Sales funnels are a great way to convert visitors from cold prospects to red-hot buyers. It’s difficult to convert cold traffic into a sale, so effective marketing funnels can warm the prospect up before purchase. There are a lot of ways to implement and modify funnels, but every great funnel should have these key sales funnel stages.
Essential Sales Funnel Stages:
Before you can lead a potential client or customer through your sales funnel stages, they have to be aware that their problem exists. Many potential buyers/clients may not even know they have a problem yet, so your goal is to turn them on to the fact that they’re missing out in some way, and that solutions do, in fact, exist to help improve their life in some way.
Always keep this in mind: Your target is exposed to hundreds of ads every day. Each of these ads has been tailored to make as much impact as possible. Because of this overload, many consumers tune out the vast majority of what they see. In order to raise awareness for your product, you need to be clever. Your marketing efforts need to quickly tell the consumer why they need your product, and what benefit they’ll receive by purchasing your solution.
Blogging & Content Marketing to Generate Awareness
Blogging is an excellent way to generate awareness. An effective content strategy is a great way to bring targeted traffic from the search engines to your site, where you can highlight pain points your ideal customer has, and provide solutions to make their life better. If you offer great advice and information you may get rewarded with more traffic if the visitor decides to share the information with others, which can help further boost awareness.
In order to get decent traffic from search engines, you’ll need to do effective keyword research so you know what keywords to target based on search volume, competition, and searcher intent. You can also drive traffic by promoting your content on social media platforms. Free, organic reach may be enough to generate the volume of interest you’re looking for, though it may be a good idea to use paid promotions to spread your message further (especially if your existing fan base isn’t very large).
Another effective way to promote your content to generate awareness is by utilizing native ads. Native advertising has come a long way over the past several years – it’s affordable and effective (when utilized properly), and allows you to target potential visitors by only running ads on websites where your ideal customer is likely to visit.
There are a number of other effective ways to generate traffic in the awareness phase. For a thorough breakdown of great ways to bring visitors to your content and build awareness, be sure to read my post about driving targeted traffic.
It’s important to note that blogging alone is not usually enough to convert visitors into buyers. It’s simply a good way to build awareness, and to create opportunities to lead your visitors to the next stage of the sales funnel: The Interest Phase.
Video Marketing to Generate Awareness
Video marketing can be a very effective tactic to generate awareness. Thanks to platforms like YouTube, you can get a lot of views on a particular topic due to the sheer volume of people who are on the platform every day. Keyword research is crucial, and it’s not too difficult to rank for lower-competition keywords in both YouTube and Google (and other search engines). As long as you make a strong, compelling call to action to push viewers to the next sales funnel stages.
After a visitor is aware of their problems and possible solutions for their problems, you need to get them interested in your particular solution(s). Not everyone who is aware of their problem will be interested in what you have to offer. That’s OK, you should only be concerned with, and focused on, the ones who are. Some visitors will enter your funnel already in the Interest stage, as they’re aware of their problem and are actively searching for potential solutions. Either way, as far as sales funnel stages go, this is a big one. If you lose them before you can collect their information, you can’t push them further down the funnel (fortunately, retargeting can help bring them back into the funnel, at a cost).
Using Lead Magnets to Generate Interest
Lead magnets are an excellent way to generate interest about what you offer. Your goal is to provide something of value that will move your visitor closer to solving their problem(s). In exchange, they give you their email address so you can follow up with them and provide more valuable information as you nurture the relationship.
You can provide guides, checklists, cheatsheets, mini video courses, and more as lead magnets. Some people will respond better to certain types of lead magnets than others, so it’s important to test your offers and see which generate the best opt-in conversion rates.
For some great ideas on what to use as a lead magnet, check out: Creating Enticing Lead Magnets. No matter what type of lead magnet you offer, be sure it provides real value for your audience. If it doesn’t, you’ll blow any chances you have of moving them to the next stages of the funnel. Also be sure to utilize your lead magnets to their full potential by sprinkling calls-to-action throughout, to move your audience further through your funnel.
Building Interest with Email
After you’ve gotten your foot in the door with the lead magnet, it’s important to follow up with your leads in a helpful, non-spammy way. Continue sending out helpful tidbits of information every few days so you continue providing value to your audience. You can also use these emails as an opportunity build more interest and demand for your products and services.
During this stage, it’s a great idea to utilize analytics tools to see how your audience is engaging and interacting with your sites and offers. There are a number of tools you can use to track conversions across your website & landing pages, see which areas of your site are drawing the most (and least) attention, monitor how long people are staying on your site, and more. For an in-depth look at tools to use to gauge interest, see: Analyzing User Experience with Heatmaps & Click Tracking.
Now your prospect has shown some interest in you and your offer. They are aware of why they need your product(s) or service(s). However, they are likely looking at alternative options as well. If you’ve provided them with a free lead magnet, now’s a good chance to offer them a small product or service that will get them more ingrained in your funnel. Follow up with them to give them more information and convince them that what you offer is what they need. If applicable & possible, offer them a free trial of your product or service.
Using Tripwire Offers
Tripwires are a double-edged sword. They can be a great way to provide more value at a low cost, but they can also turn off your audience if not implemented correctly. A tripwire is a paid offer that’s presented to your new lead as soon as they’ve opted in for your free lead magnet. The goal of a tripwire is to strike while the iron’s hot – they just expressed enough interest to sign up for whatever you’re offering, so there’s a chance they may be willing to part with $5 – $30 for a more comprehensive solution to their problem(s).
For more information about implementing tripwires, see: Using Tripwire Marketing.
If you can get your prospect to commit to spending a small amount of money, the chances of them spending more with you increase. Likewise, if you can get them to try a free sample or trial of your product/service, they’re more likely to purchase.
Your prospect has come a long way through your funnel, so it’s time to double-down and seal the deal. As they’ve moved through your sales funnel stages, they’ve learned about their problems & pain points, found your solution, were interested in your lead magnet, and engaged through your emails.
You’ve nurtured the relationship, and they’re just about ready to purchase one of your main products or services. Now’s the time to ensure you’ve got customer support lined up to answer any last questions they may have. Live chat and live phone support is ideal to offer, but it can be costly to have 24/7 chat and phone support on stand-by.
Providing Support Before Purchase
A good rule of thumb is to have prominent contact information posted so it’s easy to find, and to ensure you respond within 24 hours maximum (the sooner, the better). Having a chatbot loaded up with helpful info & FAQs can be a solid compromise until you or your team can get in there and add the human touch that may be necessary to close the deal.
Customer service can often make or break a sale at this point in the process, so be sure you have effective means of communication in place. If you don’t, they may go with a competitor who does.
Reduce Friction & Ease Potential Fears
Another aspect to focus on is reducing friction on your purchase / checkout pages. Strategically place testimonials on these pages to reassure your potential buyer that what you offer has worked for others, and that it can work for them. Provide a rock-solid guarantee to ease their fears that they may be wasting money on a product or service that’s not a good fit for them.
The key here is to test various elements against each other to reduce shopping cart abandonment. Even if people make it this far through your sales funnel and land on your purchase page, it doesn’t mean they’ll complete the transaction.
Using Videos to Reassure Your Prospect
Embedding a video on the checkout page adds another human touch to the checkout process. A warm-smiling face explaining the benefits your prospect will enjoy after they click the purchase button can go a long way. It’s also a great opportunity to explain to them exactly what steps they need to take next to complete the transaction (you’d be surprised at how effective a little hand-holding can be – “Simply enter your contact information and billing information in the box to the left, then click the button and you’ll be on your way to enjoying [benefit #1, benefit #2, benefits #3, etc.]”).
You can also utilize this video to explain exactly what will happen after the purchase so there’s no confusion or hesitation (“As soon as you’ve completed the simple checkout form, you’ll instantly receive a confirmation email for your records. We’ll spring into action to put together your order and get it shipped to you within 24 hours, and will send you follow up emails to keep you in the loop, provide tips on how to get the most out of your purchase, etc.”).
Of course, this information doesn’t have to be in video format, you should have similar info even if you’re using text to communicate, though video can work wonders.
The deed is done. Your prospect has converted to a buyer or client. They’ve transferred the money to your account. They’ve signed the contract. They’ve received their access information. You’ve shipped the product… you get the idea.
However, there’s much more to be done. Now is the time to be there for further questions (see the importance of customer support, above). If your new customer/client has any issues or still has questions after the sale, the last thing you want to do is drop the ball and cause them to request a refund (or worse, file a chargeback).
Post-Purchase Support & Nurturing
It’s a good idea to utilize an effective post-purchase follow up sequence to reassure them that they’ve made the right purchase (buyer’s remorse is a very real phenomenon), show them how to get the most out of their purchase, remind them that you’re there if they have any questions or issues, and to request reviews to further build trust & proof to improve your funnel for new prospects.
Continue sending helpful tips related to their purchase, and continue nurturing the relationship post-sale. When done effectively, you can lead these buyers through more sales funnels to generate more sales. Since you’ve already built trust with them, it’s easier to get them to purchase again.
Optimizing Your Sales Funnel Stages
No matter how well your sales funnels currently convert, there’s always room for improvement. Remember: ABT. Always Be Testing. You’re bound to have leaks throughout your funnel. There’s no funnel on earth that converts 100% of visitors into leads, nurtures the relationships, and converts those leads into sales with a 100% close rate. This means there’s always room to improve throughout your sales funnel stages.
Try testing different content marketing & advertising strategies to build awareness. Try targeting different search terms and demographics to see which audiences click through to your site. Try testing different landing pages and lead magnets to see if one offer is more tempting than another. Try different engagement strategies to see which pushes higher percentages of your audience through the funnel. Try different checkout page layouts to see which converts more members of your audience into buyers. Try testing different seals & badges, different testimonials, different color, different headlines & copy, different videos… you get the idea.
You may find you need to build different sales funnels that effectively say and offer the same thing, but communicate the message in a different way. You won’t know until you test, so don’t settle with the first iteration of your funnel(s).
If you enjoyed this overview of the Key Sales Funnel Stages, be sure to check out Implementing Marketing Funnels for Your Business, where you can learn more about how to execute, test, and optimize each phase of your sales funnels.