Whether or not decision-makers realise it, a sales funnel is present and fundamental in every business. It represents the path that consumers take from their first introduction to a brand towards purchasing its products and services.
Therefore, knowing how to create a sales funnel – and encouraging more buyers to pass through the process – is vital. This includes understanding the four stages of the funnel, optimising each, and measuring its ultimate success.
As many entrepreneurs struggle with creating an effective sales funnel from scratch, we will outline how to go about the process, as well as how to utilise the funnel to maximise your company's digital marketing return on investment (ROI).
What is a Sales Funnel?
First, though, it's important to clarify what precisely a sales funnel is. A representation of the journey that your prospective consumers embark upon – from the moment they first become aware of your company, to finally making a purchase – it is broken down into four basic elements. These are awareness, followed by interest, decision, and finally, action.
For example, a consumer may search online for a specific product that they need and come across your website. They are now considered an unqualified lead for you, having gained awareness of your brand and its offering. The consumer may then browse your site, looking further into the details of your product portfolio. Having expressed an interest in the brand, they are moving closer to making a purchase. Now considered a genuine prospect, as they qualify within your target market, they may examine your prices, testimonials or demos, to help them make a decision, and finally take action to buy.
Neglecting to create this funnel for buyers to move along will result in the loss of leads, and therefore potential sales.
As you might expect, the number of consumers that progress from one stage of the process to the next decreases each time. However, entrepreneurs have the power to make each level of the buyer's path increasingly appealing, encouraging even more buyers to move all the way through. Let's explore how this is done.
1. Clarify your Brand Identity and Buyer Personas
To begin creating your sales funnel, take a good look at your brand. Determine the differentiating factors of your business and outline the main elements that you will be using to attract and retain buyers. Include your company's mission and values in this consideration.
Next, define your buyer personas; that is, the profiles of your intended, ideal consumers. These personas should include key details such as their demographics, spending power, motivations and preferences.
This research exercise will set the foundation upon which you will build the steps of the funnel, supporting you in tailoring your approach and content moving forward.
2. Enhance Brand Awareness
As detailed, the first step in the sales funnel is awareness. In this stage, you should focus on boosting the visibility of your brand, both to your already identified intended consumers, as well as to broader, similar audiences.
Use digital marketing to increase brand recognition and offer a general awareness of your fundamental values, main product and service portfolio, and position within the market. Execute both organic and promoted search engine optimisation campaigns, social media marketing, website landing pages, video content, and research material.
Though maintaining consistency throughout the content used in each digital marketing method is important, marketers should work to tailor the visuals and text enough to take advantage of the individual reach and audience appeal of each technique. Nonetheless, the content used should be engaging, attention-grabbing, and entice viewers to want to learn more about the brand.
3. Develop Interest
Successful awareness will lead to viewers developing a further intrigue in the brand, and therefore passing through to the next stage of the funnel: interest. At this point, the viewer becomes a lead. Still far from becoming a buyer, the consumer will be actively seeking, or open to receiving, more information or incentive to consider a purchase.
Retain the attention of leads while they are browsing your website, and recapture them after they have exited it. Deploy instant chat functions onto your site to tempt visitors to reach out for support regarding questions or queries they may have about your products. Embed links to your social media profiles on your website, to encourage potential buyers to review the content shared there. Ensure that the organic posts visible on your profiles offer details, insight and inspiration around your business.
You can also execute communication campaigns, leveraging email and marketing retargeting tactics to recapture the interest of viewers who previously accessed your website, encouraging them to explore your offering in further depth.
A tipping point for most potential buyers, free trials can also prove hugely successful in securing interest in a brand at this stage, thus ensuring a further consideration for purchase.
4. Make Decisions Easy
By now, your lead has passed onto the next stage of the funnel – decision – and has qualified as a prospect. As they are now contemplating making a buying decision, you must now do everything in your power to persuade them to do so.
At this stage, buyers will be considering the price, product comparisons, special offers, and competitive advantages. This allows you to provide them with the necessary information, or incentive, to conclude those deliberations.
Promote your pricing using dedicated pages in your website that clearly explain the different product packages available and their corresponding costs. Furthermore, provide exclusive discounts to new buyers to significantly increase your chances of securing buying decisions.
Even with knowledge of costs, and an incentive to buy, some prospects require further information to come to a decision. To tackle this, make information available to them that testifies to the benefits of your products and services. This can be in the form of customer reviews and testimonials, as well as video demonstrations and tutorials regarding product use.
5. Boost Consumer Actions
The next step is action. Having passed to the final layer of the funnel, your prospect is now ready to act on their decision to buy.
Ensure that your e-shop is easy to use, adequately stocked, and is regularly monitored to catch any glitches that could slow or hinder consumers in the final buying process.
In addition to giving them the final push to act, you should also be looking to ensure that they are satisfied immediately following their purchase, equipping them with the information necessary to make the most of your product or service. For products, this would mean offering step-by-step guidance on use, and clearly outlining immediate and longer-term benefits. For services, meanwhile, this may extend to detailed training and further implementation support.
Maintaining communication following a purchase also contributes to overall buyer satisfaction and additional actions. Your brand can execute email marketing campaigns, reaching out to recent consumers with educational and promotional material. Making clear that they have access to post-sales support if they require it is also essential.
6. Influence Customer Loyalty
Having created valuable relationships with your new buyers, you should now ensure that these are maintained. Indeed, according to HubSpot, retaining existing consumers is anywhere between 5 and 25 times cheaper than attracting new customers, so investing in customer loyalty is well worth your time.
Launch a loyalty scheme that offers buyers an exciting digital experience, as well as attractive discounts, one-time incentives (such as birthday surprises), special offers (such as free items with purchases), or complementary services including express delivery.
As in various stages of the funnel itself, email marketing campaigns can also be of use here, reaching past customers and reminding them of your product and services and re-stating your value proposition.
Promoting products that are complementary to those consumers have already purchased, through digital remarketing techniques, can also prove useful. Through such campaigns, buyers can be exposed to personalised ads that use algorithms to identify those individuals and upsell to them.
Finally, satisfied customers tend to refer others to your business, and this can be further encouraged through a dedicated referral scheme. Promoted through positive word-of-mouth, these programmes can be attractive to buyers if they receive a voucher or prize in return for a successful referral.
Creating an effective sales funnel is imperative to the success of any modern business. The process encourages a positive return on investment on digital marketing efforts and spending, as well as increasing customer breadth, and contributing to buyer loyalty.
Business owners should identify their target buyers and clarify their brand image, before carefully building each four stages of the funnel: awareness, interest, decision and action.
In addition to investing attention to detail in the set-up of this cycle, entrepreneurs should also pay attention to monitoring its results, and making adjustments as necessary. This could be as simple as increasing the digital marketing budgets available to drive brand awareness and create compelling content, or as complex as modifying the buyer personas and brand positioning based on detailed consumer and sales data.
What other considerations need to be taken into account when creating a sales funnel? Let us know your thoughts and experiences in the comment section below.