A sales funnel is one representation of the buyer’s journey. It illustrates how a consumer is converted into a paying customer through a series of stages.
The concept was introduced in 1898 and is considered the first formal theory in marketing. Today, the sales funnel remains a cornerstone of marketing strategies for small and large businesses.
How do sales funnels work?
The purpose of a sales funnel is to help business owners visualize the process leading up to a purchase. It points brands to recurrent pain points, thereby helping improve the path from engagement to conversion.
Four stages of a sales funnel
There are four stages inside an online sales funnel: awareness, interest, decision, and action.
Awareness happens at the top of the funnel where leads become aware of your brand. Consumers enter this stage through an ad, blog, or social media post.
Interest comes when consumers are weighing their options. They do their research by comparing prices, scanning product reviews, and reading blog posts. At this stage, they’re looking for a brand they can trust, so give them content that boosts your credibility.
It’s important that you don’t make sales pitches this early into the funnel. Instead, focus on serving high-quality articles that portray you as a thought leader. Revolve your discussions around the needs of your audience, and answer all of their burning questions.
Once you’ve established a good relationship with your readers, sooner or later, they’ll be ready to buy.
This is the decision stage: where consumers have narrowed down their options and need one last push to seal the deal. It could be a promo code, free shipping, freebies, etc. Basically, this is where you present your best and most irresistible offer.
With the right move, your customer will reach the bottom of the funnel where they act on their decision and avail of your products or services.
After that, your next concern is customer retention. Just because you’ve converted a lead, doesn’t mean the work is over. Nurture your relationship with consumers by sending thank you messages and providing customer support.
Reach out to your customers for feedback and continue to optimize your sales funnel to encourage repeat buyers and referrals.
How to build an online sales funnel
1. Analyze consumer behavior
The best marketing campaigns have big data as their foundation. The first step to designing a sales funnel is collecting information and studying your audience. You can do this by looking through your client database and analyzing trends that come up from user demographics.
Using forms and website analytics tools, you can dig deeper into their shells and reveal valuable insights. Find out which pages attract the most attention, track session length, and get to the bottom of abandoned carts.
Take all the information you need to refine your buyer personas and adjust your web design and messaging accordingly. This will not only help you attract leads but also retain customers.
2. Create relevant content
Customer relationships are strongest when they’re developed organically. Paid campaigns help get the word out, but nothing beats quality content that places you top-of-mind.
Pay attention to what your audience is looking for. Do keyword research and hang around online forums to discover frequently asked questions. This information may also be hiding in your comments section or product reviews.
The internet is filled with tons of blog posts and articles so it takes time to climb up in SERP rankings. Give yourself a fighting chance by focusing on your niche and offering unique insights that can’t be found elsewhere on the internet.
Also, try to incorporate videos and infographics into your content strategy as they’re much easier to consume than long-form blog posts.
Keep the content coming and pitch some of your articles to reputable websites for guest posting. This strategy will make it easier for users to discover your brand and think of you when they need information.
3. Run ad campaigns
Paid ads are an important part of a full marketing strategy. They allow you to reach a targeted audience and get results fast.
It’s a common misconception that paid ads are only suited for consumers at the decision stage. In reality, they can do more than a hard sell.
You can design ads to promote your content for people who are encountering your brand for the first time. Instead of showcasing a product or promo code, you highlight one of your blog posts that tackles a common problem among your audience.
Afterward, you can slowly direct them to your offerings. Engage leads who have already visited your website through social media campaigns and by displaying ads on third-party sites. Gentle reminders go a long way even right before users leap into action.
Just remember to couple your ad campaigns with split tests and thorough research. If an ad isn’t working, you need to be able to tell as soon as possible to cut off dead weight.
4. Build custom landing pages
The beauty of landing pages is that they directly support your goals. Whether it’s promoting a specific product or offering an exclusive promo code, you can design landing pages with a singular purpose in mind.
The key to maximizing their benefits is to customize each one. When a user clicks on an ad saying “30% off”, they must land on a page that follows through on that promise.
A rookie mistake is to redirect users to your homepage. This move saves time but it disrupts the conversation you’re having with your customers. When that happens, there’s a good chance that they’ll bounce right out.
Build custom landing pages for ads, email marketing offers, social media campaigns, and inbound links. Base the layout and content on the context of the anchor text and traffic source. Users should get the content they’re expecting followed by a strong call to action.
5. Strategize how you present your offer
As a business owner, you should know that there are a lot of nuances that go into presenting an offer.
For cold leads, it’s best to start with a free trial or ‘newcomer deal’ in exchange for their contact information. This strategy warms them up, and you get to collect their email address to stay in touch.
In the later stages, you can be a little more direct about wanting people to complete a transaction. This is where it gets exciting. When you present your front-end offer, make it so that it entices consumers to say yes to an upgrade (e.g., more expensive packages, premium items, etc).
In other words, your front-end offer is actually the appetizer while the main dish is the upsell offer on the back end. Meanwhile, a downsize option caters to consumers on the opposite side of the spectrum.
A downsize option makes your brand more accessible to shoppers with financial constraints. As a result, you get to sell your products and you earn yourself new customers and a good reputation.
6. Start an email drip campaign
An email drip campaign is composed of pre-written messages that are automatically sent out to a specified list. It is also called an automated email marketing campaign and is useful in helping consumers move along a sales funnel.
Essentially, email drip campaigns engage your followers with minimal effort. No matter what stage a consumer is in, these messages keep the momentum going to ensure they don’t forget your brand.
Some examples of emails on drip campaigns include welcome messages, confirmation emails, abandoned cart emails, and re-engagement emails.
7. Nurture customer relationships
Finally, nurture your relationship with customers. Continue to get to know them and update your strategies as you go. Give them a voice on your website and social media, provide fresh content, and personalize their shopping experiences.
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