Selling has changed a lot in the last few decades. Advertising used to be all about finding a way to get everyone’s eyes on your printed ads, then it was about using the airwaves, and now? It’s all about digital marketing. But with so much digital noise out there, how do you cut through it all and attract the customers you need to grow your business? One way to do it by familiarizing yourself with the concept of the sales funnel, and using this core concept to pull in prospects and then turn them into customers.
What Is a Sales Funnel?
The easiest way to grasp the concept of a sales funnel is to picture an actual funnel in your mind: it’s wider at the top and narrower at the bottom. The wider part is where you pour in a substance, which will then trickle out of the narrower bottom into its destination. With a sales funnel, that wider part represents the largest group of people you’re dealing with: potential customers. You need to attract these prospects to your business (the top of your funnel); they will then move through multiple marketing steps, and eventually a few will come out the other side as committed customers. The bottom is narrower because you’ll inevitably have more prospects at the top than buyers at the bottom, but also because your messaging needs to become increasingly targeted.
The 4 Stages
To better understand the concept of a sales funnel, you need to understand the 4 sales funnel stages, which represent how your customer is thinking at each point in the marketing process. Each stage requires you to take a different approach so you can send the right message at the right time and move your prospective customer through to the next stage of the funnel.
- Awareness – This is arguably the most important stage. Before you can gain any customers, you’ve got to get their attention! Prospects can come to your business in multiple ways, whether it’s through a social media post, a Facebook ad, a Google search, or a post shared by the prospect’s friend. Once you’ve gotten on their radar, you’ve got to make sure they’re engaged with your brand and find ways to pull them back to your site.
Interest – Your prospect is now aware of your business, and is interested enough to add you to their list as they do their research and comparison shopping. While they’re thinking over their options, you need to step in and offer them your help and pique their interest further with some great content. The key during this stage? As tempting as it might be, DON’T rush in and start selling or pushing your product yet!
- Decision – It’s crunch time: your lead is ready to buy. But they might still be considering multiple options, so you need to sweeten the deal. Offer something that might set you apart from your competitors: free shipping, a bonus service, or a discount code, for example. Just make them an offer they can’t refuse!
- Action – Finally, the lead has come to the bottom of your sales funnel and is emerging out the other end as a committed customer. They purchase your product or service and are now part of your business – so that means you need to act, too! At this point, you need to focus on customer retention by thanking them, welcoming their feedback, and keeping the lines of communication open.
How to Build Your Sales Funnel
It might all sound like a lot to think about, but there are some steps you can follow to get your sales funnel going and pulling people in quickly!
- Work on getting your audience’s attention – As they say in the theater business, it’s all about getting behinds in seats – or, in this case, it’s all about getting your target audience’s eyes on your digital marketing. Do everything you can to do this: go organic, posting tons of content across all of your platforms, including blogs, videos, and snappy infographics, or spend some money and go for paid ads – or both!
- Build a great landing page – Once you’ve got your prospects’ attention, they’ll hopefully click through – so you need a great landing page to make the perfect first impression. Make sure it not only looks great, but that it also has an easy and enticing way for leads to sign up for an email list or subscription to your site. That contact info is all-important!
- Create an email drip campaign – Now that you’ve got contact info, start wowing your prospects with some great content, sent out about once or twice a week. Don’t push or sell; rather, offer help, information, or even inspiration. Move towards a goal of finally making your prospects a great offer.
- Offer to upsell or downsize – If you’ve got a customer who has made a purchase or is about to make a purchase, consider offering them the opportunity to upgrade in a way that will deliver even more of a benefit to them (and to you). Conversely, though, you can also offer a customer who is reluctant to buy because of budget constraints a way to downsize. You might not end up making as much money, but you could be gaining a very satisfied customer who will continue to work with you in the future.
- Follow up – As we pointed out earlier, just because your new customer has completed the “action” stage, doesn’t mean that your job is done. You need to keep in touch with thank you’s, additional offers, and targeted content. Consider keeping them as part of your business’ ecosystem by inviting them to join a membership-based rewards program.
No doubt about it, it’s a jungle out there! There’s a huge amount of competition: remember, most of your competitors have an online presence, too, so you’re going to have to put some time into creating an effective sales funnel. But if you do take the time to build a sales funnel that focuses on what your prospective customers want, and you keep nurturing it over time, you’ll end up with a well-oiled machine that can’t help but grow your business!