Are you selling online?
Not having a sales funnel or failing to pay attention to it is akin to doing business blindly and hoping that things will turn out great.
In reality, businesses that do not optimise their sales funnel do not meet their sales goals. It is that simple. If you have been doing everything by the book, putting in the work, time, and money and you are still struggling to generate significant sales, then it is time to check your sales funnel.
In this article, we will revisit the sales funnel and its four stages. You will also learn about the major sales funnel mistakes marketers make when selling online and ways to avoid or resolve these.
Selling Online: The Four Stages Of The Sales Funnel
A sales funnel represents the journey your prospect takes from the first time they come into contact with your brand until they complete a purchase. Without a sales funnel selling online is extremely difficult.
Each stage of the funnel represents the various touch points between a prospect and your brand. More importantly, you need to approach customers differently as they move through each stage, with the goal of nurturing them to a final purchase.
At the awareness stage, prospects find out about your brand. This could be through various channels such as social media, your website or blog, a guest post, among others.
How a prospect becomes aware of your brand will influence the approach you take to nurture them further down the funnel.
At this stage, the prospect is doing their research and looking for solutions to a specific problem. As they enter the sales funnel, your role is to identify their problem and build their interest to show them that you are the best fit for what they are looking for.
Admittedly, most prospects at the top of the funnel or at the awareness level are not always ready to buy. Therefore, your goal here is not to drive a hard sell but rather to use relevant content to build a relationship that makes them feel sure about proceeding further down the funnel.
The next touch point is the interest stage. Now that the prospect knows that your brand exists, they want to know more about you.
At this point, the prospect has identified several brands that could solve their problem or is in the process of identifying the most suitable brand that could potentially meet their needs.
They have entered your sales funnel so this means they are considering you. This is a good time to warm up the prospect to your brand by offering relevant and regular content based on the type of solutions they are looking for.
An email welcome series can be a powerful way to help a prospect not only learn more about your brand and the solutions you can offer but to also make a decision in your favour. In fact, 74 percent of consumers expect to receive a welcome email as soon as they subscribe to your list.
As in the awareness stage, just because a prospect has shown interest does not necessarily mean they are ready to buy. Instead, provide them with valuable content that will answer their questions, address their concerns, make things clearer, and alleviate fear and other hurdles in the buying cycle.
At the decision stage, your lead has narrowed down their options, is ready to buy, and may only need a nudge in the right direction.
Indeed, at this stage, the question on their mind is ‘why should I buy from you?’ Your role is to show them why you are the best choice and you can do this through various means such as providing high-level content, irresistible discounts, free or low-cost shipping, bonus products, exclusive service and more.
Today, consumers will not just take your word for it; they trust reviews and recommendations from peers more. Having positive reviews on social media and other review platforms can help build your lead’s confidence as they make their final decision.
Another way to engage your prospects during this critical stage is through re-targeting. Ad re-targeting keeps your brand left, right, and centre so your prospects will always have you in mind. You want to stay as visible as possible to encourage your prospects to take action.
At the bottom of the funnel is the action you want your prospect to undertake. Typically, the desired action is a purchase.
While this is the final stage of the buying cycle, it should not be the end of your efforts in terms of nurturing and supporting your customer.
Understanding the sales funnel is the first and most important step to optimising your sales and marketing strategy.
If you are not getting the best results from all your efforts, you are probably making one or more sales funnel mistakes that many marketers make.
Selling Online: Sales Funnel Mistakes You Are Probably Making
A single mistake can put a dent to the most robust sales funnel. By learning about the common mistakes marketers make with their sales funnels, you might be able to analyse your own funnel and identify what is working and what needs tweaking.
Over-Relying On Paid Ads For Lead Generation
A lot of time and money goes into generating leads and getting them into the funnel. However, it is important to be strategic about your lead generation approach.
A mistake marketers make is spending too much on paid ads to get leads. While paid search and social ads can be effective, they can also be costly if you rely solely on this method of lead generation.
If you are over-relying on paid ads, at some point you may have to limit your budget, which greatly reduces the number of prospects getting into your funnel. Too few leads limit your conversion rates significantly.
A better approach is to apply several lead generation strategies in addition to paid ads. Research shows that 93 percent of companies generate more leads using content marketing and that 93 percent of the buying journey starts with an online search, which emphasises the importance of content marketing and SEO for lead generation.
Getting The Wrong Leads Into Your Funnel
Other than generating too few leads, another reason why you might be struggling to scale is that you are not bringing quality leads into your funnel. Too many ‘bad’ leads also result in low conversion rates.
Several things could be going on here. First, failing to properly segment your target audience could result in a situation in which leads that are not a good fit get into your funnel.
Proper segmentation allows you to warm up your prospects, ensuring that most of the prospects who enter the funnel are the ones who are the most likely to convert.
Another reason why many of your leads might not be a good fit is that you have not taken the time to understand who your target audience is in the first place.
Attracting the right people requires you to thoroughly research your industry/niche, hyper-segment, build accurate personas, and understand your ideal customer’s pain points. Without this, you might end up attracting a large number of people yet your sales numbers remain low.
Using An Overly Complex Funnel
The ultimate goal of a sales funnel is not only to get customers to buy, but to get them to buy fast.
The truth is, out of the many prospects that enter the funnel, only a certain percentage will actually progress further down and make a purchase.
Remember, any small distraction or roadblock is enough to throw the customer off track, which ultimately means losing a potential sale in spite of all the hard work you put into prospecting and lead generation.
If you are struggling with persistently low conversion rates, it might be time to look at your funnel and identify any unnecessary steps that could be preventing prospects from giving you their business.
One way that marketers complicate the sales funnel is by asking for unnecessary information or confidential information that the customer would be uncomfortable giving. Doing this at any point in the sales funnel will likely keep the prospect from proceeding to check out.
Asking people to sign up for membership before paying for products, requiring them to click extra links, or making them fill out extra forms is another mistake that could impact your conversion rates negatively.
Simplifying your sales funnel could potentially improve your sales. The point is not to remove steps randomly but to analyse and monitor your funnel to identify common hurdles that are keeping prospects from converting into actual customers.
There is no single approach to simplifying a sales funnel. However, an effective funnel has a story at its core; at each step of the way, it offers signposts in the form of relevant content pointing the customer in the right direction.
Lacking A Solid Nurturing Strategy For Middle and Bottom Of The Funnel Leads
Many marketers put a lot of effort into generating and getting prospects into the sales funnel. Nothing is wrong with this approach.
The problem arises when you put little to no effort in nurturing these leads that you worked so hard to attract. In the end, you end up with a less than impressive conversion rate.
Research shows that companies that have a lead nurturing strategy increase the number of sales-ready leads by 50 percent at a 33 percent reduced cost.
The middle part of the funnel is particularly important as prospects are looking for information that will address their concerns and help them make a decision before they can finally purchase.
As you might imagine, people will become frustrated, confused, or fearful if they cannot find the relevant answers to their questions. In fact, consumers expect a company to aid them with adequate research at various touch points in the buying process to help them make better decisions.
The type of content you provide for middle and bottom of the funnel prospects will depend on what you are selling online as well as your overall business goals.
Generally, because people are at the research and decision-making stage, providing as much information as possible about the product, and answering frequently asked questions would be a step in the right direction.
Toward the bottom of the funnel, prospects still require relevant information to help them make that final purchase. Again, depending on the nature of your business, you may need to help people understand the ordering process, shipping requirements, address concerns about after-sale support, troubleshooting, etc.
In the end, a solid nurturing strategy will ensure that your prospects not only remain in the funnel but that they also progress further down where they can make the final purchase.
Selling Online The Right Way
Sales funnels are the heartbeat of every business but they are hardly ever a fix-it-and-leave-it concept. Selling online effectively takes effort and time. For a successful sales pipeline and profitable conversions, be sure to continuously optimise your funnels, eliminate hurdles, and make it easier for prospects to become loyal customers.