If you’re running a small business without any formal marketing training, you might not think in terms of a sales funnel. Most of my clients don’t, in fact. They write that kind of stuff off as “marketing speak” and they get back to trying to sell things.
But with today’s online research and buying, it’s important that you understand the basics of a sales funnel and how you can build one. Without that knowledge, it’s impossible to know what’s working and what’s not.
You might be experiencing an all-time high in sales but without understanding what goes into buying, and the steps your customers are taking, you can’t control it or increase it. You must understand how it’s happening before you can try to reproduce or grow those results.
This article will walk you through the basics you need to know and how you can start applying content to eliminate sticky areas and get more conversions.
In the next installment of this two-part piece, we’ll go over the numbers of getting people through and how you can better understand your sales process by looking at your funnel.
What Is a Sales Funnel?
A sales funnel is the same thing as “customer journey” or sales process. Gurus use the term “funnel” these days because what starts as a large group of people (in the widest part of the funnel) dwindles down during the sales cycle to become just a few at the end who buy. It’s the journey from stranger to customer.
A basic sales funnel is made up of:
There are some sales and marketing people who have added additional steps and maybe your sales funnel needs some. But let’s start here.
This is when the future customer begins learning about you. They may have heard about you from a friend (that would be amazing because word of mouth converts at a much higher rate), from an ad, through a search engine, driving by, or hundreds of other ways. But at some point they become aware of you and what you offer.
After they know about you, you want them to become interested in you. You do this by becoming a resource for them or solving a problem/providing a solution they’ve been worried about. Help them get to know, like, and trust you through good content, interacting with them on social media, providing good customer service, helping them find the answers they need (even before they talk to someone.
This is the part of the customer journey where you become the kind of business you’d want to do business with and you show them you are.
These first three steps of the sale funnel can all occur before the potential customer ever reveals themselves to you. At the decision stage, they take the research they’ve done and narrow down their list, often contacting you for help with the decision. It’s important that when you provide resources to assist them in making a decision, whether that’s a demo or a sample, they should be clearly directed to the next step, which is...
This is where the potential customer makes a buying decision. They are now moving from active “tire kicker” to buyer. The most important part of this for you as a business is that it be frictionless for the customer. Any hangups in the process or delays may cause you to lose the sale. If you sell online that means a quick online sales system or if it’s in-person you do your best to have helpful sales people who can make the process enjoyable and not at all frustrating.
Oiling the Funnel With Content
Now that you know what the stages of the funnel are you need to concentrate on learning how to help potential customers progress through these stages. You can do this by offering valuable content to them. Each type of content should be aligned with the level of the funnel and be aimed at moving people onto the next level. For instance, if someone is just learning about you for the first time, just trying to figure out who you are, a “buy now” button won’t help them. However, when someone is at the action stage, a “buy now” button is exactly what they’re looking for.
Here’s an example of the funnel stages and the type of resources you can tie to them.
● Awareness - create a targeted Facebook ad addressing a common problem your product or service helps with. Provide an additional resource such as a checklist that can help them navigate whatever challenge you’ve just highlighted. For instance, if you’re a boutique you might advertise that you are the perfect stop for Mother’s Day gifts. Your checklist might be creative ideas for different types of mothers (such as the fashionista, the gardener, the bookworm, etc.).
● Interest - they know who you are and they like what they see. Now you have to give them more. This is where effective web copy comes in as well as a blog and consistent posting to the social media sites your ideal demographic is on. Most people prefer to learn more about companies on their own before approaching a sales person. A blog helps you showcase content that will help move them closer to a...
● Decision - now they know who you are and what you have. Be clear about what you offer and the different ways they could solve their problem with your help. This part includes providing the necessary resources to educate people on your product or service and the upsells possible. These resources should always direct them to...
● Action - this is where they buy. You want content that drives the buying process and makes it easier. This should include “buy now” buttons if you sell online or directions on how to purchase if you don’t.
As a small business owner, you might not refer to it as a sales funnel but you probably know the steps it takes the average customer to go from stranger to purchaser. Look for ways you can tie content into those processes to move people along and avoid snafus in the buying process.
Next time, we’ll learn how you can analyze your sales funnel to see where potential issues are holding people back and you’ll learn just how many leads you need to increase your sales.
Christina R. Green teaches small businesses, chambers, and associations how to connect through content. Her articles have appeared in the Midwest Society of Association Executives’ Magazine, NTEN.org, AssociationTech, and WritersWeekly. She is a regular blogger at Frankjkenny.com and the Event Manager Blog.