Ah, the sales funnel. As you’ve researched how to drive sales to your business, you’ve most likely come across blog posts, videos or podcasts that teach you how to attract, educate and convert prospects into customers.
It’s like a recipe from your own secret sales cookbook: sprinkle in a social post, add two dollops of video marketing, fold with some FAQs and stir around in a landing page — and voila! Right?
Unfortunately, it takes a lot more time to build a rich, satiating batch of conversion cookies. But follow these six tips for moving customers through the sales funnel, and you’ll be cooking up stacks of cash in no time.
What is a sales funnel?
Before you start flowing prospects through the sales funnel, you need to understand what it is.
A sales funnel is series of stages that guide prospective customers toward a buying decision.
The series is composed of different marketing collateral that attracts, educates, and finally converts prospects into customers Examples of marketing collateral you might use in a sales funnel include:
- Social media post
- Blog post
- Interactive quiz
- Email marketing campaign
- Email autoresponder
- Landing page
- Direct mail (i.e., postcard or sales letter)
- Promotional items (i.e., magnets or T-shirts)
To create a high-performing sales funnel, you need to understand the stages of the process. These stages play into consumer psychology and drive your prospect awareness of your brand to evaluation of their options — and finally to conversion.
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Building awareness in the sales funnel
I can still envision the movie Field of Dreams, where Kevin Costner stands in his cornfield as the voice echoes, “If you build it, they will come.” Some of you might have built amazing products or services, but don’t expect Ray Liotta to pop out of the corn stalks with his wallet open anytime soon. Not unless you build awareness of your brand.
The first stage of your sales funnel is to create content that raises awareness of your brand, people, products and services. In order to drive qualified awareness of your business, you’ll want to interview yourself and build a buyer persona with your results.
Tip 1: Interview yourself
Ask yourself these questions to get a better idea of what type of content you need to create to build awareness for prospective customers:
- What do I need my prospects to believe?
- What do my prospects need to learn, know or understand before they consider working with me?
- What objections to buying from me might my prospects present?
- What are my prospects researching before making the purchase?
When you have the answers to these interview questions, you have the makings of a buyer persona.
Tip 2: Build a buyer persona
A well-developed buyer persona helps you pinpoint the marketing collateral that will make your sales funnel recipe sizzle. The buyer persona helps you better understand prospects and customers, and gives insights into what really drives your prospective customers to buy from you.
Depending on your business, you may have one or 100 buyer personas. Ultimately, referring to your buyer persona when you create new marketing materials will help you to provide the information that your prospective customers need to digest in order to choose to do business with your company.
With interview completed and buyer persona built, you can begin to build out a bevy of marketing content like blog posts, social media posts, and even video marketing that pinpoints the questions or needs of your prospects.
Tip 3: Pinpoint prospects’ needs
When creating content for the top of the sales funnel, your main goal is to provide content that speaks to the type of search queries that are asked at the awareness stage. According to digital marketing expert Neil Patel there are four keyword tools you should consider when researching your prospects’ potential search queries:
- Google Keyword Planner — A go-to for most marketers that is very useful and works well if you’re considering buying AdWords.
- Answer The Public — Provides the auto-suggest results provided by Google and Bing.
- Ubersuggest — A tool developed by Neil Patel with powerful insights.
- Infinite Suggest — Provides “never-ending Google keyword suggestions.”
Using tools like these will help you pinpoint prospects’ needs and identify long-tailed phrases that are searched for during the awareness stage.
Guiding evaluation in the sales funnel
Once you’ve built awareness and caught the attention of your prospect, you now need to guide them through the second stage of the sales funnel: evaluation.
It’s important to understand that your prospects have choices during this stage, so your sole focus (and really your obligation) is to educate them on the pros and cons of making those choices.
Of course, your content should highlight all of the pros of working with your business — which is why you want to establish your unique selling proposition.
Tip 4: Establish your unique selling proposition
Lisa Stambaugh wrote a great piece on finding your unique selling proposition. In her piece, Lisa explains how a unique selling proposition is more than just a differentiating factor between you and your competition. It’s a compelling reason that makes your prospects choose you over others. Strategies to establish your unique selling proposition include:
- Analyzing the competition.
- Identifying frustration factors.
- Emphasizing behaviors, skills or traits.
- Citing specifics you can substantiate.
- Monitoring and adapting based on your customer feedback.
With your unique selling proposition in hand, you can now create content that explains why prospects should choose to work with you over the competition — and what they can expect from doing business with you. Some great assets for this stage of the sales funnel include educational resources (e.g. case studies or white papers), useful resources (checklists or templates) and webinars or live educational events.
Driving conversion in the sales funnel
By the time prospects reach the conversion stage, they are serious about buying — but they just need a little nudging or persuading. At this stage in the sales funnel, you don’t need to rely so much on social media posts or email marketing campaigns, because the prospects know your business exists and have interacted with you multiple times. Instead, they really want to find the answers to questions specific to your business. And you want to create new content for the questions you have not answered yet.
Tip 5: Make answers easy to find
The last thing you want your prospects to do is become frustrated when trying to make a buying decision. For that reason alone, you want to make sure that all answers to any of their questions are easy to find on your website in three main areas:
- Landing pages
- Blog posts
- Robust FAQ page
Building landing pages is critical for your business. The landing pages should speak specifically to the product or service you want to sell and present all the information the prospect needs to convert. An amazing landing page will also present the prospect with a strong call-to-action and a way to purchase instantly.
Blog posts allow you to double-dip in your marketing efforts: they build on-site SEO and give you the ability to convert those prospects ready to buy. When writing a blog post for conversion purposes, break the content into easy-to-digest sections with information about the product or service, key features/benefits, and a direct call-to-action and/or way to buy from you.
A robust frequently asked questions (FAQ) page is a great catch-all and should be included on your website. When building websites for clients, I like to use the FAQ page as a site-linking tree to ensure that equity flows freely to awareness, evaluation and conversion pages equally. If prospects can easily find the answers they need on your website, they won’t search elsewhere (like a competitor’s site).
Making answers easy to find helps paint your business in a good light, and if prospects can also see your positive online reviews woven throughout your website, then buying from you would be a no-brainer.
Tip 6: Leverage online reviews
Positive online reviews work wonders when it comes to converting prospects into paying customers.
Online reviews act as social proof that you provide a quality product or service, because they are seeing how others like them have experienced doing business with you.
In fact, more than 90 percent of your prospects read online reviews, and a great deal of them expect to see reviews when they visit your website.
By adding reviews directly to your website, either on a testimonial page or throughout your web pages, you’ll help convince your prospect that they need to do business with you.
Go build your sales funnel
You’re now equipped with the stages, tactics and tips to build an effective sales funnel. Remember, just like a recipe, you’ll always want to experiment and make tweaks to make the best tasting conversion cookies you can.
Good luck and happy selling!