Sale is a process that starts from the point when a visitor visits a website or comes across a brand to the final stage of making a purchase decision. Businesses have been using the concept of a sales funnel to manage their sales processes efficiently and swiftly.
However, the process of lead nurturing and sales are not as simple as it sounds, and that might be the reason why businesses are moving away from the concept of a sales funnel. Do you also think that a sales funnel sounds too mechanical and mathematical?
Moving from the awareness stage to the purchase stage is a long journey, and it is dotted with several unexpected events and gaps. It is never a swift journey, and the simplistic concept of a funnel can’t describe it. Yet, it offers an excellent visual description of the entire process and helps you to understand and implement a marketing strategy in a better manner.
This article will try to describe the funnel concept and how it can be successfully employed to increase conversion and sales.
Making the buying decision isn’t the end of the funnel. Often it goes beyond the purchase stage to post-sales follow-ups, cross-sales, and retention.
The process begins with attracting visitors to your website, and to make this possible, you should work on your website SEO, content, offline promotion, and backlinks.
However, as the lead progresses and moves forward in the funnel, it needs a more personalized outreach. You may directly make a phone call or arrange a product demo, to begin with.
We will discuss two examples to explain the difference between a successful sales process and an unsuccessful one. Jeff runs a gift shop. He is not a savvy businessman, so he bought a list of toy buyers from the market and handed it over to his outbound sales team. The team had a tough time closing sales from the list as most of the buyers were either not interested or not fit for the products. He had to shut down their outbound sales operations as the conversion rate was less than 1%.
On the other hand, Robert runs a digital marketing agency. He created a website first and worked very hard on its SEO, local SEO, and content marketing. The right kind of optimization led to massive traffic from search engines.
He created a sales funnel and developed content according to the various stages in the funnel. His content marketing team developed useful, attention-grabbing, and engaging content for the users and attached it to his landing pages to feed the funnel. These were white papers, user guides, templates, eBooks, articles, and tutorial videos.
They created the content to inform and educate the readers about his company’s digital marketing services. It also answered various questions.
He successfully created a community through social accounts and shared his content on social media channels. He developed an opt-in system on his website to collect leads. His sales team didn’t have to work hard for sales as conversions started raining. It had an apparent reason, and these were the high-quality leads obtained through opt-in forms. The customers were engaged by informative blogs, videos, and infographics.
The leads were further nurtured by email marketing, product demos, and question-answer sessions. So, the rejection rate was pretty low, and the sales team didn’t have to put in too much effort to convert.
This example best sums up the narrative of the sales funnel.
Every marketer needs the buyer’s journey completely mapped into an actionable plan to create the right kind of content and implement the right strategy at each stage of this journey, which can best be done with the help of a sales funnel.
It helps you to make the efforts in the right direction and achieve the best possible results. It also enables you to identify the right tactics to implement at the right stage of a buyer’s journey.
Marketing funnels may sound too scientific and mechanical, but they can help you save the time, effort, and money required for conversion. Using funnels is the best-known way to increase your marketing ROI.
Using sales funnels is also one of the most effective tactics to divert leads in bulk into the sales process and nurture them to achieve maximum conversion. It reduces manual effort, uncertainty, and cost involved.
Here are the steps to create a marketing funnel that will work for you and help you achieve your business goals.
A sales funnel that is built for conversion will work best if you know your audience.
It should be built in a way that you can quickly achieve your business objectives. You can use numerous methods to understand your target audience. Some of these methods are as follows:
Apart from understanding your audience, you should also know their online behavior. It includes how the visitors interact with your website and the content in it. Knowing your audience’s online behavior will help you design your funnel and add or remove various stages.
For example, if you have an engaging blog section on your website that attracts massive traffic, you could make it your top-of-the-funnel tactic. That means you should try to divert more and more visitors to your blog section through paid advertising, SEO, backlinks, and social media. It would help redirect visitors to your specific product pages for conversion rate optimization from the blog section.
So, to make a practical buyer journey map or funnel, you should try to understand your audience’s online behavior first.
Understanding your audience and their online behavior will help you in identifying your buyer’s journey. Journey mapping is an essential step that enables you to build your funnel and determines its various stages.
According to each stage, you can create your content strategy and employ other marketing tactics to move your audience in the desired direction. Thus, building a funnel and deciding its various stages becomes a crucial step that improves your sales process, minimizing time and money.
Let’s delve deeper into how to decide the different stages in your sales funnel through the AIDA (Awareness, Interest, Desire, and Action) model. You can also club the “interest” and “desire” stages as the consideration stage.
It is the first stage of a buyer’s journey because a buyer needs to be aware of your brand before even considering your product. The purpose of this stage in the sales funnel is to attract more and more people and make them aware of your products and services. In this stage, your prospect first hears about your product or the brand and gets to know what it is all about and how it can be helpful for him. It is important to note that not all people in the awareness stage are supposed to go to the last stage of the funnel, i.e., the purchase stage, and the number of people will continue to decrease as we move down the funnel.
It is the stage when the customer is already aware of your product but not too interested. So, marketers should focus on generating interest and curiosity by creating engaging content. To generate enthusiasm about your products and services, you can try paid advertising and social media. It can also be explained as a stage in a buyer’s journey when a customer at a retail store looks at some product with interest and enthusiasm. In the meantime, the sales assistant comes and asks, “May I help you?“
In this stage, the customer is already exposed to paid search and social media content about your brand. He has also gone through compelling ads that generate desire. So, it falls under the consideration stage. Most customers would like to do comparisons online.
People tend to know the best option available in the market in that specific product category. So, at this stage, most of your marketing efforts should be directed toward creating content that helps people understand the value your product offers and why your product is better than the alternatives available in the market. The content created for this stage should be so compelling that it creates a buying intent and directs the customer to the next step of the purchase. If your content fails to do that, the customer would leave the funnel and go to your competition.
The action stage is the final stage of your sales cycle where your customer already has the purchase intent, and your job is to help them close the deal. So, at this stage, all your efforts should be directed to get the sales closed. You should help them find the right product with the right attributes the user needs and a smooth checkout process. It also includes allowing them to use their preferred payment mode to avoid any problem in this last and crucial stage.
Tip: The other valuable action stage tactics can be newsletter signup, webinar signup, signup for a demo, etc.
Your funnel can be long or short, depending on your needs and target customers’ online behavior. So, once you determine the various stages in your funnel, it’s time to think of the best tactics you can apply at each stage.
Here are some tactics that you can try according to the stage in your buyer’s journey:
At this stage, you can try various strategies directed at increasing awareness among the masses. Indeed, very few people know about your brand at this stage because it is comparatively new, and people need to learn more about it and its features.
Increasing traffic on your website should be a prime concern at this stage. So, invest in social media marketing to increase traffic from social media, which might be the low-hanging fruit for you.
You can also try influencer marketing which has become a trend these days. However, you should identify the reach of the influencers you want to rope in and verify whether their audience falls in your niche. You should also check engagement levels on their posts.
Running paid advertising campaigns is extremely important in the initial stages because many users won’t reach using the organic methods. This method is fast and precise when you are desperately looking for customers in the initial stages.
Organic search traffic is essential these days, and you can get it by creating quality content like blog posts and videos. According to a study conducted by Content Marketing Institute, blog posts, podcasts, videos, and eBooks are the most effective content types in the early stages of a buyer’s journey.
73% of the respondents believed that blog posts and articles were the most effective content types, whereas 57% favored podcasts against 54% who thought it was video content. An impressive 56% of the participants believed that eBooks were the most effective.
An SEO technique is also quite effective in pulling organic and referral traffic to your website, so you can’t ignore this proven evergreen technique.
As evident from the above study, marketers should also experiment with videos and podcasts, which are the most famous content formats people love to consume these days.
Hosting giveaways and contests is also a prevalent and proven technique to attract organic traffic from engaged audiences.
While the general tactics at the top of the funnel include creating informative content in different formats, have you ever wondered what should be your tactic during the middle of the funnel?
Content marketing is an effective tactic here as well, but at this stage, you will need different content to engage your customers so that they don’t leave the funnel, or else all the efforts you made in the first stage will go to waste.
Have you seen those unboxing or trial videos people watch before they buy the actual product?
People at this stage want to get the touch and feel of the product. They trust influencers, so it would be an added advantage if an influencer does it. Furthermore, they also trust the “honest” review of an influencer.
So, you may easily guess how important such content can be for a buyer in the consideration stage, where people are more likely to compare your products with other products before they make a final buying decision. Positive input from an influencer can change the game at this stage.
Product reviews are also critical at the final stage of a funnel. These reviews decide whether we are going to purchase a particular product or not. You might have experienced it on online shopping sites such as Amazon that even a single negative review that genuinely highlights a problem in the product or seller’s services might change your purchase decision at the last minute. And vice versa is also true.
Therefore, product reviews are also a powerful form of content that can help you build trust in the middle of the funnel.
Case studies also serve as a compelling form of content, which is quite effective in the consideration stage, especially in B2B businesses. People love to know how your products and services have benefited people and their businesses. They might also be interested in getting more profound insights into how you work so that they can make informed decisions.
User-generated content about a particular brand or product is also a powerful form of content as it acts as social proof and helps you build trust in your brand.
eBooks are also among the most effective types of content formats. eBooks and white papers are not only engaging but highly informative and educational.
These content types provide in-depth information about your products and services, how they work and how they can benefit you.
You should also invest in content marketing and Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO) of your website.
It will engage your visitors and hook them for a long time. With CRO, you can divert the website traffic to the desired product or service pages from blog posts and home pages.
You can identify the last stage with very high purchase intent, where a slight push in the right direction may lead to a purchase.
Here are some of the marketing tactics that can help you in the final stage of the sales funnel:
Since this is a stage when customers are ready to buy the product, they might be looking for a slight push regarding limited-time offers and discounts. Such tactics work wonders while closing sales.
Remarketing is highly effective in converting the customers who have visited your website once or interacted with your brand in any manner whatsoever but left without buying anything. Remarketing has a high conversion rate.
Offering free trials and demos can also be an excellent step to get the customers to use your products and services and then decide for themselves whether they need it or not.
Free trials have a great advantage. When people start using your product, it becomes easy to convince them to buy it or recommend it to others.
Fear of missing out (or FOMO) is also a prevalent tactic that marketers employ to close the sale. You can use the deadlines in your ads to prompt your customers for instant purchases. In the example below, fashion brand ASOS uses FOMO and announces 20% off for “24 hours only.”
Most marketers have this wrong notion that the utility of a sales funnel finishes when a lead is converted into a paying customer. It’s a big marketing fallacy, and we shouldn’t fall into it. For a salesperson, who has been in the industry for a long time, this can be an entirely wrong notion.
Customer retention is more important than customer acquisition because, in the long term, repeat customers are much more profitable for a business than fresh customers. So, the most effective sales funnels don’t end with a purchase. You should also have a post-purchase relationship with your customers.
So, you can add one or more post-purchase stages in your funnel for customer retention. The chief objective of adding these stages into your funnel is to retain the customers and keep them happy and delighted rather than making the sales a lousy and one-time activity.