The sales funnel metaphor is somewhat misleading; in real life, the process never goes as smoothly as liquid down a funnel. In the last decade, digital marketing, artificial intelligence (AI), and CRM have drastically changed the process of converting new leads into customers. Given this, it’s increasingly important that business-to-business (B2B) sales and marketing teams are aligned in their views on a sales funnel strategy and lead generation as a whole.
In our Teachinguide survey, online instructors ranked marketing courses as one of the top challenges they face. In previous articles we’ve begun addressing this issue by providing some tips on various marketing tactics. That said, apart from creating great course content, the # 1 marketing activity that you should spend your time on is creating your online course sales funnel. Course coupons and/or a blog alone won’t drive people to enroll in your course in droves.
If you’re running a marketing services business, you might create content about how to choose a marketing agency, pricing guides, whether a company should go contract or hire in-house, etc. The above examples are non-promotional, educational content resources we’ve created for our readers who are considering hiring marketing agencies – i.e. in the middle of the funnel (MOFU).
As each individual deal moves through each phase, the probability of closing the sale will change. The further along the sales funnel, the more information is exchanged and more apparent it becomes using the product will be advantageous to the customer. At this point, there is a higher potential for that deal to be ultimately successful unless the deal is moved to closed-lost in which case, the probability moves to zero.
Steve Jobs was a pioneer of the funnel business model in the early days of the internet. His vision was that almost any person or company with an interest in information, interaction, or media was a potential participant in the Apple funnel. The top of the Apple funnel was very broad, with devices from desktop computers to iPods. Apple attracted people into the funnel with products that were so intuitive and elegant that they became status symbols. And inside the funnel, the compatible and interconnected nature of the devices, along with a sizable content library, created multiple opportunities for further transactions.
But once you acquire enough initial customers and you ensure their success and happiness, they become a force for your flywheel. This is because either they buy from you again or they bring in new customers by promoting you to their network. This is the key to keeping your flywheel spinning without continuing to invest all your resources in acquiring new customers.
For example, let’s say your business has a blog and social media accounts it uses to get on a potential customer’s radar. From there, you encourage people to download an eBook in exchange for their email and drop them into an email drip that promotes an upcoming webinar. At the webinar, you sell people on your product or service, which convinces them to submit a lead form, work with your sales team and ultimately make a purchase.
Say you’re into cycling and you’ve decided to purchase Trek’s latest Emonda line road bike. You read a few less-than-positive reviews online, but brush them off on the understanding that all Internet comments should be taken with a grain of salt. After all, people only review products and services that they absolutely love or absolutely hate – but most customers fall somewhere in between.
However, video conferencing and other apps offer an opportunity to engage prospects at a time and place that suits them. In fact, 60% of sales reps say they spend more time selling virtually than they did in 2015, according to the third edition of Salesforce’s global “State of Sales” study. Meanwhile, 52% of sales reps say they spend the same amount of time or less meeting with customers in person.
However, say the customer is evaluating marketing automation programs to help improve the sales funnel they created. Because these programs can require investments of $1,500 a month, they’re likely to undergo a much more careful and thorough evaluation process. They might request free trials of the different systems they’re considering, have online demonstrations with each company’s representatives or view training videos to get a feel for how each system will perform.
Sales and marketing teams need to adapt to these increasing demands. They have to work more closely together. While the marketing team still hands leads to the sales team at a point in the funnel, they have to stay involved to maximize customer retention and advocacy. The sales team needs to be involved early on, providing the benefits of their customer knowledge to help increase qualified leads and conversions.
Finally, hospitals will need to think about their relationship with consumers in a new way. In the internet economy, the traditional paternalistic viewpoint of healthcare providers toward patients will only attract people in times of specific need. To make an organization the destination of choice requires a relationship of mutual respect. It requires a deep understanding of consumers’ experiences within and beyond healthcare. It requires a fierce dedication to the highest level of service. And it requires creativity to design the kind of interactions that will delight and even surprise consumers.
The idea is to condition your users. Don’t push towards selling only your products, make it a point to create comfortability with users thus allowing a relationship to form. Make contents that are relevant, timely, and tends to help users. Or engage in creating games or mini games so your site or page could be deemed as not only informative but also engaging in a good way.
On a macro-level, a sales funnel will start with a large number of potential buyers at the top Based on certain criteria, this pool of potential buyers is reduced to a fewer number of prospects. Towards the middle of the customer journey, the number of prospects reduces to a handful of opportunities, and after the decision-making stage, the sales process ends with a closed-won or closed-lost deal.
As you can see, each color-coded section of the funnel pictured above corresponds to a stage in the buying process. The widest tier at the top of the funnel represents “awareness,” the point at which potential customers are beginning their information search. The second tier is “interest,” roughly corresponding to the evaluation of alternatives described in the purchase process above. And, finally, the third and fourth tiers, “desire” and “action,” are self-explanatory.
Make no mistake, creating a sales and marketing funnel using the process described above is no easy feat. This isn’t a project you’re going to complete in one afternoon — it’s a pursuit that you’ll want to actively address as long as your company is in business. It’s not a simple undertaking, but it’s one of the few opportunities you have to drive significant improvements in your efficiency and effectiveness when closing deals.
In this article, we’ll summarize 10 steps, more or less in order of execution, that you can take to create a sales funnel to drive students to enroll in your course. We’re not going to go into great detail about each one of these steps – we’ll leave it to you to Google the hundreds of resources out there on each of these when you decide you want to execute. But we provide a general overview to guide your thinking about how to execute an online course sales funnel.
Traffic: from referrals, organic, blog, and ads. They display a pop-up at the bottom of their blog posts and homepage for a free 30-day trial. If you sign up for the free trial, you will be redirected to the pricing page. And if you sign up for their email list, you will actually remain on the Crazy Egg’s blog page afterwards, keeping you engaging with even more content.
In marketing automation, Ryan Deiss, co-founder of Digital Marketer, often describes the sales funnel as a multi-step, multi-modality process that moves prospective browsers into buyers. It's multi-stepped because lots must occur between the time that a prospect is aware enough to enter your funnel, to the time when they take action and successfully complete a purchase.