Smart marketers know that the best way to sell online is to ensure that your landing pages are converting and your customer journey to sale is seamless. However, this seemingly-simple step can be littered with complexity and places where your customers get distracted, confused or simply give up. If your marketing isn’t delivering in terms of sales, it’s time to lift up the hood and take a peek at your sales funnel — bump up those conversion rates and get those sales dollars flowing!
What is a Sales Funnel?
While many people understand in a generic way what a sales funnel is, it’s important to know that there are five key steps you will need to walk your customers through before expecting them to make a purchase. The steps are:
- Awareness: Prospect become aware that you are offering a solution to their problem
- Interest: Prospects begin looking around, showing interest in your solution
- Evaluation: Think of this as “try before you buy”, where prospects are determining if your solution is better than others on the market
- Decision: Congratulations! Your prospect has decided your solution wins the race, and now they’re looking for the best possible deal
- Purchase: Actual purchase of goods and services (Hint: Don’t neglect optimization of this step!)
Depending on the type of product or service that you’re offering, you may also want to include reevaluation and repurchase phases, as you regularly cycle customers through the purchasing phase and re-engage them in new offerings or services.
Lead Generation: Your Marketing Engine
Optimizing the top of your sales funnel through the awareness and interest phases means ensuring that you have a steady stream of high-quality content out in the universe, pulling in new prospects from a variety of different locations. This could include pay-per-click advertising, social media marketing, blogs, white papers and more. Evaluating each of your prospecting tactics has a great deal of importance, and can save you significant dollars. What if you determine that the inexpensive $5 per day social media boost is bringing in more prospects than your $40 per day Google AdWords tactic? Information like this allows you to make shifts in spending that will drive more prospects through your least-expensive and most effective intake valve. You can’t just look at which channel is driving the most warm bodies — you have to peer all the way through the sales funnel to determine which prospects actually convert into paying customers.
Converting Your Prospects
Once you have a potential customer’s attention, the focus shifts on how to keep that attention laser-focused on your solution. Content that is exceptionally appealing to prospects during the early stages may or may not be exactly the details that a pre-customer is looking for. For instance, prospects may need prompting to feel a need for the solution that you’re offering, while customers on the cusp of a purchase are looking for the true benefits that your solution provides to make their life better or easier. Making sure your prospects become customers involves a delicate balancing act that includes answering questions prospects may have in their mind such as:
- Do I really need this product or service?
- Can I afford to make this purchase?
- I’m not sure I trust this solution provider
When you’re able to overcome these barriers, you’re moving your prospects to the final step: making a purchase.
Closing the Sale (and Beyond!)
Many marketers think that their job in creating a fully-optimized sales funnel is complete once the customer has pushed “buy”, but that is far from the optimal solution. Don’t let nurturing the customer relationship fall to the wayside at this critical juncture of your relationship. Instead, continue to woo the customer by providing excellent communication during and after the sale, encouraging them to share their purchase with others and continuing to pitch the benefits your solution offers. Customers want that personal relationship with the brands they select, so be sure you’re offering it!