Get traffic. Build your list. Convert prospects.
Those are the goals of your sales funnel.
But if you’ve never created one before — or maybe you’ve never successfully created one — those seven little words can be extremely intimidating.
Moving from the top step to the bottom isn’t as easy as it sounds. If it were, then I would be out of a job.
Here’s the good news: While it can be difficult to craft a successful sales funnel, it’s not impossible.
It takes work, but it’s something that anyone can do. Yes, I mean anyone.
If you have a website and a business, you can create a sales funnel that converts even if you’re starting from scratch.
Here’s how to do it.
The basics of a successful sales funnel
Before I dive into the specifics of building one, it’s important to define the key components of a funnel and how they should work together to make sales.
A sales funnel is simply a series of steps that you design to guide visitors toward a buying decision.
A very basic sales funnel might look something like this:
Funnels can help you do several things:
- Create awareness for your brand, product, or service.
- Pique interest in what you have to offer.
- Evoke a desire for purchase through education.
- Help leads perform a desirable action.
- Move leads through the funnel to the final purchase.
In a profitable funnel, this process is repeatable and leads to the highest number of conversions possible (which, keep in mind, won’t be 100%).
Each stage of the funnel involves different strategies for this, however. Here’s a breakdown of what that looks like.
1. Top of the funnel
The top of the funnel is the point where customers (or potential customers) are figuring out that you exist. It’s an exploratory stage.
The goal of this stage is to raise brand awareness, not to make a sale. This isn’t where you make a hard sell.
Exposure, influence, and engagement are the keywords.
Even at this step of the funnel, there is a breakdown in where potential leads might be:
They may be totally unaware of your business or product, or they may have heard of you, but they’ve never been to your website.
Or, maybe they have heard of you, but they’ve never thought about buying from you.
Each “place” in the brand-awareness pyramid will require different tactics for marketing (which we’ll get to).
But the goal of the top of the funnel is to make them even more aware that you exist and that, most importantly, you have something that could benefit them.
2. Middle of the funnel
Once there is awareness about your brand, there has to be interest.
“Visitors” need to turn into “leads,” which is the step before “customer.” At this point, visitors are considering whether or not you have something of value to offer.
They’re considering whether they should engage with you or walk away.
But this isn’t a one-way street. This is also the stage where you’re gathering information about them.
Lead magnets, email courses, e-books, case studies, free trials — anything that captures an email address will be a benefit to your funnel.
When leads get to the middle of the funnel, targeting and segmenting become very important, too.
You need to focus your effort on content creation, targeted offers, and follow-up campaigns for specific buyer personas.
You might do most of your work on this step. But if you do it right, it will be the most rewarding.
The goal here is to strengthen the relationship so that they move on to the final stage.
3. Bottom of the funnel
This is the final decision-making stage in your sales funnel.
It’s also a mix of hard and soft selling, depending on the strategies you’ve used at the top and the middle of the funnel as well as the consumer’s buying behavior.
This is where they will be researching about the benefits of your product, whether or not it will meet their needs, and how easy it is to buy from you.
It can be an emotional stage for the buyer, so it’s important that your messages and sales strategies are equally emotional and targeted to specific needs.
Reminders, retargeting, and motivational offers work the best here. But again, we’ll get to that in a bit.
A healthy sales funnel will move someone from the top to the bottom relatively easily. But to do that, you need a strategy.
Here are the five basic steps to crafting a healthy and profitable sales funnel.
Step 1: Create lead-capturing landing pages
The first place you want to start is the top of your funnel, especially if you’re creating a funnel from scratch.
Remember: the top of the funnel is all about traffic. But to turn that traffic into something useful later on, you need a lead-generating landing page.
A landing page could be your homepage if it looks something like this:
Even though this is a homepage, it has a lead-generating element on it (a “Try Kissmetrics” box) that they’ve designed to gather emails.
Ideally, it should be higher converting than a purely informational page.
Another example of a lead-generating landing page might look something like this:
You notice that the above example from Grasshopper has several lead-generating elements like social proof, a call-to-action (CTA) button, and a list of features and “how to” text.
You can create landing pages for visitors at any stage of the funnel.
A homepage, for example, might hit people right at the top of the funnel. Maybe they know who you are, and maybe they don’t.
The goal of your page would be to provide information and a “test” or demo for the curious onlooker.
On the other hand, a landing page like Grasshopper’s might hit someone in the middle of the funnel. Maybe they want to know more about the product’s specs, for example.
Take a look at HubSpot’s homepage:
They’ve designed the main text to capture leads at the top of the funnel, while the navigation gives access to pages that would most benefit those in the middle of the funnel who are curious about buying.
If you look at their pricing page, on the other hand, you’ll notice they’ve geared it toward those at the middle or bottom of the funnel:
It’s clear that the next action step here is more sales-oriented than simply getting to know the product.
The key to a profitable sales funnel is a landing page that converts, so it’s the first thing you should think about building. You will most likely need several landing pages that appeal to buyers from all stages of the cycle.
But once you finish setting up your landing page(s), it’s time to move on to the next step.
Step 2: Drive traffic to your landing pages
You’ve probably heard the age-old adage about a tree falling in the woods, right? Well, the same conundrum is true of the landing page as well.
A great landing page without any traffic won’t make a dent in your sales.
But traffic growth is one of the top challenges to inbound marketing.
This means you will need specific, proven strategies to drive traffic to your landing pages in order to move a potential customer on to the next stage of the funnel.
So what’s the best model for getting traffic? That depends on your goals, audience, and budget. Here are a few methods to consider:
1. Pay per click (PCC) ads
PPC advertising is an increasingly popular choice among marketers as a way of generating traffic.
They’ve become popular for many reasons. For one, PPC ads can reach people on a variety of channels and networks.
You can create ads for Facebook or Twitter, for example, or focus on search engine PPC ads to drive organic search traffic.
But PPC ads can also be expensive. For those creating PPC ads on a budget, you have to consider the cost vs. ROI.
You have to ensure that the amount of effort and money you put into the ads will generate enough traffic to move a large number of leads through to the middle of your funnel.
If you aren’t sure how to calculate the ROI of your PPC campaign, then start here.
2. Social media
Social media outreach is another great way to drive traffic at the beginning and middle of your sales funnel.
It’s a great tool because there is a lot of traffic on those channels already. All you have to do is tap into it.
It’s also a great tool for driving traffic because of its influential nature.
Even something as simple as answering a customer’s question on social media prompts 48% of consumers to make a purchase or convert in some way.
This means that it’s relatively easy for you to bring awareness to your brand while also moving someone from the awareness stage into the “tell me more” stage.
3. Content marketing
Social media isn’t the only way (or even the best way) to drive traffic to your site.
Content marketing — utilizing emails, blog content, case studies, etc. — is as effective, if not more effective, at driving traffic than social media alone.
In fact, 66% of marketers report using blogs and other web content as their primary social media content, too.
While content marketing can hit consumers at any stage of the cycle, it’s the perfect tool for influencing the middle of the funnel particularly.
It helps meet the education and research needs that someone in the middle of the funnel would need to finally convert.
But in order to get that conversion, you have to develop content that captures information.
Step 3: Develop resources that collect email addresses
After you’ve set up your landing pages, PPC ads, and social media accounts, the next step is to create content that captures attention.
It takes a lot of concentrated effort to move someone from the top of the funnel to the middle or from the middle to the bottom.
In short, you need to continue to target them with the content they’re looking for.
If they need more information about the benefits of your product, then you should send them to landing pages, e-books, or other resources that explain why your solution is the most effective solution.
Creating resources — also called lead magnets — does two things:
- It provides something valuable for the consumer.
- It gives you an email address that you can use for further marketing.
It’s easy for someone to download a free checklist or an e-book. And if you can capture that email, you can send them more information that might persuade them to buy.
It’s a soft-sell strategy that works surprisingly well if you do it correctly.
So how do you create a lead magnet that moves someone through the funnel?
1. Create a variety of lead magnets.
Lead magnets should first and foremost be something useful for your target audience. There needs to be a good reason for them to give you their email address.
Here’s an example of a simple checklist lead magnet:
You can also offer something like a free trial or sign-up:
Both work, depending on the audience. One will give you an email address, however, while the other will create an account and is, in a way, a mini-sale.
2. Make your lead magnet noticeable.
Your lead magnet should be on your lead-generating landing pages or embedded into your content in a noticeable way.
In some cases, you can create a unique landing page for your magnet and then create PPC ads that link to it.
This creates several touchpoints for potential customers while also growing your traffic.
3. Make it easy for people to give their information.
Getting someone onto your email list is a matter of value exchange. You’re giving them something and getting their email in return.
You want this process to be as effortless as possible. And I mean effortless.
Unless they’re signing up for a free trial where they would need to give more information, you should only have a name box, an email box, and a button. That’s it.
Even just giving them an email address box works.
You don’t need a lot of information about the customer right away even if they’re in the middle of the funnel.
Once you have their email, you can move on to the real sales point: email campaigns.
Step 4: Set up an email marketing campaign
An email campaign is the next logical step in the sales funnel because it builds a relationship with a prospect over time.
This gives them the space they need to make a purchasing decision while also keeping them actively engaged in the process.
In terms of effectiveness, 87% of B2B marketers use email marketing to generate leads, and 31% say email marketing makes the biggest impact on their revenue.
Email campaigns can fill a wide range of purposes. They can introduce a prospect to the product or service you offer:
They can showcase more about your company:
And they can recapture the attention of someone who has previously purchased from you:
The goal is to create a series of emails that continue to remind prospects that you still exist and that you’re ready to do business.
A typical email campaign might look like:
- Day 1 – A “welcome” email that thanks the prospect for showing an interest in your product or service.
- Day 2 – An email that offers another relevant lead magnet, typically a freebie like a checklist, e-book or trial.
- Day 3 – An email that includes a customer testimonial about your product or service.
- Day 4 – An email that includes more stories or examples of how your product has helped people be successful and how they can use your product or service.
- Day 5 – A final email that goes for the “hard sell” or next step in the purchase chain.
Marketers design these kinds of emails to move someone through the remainder of the funnel quickly.
This will help close leads that might be on the fence or otherwise uncertain about how or why they should buy from you.
After you’ve engaged them with an email course, the next step is to gauge your success and make any tweaks to refine the process.
Step 5: Track and tweak your sales funnel
Let’s do a quick refresher on the sales funnel steps so far:
- Create your landing pages.
- Start your traffic-driving initiatives (PPC, social media, etc.).
- Create your lead magnets.
- Set up an email marketing campaign.
By the time you’ve created an email marketing campaign, you should start seeing some sales.
But it will become critical for you to track each step to make sure there are no holes or leaks in your funnel, particularly in the middle of the funnel.
If traffic isn’t coming to your site, or that traffic isn’t turning into email addresses, or your sales numbers aren’t rising, there’s something wrong.
Watching your metrics, analytics, and sales numbers will be vital to the process.
For the most part, you should be able to track the success of your sales funnel with specific tools. Consider using things like:
A CRM — A good CRM will allow you to track all new leads, open deals, and see current customers.
Email tracking software — If you’re using an email service like Drip or MailChimp, you should be able to track leads from your desktop or integrate it with your CRM.
Social media tools — Tools like Buffer or Hootsuite can help you see your social media lead-generation progress.
Hootsuite Insights, for example, combines your analytics with more advanced social media monitoring so you can see which ads or content are working and what’s bombing.
Of course, something like Google Analytics works well, too.
At the end of the day, the tools don’t matter as much as the fact that you’re regularly checking your sales funnel for leaks.
This will let you see where you can make improvements that might significantly improve the quality of your leads and, eventually, your conversions.
If all of this sounds like a lot of work, just know that the payout is worth it.
Creating a sales funnels does take a lot of concentrated effort and monitoring to build correctly. But if you take the time to do it, you’ll earn a nice bump in your revenue.
The key to a profitable sales funnel is starting at the top and working your way down.
Focus on creating landing pages that really capture attention and then find ways of driving traffic to those pages.
Lead magnets and email campaigns work great for both, and they’re also great ways to keep customers on the hook once they’ve purchased from you.
If you’ve never created a sales funnel before, don’t worry. The more you practice, the better you’ll get.
Just be sure to watch your metrics and pay attention. Even if you are doing this for the very first time, you’ll start seeing results if you stick with it.