What is a sales funnel?
In essence, a conversion or sales funnel is a marketing template, guide, and strategy that helps you convert your leads from the first point of interacting with your brand, to the ultimate goal of making a sale.
The beauty of having a sales funnel plan is that as an entrepreneur, you can identify what actions you need to take at each stage of the process to take your audience and customers on a journey with you.
By not rushing your audience into making a purchase, you can build long-term relationships, real trust and loyalty by adding value to your potential customer’s lives. As your audience become customers, they may then become an advocate of your brand, increasing word of mouth referrals, and leading you to accelerated business growth.
Key stages of the sales funnel
Most sales funnels tend to have four stages, although others you see online may have more detail and an increased number of actionable steps to take. No matter how many stages it's broken into, all sales funnels work off the same principles of taking leads (potential customers) from one stage to the next.
As the name suggests, funnels start off big at the top and funnel down into just a small slither at the end. This is because conversion rates are relatively low, with paying customers only making up a small profitable percentage of results from your actions.
Being a successful marketer means working hard to constantly figure out new ways to become more efficient at converting more leads to paying customers. It's an incredible puzzle to get your teeth stuck into and one that is always evolving, even if sales funnel principles have stayed the same for over a hundred years.
Convert leads into paying customers
Let's break down those sales funnel stages...
- Awareness (Lead generation)
People have to find out about you from somewhere, so we call this 'top of funnel' - sometimes displayed in marketing jargon as ToFu.
In essence, it's every single thing you're doing to create interest in your brand and your potential leads first or early exposure to your business.
At the awareness stage of the sales funnel, we're talking a lot about content marketing and people landing on your website. Awareness and 'lead-gen' can also come from interacting with your assets such as social media, your blog, any adverts (online and print) you're putting out there, Google ranking, and even 'word of mouth' from your present customers.
Your number one goal at this stage is to convert these hyper-casual interactions to the 'interested' stage of your product or service.
2. Interest (Evaluation)
Interest is a highly critical stage for you and your business. You may have people viewing your assets (website, social media, etc) but can you now get them interested enough to want to return regularly and enjoy the narrative that you're putting out there?
At the interest stage, your leads (potential customers), will be digging deeper into what you offer and may even take some kind of mini-action that's not a major commitment, such as signing up to your mailing list or liking you on social media. This shows that they're interested in your brand, but it could be a while before you get them to make a purchase.
Positive signs are that these folks are interacting with your social media or opening your emails and newsletters regularly. Now can we get them to the 'desire stage' of the sales funnel?
3. Desire (Consideration)
The desire stage of sales usually comes from your audience spending enough time with you (in person or virtually) to feel a real affinity with your brand. Once you've reached the desire stage, your audience is fairly open to products, services, and sales messages.
It's at the desire stage where you can start to turbocharge your messaging by helping these guys reach some kind of decision around their first purchase with you. This is where you can provide more touchpoints with your brand such as newsletters, targeted email campaigns, infographics, video content and webinars.
It's at this stage that you can start being fairly direct about what you have to sell or want your customers to do, the value it will create in peoples' lives, whilst potentially developing a sense of FOMO around scarcity or time sensitivity.
4. Action (Purchase)
Hallelujah, all of your marketing actions are starting to come together. Your hot lead who you've nurtured over the past few weeks and months is now enquiring about availability or putting their credit card details in to make a purchase.
If you get this stage right, you may have the potential to upsell at the point of purchase, offer an incentive for sharing a referral with their friends and family or a discount on their next purchase. Now that you've made a sale, the important thing is to treat this customer with respect and make sure you have processes in place that will lead to repeat purchases and brand loyalty.
Even if your sale falls through and your desired action doesn't take place, then all is not lost. Spend your time re-engaging in a non-spammy way and you may find that this lead comes back stronger than ever.
Our top tips for sales funnel success
- Always be creating value and don't chase the sale too soon. Create value in the world through content, build scalable assets, and develop something that resonates with your audience. The money will flow into your business as long as you're creating value first!
- Sales take time. From big-ticket items to selling T-shirts, it is very rare that someone will click the 'buy it now' button the first time they discover your brand. They'll want to discover more about your business and their options, so put the work into your full package, all touch-points, and bring them on the journey with you.
- Always follow up! Someone has fallen out of the sales process or needs extra convincing? Your job is to chase these guys up as this is where a lot of sales 'get stuck'. Once your company starts to seriously scale, build a high-quality sales team or use a software solution that does this follow up in a personal way or retargets users.
- Get your messaging down. Make sure that your customer interaction is an incredible experience from the very first awareness point to making a purchase with you. Constantly review your messaging and sales funnel strategy and plug those holes.
- It's a numbers game. We all wish we could convert double-digit and a higher percentage of leads from the top of funnel, but it's probably unlikely to happen unless you're running something highly unique or have a monopoly. Keep building your audience, set yourself goals and once you make your initial sales, work hard on improving all aspects of your funnel so as your conversions get better over time.
Good luck to you on building your audience and converting these leads to sales. We can't wait to see how you get on!
Until next time...keep winning
If you like what you've read here, have your own success story, or want to join the conversation around sales funnels and conversions then hit me up on Twitter or check out our YouTube channel - I'm always around!
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