The Online Marketing Sales Funnel
Marketing your website is a complex process. As SEO becomes increasingly difficult and Social Media becomes increasingly time-consuming, nothing could be more important than spending time mapping out your very own "Content Marketing Sales Funnel." In this post, I'll walk you through the essential steps for building an online sales funnel to help you convert more of your tire-kickers into happy, repeat customers with massive Lifetime Customer Value. And, while I'm at it, I'm going to show you more pictures of funnels than you'll probably ever see again. Let's get started...
What Is A Sales Funnel?
A sales funnel is a marketing system. It's the "ideal" process you intend your customers to experience as they go from Prospect to Lead to Customer to Repeat Buyer. Sales funnels have been around much longer than web marketing, but the online world is the best thing to ever happen to sales funnels because websites and email marketing make sales funnels easier to build.
The purpose of a funnel is to make things easier and cleaner. When you put fresh, new oil in your car for example, you don't want oil spilling all over your engine. So what do you do? You use a funnel to increase the likelihood that ALL (or most) of the oil will go straight to its destination.
Sales funnels work the same way -- they help you avoid "spilling" (or losing) potential customers.
The idea of using a funnel as a metaphor for Sales & Marketing processes in business really stems from the classic Marketing concept, AIDA. Attention, Interest, Desire, Action. These 4 elements generally describe how you build customer relationships, but they can also describe lots of other things too (like how to structure a really good sales letter or sales pitch).
Here's a quick example of a sales funnel:
Let's say I'm in the travel business. I'm a travel agent with my very own website where I offer some basic information about me and my services.
A simple contact form or phone number listed on my travel website MIGHT help me get a few new leads here and there. But instead of just waiting for people to pick up the phone and call my travel agency, I offer a free report all about a topic of great interest to my target customers.
The report is called "How To Save 50% On Your Next Family Vacation" (or something to that effect). I make the report available to any website visitor in exchange for their first name and email address.
This is an example of a LEAD MAGNET. (I firmly believe virtually EVERY website should have a lead magnet in place.)
Then, every week (or every month) I send out my travel newsletter to everyone on that list. Periodically, I also send out special surveys, limited offer coupons, prizes, other special reports, and much more.
Since, in this example, my main business is booking travel, my ultimate goal is to convert newsletter subscribers into travel bookings. But if I develop a more sophisticated sales funnel, I can start to segment my list and target my marketing even more carefully to my "hot leads" and my most active subscribers. This way, I can begin to learn more about my list to offer well targeted new products and services.
The Power of Content
As my example illustrates, the most critical ingredient in virtually every sales funnel is CONTENT.
If you want to attract more prospects to your website in the first place, you need CONTENT.
(Blogging, for example, allows you to leverage "public content" to attract more site visitors.)
If you want to turn more prospects into leads, you need CONTENT.
(Offering a free report or e-course allows you to capture more email addresses with "exclusive content.")
And if you want to turn more leads into customers, you need CONTENT.
(Sending out periodic newsletters is a great way to build a stronger relationship with your customers.)
Content is so powerful that I much prefer the term "Content Marketing" over the term "Internet Marketing" Great marketing has always been (and always will be) about CONTENT.
And today, your ability to share great content with your prospects will determine the outcome of your online business operations.
NURTURING YOUR PROSPECTS
THE PROCESS OF HOW SOMEONE MOVES THROUGH YOUR SALES FUNNEL: FROM (1) WEBSITE VISITOR TO (2) EMAIL LEAD TO (3) LIST SUBSCRIBER TO (4) CUSTOMER AND (5) LIFETIME CUSTOMER.
When you NURTURE prospects, you give them what they need to grow strong and healthy. Obviously not every prospect will grow into a "Lifetime Customer" regardless of what you do. That's just the nature of lists, email marketing, and all the rest. Still, it's so important to remember that a list of 100,000 weak and "under nurtured" prospects will never stand up against a list of just 100 "strong and healthy" prospects.
Nurturing is the opposite of abusing. This is the greatest problem with most "Internet Marketing" approaches to list building and email marketing. Instead of nurturing prospects, online marketers often "milk the list" for all its worth and then go out and build/buy/acquire a new one. That's abuse, folks - not marketing.
Nurturing takes time, thought, and care.
One important warning: Let's not forget that you are in business. And as a business owner you have something of value to offer your customers in exchange for their cash. That's a fair and equitable relationship. So please don't take my nurturing metaphor too far here. Your goal isn't simply to placate your list -- your goal is to build a profitable business that provides VALUE in exchange for VALUE.
The Ultimate Sales Funnel
So far, we've looked at the essential elements for creating the most basic sales funnels. You definitely need to work at putting these key ingredients into place before moving forward -- great content, a lead magnet, and email marketing.
But the real power of the sales funnel is in growing your Lifetime Customer Value.
In the previous section, I listed the 5 steps of nurturing your prospects. The ultimate goal of that process is to create Lifetime Customers. As you can imagine, those lifetime customers will be major contributors to the long-term growth of your business. This is where a lot of businesses fail. It's a lot easier to sell lots of your best products and/or services to a small group of raving fans than it is to sell just one item to masses of new customers.
For example, let's say your goal is $1,000,000 in annual revenue. If your Lifetime Customer ANNUAL value is $1,000 per year, then you only need to do $1,000 in sales every year to 1,000 customers. If you can keep those 1,000 customers around for 3 to 5 years, then your only job every year is to keep those 1,000 spots filled with nurtured prospects.
On the other hand, if you only focus on generating one sale with each of your customers and that sale is only worth $100 in revenue, you're going to need 10,000 customers to reach your $1M revenue goal. And every year, you'll have to find 10,000 MORE customers.
This failure is why MOST small businesses fail within 5 years or less.
A strong sales funnel will make it far easier to increase Lifetime Customer Value and help you reach your annual sales goals. This means nurturing those customers, yes, but it also means working on developing new backend products and services you can sell to ADD MORE VALUE to your lead products.
The term "Sales Funnel" refers to this exact process. For every 10,000 prospects you put into the top of the funnel, only 2,000 will become leads. And of those 2,000 leads only 1,000 will buy your lead product. Then, only 200 will buy your backend product and go on to buy more from you over the years to come.
These numbers are always different for every business. But you can be sure about one thing -- the more time you invest into building and fine-tuning your sales funnel, the more successful you'll be.
Take Action Now
I always like to return to what I call the 3 most important questions in business -- "How do you attract more leads?" and "How do you convert more leads into customers?" and "How do you convert more customers into lifetime, repeat buyers?"
The answer is my motto -- "Convert With Content."
Take time right now to map out your online sales funnel. Here are some questions to ask yourself and some quick ideas to help you with each item...
1. How are you attracting new visitors to your website?
-Blogging is the single best way to attract new visitors.
2. How are you converting website visitors into leads?
-Lead magnets are the best tools for capturing email addresses.
3. How are you building a relationship with your leads?
-Providing value and information (without just selling) is critical.
4. How are you learning from your leads & customers?
-Surveys and phone calls are a great way to learn more about your list.
5. And how are you turning first-time customers into happy, repeating customers?
-Focus on creating backend products that solve your customers' greatest problems.