Finally, the Blog Post About Sales Funnels
You knew this blog was coming right? Or maybe you didn’t.
I mean, yeah, if you have an MBA, sales funnels might seem basic. But there are plenty of great homegrown businesses that never give them a thought. The knowledge gap can lead to a lot of strategy misfires.
So…here we are.
What are sales funnels anyway?
Basically, sales funnels are visual models of the customer’s journey - from the moment they first notice your business all the way to becoming a loyal customer.
Picture a funnel - the kind you use to put oil in your car. The widest part is at the top. This is where all the pre-qualified prospects start.
As you move down the funnel, the levels of engagement with your product ratchet up. Unqualified leads are culled naturally. People drop out. Whoever is left at the end is a loyal customer.
In this blog, I want to unpack that system. I want to explain how it works and why it’s important.
So, what are the basic components of sales funnels? Oh! I thought you’d never ask.
There are a lot of different models that people go with. I like the 5-step version.
Basically, sales funnels follow a very similar process of finding a life partner. Seriously. It starts from seeing an attractive stranger and goes aaaaall the way through to pledging your loyalty. Each step of the process either brings you closer to commitment or people can tap out if the fit isn’t right.
Let me show you.
Awareness: The First Encounter
At the top of all sales funnels is the first encounter - Awareness.
In our life partner metaphor, this would be the moment you first set eyes on an interesting someone at the bar. That exciting glance across a crowded floor.
In the case of sales funnels, Awareness is when you first find out about a product or service.
Like, maybe yesterday you didn’t know there was such a thing as cinnamon marshmallows! Today you saw them in a display at Trader Joe’s and now you know. (It’s a good day.)
Awareness can be triggered by advertising, obviously, but it doesn’t have to be paid for. Nowadays, Awareness can come from social media, blogs, word of mouth, or SEO and a good old-fashioned Google search.
Awareness is just the first “kapow” that brings your product into the orbit of a potential customer.
Interest: Can I Buy You a Drink?
If Awareness is that look across a crowded room, Interest is walking up to the bar and buying that person a drink.
This second stage in your funnel is about getting more information. The browser knows you exist, now they want to dive a little more deeply. If a potential client stays for the Interest phase, they might seek out more content from you, poke around your website, or read online testimonials.
This is them getting the feel of who you are, what you sell. It’s the moment when their imagination starts to work. They can - or can’t - picture themselves buying from you.
Even though we’re talking sales funnels, it’s important to know that the Interest phase is no time to do a hard sell. Don’t sell, serve. Give. Sample.
Great content, awesome lead generators, and free offers can give them a taste of your work and build trust. It also gives less-than-ideal clients a chance to jump out of your funnel.
That’s good. We want that.
Decision: Here’s My Number
So, sales funnels create momentum. You’re seeing that right? People hop out, the numbers get fewer. With each step down the funnel there’s escalating commitment.
This brings us to the third step - Decision. This is where things get really interesting. To keep the sexy metaphor going, this would be the moment when that exciting person at the bar hands you their phone number.
In the world of sales funnels, this is when your prospect is really considering being your actual client. This is when they look at prices and packages. They might reach out to you for a one-on-one sales call.
Now is when you talk in straightforward proposals or lead the client to a frictionless landing page where they can make a purchase.
Action: A Real Date
This is it. The big date! Action!
Obviously, this is the moment when your funnel gets really thin. Only the buyers are left. This is the small, select group who press the purchase button. The ones who shake your hand and say yes or sign on the dotted line.
Some sales funnels bill this as the last step, the grand finale. All the passive browsers have dropped out of your funnel. Money has changed hands. What’s left?
But a first date isn’t necessarily the end of the story. And no sale has to be the last step with an ideal client. Retention, referrals, loyalty - this is a big part of your job and a lucrative part of your funnel.
Retention: ’Til Death Do Us Part
Sales funnels that shut down at the drop of a credit card are missing an important step. 61% of small to medium-sized businesses report that over half their income is in repeat clients. So if I were you, I’d keep my eye on this ball.
Retention is the real finish line of a sales funnel. It’s so much easier and so much cheaper to preserve a good relationship with a client than it is to get new clients. So take client retention to heart.
Retention of a good client is true love. It's loyalty that can last forever and multiply through referrals.
Why Are We Even Talking About This?
It might seem like there’s no real point to sales funnels. But… they’re super important.
See, it takes a lot of interaction with a client before they pull the trigger and buy. In fact, 96% of people who visit your website aren’t ready to make a purchase - especially if you sell a high-ticket item.
It’s a process. And if you don’t spend some time on sales funnels, your ideal client’s thought process can be a bit of a black box to you. Modeling your customer's steps - from awareness to loyalty - helps you nurture that journey.
It, also, helps you troubleshoot when something goes wrong. When you segment the process like this, you can zero in on what step isn’t working. You’ll start to see patterns in terms of when people are breaking off.
If a lot of people are showing Interest but no one passes through to the Decision phase? You can course-correct your funnel at that step.
Sales funnels also help you step back from generic marketing models. You have to consider what your ideal client’s experience is from their perspective.
“[E]xamine every step of the buyer's journey,” says Forbes.com, “I’m not talking about a plug-and-play buyer's journey. Dive deep…and think about the thought processes, the hurdles and the pondering they may do before finally making a purchase.”
Sales funnels are thought experiments that create real-world impact. A good funnel gives your marketing an airtight direction, keeps your actual real-life clients in mind, and focuses your energy on the right leads.
Examples of Sales Funnels
Before we wrap up this blog, I want to give you a few specific examples of how sales funnels break down.
So, let’s say I’m walking in my supermarket, and I see a display for those peppermint marshmallows.
“Hm,” I think, “I didn’t know they had those.”
I read the box and my mouth waters a little. I see those yummy clouds floating in a steaming cup of cocoa on Christmas morning.
“Oh - look! There’s a Buy-1-Get-1-Free deal!”
I look at the price, take a quick glance at the other marshmallows on sale, but nope. I want these. I buy the product. And it’s sooooo good, that I buy them again. I also tell other people.
Here’s what that funnel looks like:
Or let’s try one closer to home.
You read this blog on funnels.
You’re like, “Hmmmm…Katie McManus is a business coach?” You like me. You dig my message. You like my quirky but useful content. And you have a struggling business.
“Oh, look. I can sign up for a free monthly business lab. What’s that about?”
You join our group call and get a lot of value from it. So, you make an appointment to talk with me about becoming a client.
We talk about goals, methods, strategy. And - boom - you become my client!
You see your business grow. You become a total badass, brave business owner. You’re so glad you signed on with me that you tell your friend, who wants to become her own boss.
Here’s what that funnel looks like:
Can you start a business without thinking about sales funnels? Of course, you can. Can you smash your goals without thinking about this? Um, no.
You don’t have to have a neato little graphic. You do need to know why people come to you and why they don’t.
Not thinking about sales funnels is essentially not thinking about your client’s journey.
It’s time to consider what their path to you is like, or you might end up sitting at the bar all alone.
Here’s the part about the Free Business Lab. Interested?
Sample what moving forward really feels like.
Click below to sign up for our Free Brave Biz Lab.