The sales funnel is synonymous with online sales and revenue. Understanding the sales funnel stages will help convert online visitors into customers. Read on.
Generating online revenue isn’t magic.
Customers now have less attention span than a goldfish. But the key to transforming fleeting attention into a sale can be as mundane as the humble funnel.
This sales funnel describes a structure for your customer engagement. It can be broken down into stages depending on your sales model. These sales funnel stages show you where you’re missing out on revenue.
Let’s take a look at how to make the most out of the sales funnel, stage by stage.
What’s a Sales Funnel?
Let’s define the sales funnel first.
The sales funnel is a metaphor for the customer journey. It starts with awareness of your brand and marketing. From there it progresses through to the sales process. At the bottom of the funnel is the customer’s purchase.
The sales funnel is a good visual roadmap for your customer engagement. It shows you how your business conforms to these stages, and what your weaknesses might be.
Understanding the sales funnel can help you generate a higher return on investment for your marketing strategies.
Sales Funnel Stages
To maximize the benefits you receive from the sales funnel, you need to understand it. Let’s break down the sales funnel stages below and see how you can make the most of them.
Customers can’t buy from you if they don’t know who you are.
Brand awareness is the very top level of your marketing and the sales funnel stages. You need to promote and drive awareness of your brand to bring potential customers down the funnel.
Awareness of your brand demands effective use of traffic sources. A business advertising online might receive traffic from social media and search engines. If your business advertises offline, this could include newspaper and television ads.
If you’re relying on search engine traffic, your SEO will be key. Matching likely keywords will drive customer awareness.
There are two broad groups of inquiry. These reflect the strength of the intent to buy behind each one.
Customers don’t always know they’re looking for a solution. This drives information-based inquiries. For instance, potential customers might search for top-level information about your niche.
Information inquiries have weaker intent behind them. They can be harder to capture, as you can’t be sure if the customer has a problem you can solve. You’re also facing a much larger pool of competitors.
How effective you are at capturing these inquiries will depend on your SEO and visibility. Smart use of SEO keywords can capture these searches and bring them down the funnel. For instance, the keywords “dog owner guide” don’t suggest the need for a product. But if your SEO is a match, you can capture them.
Intention-based inquiries start lower down the sales funnel stages. Your potential customer already knows they have a problem that could be solved by the right product. They’re ready to be nudged down the sales funnel by awareness of your brand.
Ad clicks are some of the strongest forms of intention-based inquiries. Ads contain more up-front information about your product. By clicking on your ad, customers have already indicated that your product could work for them.
Example of SEO for an intent search might include “best dog kennels”. This indicates a much stronger intent to buy than an information search.
The leads stage is where you can begin to reel your customer in. Lead magnets like PDF guides and checklists can be used to coax them further down the sales funnel. This content needs to provide value. It represents the start of active engagement with the customer.
Leads serve two purposes. First, they establish a positive relationship with the customer. Your customer begins to see the value you can provide. Secondly, you can obtain the customer’s details in exchange, such as email addresses.
At this point, your customer has opted into your service. There’s a strong possibility you can lead them further down the sales funnel.
Anyone who has made it this far down the sales funnel stages becomes a prospect. You can turn them into a paying customer by building on the rapport you established with leads.
Have you noticed that mailers offer a digest of useful content? This is part of nurturing prospects. It gives your brand credibility by providing value to the customer. It also builds trust by giving your brand an active, helpful face.
Content such as guides, tools, and how-to videos can help build on a prospect. Interactive content such as Q&A or social media engagement can also bring prospects down the funnel.
Each piece of useful content you provide guides your prospect toward a sale. Customers begin to see your brand as helpful. This makes them more likely to trust the product the brand is offering.
And finally, the sales!
Some businesses try to rush sales. But the sales funnel stages show us that steady nurturing leads to sales. That said, you should make it easy for customers to pass to this stage of the funnel.
The process of transitioning a prospect to a sale will vary from business to business. But it will depend on the quality of your storefront, as well as your pricing and purchasing process.
Including links in your automated emails can guide customers toward a sale. It’s also important that your storefront is easy to use. Your product should be up front and visible. It also needs to be clear how your product can solve a customer’s problem.
A good sales funnel doesn’t stop at the point of purchase.
After an isolated purchase, customers revert to the prospects phase. You should think of each customer as a renewable source of income, not as a single transaction.
Essentially, this allows you to skip the previous phases and go straight back to nurturing the customer for future sales. Continue to include them in positive content from higher up the funnel. This increases the chance they’ll pass back to the sales phase and become a regular customer.
We’ve mentioned leaks in your funnel a few times now.
By leaks, we mean those opportunities which have slipped out of the funnel before they could reach the bottom. Your business strategy should focus on catching these leaks to keep customers traveling down the sales funnel stages.
Your leaks will vary depending on how you meet each of the sales funnel stages we’ve listed. But let’s take a look at a few common sources of sales funnel leaks.
Being too clingy can drive customers away. But simply giving them a second chance could be enough to create new prospects.
Many businesses have found success with a simple pop-up message on leaving the storefront. This can contain a few last-minute deals. Or it could ask customers to sign up for a mailing list. These are low-commitment lead magnets that capture new prospects.
They force customers to make a conscious decision to exit the storefront rather than just leaving on a whim. They can also draw attention to products the customer might not have noticed.
Letting go of potential customers too easily throws money away. The investment you’ve made in advertising is wasted if the customer leaves your site within seconds. You obviously want your customers to stay, so don’t be afraid to show them that.
Regular customers are the foundation of a growing business.
By securing a regular customer base, you can reliably predict income. You can also analyze consumer preferences and tailor new products. But many businesses look for short-term purchases for an immediate transaction.
Focusing on efforts to retain customers could take your business forward. Use mailing lists and reach out to previous customers. Any customer you retain is another you don’t have to bring down the funnel – although you should have both!
Incentivize your customers to remain with you. If it’s been a while since a customer’s last purchase, why not prompt them to return with a special offer? A reliable pool of regular customers is the difference between a pop-up store and a business with credibility.
If your marketing and awareness are weak, you’re putting a lid on your funnel.
Common errors in marketing include:
- Poor targeting
- No marketing strategy
- Unclear calls to action
- Weak SEO choices
To make the most of your marketing, plan it out in advance. Know exactly what sort of customers you’re aiming for. When you know this, you’ll be able to tailor your SEO and social media advertising to suit.
These are just a few examples of funnel leaks. To make the most of your sales funnel stages, you’ll want to map them to your business. You’ll soon start to see where your sales funnel is letting you down.
Master Sales Funnel Stages
Mastering sales funnel stages could transform your revenue. By doing so, you’ll see much greater ROI on your marketing and sales strategies. It could even be the foundation you need to grow your business to the next level.