As an entrepreneur, your digital marketing foundation is strengthened by a strategy that covers a few key areas: your Customers, your Company, and how to Convert your leads into sales.
That last area - Conversion - is where combine parts of your Customer research and Company strategy to design (...drumroll please, because this part is the #1 driver of online sales) ...your SALES FUNNEL.
What Exactly Is A Sales Funnel?
A sales funnel is a diagram that represents the journey your target personas go through to become real, live customers.
Funnels are wide at the top and become narrower toward the bottom as potential customers get closer to purchasing.
The different sections of a sales funnel usually mirror the different phases of a buyer decision journey - or your business' sales cycle. It starts up top with Awareness, then moves down to Consideration, Evaluation, and finally the ultimate goal, Purchase (woo hoo!)
Sales FUNNELS v. Sales CYCLES
So what's the point of designing a sales funnel if you've already spent time mapping out your sales cycle?
In my mind, there are TWO main advantages of a sales funnel.
As a refresher, here's a sample SALES CYCLE. (See image- click to enlarge).
You might notice right off the bat that the Sales Cycle (as its name suggests) focuses on the cycle a consumer goes through in relation to a business - including post-purchase stages that lead to long-term brand loyalty.
Establishing a long-term relationship with your customers is a huge part of most business models, and your marketing plan should definitely cover how you'll earn your customers' trust and cultivate loyalty.
So designing your sales cycle is absolutely imperative.
But your SALES FUNNEL has a slightly different focus: TURNING LEADS INTO SALES.
To that end, a sales funnel should include plenty of details - about the actual content you'll use to guide prospects through each stage toward purchase and about the calls-to-action that you'll measure along the way.
A sales funnel also makes it easier to focus on prospects who might fall out of the buying process.
And that leads us to...
How To Fix A Leaky Funnel
So where do all those shiny, dreamy prospects at the top of the funnel go? Why are there so few filtering through to the bottom?
First of all, the buying process often takes time. Many of the people from the top of your funnel are still in there - just making their way down at their own pace. So hold your horses on them. ;)
But sometimes you'll find there are "cracks" in the walls of your funnel, and prospects "fall out" altogether. (Yikes!)
If you discover you have a leaky funnel -- first of all, don't panic. Assess the root problem:
OPTION 1: It's just not a love match.
One common explanation? Some of those leaks might have simply been people who didn't match your target persona after all. (Oops).
But these mis-matched people? Believe me, you ain't even gonna miss 'em, hun. They wouldn't have been a good fit for you anyway. Let. Them. Go. :)
And learn from them! Study their characteristics (from your master Web Analytics data). Try to identify some common traits. If you spot a trend, use that information to make your customer persona more specific. Narrowing your audience targeting will make your marketing dollars go much farther!
OPTION 2: You need to plug the hole.
Some prospects might "fall out" of your funnel because they have some objection to your offering that you haven't helped them resolve.
Other prospects might "fall out" of your funnel because they weren't ready to purchase right away, when they first became aware of your biz -- but you haven't kept in touch with them meaningfully in the meantime.
These and other scenarios require you to plug the hole in your funnel- by fixing an issue with your sales process.
OPTION 3: You need an extra funnel.
Ok- so you've got a leaky funnel. The people "falling out" appear to match your target customer persona. And your sales process seems to be working just fine for most of your prospects. And yet you've got this small (but big-enough-to-drive-you-crazy) leak. What the heck is the problem?!
It's possible that you've found a splinter variation of your target customer persona. A splinter prospect fits your target customer persona profile on 99% of the dimensions. It isn't so different from your target persona that you want to throw it out altogether. You simply want to look at that 1% difference.
Let's say your offering is business coaching for creative freelancers. Your splinter variation might fit your target persona... but she's extra risk-averse about her financial investments in the face of the changing political landscape and economy right now.
What should you do? Catch the leak with an extra funnel! This new funnel will be really similar to your main funnel. But consider tweaking your content to address your splinter prospect's concerns, and add in more time to nurture her through her decision process.
Using our example above- perhaps your splinter prospects would get a lot of value (and reassurance) from a free article about which business investments to prioritize during economic recessions. Brainstorm how you can help replace the missing bricks along her decision journey path.
Take The Next Step...
If this blog post got your strategic gears turning, you might be interested in more of this good stuff.
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