The Art of Automating Growth via Sales Funnels
Owning a website has become an essential part of “doing business” with many companies relying solely on their online presence for sales and not investing in a physical store. Whether or not you have a physical store or just an online business, you still need to invest in online marketing and search engine optimisation (SEO) for your website to have any hope of growing your business.
The problem is that marketing and SEO may well bring in more traffic to your website, but they don’t necessarily increase your sales. To create growth in your business, you need sales funnels that will convert that traffic into revenue.
What is an online sales funnel?
A well-crafted sales funnel can increase your conversions and keep customers coming back for more. Essentially, a sales funnel is a marketing process that converts a visitor to your website into a lead (someone who gives you their contact details), a lead into a qualified prospect and then a qualified prospect into a customer, and hopefully into a repeat customer as well.
One of the problems that besets many website owners however, is that their sales funnel is not complete. They are missing steps and therefore letting a lot more people drop out than they should.
The most common mistake is not having a good lead magnet to capture and nurture leads. Most website visitors don’t buy on their first visit, but if you can get them to provide you with their contact details so you can continue talking to them and building a relationship with them, you’re able to influence their purchasing decision. If you don’t, you leave it to chance and hope that they don’t buy from one of your competitors.
There are four main steps in a sales funnel, with each step just as important as the next. If one of the steps in your sales funnel is weak, then it is vital that you identify this weakness, and put measures in place to strengthen it, increasing your conversions and in turn, your revenue.
STEP 1 – Lead generation
This step consists of capturing contact details of people who are interested in your product or service. A lot of people think that having a contact form on their website is sufficient as a lead generation strategy. It is not. Most people who visit a website are not ready to buy and will unlikely contact you via a form or phone number. Only prospects will contact you via a form or telephone. Leads will simply go away and perform further research on their own.
It is important to capture a visitor’s contact details so you can continue having a conversation with them after they leave your website. Once you have their contact details, the visitor becomes a lead. To get a visitor to give you their contact details, you’ll need to be creative and offer the visitor something of value in exchange. That “something of value” is what we call a lead magnet and you can read more about them here.
Depending on the nature of the traffic that you attract, your lead magnets may be different. Cold traffic (traffic that is not aware of the problem they have or your product or service) will need different information vs. warm traffic (traffic introduced or referred to you from a partner or client). To optimise your lead generation, being in tune with the various streams of traffic and being able to offer them a relevant and valuable lead magnet will be critical.
STEP 2 – Turn leads into prospects
When you have a solid lead generation process that generates a consistent stream of leads, you’ll then need to focus on turning those leads into prospects. At this stage you don’t want to try and rush them towards a purchase, instead you need to offer them something that is valuable to them, but is given freely.
This is where you can offer leads a free trial, your weekly newsletter or download a free ‘How-to’ guide. Your aim is to keep these interested visitors or prospects in your sales funnel and nurture those leads through education with the intention of turning them into qualified prospects for your sales team.
STEP 3 – Turn prospects into customers
During your lead nurturing process, certain behaviours from the leads will act as signals to let you know that they are a qualified prospect. This may be by the content they consume or the information they request. When they reach those criteria, they are qualified prospects that should be offered a way to become a customer. This is where you can set up an automated email campaign, sending promotional offers to the qualified prospects. For example, you can send them special discount offers for their first purchase, which might just be the little incentive that they need to become a customer.
You can also offer these prospects discounts if they refer a friend who makes a purchase, as this helps to spread the word around your prospects’ social network (increasing your leads in step 1). The difference between Step 1 and Step 3 is that in Step 1 you want them to give you their email address, and in Step 3 you want to encourage them to become a customer.
At this point it is important that you understand that the focus of your marketing is to offer value to your prospects, not to send them copious amounts of marketing material. You can’t make someone purchase your products or services, but you can build their trust in your brand, by providing information that may be of value to them, and demonstrating that your products are better than those of the competition.
STEP 4 – Retarget for repeat sales
Once a prospect has converted into a customer, you need to turn them into repeat customers. We all know that it is easier to resell to an existing customer than it is to turn a lead into a customer, so it is important that you don’t forget this important opportunity.
You can use automated emails and retargeting to keep in contact with your customers, sending them information on new product launches, industry information, discount offers and other titbits to entice them to purchase again from your business.
It is also important to remember that a sales funnel is not a set and forget strategy, but needs to be tested repeatedly to identify the steps that work and those that don’t. When you identify a step where people are not progressing through your sales funnel, you can set up A/B testing to pinpoint which messages, images, layouts and offers work best.
To give you an example of a high converting sales funnel, take a look at the Netflix website.
Netflix uses a dynamic sales funnel changing the images on their lead generation page to display the movies that they are currently promoting. This is a very simple lead generation page, informing visitors that they can join free for a month (red button) and they can cancel at any time. Not being locked into a contract can be very inviting to people, so Netflix have captured the essence of their offer very succinctly – free trial & no contracts.
Who can benefit from a well-crafted sales funnel?
Any website owner or online marketer who needs to generate leads from their website or landing pages will need a strong sales funnel. As will anyone who needs to nurture leads into prospects, turn prospects into customers, and get customers to buy again and again. This list covers just about everyone with a website who wants to automate their growth.
For help with setting up your online sales funnel, call us on 02 8211 0668 or email us at [email protected].
Co-founder of Cornerstone and web junkie, Michael knows just how to diagnose your online problems and remedy the issue. An online enthusiast who believes in technology as an enabler of growth, Michael worries about all the details so you don't have to.