For any business owner, an online sales funnel is probably the most important marketing tool you have, but do you know how to fix a leaky sales funnel? Even if you’re B2B, you still need a watertight process to find leads and nurture the trust relationship towards a sale. The tighter the funnel, the better you’ll convert prospects and the higher your profits.
In this article (and podcast episode), I’ll set out the frame of what a sales funnel is for, and why it’s important. And if you have one already, this might help you find and fix any leaks to increase your profits.
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Today we’re talking sales funnels!
That is, the process by which your ideal client or customer finds you and follows a process of getting to know you, like you and trust you, enough to decide to work with you and buy from you.
And you’ll find out the most common reasons for a leaky sales funnel process and how to fix them.
With so much of what we do going digital, our previous in-person methods of finding clients are less reliable. And yet many consultants, coaches and practitioners – both new and established in business – have a rather loose sales process and often a vague understanding of what a funnel is or how it works. That’s what we’ll look at in today’s episode.
There are lots of words bandied about to do with sales funnels: landing pages, opt-ins, list building, sales letters, sales systems etc. and they are all pieces of a sales funnel. But it can be confusing which pieces you really need and how to get them working optimally.
As you can imagine, failing to fully understand this critical part of your customer’s journey, and how they ultimately get to know, like and trust you, means fewer sales, lower profits, and ultimately, an un-leveraged business.
So to get us thinking, I’ll start off by explaining why a sales funnel is important, talk through a simple funnel and how it works. And then for those of you who already have a marketing and sales process in place, we’ll turn to look at leaky funnels and how to fix them.
Why is a sales funnel important?
Your sales funnel illustrates the path prospects take to become buyers of whatever it is you offer. It’s a way of mapping out your ideal customer’s journey from how they find you to how you build a relationship with them, in a way that helps them get to know you, (hopefully) like you and (critically) trust you enough to buy from you or hire you.
Understanding your funnel can help you find the holes in the process — in other words, the places where prospects drop out and never convert. If you don’t understand your sales funnel, you can’t optimize it.
- Attract an Audience > 2. Generate Leads > 3. Convert to Customers
My framework I talk about in my book is the Engage – Educate – Enrol pathway
(plus Evaluate which is a layer on top that allows you to track, test and tweak).
Your sales funnel strategy is to decide on:
your best platform for engaging your audience;
your best list building method to start educating and giving value to your people;
your sales system for enrolling those who are a fit for what you offer.
So 1st step is deciding on your PLATFORM, where you want to show up, where your audience wants to show up.
Pick a medium (be it writing, speaking, teaching, audio, video etc) you’re good at and enjoy, because you’re going to want to commit to doing consistently and show up there every week. So whether that’s LinkedIn, FB lives, podcasts, blog articles, go with something you like, that suits your strengths and preferences as well as what fits with your audience and how they like to consume content or where they’re most likely to hang out.
2nd is your LEAD GENERATION aka opt-ins, list building or connection building and a landing page is where you send people to get something for free from you, where they type in their name and email, and you get a new subscriber.
The mechanism is to create some kind of enticing invitation – a lead magnet, be it a quiz, a checklist, template or downloadable, something valuable and useful to your target market.
Even a book or participation in a study we can use for B2B can be a way to build your list. You can be creative. In fact, nowadays you have to be creative because people are quite discerning about what they opt-in for, you can’t just throw up a fairly generic free report these days and expect to get leads.
Then 3. Your SALES SYSTEM – this is the process by which you follow up with a prospect, how you convert a lead – and it could be a series of emails, phone call, a webinar, a sales page or all of the above.
The choice depends on how much you need to engage and nurture someone before they buy. It’s all about relationship building and building trust.
For example, for a campaign you run to a warm market, you probably won’t need as many steps in your conversion engine as you will for cold leads or people who just met you. If the leads are coming from joint partners, they know the person who’s list they’re on who’s referring you, but they don’t know you yet.
For B2B, it’s not really that different, although we tend to call it a pipeline rather than a funnel, it’s still a sales process that requires some kind of lead system, relationship system and conversion system. Right?
I talked about this in episode 47. A good B2B prospecting strategy is perhaps less about list building per se, and more focused on outreach and personal contacts – but you do still need a list of contacts to work from, and it’s still all about follow up and relationship building.
Essentially, you’re taking your customer on a journey – the customer journey or buying process, from Awareness of a problem to Interest in the solution to Decision about that solution to Action on YOUR solution, your offer.
If you’re willing to spend some time on content marketing, and educating your prospects, you’ll have a much bigger market to draw from than if you only focus on those who are solution aware.
And of course if those people are doing their research from other people’s content, they’re far more likely to work with them, as the person that helped them see the right path and work out what’s needed. That education process is incredibly powerful for trust-building.
A Simple Sales Funnel
At its most basic, a sales funnel consists of free content, which typically requires nothing of your readers. Many sales funnels begin with blog posts, YouTube videos, Facebook content, and other information readers can access at no cost. This is the “top” of your funnel.
Next, you’ll have an attractive offer that requires a very small “payment” of sorts – typically an email address. You’ve seen this type of offer on websites all over the internet, and probably even signed up for some. This is the free ebook or guide, video series, checklist, workbook, or other valuable content that is easy to consume and take action on, and is available simply in exchange for “opting in” to an email list.
Once on your mailing list, you’ll then present your readers with a series of low-cost offers. Perhaps you have a low-priced ebook or a trial membership.
Customers who purchase your low-priced product move further down the funnel, and are presented with more, higher priced products. As they continue to buy, they move closer and closer to your top-end offers, which make up the bottom of your funnel.
Of course, some opt-in offers, or lead magnets, are going to work better than others. And I have several different opt-in offers on my website – my ‘free stuff’, that have proved to be the most popular. And it’s a great way to segment your audience too, because what they opt-in for is going to tell me what they’re most interested in.
How a Funnel Works
If you imagine your funnel as looking like, well, a funnel, it’s easy to see that your free content—at the top—is consumed by the largest number of readers. Below that, your extreme low-cost item (available only for the cost of an email address) attracts a smaller subset of the true freebie seekers. Next, your low-priced products bring in yet a smaller group.
Finally, as you near the tip of the funnel, only the loyalist of fans and customers will purchase your highest priced offers.
Your job, as the business owner, is to ensure that your funnel leads buyers naturally from the top, free offers all the way to the bottom. The more buyers you can keep in your funnel, the more money you will make.
Most new—and even established—business owners can easily envision the top of the funnel, but if you truly want your business to grow, you must master the entire process, and that starts with understanding what a funnel really is and how it works.
If you already have a marketing and sales process in place, you’re likely following some kind of engage, educate and enrol pathway to guide your prospects towards a decision to work with you, buy your program or course or service.
And it’s the layer of Evaluate that you need to pay attention to when you look at whether your funnel is working or not, or how well it’s working, where do people drop off in terms of the customer journey. Knowing your key performance numbers is important. We talked about customer journey data analytics in previous articles you can read or listen on the podcast – episodes 42 and 43.
But let’s look briefly here at …
Four Reasons Why Your Sales Funnel is Leaking
For a business owner with a solid funnel in place, it’s easy to take a look at the number of subscribers at each level of the funnel and predict pretty accurately what the sales are going to be from day to day or week to week.
If you’ve got a funnel in place, though, and your numbers aren’t looking great, chances are you have a leak somewhere. Your funnel has a hole (or two or three) where subscribers are falling through.
There are four common causes for funnel leaks, and once you spot them, they’re pretty easy to fix.
1. Not enough traffic.
The very heart of your sales funnel is the traffic you bring in. Without visitors to your blog or opt-in pages, you’ll have no subscribers. Without subscribers, you’ll have no (or very few) sales. Without sales, you’ll have no business.
Yet this is where a lot of people struggle. How can you get more eyes on your content and more subscribers into your funnel?
So here’s how to fix it and get more traffic.
Traffic generation is an entire industry of its own, but here are some tips:
- Use good SEO to encourage search engines to rank your content well.
- Be present and active in the places where your ideal reader hangs out, whether that’s on social media, in niche forums, or at live events.
- Use paid ads to drive targeted traffic to highly relevant pages.
- Recruit JV partners and affiliates to promote your offers.
- Buy solo ads in related email newsletters.
When you first get going with a funnel, you may do the last two on that list, but paid ads is definitely worth looking at. Just with a hundred dollar spend or so, you can test out whether your funnel is working, before spending a tonne of time on content marketing to drive visitors for free – what we call organic traffic. Because with paid ads you can run a very targeted campaign and see how the numbers stack up.
2. No follow-up.
This is a leaky funnel mistake that a lot of new entrepreneurs make. They spend a lot of time and energy setting up a great squeeze page and driving traffic to it, then they deliver the goods to their subscribers, and then…nothing. No follow-up emails. No offers to buy more. No related services or products. Nothing.
Here’s how you fix this one, really easy.
Before you spend time building that opt-in page or offer, be sure you have a back-end to promote, or those subscribers you so carefully collected will end up costing you money instead of earning it back.
3. No call-to-action.
This happens most typically at the top of the funnel. Your blog posts, social media content, podcasts, YouTube videos—everything you offer for free—must have some kind of call-to-action, or it’s all just wasted energy. Your call-to-action can be as simple as “Subscribe to my YouTube channel” or “Follow me on Facebook for more tips,” but it must be there.
Here’s how to fix it. Every time you write a blog post or an email, ask yourself, “What do I want my readers to do when they’re done reading/listening/watching this?” That becomes your call to action – your most wanted response – and the next natural step for them in the customer journey.
4. No product offers.
When you’re just starting out, this can be a problem. You know you need to be building a mailing list, but with nothing to offer them, what’s the point? The truth is, there are lots of ways to make money in your funnel even if you don’t have a product to sell.
The way to fix this one in the first instance, until you have an offer of your own, is to promote affiliate offers. No matter what industry you’re in, there are a variety of tools and products your readers need. Find those tools, sign up for the affiliate programs, and recommend them to your readers. Not only will your readers thank you for pointing them in the right direction, but you’ll earn a little cash, too. Start by recommending products you use yourself!
Right, so if you think about all those pieces and see you’ve got a leaky funnel, you have some starting points. You should now see that with a few tweaks and some attention paid to your follow-up sequences, chances are you can fix those holes and increase your profits in no time.
3 Pages Every Funnel Must Have – and What To Put On Them!
Confused about how exactly sales funnels work? You’re not alone. In fact, that’s the number one reason small business owners say they can’t get their funnels set up—they simply don’t know what to include where.
In the spirit of keeping things simple, let’s look at the bare bones pieces you can create to have a working sales funnel. Here are three pages every funnel must have – and what to put on them!
At the very least, your sales funnel needs these three pages. A sales page, a confirmation page and a thank you page. Let’s go through each one.
#1 Sales Page
This one obviously comes first. You might call it a landing page, or in the case of a free opt-in, a squeeze page. It serves one purpose—to get the reader to take action. Whether that’s to buy a product or offer up their email address in exchange for a free gift, this is the gateway into your funnel. Everything that follows depends on this page, so you want to be sure you do a few things to get this page working well.
- Include a clear call to action—“Buy Now” or “Click here to download this report for free”
- Eliminate distractions—that means no links to other websites or even a navigation bar
- Address the readers’ pain points and how your offer provides the solution.
#2 Confirmation Page
Here’s where we ask the reader to confirm their intent. For a sales funnel, this confirmation page might actually be your checkout page. It’s where they enter their payment details.
For a free offer, it’s simply the page your email management system directs them to next. It’s a holding page, if you will, while you wait for them to confirm their email address.
If you’re setting up a free funnel, this page has great power—and you don’t want to waste it! What’s the next step that will help them get to know you, and how you can help them. Perhaps you can remind people to follow you on social media, or give them a peak at your other products and services.
If they’ve just purchased something, here is where you can offer an upsell.
Remember, though, that they will only see this page once, so don’t put anything here that they will need to refer back to. That’s what the thank you page is for.
#3 Thank You Page
This is where they actually collect their downloadable item, or get information about how your product will be delivered.
Like the confirmation page, this is valuable real estate, so you want to be sure you use it wisely. In addition to the downloadable item your customer just purchased (or opted in for) you also want to showcase your other offers—especially those at a slightly higher price point. Here’s why: the person looking at this page is a hot prospect. He or she is in a buying mood. You want to be sure to take advantage of that by putting your most relevant offers on this page. To encourage buying, consider including:
A limited time offer – scarcity sells, so if you can legitimately limit sales to a few hours/days or number of units, then this is the place to do so.
A “no brainer” coupon offer – an insider’s only deal can be a powerful motivator, especially if it’s a fantastic price.
Extra bonuses – give them access to additional products/services if they buy through your link on that page. These should be bonuses that aren’t advertised on the public sales page for that product. Again—insider’s deals are motivating!
Putting together a sales funnel isn’t complicated—or at least it doesn’t have to be. As your business grows and you have more products to offer, you can expand your funnel to include more upsells and downsells, and re-engagements, and all sorts of other fun things you can do with funnels. But for now, this simple setup is really all you need.
Put Your Sales on Autopilot With a Follow-Up Sequence
The web pages that make up your sales or opt-in funnel are only the beginning. To truly encourage sales, you need to stay in contact with your readers. The easiest way to do that is through your email manager, by sending periodic emails with various related offers.
Let’s take a look at a typical follow-up sequence for a free opt-in series. In this case, your reader has attended a free webinar that promoted a high-ticket training program. In the days that follow, you’ll want to stay in contact with an autoresponder sequence that automatically sends email at specific intervals.
- Email 1:
This is going to be the first email that goes out after they confirm. It should give the reader access to your free webinar, and that can be instructions to join you for the live event or a link to the replay. You will likely also want to include a couple of reminder emails if the event is live.
- Email 2:
This is the replay email for a live event, or the first follow-up if the original was a replay. In this email, it’s a good idea to offer a few bullet points of what they learned, encouragement to watch the replay (if you can legitimately say it’s only available for the next X days, even better), plus an offer to sign up for whatever it was you offered on the webinar – that may be a course, program or service. If your webinar was more of a B2B focus, you probably want to simply invite them to book an exploratory call with you.
- Email 3:
A few days later, you’ll want to follow-up again. This time, consider including a case study of someone who used your training program. When combined with a great offer, reading about the results someone else achieved can be a powerful motivator.
- Email 4:
At this point in the campaign sequence, you need a follow-up message to remind readers that the replay is going away (if it is of course), and also to answer any objections. For example, you might list some FAQs or even questions you’ve received about your refund policy, who the program is for, or payment options. Remind them about the offer.
- Email 5:
This is your final reminder that the offer is going away soon. At this point, you may want to encourage the reader to email you with questions (if you have the systems in place to manage a lot of email, that is).
- Email 6 and beyond:
If your reader reaches this point without buying, then it may be that your product is just not right for her. From this point forward, you should continue to stay in contact by offering great information, case studies, tips and other interesting content, but also to offer other products that might be of interest. This is what’s often called a re-engagement sequence.
One important thing to remember about this email sequence: if your reader buys your program at any point, you must remove them from this sequence. It will make no sense for them to get email #5 with that final offer reminder if they purchased your program after email #3.
Most autoresponder services, such as Mailerlite, ActiveCampaign, or InfusionSoft, have automation built in that allows you to move subscribers from one list to another based on their actions, so be sure to set that up as you’re building your funnel emails. In fact, the systems that don’t have that capability are the ones you want to avoid.
This kind of hand’s off approach to email marketing is what will help you build a true leveraged process for nurturing your prospects. So I definitely urge you to look for opportunities to use a sales funnel system as you build your business.
Finding the Bottleneck in Your Sales Process
A good way to think about this is to start with strategy. In terms of REVENUE, it’s always good to work backwards to the job you need your sales funnel to do for your business.
- How many sales do you need to hit your income goals
- How many leads do you need roughly to get that number of sales and
- How much traffic do you need to drive through the funnel.
There are also three sides to this (and I’ve covered these in more detail in other episodes so go to leveragedbusinespodcast.com and browse the list of topics – you can listen to the podcast or read as an article).
Mapping out your funnel (customer journey) especially if you have a sequence of offers and upsells (what we call a value ladder).
And you can test how well each piece of the process is working and seek to improve it.
But first you need to decide on the pieces. And of course, there’s the tricky business of picking the tools that do the job you want it to do.
Implementation – part technical, part creative – that is, setting up landing pages, writing the email nurturing copy, creating a sales page, building in an integrated tool for booking appointments and taking payments.
Tracking, so you can see what’s working and what needs improving. For this, go back to the article on customer journey data analytics and creating a simple business dashboard for yourself.
So thinking of a funnel in three pieces – an attraction system, a nurturing process and a sales conversion mechanism – which steps are you stuck on?
Do you maybe have a leaky sales funnel? What part of your sales process are you stuck on?
If you’d find it useful to talk through with me where the bottleneck might be in your business right now and get some clarity on how to leverage a sales funnel, let’s get on a Free Business Accelerator Strategy Discovery Call and work it out together.
I’ll give you the pointers for putting a funnel into play or finding and fixing any leaky holes.