The concept of a sales funnel isn’t new, but it has seen a resurgence in popularity over the last year. Particularly in an online business, when you’re competing with tons of ads and offers for similar products and services, the funnel has re-emerged as an ideal way to attract people and automatically vet them as an ideal lead, and then sell to them.
Since most people don’t buy on the first visit to your business, the funnel offers an affordable way to get their information, let them know more about you, and lead them through a process toward a sale.
A sales funnel is a system of enticing your target market to your business and then leading them through a process that allows them to learn about you, which, hopefully, leads them to buy. The image of a funnel represents how, through each stage of the funnel fewer prospects move, but those few people are more committed to your business.
There are several stages of a sales funnel, and, depending on what diagram or article you read, you’ll find various names for each stage. But in general, the funnel moves a sales lead from initial awareness of you to making a purchase. The main stages of the funnel are:
- Awareness: This is the widest part of the funnel, where people first learn about you.
- Interest: Once the person is aware of you, the next step is to capture their deeper interest so that the lead wants to know more about what you offer.
- Desire/Consideration: In this stage, you’ve piqued your prospect’s interest to the point he’s interested in what you have to sell, but he's still deciding whether or not to invest (money, time, or email) in you.
- Action/Purchase: If you’ve satisfied the prospect’s questions and concerns, he’ll move into the narrowest part of the funnel and become a customer or client.
As mentioned above, the number of prospects gets smaller through each stage, but their interest grows. One of the nice things about a marketing funnel is that some aspects can be automated. However, it’s important to remember that the goal is to build trust, credibility, and rapport so that prospects feel good about buying from or hiring you. This means you’re providing more value and developing a stronger relationship with your leads through each stage.
Set up a Sales Funnel Online
Once you know your hook and offer(s), it’s time to put your funnel together. Here are the steps:
- Set up a Place to Send All Potential Leads to Enter the Awareness Stage of Your Funnel: For many businesses, this a website, although it could be a storefront. To keep your prospects from getting distracted, especially if you’ll use paid marketing options to attract leads, you should set up a squeeze or landing page on which there’s nothing but your free offer. This way the prospect has no choice but to see what you’re offering and how it will help them—and hopefully, they’ll sign up.
- What Are You Offering?: While your offer can be your product or service, generally in a sales funnel, the initial offer is something free or very low cost, such as a guide, consultation, checklist, or another item of value. This makes entry into the funnel an easy decision for the lead and gives you an opportunity to sell in the next stages of the funnel.
Most bloggers use a simple funnel to build their email list so they can sell their offers or affiliate offers. The hook is a lead magnet such as a checklist, ebook, or another item that has a high perceived value. In exchange for the free offer, the lead gives the blogger their email. With an email, the blogger can deliver the free product, but also, build trust and report, and grow the prospect’s interest in what the blogger offers.
Many online businesses (and offline businesses with an online presence) use this similar funnel: free offer in exchange for email > email to build interest that leads to a sale.
In other cases, online entrepreneurs have a multi-page funnel that has the enticing free offer and then several additional paid offers. For example, a virtual assistant might have a funnel that starts with a free offer of a 10-minute consultation signed up for through email. The next page can take the lead to a special offer of a productivity planner for $27. If the lead buys the planner, the next page can offer five hours of virtual assistant services for $99.
The great thing about an online funnel is that the lead will automatically be taken to each of these pages, moving through the funnel with no effort from you beyond the setup. And even if leads skip buying the planner or virtual assistant services, you still have their email, so perhaps you can sell these things to them in the future.
- Hook 'Em With an Irresistible Offer: Now that you know your offer, how are you going to grab their attention to check it out? Each page of your funnel should use marketing writing techniques to hook your prospect and make them want to take action. Why should a lead sign up for your free offer? How will your free offer help them? To make the best offers, focus on the benefits your target market will get from your offer. Will your freebie help them organize their finances? Show them how to work out in 10 minutes a day?
If they take you up on that offer, what does the next offer help them with? Each step of the funnel, whether it’s two pages or six, is a chance to draw your prospect closer to you and make more sales. But the funnel only works if the offers are something the lead can’t pass up.
- Have a Call to Action at Each Stage of the Funnel: Don’t assume people will know what to do to get your information. You need to tell them to sign up for your free report, or join your membership now, or buy here. Even on pages that don’t have a sales offer, you should let people know what to do next. For example, if your funnel is simply to build your email list, the next page should be a thank you page that tells them to check their email for the free goodie. Or if the free goodie is on the second page of the funnel, tell them what they need to do to get it, such as “click here to download” or “watch this video.” If they’ve registered for a webinar, tell them to add it to their calendar.
- Deliver Value: If you disappoint your lead at any phase, you’ll lose that sale, and potentially future sales you could have made. That means each step needs to deliver quality. Today, it’s not unusual to see online entrepreneurs giving away a course they once sold because even the free offer needs to deliver big results to customers. Most online entrepreneurs also offer a variety of features and bonuses to their main offer to help build perceived value that leads people to want to buy right then.
Provide Information and Resources That Keep Your Potential Prospects Interested: If your leads don’t buy but do give you their email, you need to stay in touch and walk them through the Interest and Desire stages so that they want to buy, but don’t ignore the people who buy from you too. These leads will likely buy from you again if you can stay in touch and continue to offer them good value. Things that can help you deliver quality and value include:
Content—articles, tips, and other information
- Case studies or white papers
- Ask Leads to Engage With You Further: Funnels are awesome because they work automatically, but that doesn’t mean you can set it and forget it. Along with emailing them to stay in touch and give them great content, you want to seek engagement. Social media is one way leads can continue to learn about you. For example, you can start a private or public Facebook group where your target market can ask questions, share their experiences with you, and more.
Once they’re following you on social media or are on your email list, you can continue to deliver valuable information and resources to help them to make the decision to buy or buy again.
Offering special trial offers and free consults are another way to ask leads to engage with you further so you can show off your expertise.
Getting People to Your Funnel
Once you’re ready to receive visitors to your funnel, you need to get them there. This is where your marketing efforts come in.
The first thing you need to decide is what you’re going to offer (back to that!). If you have a free offer, promote that. Like your funnel pages, your marketing should include a hook (Save Money Now!) and an offer (Get Our "Free 20 Ways to Save 20 Percent" Report).
There are many ways to market your business, but a few ideas include:
- Search engine optimization (SEO)
- Social media
- Advertising (paid, Facebook ads, etc.)
- Pitch to be a guest podcasts or other shows
Setting up a funnel is like having a sales team working for you automatically, giving you time to focus on the aspects of your business that generate money or that you enjoy most.