The term ‘funnel’ gets bandied around a lot in the digital world and there’s an assumption that everyone knows what one is. It can be overwhelming for those just starting out, or those who’ve managed to live their lives blissfully unaware of what a sales funnel is (and let’s face it, every industry has its jargon, there’s no reason at all why someone not in the digital marketing field should know all the different terms used).
This blog post is for people for whom sales funnels are a bit of a mystery, but who are keen to learn more about them and how they can help in their own business, as well as that of their clients.
This is a beginner’s guide, so we’ll be concentrating on the basics. Of course, funnels can be fiendishly complicated and funnel creation and management can become a rich mix of art and science. However, our aim is to lay down the foundations so the next time someone mentions a sales funnel, you can do more than smile politely 🙂
What Is A Sales Funnel?
A sales funnel is no more than a process. It’s a process which attracts your target audience onto your email list and from there filters them through a series of processes, which are designed to nurture the audience until they are ready to take the final action, which is typically to buy something and become a raving fan.
This funnel might be encouraging blog readers to turn from casual readers to committed fans, transform people who have never heard of a coach into one-to-one clients, change shoppers who have never heard of a brand into loyal customers and avid fans – and turn busy entrepreneurs who have never heard of YOU into your best clients ever!
The term sales funnel has been coined because it represents what happens. Lots of people will enter the funnel at the widest point, and less will filter through to the end. However, those that do make it through to the end, will be your die-hard fans.
What makes a funnel valuable, is that each step of the process is identified and can be analyzed, therefore when people fall out of the funnel for one reason or another, this can trigger other actions to be taken. This means you can tailor make marketing and promotional campaigns which are specific to the actions that someone took while doing through a sales funnel.
PRO TIP: Every stage of a sales funnel is intentional. Right from the very first contact you have with your audience through to the end goal.
How Will Sales Funnels Help Your Business?
A sales funnel will obviously help you build your own list and create an audience of raving fans who will become loyal clients. Loyal clients will help you spread the word about your services and ensure that you have the business you deserve.
However, in addition to using a sales funnel for your own business, providing funnel based services (or marketing automation) for your clients could be an important new revenue stream for you. Just take a look at Upwork and Fiverr, you will see a lot of marketing automation jobs posted. Busy entrepreneurs need help with this sort of work.
The Sales Funnel Magic
What makes a sales funnel magical, is that it introduces the three factors which are key in any transaction – know, like and trust. We know that people buy from people they know, like and trust – however in a busy online digital world, it’s difficult to build the know, like and trust factor. However, that’s the magic that a sales funnel brings to the sales process. It allows us a service providers or sellers of products, to interact with the audience, to help build the trust factor, so that when they are ready to buy, we have the product or service ready there for them.
Notice I said here ‘when they are ready to buy’. This is super-important and shouldn’t be overlooked. By taking people through a series of sequences, they are ready and want to buy your product or service. Without the sales funnel, the audience don’t get to know, like or trust us, as providers, and it’s a much harder sell. They are a cold audience.
Think of it like dating 🙂 If you go on a first date with someone and their first comment is ‘how many kids shall we have’, the likelihood is, you’ll be backing out of that date as soon as possible. However, if in the first date you get to know someone a little bit, and in the second date you learn more, as time progresses and as the relationship builds, eventually the ‘how many kids shall we have’ question will be one you are both ready to ask.
In dating terms, the sales funnel magic is what stops someone climbing out of the bathroom window on the first date and creates a long and happy relationship.
The Stages of a Sales Funnel
So, we’ve established that a sales funnel is a set of processes that start with attracting your audience and end with a solid base of die-hard fans. Each process represents a stage of the funnel journey (appropriately, a sales funnel is also sometimes known as the buyer’s journey).
The different stages of a funnel will, of course, depend on the end goal, as well as the target audience. However, the key principles remain the same. There may be more than one contact with the audience at each stage:
Stage One – Entice
Whether it’s blog readers, potential clients or a new base of customers, at the top of every funnel is a method of enticing them them into your email list and into the funnel. This is often referred to as a lead magnet and it’s something valuable that you give in return for, typically, someone’s email address.
The lead magnet has to be of value. This is the first contact with the audience and this is what should pique their interest to learn more.
If the lead magnet is not of value, the danger is the recipient will at best unsubscribe from your list and at worst, mark any future emails as spam, which could hurt the deliverability of future emails.
Stage Two – Introductions
At the second stage of the funnel it’s all about introductions. This is where you introduce the audience to you and your services by offering a irresistible offer. This is something of value to the audience – something that shows you in your best possible light – and which the audience has to pay for. However, the offer should be irresistible, like a never ending supply of chocolate cupcakes. You are introducing yourself and your services / products to the audience, and you are learning more about them buy the actions they take.
The aim of this stage is not to make money from the sale, but to give something of value – and in return you are checking that this audience are prepared to spend money – even small amounts on a product or service. You are weeding out the tyre kickers and freebie hunters.
Stage Three – Core Offer
This is where we offer the audience the core offer – this is our core service or the product we think they will be interested in the most. Through the actions taken in the first two stages, the audience should be receptive to purchase.
Stage Four – Love on Your List
The last stage of the sales funnel is where you now have a happy and engaged list. They have got to know you, they like you and your products / service, they trust you enough to purchase something from you and now they will become your very best fans – through your superb customer service. And as part of this final stage of the funnel, this audience will also be receptive to your Big Offer. This might be a platinum service plan or high-level mastermind, or this might be a invite to buy from a new product range or to purchase a limited edition item.
PRO TIP: Every stage of the funnel is a trade. You must give value to the potential clients which balances the value they bring to you. As your audience get further in the funnel, the more potential value they bring to you.
Catching Dropouts From Your Funnel
At each step of the process, some of the audience will have dropped out. From the first stage to the second stage, people might drop out because, for example, they don’t have PayPal and your offer only accepted PayPal, they might have dropped out because while they loved your freebie, they are not ready to buy your irresistible offer – even though it is the best thing since unicorn toast – or they may not have purchased because they are freebie hunters and have no intention of buying anything. Ever.
While we could just focus on the audience in the funnel, that might mean we are losing a lot of potential customers. Therefore at each step of the process different actions take place based on activity. However, this starts to get a little more complex, so we’ll save that for the next e-book on funnels.
It’s All About The Systems, Baby
Ok, so this all sounds great! However for it all to work then some systems are going to be necessary to make it all happen. Great systems will let you set up the sales pages, deliver the lead magnets, manage your email lists…
There are a wide variety of programs and applications that will help you create and manage funnels and marketing automation.
If you are going to offer funnel services, then you will be largely driven as to systems to use depending on what your clients use. However, the principles remain the same regardless of the systems you use.
The best way to get started with funnels is to create one for yourself. This will help you get a better understanding of how sales funnels click, as well as sprinkling a little funnel magic on your own business.