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.
Depending on what you’re selling and who you’re marketing to, you might answer that question in a number of different ways. For example, if customer service is a big deal to your potential customers, you may want to focus your marketing on how great your customer service is. You might want to include testimonials about your customer service, awards your customer service department has won, statistics about response times…you get the idea.
According to one recent study published by Pardot, 70% of buyers turn to Google at least 2-3 times during their search to find out more about their requirements, potential solutions, companies offering those solutions, etc. Many people also turn to public forums and social media platforms for recommendations. At this point, they aren’t looking for promotional content; they’re only looking to learn more about potential solutions.
“Aligning marketing and sales during the sales funnel does more than just align the teams — it creates better business outcomes,” said Mathew Sweezey, Principal of Marketing Insights at Salesforce. His stance is validated by a SiriusDecisions study that found brands with tightly aligned sales and marketing operations achieve 24% faster three-year revenue growth and 27% faster three-year profit growth. The three easiest ways to ensure marketing and sales alignment will succeed is a common language, co-created shared programs, and a policy to abide by a service level agreement.
The truth? People are smart. They're not simply going to buy anything from anyone unless they feel there's an immense amount of value to be had there. Thus, your funnel needs to built that value and bake it in through a variety of means. But most importantly, you have to create a strong bond with your prospect, and that happens by being relatable, honest and transparent in your email warming sequence.
Through developing your online course, you should have the basis for some initial content to promote. Certainly, if you are just starting to create a course, then now’s the time to think about repurposing some of the content you will create. This would be blogs, guides, checklists, review articles, videos, webinars, podcasts, opinion pieces on Medium and LinkedIn and so forth. Make sure in this phase to create one or more lead magnets, such as guides, checklists, diagrams, etc. that you can leverage to collect emails later on.

OK, so really there are 11 steps to creating your sales funnel, but 10 just sounded more “precise”!  Lastly, your email system should tell you how successful your emails are. Use this information to tweak and improve them over time.  You should also track your blog posts, Twitter followers and Twitter activity, Facebook ad success, etc. Hubspot is a great tool for this kind of thing.
Your website's landing page is the first impression potential customers will instantly have of your business. Therefore, take time to make sure that it looks great. A good landing page will also encourage visitors to sign up for some sort of list, or subscribe to the website. This gives you that all-important contact information, which becomes your first line of communication.
“Time is money for a rep,” said Tony Rodoni, Salesforce EVP, Commercial Sales, and Market Readiness. “You need to know the most important thing to do right now, and what to do next. If you’re not clear on which opportunities are accurate, you’re relying on your memory to know which ones need work. As you take on a bigger book of business, with more opportunities, quarter after quarter, relying on your own memory means mistakes and wasted time.”

Customers move on to Stage 5 when the sale is complete. Try sitting with your team and brainstorming upon the kinds of information these customers are going to need, as well as how you’ll provide it as part of a cohesive onboarding process. Although at this stage you don’t really need to worry about customers finding you or moving on to the next option, it’s still vital to address their needs so that they walk away feeling good about their purchase decisions.
Matt Ackerson founded AutoGrow (Petovera Inc.) in 2010 as a conversion-focused web design agency. The company has since worked one-on-one with over 500 customers and clients to create their sales funnels. Matt is a graduate of Cornell University. He and AutoGrow have been featured in Techcrunch, Forbes, Inc, Venture Beat, Mashable, and Popular Science among others. He and the team write in-depth articles on digital marketing, sales funnel design, and also offer an advanced funnel training course here on AutoGrow.co
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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.
However, the best part about this, and the most powerful route that entrepreneurs take to scale their businesses, is that if you know that sending 100 people to your site costs you $200, for example, but you get two people to convert at $300 each, then you have a $600 return on $200 invested (300 percent). When you know that, that's when the entire game changes and you can infinitely scale your offers.
As a software engineer myself, I can tell you that building funnels from an application standpoint takes massive amounts of work. There's a great deal of coding and integration that's required here. From email systems to landing page implementations to credit card processing APIs, and everything in between, so many platforms need to "talk," that it takes the bar too high for the average marketer. 
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