There is always pressure to maximize sales, so it makes sense that many marketing and sales pros are tempted to chase after any shred of a prospect.
However, think about what your experience would be like if you were constantly being chased after by anyone. Your first instinct likely would be to get away from them, ignore their calls and avoid future interactions with them, which are all things you don’t want potential clients doing.
Walking into a high-pressure sales environment is generally a negative experience. Have you ever been hounded by a salesperson the moment you walked into a store? And then this salesperson continues to follow you around when all you want to do is browse? Chances are that you aren’t coming back to that store any time soon.
The same holds true in an online environment, and that’s why savvier digital pros know not to try converting a website visitor into a customer upon the first contact.
It’s also why so many successful businesses have developed and continue to optimise their sales funnels. It’s all about making sure people can easily find your brand, want to learn about your value proposition and products, trust in your expertise and feel safe interacting with you.
This not only helps in driving sales, but it also means that you work toward targeting your ideal customers.
The leads that make it all the way down the funnel could indeed become your customers – and vocal fans – for life. The Pareto Principle applies here. You are far better off focusing your efforts on the 20 percent of your customer base that account for 80 percent of your profits.
There is great value in keeping the right customers rather than constantly chasing new ones, so you’re going to need to adopt some Moneyball principles here. The below visual from KlientBoost helps illustrate funnel drop-off points and opportunities for optimisation.
With the right data at your fingertips, you’ll be in the best possible position to learn and sell more over time. Here’s what you need to keep in mind for each stage of the funnel.
Optimising for Awareness
The best way to think about a sales funnel is as a literal funnel with the widest part of the cone at the top and the narrowest part at the bottom. The goal is to attract as many customers as possible to the top of the funnel, and then have them work their way down the funnel until they emerge out the bottom.
This visual also works well, because it recognises that the potential prospects you have early on in the process (near the top of the funnel) will far outnumber the number of eventual paying customers (bottom of the funnel). That’s natural and to be expected as you zero in on your ideal, target customers. Perhaps counterintuitively, losing potential customers can actually boost your bottom line.
To this end, the first objective that you have is simply to create brand awareness. People can’t buy from you if they don’t even know who you are. At this point, the goal is not to land the sale. Don’t put the cart before the horse, and don’t scare away your potential prospects. Instead, simply work toward creating an online presence where you develop a positive reputation.
Some tools, channels and tactics you may utilize at this stage include:
It’s better to do one platform very well than it is to do a mediocre job on several platforms. Go to where your potential customers already are. The demographics on Pinterest are different than on Twitter.
Craft your message to suit your audience and leverage the specific advantages of each platform. Facebook is especially robust when it comes to pinpointing the exact demographic you’d wish to target, including gender, marital status, geographic location (country, state, city), interests and more.
You can get really specific and that really is the best approach. You can’t be all things to all people, nor should you try to be.
Having a company blog, in some form or another, accomplishes multiple goals. It adds a layer of humanity to your brand, because people connect best with other people.
It also gives you a much better “excuse” for sharing your brand and its content across social channels. You can write about your products or you can write about your industry.
There are endless possibilities. The added benefit here is that through tools like Google Analytics and Kissmetrics, you gain key insights into exactly who is accessing what content, including geographic location, demographic information, browser/device type and more.
This further enables a more data-driven approach to optimising your sales funnel, because it helps to further define exactly who your ideal customer is and where you should be focusing your efforts.
It can be difficult to reach new audiences, especially if you don’t already have an established presence on the Internet. With influencer marketing, you can tap into their existing fan base.
This way, people get introduced to you by someone they already know and trust. Better yet, according to a campaign run by TapInfluence, influencer marketing generated up to 11 times the ROI of banner ads after 12 months, resulting in households buying 10% more product from the brand compared to the control group.
Similar in philosophy to influencer marketing, pay-per-click advertising puts your brand in front of people who may not have otherwise encountered it.
Leverage the data you’re already accruing through social media, your blog, and other tools to further optimise your PPC campaigns. Keyword tools like those offered by SEMrush and WordStream are great resources for keyword research.
Remember that the goal at this point is to build a community. You want people to know who you are, so that your name will come to mind first when they start shopping for the types of products and services that you sell. They might not want to buy now, but they may be interested later.
Educating an audience effectively
Once they know that your brand exists, the next step is to provide potential customers with knowledge. Buyers want to feel like they are making an informed buying decision, of their own accord and not one that they felt pressured or bullied into making.
Here you can explain to the potential client why they need to have the product or service that you sell in the first place, and why your solution is the best one for them.
In addition to strategies like white papers and landing pages, a terrific option for education in the context of a sales funnel is the webinar. In fact, according to a report produced by ClickMeeting for 2018, about two-thirds of webinars are education-related.
There are a lot of how-to webinars and business knowledge sharing, because that’s the best way to make the case for the value and niche expertise offered by your company and its solutions.
Webinars are also great because they provide a much richer sense of interaction and connection between hosts and attendees in a welcoming, safe, and active online environment.
In 2017, ClickMeeting hosted 595,095 events, which lasted a total of 621,973 hours, and which were attended by 16,903,631 people globally. Webinars are rising in popularity and for good reason. They are great for training and are terrific as a sales funnels as well.
When someone signs up for a webinar, you capture their contact information. From there, you can track the leads to see whether they actually attend the live webinar (about 45% do) or if they come back to catch the recording. Group chat, polls and Q&A are among the most popular features in webinars to help improve engagement among attendees.
Another great option for educating your potential customer base is through white papers. These are well researched documents that explore specific issues in your industry and can help establish your expertise in your niche.
Whitepapers are a good way to position your company and its products or services as an ideal solution to your customer’s problems and can be distributed through a number of different channels, helping to expand your brand presence in the marketplace.
Alternatively, you can offer the white paper as a “free gift” when someone signs up for your email list or otherwise offers their contact information to you (as a warm lead). More than three-quarters of buyers say that they would be willing to share information about themselves in exchange for a white paper.
Converting the Sale
After someone knows who you are, and they’ve expressed interest through the second stage of the sales funnel, they’ve turned into a qualified lead. Now, it’s time for you to close the sale and seal the deal.
Through the sales funnel, the warm leads that make it to this stage should be a lot easier to close as they already know who you are and they already like what you have. The actual sales process will vary considerably from industry to industry, and from business to business. You may experience great success through email blasts and sales pages, for instance, or you may have a sales team who work on actual sales calls. Free trials are a great “foot in the door” technique.
And remember that even after someone has made it through the sales funnel and you’ve successfully converted that prospect into a paying customer, your work isn’t done. You need to continue nurturing that relationship.
Retaining a customer is between 5 to 25 times more cost-effective than acquiring a new one. Also, someone who has bought from you before is much more likely to buy from you again AND they’re more likely to refer you to their friends, family, and colleagues too.
Take advantage of that with resells, upsells, and cross-sells, all while working to maintain as positive a relationship as possible with your new customer.