What is an online sales funnel?
You may be under the illusion that all you need is a website and it will magically start to get you more customers/clients for your business. An effective website is a good start, but it in itself is not enough. Most businesses will achieve greater success utilising an online sales and marketing funnel.
So what is an online sales and marketing funnel, I hear you ask?
An online sales funnel is a system that starts with you attracting potential customers, with relevant content, and ends in a proportion of those people becoming actual customers. There are a few levels along the way and the main goal is to maximise the number of people who become actual customers.
The old way
Without a funnel, a typical website would work like this:
A prospect would find your website from a search engine, directory or referral
The prospect reads about how you work, your products and services and any other relevant information
If you are selling services, the prospect may go to the contact page and get in touch in the form of an enquiry.
If you are selling a product, the prospect may buy the product on your site. Or they may just leave and never return.
The new way, with a sales funnel
Remember, the goal of the sales funnel is to increase the number of people who become actual customers. This is achieved by increasing the number who find your website (top of the funnel) and also increasing the proportion who convert to actual customers.
A prospect finds a relevant, quality article on your website from a search engine, directory or referral
The prospect reads the article and is thankful that you help him
The prospect notices that you offer a more in-depth guide into the subject
The prospect already has a level if trust in you, so gives you his email address in return for the guide
You send relevant information to the prospect on a regular basis (e.g. once a week)
The trust the prospect has with you increases over time
The prospect is now ready to purchase the product or service that you offer. Because he/she already trusts you and sees you as an authority, he buys from you.
You might be thinking - this is just extending the sales cycling and it will take longer for a prospect to become a customer. Yes it will. But that is sort of he point. You want the prospects to get to know you a bit before they purchase. The sales funnel is also greatly increasing the number who visit your website in the first place.
The different levels of the funnel
Top of the funnel. The top of the funnel is where you attract people with free, relevant content. Think blog posts, articles etc.
Free guides or email course. You offer a quality PDF guide or email course that goes into more depth than the article. This is your incentive for the reader to enter your free newsletter.
Free newsletter. You are asking people to give you permission to stay in touch and to send them quality advice on a regular basis.
Premium content (optional). Before going for the big sell, you could try and convert prospects into a customer by selling them something less expensive, such as an ebook.
Premium service. This is what puts food on the table. You are banking on a proportion of your prospects reaching this stage and buying your actual service (or product).
Optimise the funnel
Over time, you can improve the different levels of your funnel. An increase on one level will increase the number who make it to the end, and therefore increase revenue.
The trust ladder
At each level in the funnel, you are increasing the trust that the potential customer has in you and your expertise. At the top of the funnel, they have no reason to trust you. As they approach the bottom of the funnel, their trust increases to the point that they are ready to become a customer.
An online sales funnel should not be seen as a fully automated process run by robots. You are getting something really important here - a way to communicate with real prospects. When you email people on your list, a proportion will reply. This is a great way to build relationships with them and learn more about the problems and pains they have and where you can help them. It can even help shape future product and service offers that you have.
What software do you need?
You can setup a simple funnel on your website with email marketing software like MailChimp, AWeber or Campaign Monitor. You can get more options and flexibility with options like Drip and InfusionSoft.
You will also need to use analytics software like Google Analytics to track people at each stage. This will give you valuable data to improve and optimise each level of the sales funnel.
By building relationships with prospective customers over email, you can learn more about what makes them tick and the problems they have. Even a simple online sales funnel is a great way to transform your ordinary website into a customer generating machine.