Moving consumers from the top of your funnel to the middle requires your sales team capturing an email or a phone number.
At this stage in the sales funnel, it must be clear that your product or service is what the consumer wants/needs.
Keep in mind that consumers use different approaches to seek information online. Some products/services need minimal research, while others take extensive research and might require special consultation.
For example, a consumer is looking for an excellent place to eat. They may conduct a quick search to find restaurants close to their home. But, if a consumer is looking for someone to rewire their house, more research is necessary.
This may include reading reviews, comparing electricians, consulting friends or calling to get more information.
According to Trust Radius, there’s been a 33% year-over-year increase in time spent researching products. This statistic means the middle of the funnel is even more important nowadays.
If potential customers reach this stage of your sales funnel, they’re likely to send their business your way and become paying customers.
Therefore, your sales teams need to educate them on why your business is what they’re looking for at this stage through other marketing efforts and walk them through your own sales funnel stages to ease up the buying process.
Once a consumer has a clear idea of what your business offers, they can begin to compare you to competitors. But, once again, the time taken to compare businesses depends on how significant the problem or need is.
Going back to the restaurant example. After consumers see all the restaurants in the area, they may narrow down by which type of food they want, how much they are willing to pay and how far they are willing to drive.
This might be all that is needed to decide what restaurant to order from for some consumers.
Consumers may look at many metrics when searching for someone to rewire their house during their competitive research. The consumer will likely reach out to many electricians to see who’s best equipped to tackle the job.
Metrics looked at may include who’s offering the best price, who has the most experience, who’s local and who’s not, etc.
This is the final stageof the conversion funnel.
When potential customers reach the bottom of the funnel, they’re ready to become customers. At this point, the individual knows your company, and they’ve compared alternatives.
Finally, they will act on their judgment and buy your product or service.
Tip: Offer money-back guarantees, risk-free trials, and other incentives to close any doubts and turn them to loyal customers.
Your website must allow seamless conversions.
There is nothing worse than losing an eager consumer because they couldn’t figure out how to buy or they ran into last minute glitches such as an unresponsive ‘Pay Now’ button.
As mentioned earlier, consumers’ interaction with a marketing funnel doesn’t end when they buy.
Therefore, converting a one-time customer into a repeat customer is not luck. However, there are certain things your company can do to foster this.
For example, providing an in-depth how-to guide to ensure it’s used correctly. This simple action ensures your customer reaches the solution they were after. But, if a customer is disappointed after buying, they likely won’t buy from you again.
They may even request a refund, post a negative review or go to your competitor.
After buying your product or service, you can only do so much to ensure the customer is satisfied.
Here are a few things you can do to increase your marketing efforts and have a killer marketing strategy that improves the buying process as well as the customer retention rates (repeat sales);
After the buyer’s journey is complete and all the stage of the sales funnel has performed their roles, it is now time to focus on the company’s sales model or sales cycle and use special marketing campaigns this time for current customers to promote customer retention;
One strategy for increasing satisfaction in creating and sending an FAQ with your product. For services, this is best when sent before you perform the service. Then, answer the common questions past customers have had.
Doing this may be all it takes to avoid frustration with your product. It’s also essential to have reliable customer support. If a customer needs help and can’t easily reach you, they will rarely buy again.
Qualifying your leads will make your own sales funnel more effective.
In contrast, not every consumer who enters the marketing funnel will make it to the bottom. Your business should not waste resources on consumers if it doesn’t know their interests or until they have gone past the interest stage of the sales funnel.
Leads who have shown interest but may need one more reason to buy should be pursued by your salespeople.
Some quick reassurance often wins over these consumers. Organize potential customers into marketing qualified leads (MQL) and sales qualified leads (SQL).
Qualifying your leads will make your sales funnel more effective and speed up the sales pipleine.
Furthermore, if you have qualified leads, you can assign your best sales associates to those consumers who are most likely to make a purchase.
After all, every consumer who enters the funnel won’t make it to the bottom. Therefore, your business should not use its limited resources to entice consumers. Unless it can be determined in advance if this consumer isn’t likely to make a purchase.
Identify customers who’ve shown significant interest in your business, who are on the fence and are looking for that last good reason to purchase what you have to offer. These people easily go past the interest stage of the sales funnel process.
These customers should be pursued by your best salespeople, as they are often won over by the feeling they’re getting preferential treatment. You can separate leads into marketing qualified leads (MQL) and sales qualified leads (SQL).
Marketing qualified leads (MQL) are individuals who have shown interest in purchasing.
There are a variety of metrics to identify MQL in a pack of potential customers.
Here are some common behaviors and actions that identify a potential customer as an MQL
Note: You can use several email marketing tools to automate the search for MQL.
An individual who will likely purchase in the near term is a sales-qualified lead (SQL). Most salespeople use two factors (interest and fit) when classifying and ranking SQLs.
Four main interest-fit combinations classify SQLs:
Of course, the most promising SQLs show high interest and high fit.
In this case, businesses don’t need to do extra work to convince these consumers to buy. Check out the difference, MQL vs SQL.
It’s true; B2B and B2C businesses both use sales funnel.
The main difference is how their consumers interact with the funnels.
For example, most B2C consumers don’t consult a large number of individuals before buying. If a B2C consumer does ask for advice before purchasing, they’re likely asking close friends and family. On the other hand, B2B consumers usually have to consult with others before buying. According to Gartner, B2B buying groups include five or more consumers.
Furthermore, B2C consumers rarely interact with company reps beyond the customer support team. But it’s normal for B2B consumers to interact with sales reps when nearing the bottom of the funnel.
At this point, you should have a basic understanding of how a sales funnel works and how to create a sales funnel.
You should also know which leads to be on the lookout for. Now it’s time to decide which metrics you’ll use to determine the efficiency of your funnels. Any data you’ve collected to distinguish MQLs from SQLs will be helpful here.
An excellent place to start is to figure out how individuals interact with your landing pages. Also, find out what they like about your content or why they subscribe to your channels, etc.
The more information you have, the easier is would be to optimize your sales funnel.
However, remember that too much data and many metrics can remove the essential elements. For this reason, you should use key performance indicators (KPI).
You should view data points and metrics, not in your KPIs, as supplemental. However, don’t let unimportant metrics or vanity metrics keep you from running an effective sales funnel.
Some popular metrics are briefly explained below:
You’ll need to keep track of a funnel’s conversion rate. This metric tracks how many potential leads become customers after entering the marketing funnels.
You’ll see this number fluctuate as you make changes to the funnel. The goal is to get this rate as high as possible.
You also need to understand where most leads are entering the funnel or what channels feeds the sales pipeline.
With this information, you’ll be able to strengthen the stage of your funnel that gets the most traffic. For example, if many individuals are led to your landing pages via your Blog. Then, it would help if you focused on warming up those blog readers as much as possible..
If your blogs include CTAs, you need to know how engaging these posts are. Suppose you can see what makes a specific post attractive. In that case, you can replicate the formula and use it in another funnel.
You can also pay to promote your Blog, which will boost its popularity even more. Use Google Analytics to see which elements of your Blog produce the most engagement and create content your customers/leads will easily find relatable.
Creating an efficient conversion funnel/sales funnel isn’t something that you can accomplish overnight.
The key to an effective sales funnel is to keep fine-tuning it. You’ll soon have an efficient funnel if you fine-tune it based on your KPIs. Creating others will be easier once you have one effective marketing funnel that market efficiently for your sales team.
In the end, an efficient sales funnel can turn your mediocre business into a success. Check out some sales related guides, sales productivity, sales funnel templates and sales analysis report.
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