The term ‘sales funnel’ refers to the series of steps in the buying process that companies lead prospective customers through on the way to making a purchase. These steps may differ slightly depending on your business, but we will cover the key elements you need to consider to create the perfect sales funnel for your business.
Studies have shown that only 68% of B2B marketers have identified their sales funnel. So if you can create and follow the structure of your own sales funnel, you’ll be well ahead of the competition.
The sales funnel gives you a vantage point to make good strategic decisions. It shows you at which stage in the funnel you’re losing customers and where your marketing offer is weakest, and pinpoints where you should focus your marketing efforts and dollars. Before we get to that, however, it’s important to discuss two core concepts which play a role in planning how to build your sales funnel.
These are the buyer’s journey and your brand DNA. Each of these will be completely unique to your business and your understanding of them will help to ensure the success of your sales funnel.
Let’s begin by discussing the buyer’s unique journey.
What is the buyer’s journey?
This is the process your customers go through to become aware of, evaluate and eventually purchase your product or service. The three stages of the buyer’s journey are:
Awareness: The buyer realises they have a need or challenge.
Consideration: The buyer defines their need or challenge and searches for options to solve it.
Decision: The buyer chooses a solution.
Below is an example of how these stages work for someone looking for a solution (buying a new car) for their problem (having an unreliable car):
Understanding what happens at each of these stages for your own customers will give you a competitive edge in building a sales funnel that caters to the needs of your customers at each stage.
At the awareness stage you should consider how your customers describe their challenges and needs, and if there a sense of priority or urgency attached to their need or challenge?
At the consideration stage you need to know how your customers are searching for the solution, how are their weighing out their options, and how they decide on the option that’s right for them?
Finally, at the decision stage your priorities should be around discovering what sets you apart from the alternative choices your customers are searching for, what criteria are they looking at in making their decision, and what are their expectations around making their final decision?
Knowing answers to these questions will help you to construct a sales funnel that is geared towards helping customers through this journey as seamlessly as possible and presenting your offer as the logical choice at the end.
What is the Brand DNA?
The brand DNA comprises the building blocks that make up your brand. It defines a brand’s position in the market and is a summary of what the brand stands for.
Below are the key elements that make up the brand DNA:
If you don’t have a brand DNA, you will not be able to tailor an offer to your ideal customer. With every action you take, you should be using your brand DNA to guide you and ensure consistency across all of your brand efforts both online and offline, externally and internally.
To learn more about how to build your brand DNA and use it to drive growth click here.
So while understanding your buyer’s journey will help you to determine what challenges or needs you need to be catering to, your brand DNA will help you to define your positioning to your ideal audience. It helps you to uncover who your buyers truly are and how you need to be approaching them throughout the sales funnel.
Now it’s time for us to have a look at the structure of a sales funnel and the key elements involved at each stage.
What is a sales funnel and what’s involved at each stage?
As I mentioned before, the detailed structure of your own sales funnel will be completely unique to your business. However, the following 6 steps will likely remain the same no matter what industry or type of business you’re in.
Step 1: Attract
Studies have shown that up to 97% of our purchasing decisions begin online.
So it’s only logical that the first stage of the sales funnel begins by attracting your potential buyers to your brand through your online presence.
Whether you’re B2B or B2C, and whether you sell products or services, ultimately your goal is to sell to human beings. And in order to do that you first have to entertain or educate them about your brand without selling them anything. At this stage, you need to have a social media presence, and create engaging content in the form of educational posts, videos, or blog posts.
Let’s use an example of how an ordinary household product supplier mastered this stage of their sales funnel and became a viral sensation.
Blendtec is a blender manufacturer famous for their ‘Will it blend?’ video series.
These short videos featuring anything from iPads to the new Amazon Echo being blended are both entertaining and informing future buyers about the power of Blendtec blenders. The result is over 286 million views on YouTube alone.
Of course, there are many steps still to follow before the conversion or purchase, but this is a good example of how brands like Blendtec have been able to go straight from ‘attract’ to ‘convert’ by using the power of incredibly clever social media strategies.
The goal at this first step is just to put your content in front of potential buyers and make them aware of who you are before moving onto step two.
Step 2: Engage
Now that you’ve attracted potential buyers to your brand’s online presence through education or entertainment, it’s time for you to move onto the third element of this powerful trifecta: engagement. This step is all about creating a real human connection with your potential buyers.
One of the most powerful examples of this step is the ‘One Day Without Shoes’ engagement campaign by footwear brand, Toms who engaged 3.5 million people on social media in a single day.
Toms agreed to donate a pair of shoes to a child in need for every barefoot photo on Instagram with the hashtag #WithoutShoes. This campaign was clever on so many levels as it allowed both customers and potential customers to feel like they were part of a global movement. It also brought exposure to the brand’s social initiatives largely through free, user generated content.
Your own activities at this second step of the funnel don’t have to be nearly as large-scale. However, using branded hashtags to allow your customers to ask questions, share their experience or just to connect with your brand, can be a good way to lead them down the path to purchase.
Step 3: Capture
At this step your goal is to take the conversation off of your website or social media and into your potential buyer’s inbox. There are many different ways for you to get their email address.
You could offer a subscriber discount, a free eBook, access to a subscriber-only webinar or event or even a free consultation with your team. No matter what form your lead magnet takes, the key to its success, is for it to be closely aligned with the ultimate paid product or service.
Take the example of Flight Centre below:
You’ll see travel agencies advertise all sorts of hot last-minute deals, giveaways and discounts this way. They’re not just asking people to subscribe to their newsletter, they’re telling them that if they sign up to their newsletter they will get exclusive insider-access to their hottest travel deals.
So no matter what your industry is, your goal should be to give away something your potential buyers really want and need in exchange for their email address. And simultaneously this should also be something that will make them more likely to make a purchase later on.
Step 4: Nurture
Now that you’ve gotten your potential buyer’s email address in step three, it’s now time to nurture your relationship by sending them more useful content.
At this stage you may want to have an automated welcome email series. This is just a series of three emails or more that will follow once the subscriber joins your email list. You may use these emails to tell them a bit more about your brand’s story, your company culture or just send them useful articles or videos.
What happens at this stage is entirely up to you. If your paid offer is at a higher price point, you may need to nurture your subscribers a little longer in order for them to develop the trust factor necessary for buyers to make larger purchases. If your paid offer is at a lower price point, you might choose choose to go straight to step five which is all about presenting the paid offer.
Step 5: Convert
At this stage the potential buyer has likely seen your website, read your social media posts, and interacted with your brand online in some way. They’ve moved through the awareness and consideration stages of the buyer’s journey and are now ready to make their decision.
You can now present your paid offer through advertisements on social media or send your offer directly to their inbox. AppSumo are absolute masters of this stage, below is an example of one of their recent emails:
They have over 750k newsletter subscribers and have incredibly high open rates. Their email list is full of highly targeted subscribers who need inexpensive tools to help them grow or manage their business online.
Remember at step three when we talked about how you go about capturing your potential buyer’s email address has to be closely related to your paid offer? Below is an example of how AppSumo capture their subscribers’ emails:
Someone who provides their email here would be highly likely to purchase from AppSumo at some point in the future which is exactly how they’ve built an incredibly profitable business almost exclusively from their email list.
And once you’ve mastered the conversion step, it’s time to measure what’s working and what can be improved upon.
Step 6: Measure
At this last step it’s important for you to keep track of what’s happening at each previous step. You should be reviewing how many people are visiting your website, how many people are reading your blog posts and how many people are interacting with your posts or viewing your videos on social media. You should also be tracking how many subscribers you’re getting, how many of them are unsubscribing and how many are actually turning into paid customers.
Tracking your progress is crucial to your success because it will allow you to amplify what’s working and tweak what isn’t. The only way your sales funnel will become and remain profitable is for you to continuously measure and improve upon each step.
And if you’re ever looking for additional help with the kinds of content you could be creating at each step of your funnel, click here for our guide to creating a profitable content marketing strategy.
In this article you learned about the structure of the buyer’s journey and the building blocks of the brand’s DNA. You also learned why it’s important to develop both elements before constructing your sales funnel.
You then learned about the six major steps that make upthe sales funnel structure which were:
Step 2: Engage
Step 3: Capture
Step 4: Nurture
Step 5: Convert
Step 6: Measure
And you also learned how all of these steps have to work together in order for you to build a powerful sales funnel that will help you grow your business.
If you’re looking for more help in creating the perfect sales funnel for your brand, make sure to click here to book your free 30 minute consultation.