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No one has to tell you, of all people, that customers go through stages as they move through the buying process. As a small-business owner, you've been selling your product or service long before your sales and marketing team started casting decisions in terms of “the marketing funnel.” The marketing funnel? If this term is new to your vernacular, don't worry, you're not far behind the curve – or the tactics to help you navigate it.
1. Fuel – This is where fresh and unqualified leads first enter into your funnel. They’re typically attracted by an appealing offer, a tempting and free lead magnet, or simply the promise that you’ll be delivering them quality content chock full of valuable information. Many of the funnels we’ve built for our clients are fueled by Google PPC ads or ads through Facebook.
Online Sales Funnel – one of the most crucial parts of your business and one that should be on your agenda on a weekly basis. Without marketing your business will eventually fail as you will not get new paying customers. Good thing with online sales funnel is that it can be automated for the most part. You build it once and then just update it when necessary. I call this #automagic and a first step towards passive online income.
There are a number of different tools on the market today to help you track these and other metrics, though for most businesses Google Analytics represents the most comprehensive, easy-to-implement solution. Since it’s free, use the service’s funnel-tracking tools until you determine that you need something more advanced and then move on to another sales analytics program or a complete marketing automation program.
For instance, if you’re running an accounting business, at this stage your leads would be comparing plans offered by different service providers. They might need resources like how to evaluate the landscape of accounting services (i.e. whether to hire a solo accountant, an agency, etc.), pricing guides (so they know what ballpark rates are), or how to choose an accountant.
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.
One quick word of caution, though. With every piece of content you create for every stage of your funnel, you’re generating data. Though all of it is useful to your sales process in some way, it’s easy to get bogged down in data and metrics tracking instead of focusing on the few key performance indicators (KPIs) that will actually give you the information needed to make meaningful improvements.
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The marketing funnel depicts the steps of a hypothetical buyer through his decision-making process. The funnel is widest at the top and then gradually grows more narrow. The earliest models depicted a customer entering the funnel as a novice and then sliding down the funnel and through the steps of awareness, interest, desire and action, meaning a purchase.
Of course, implementing this isn't easy. You need to first develop your stories, then decide on how you're going to convey those stories and at what drip-rate. For example, your first email or two might go out on the day they first signup, then one email per day might go out afterwards. How much of that will be story-based and how much will be pitches?
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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.
In brief, we are inclined to go along with someone’s suggestion if we think that person is a credible expert (authority), if we regard him or her as a trusted friend (liking), if we feel we owe them one (reciprocity), or if doing so will be consistent with our beliefs or prior commitments (consistency). We are also inclined to make choices that we think are popular (consensus [social proof]), and that will net us a scarce commodity (scarcity).
Your automated sequence of emails needs to reflect the different stages of the sales funnel process as depicted in the diagram above. Automated emails ideally should guide your prospective students somewhere from the “interest phase”, where they have signed up for a newsletter or downloaded a lead magnet, through to purchase of your course. This requires a good bit of thought to create the right messaging, frequency and content offer.
Of course, if you're going the paid ad route, you could also use Facebook and Google re-targeting to keep that awareness and interest level high. For example, if you've ever noticed after leaving a particular website, that you begin to see their ad everywhere, there's a particular reason for that. Especially if they've already entered your sales funnel, this is a very powerful way to get them to act.