It doesn’t matter if you’re already nurturing leads to become customers — you still need a sales funnel. With a sales funnel, you define the steps users take to convert, starting from when they become aware of your business and continuing until after they’ve purchased your product or service. The sales funnel should also include follow-ups to retain your customers and tactics to increase customer lifetime value.
The process of nurturing users to become customers is called a funnel because each stage has slightly fewer people than the previous. The reason for this is users drop off at every stage. In some cases, users are simply not qualified and there’s never any chance they would purchase from you. However, others drop off due to mistakes on your end — perhaps technical issues with your website or inappropriate marketing decisions.
By creating a sales funnel, you’ll see where the leaks lie and you can take steps to fix them. Plus, you’ll have a better idea of what kind of conversion rate to expect at each stage of the pipeline, which enables you to estimate likely revenue from leads.
The Stages in the Funnel
Before learning how to build a sales funnel, it’s a good idea to understand its stages. This will help you deliver the right message at the right time.
The awareness stage starts the moment you gain the interest of a user. This could be with a social media post, through a Google search, after reading a review, or something else. The challenge is to make sure users do notice you.
Most of the time, users are far from ready to buy at the awareness stage. They’ll need to know much more about what you have to offer, including how you’ll solve their problems. Nurturing at this stage should revolve around highlighting the issues your users are facing (these may be things they’re unaware of).
At the interest stage, prospects are researching their options. Nurturing involves providing these prospects with more information that presents you as the top choice. This doesn’t mean making a sales pitch — rather, you should position your brand as an industry expert.
If leads are failing to reach this stage, you need to reconsider who you’re targeting. In the case a large amount of traffic arriving to your site is unqualified, you’re wasting your time and missing out on users who may have an interest in becoming customers. Learn as much as you can about who makes up your target audience, instead of basing your marketing around assumptions.
By the decision stage, leads are ready to buy. They may still be choosing between a couple of options in addition to your brand. This is the point where you need to entice users with an irresistible offer, which could be a free trial, a discount code, or some kind of bonus.
If the vast majority of your prospects are failing to become leads, you may be pushing for a sale too early. Before leads can reach the decision stage, you need to be nurturing them with information that you find useful and entertaining — not a thinly-veiled sales pitch that your offering is the best solution.
Sales funnels end at the action stage: where a lead becomes a customer by making a purchase. However, the hard work is not simply over because you have a conversion. Since retaining customers is much more cost effective than attracting new leads, this stage is extra important. By offering the best-possible customer experience, you’ll gain repeat sales. This also gives you a greater chance of upselling, cross-selling, and gaining referrals.
If you have plenty of leads reaching the decision stage but few converting into customers, it could be that your offer is not enticing enough, that you’re asking for a sale at the wrong time, or there could even be something leads don’t like about the product itself, such as the price or features. It’s important to gather feedback from leads to make changes for future users.
Bearing all the above in mind, it’s time to start building your own sales funnel.
Step 1: Attract Traffic to Your Site
There are numerous ways to bring more users to your site, including with content, with backlinks, and by posting links to social media, to name just a few. All these come down to a great SEO strategy.
Central to any SEO strategy is content. You can use SEO to rank your webpages, blog posts, and even guest blogs. What’s important is that you focus on topics that will interest your target audience. You can figure this out by searching for what keywords are trending, looking at what’s working for competitors, and, when a piece of your own content performs well, creating more like it.
Step 2: Create Premium Content
Once you’ve attracted traffic to your site, you need a way of capturing users’ contact details. The best way to do this is to provide users with something they want for free — or, rather, in exchange for their email addresses. Ideas for premium content range from case studies and infographics to webinars and email newsletters.
Step 3: Make Landing Pages
For users to download a piece of premium content, they need to end up on a landing page. An effective landing page should feature a compelling headline and a few lines of text that encourage users to take your offer. It should also have a short form that users will need to fill in before they can receive the premium content. To encourage users to provide you with their contact information, ask only for the details you need — a long form is instantly off putting.
Step 4: Use an Email Drip Campaign
Once you’ve gained your leads’ attention, you need to maintain it. This is where the email addresses you gathered from the landing pages come in useful. An email drip campaign will keep you top of mind and enable you to continue providing leads with information that will help them come to a decision. The content in the emails should put any concerns leads have about purchasing from you to rest and show why your offering will benefit them.
Finally, when the time is right, offer the chance to try your service through a demo or free trial or provide recipients with a discount code to make a purchase. To optimize your email drip campaign, you’ll need to experiment with the frequency of emails that works best (typically between one and two a week is ideal) and test when is the perfect time to spring your offer.
Step 5: Run Ads
An alternative way to SEO for attracting leads is PPC ads. You can run ads on social media or have them appear in paid search. Either way, they should be aimed at users who are in the interest or decision stage. Offer prospects something like premium content, a free trial, or even a discount to use on a purchase and add any leads that don’t immediately convert to an email drip campaign.
Step 6: Present a Downgrade
Some leads may end up deciding not to purchase because your offering is too expensive. To avoid them dropping off the funnel entirely, a strategy could be to offer a downgrade to allow leads to stay within their budget. This enables you to keep the potential customer, who could still present an opportunity for an upgrade in the future.
Step 7: Upsell and Cross-Sell
If, on the other hand, you are successful in converting a lead to a customer with a free trial, discount, or whatever else you use as enticement, a next appropriate move could be to upsell or cross-sell. To upsell, you present one of your more expensive options to the customer and expound the benefits of having additional features. In the case of cross-selling, you offer customers a product or service that complements one they’ve already purchased.
Step 8: Start a Referral Program
Once you’ve converted some satisfied customers, it’s time to nurture them to encourage them to provide your brand with word-of-mouth marketing. One of the best ways to do this is to start a referral program that benefits both the customer and the person they refer. For instance, a customer could receive a free upgrade for a limited time, a gift, or even cash back. It’s best if they can receive an incentive for every individual they refer. As for the referrals, you could offer them an exclusive discount or a longer free trial than normal.
Make sure all your customers are aware of the referral program and know what kind of people they should refer. The last thing you want is to waste your time on unqualified leads.
Carrying out all the above stages on your own is a lot of work, and you’re unlikely to see optimal results unless you have a good understanding of marketing best practices. A better option than creating a strategy and hoping for the best is to rely on the experts. Use our business growth services to receive a sales funnel that converts the maximum amount of traffic into customers.