Without a sales funnel that works, companies will miss out on a ton of revenue.
Sales funnels are key to driving consistent sales. They bring in customers on autopilot and nurture warm leads into loyal, repeat customers.
But getting them right is hard.
Putting all the moving parts together can often feel like rocket science, and the abundance of complicated guides out there can make setting up a simple sales funnel an incredibly daunting task.
Let’s break it down into 4 simple steps to help you build out a sales funnel that boosts conversion rates and turns more potential customers into loyal customers.
Here’s what we’ll cover:
- What is a Sales Funnel?
- Sales Funnel Stages
- How to Build a Sales Funnel
- Best Type of Content for Each Stage
What is a Sales Funnel?
First things first, let’s go back to basics.
Your sales funnel is essentially the journey that customers go on with your business. It’s the steps they take from the moment they discover your business to the moment they become a loyal customer.
Sales funnels involve multiple steps because lots of different things need to happen between a prospect becoming aware of your brand and then finally taking action and making a purchase.
A lot of research shows that it takes around seven steps (or touchpoints, as they’re known) before a cold prospect buys.
Content is used throughout the sales funnel to gently nudge prospects into the next stage. This can include content like email sequences, blog posts, landing pages, webinars, email marketing, downloads, and demos.
These kinds of resources are used to warm up prospects who have entered the sales funnel, because there’s a very small chance that someone will buy from you the first time they come across your brand. Instead, it can take days, weeks, and even months for them to warm up, see the value in what you’re offering, and take the plunge.
This is why a sales funnel is so important.
It keeps prospects warm during those weeks of consideration until they’re ready to invest. If you don’t have a sales funnel in place, there’s a very real chance you’re losing customers who click away from your site and never come back.
Sales Funnel Stages: What Happens and When?
A sales funnel looks like a plastic funnel you might find in your kitchen or a science lab.
The top of the funnel is wide and the bottom is narrow. This is similar to a sales funnel: the top of the funnel is populated with more prospects and the bottom has fewer. This is because prospects often drop out of the funnel as they go through it. They might decide to invest in a competitor instead, or realize they need a different solution entirely.
A traditional sales funnel (and the simplest) is made up of three distinct stages:
1. Top of the Funnel (the widest part): This is where customers become aware of your business. They might be looking for a solution for a problem they have and come across your product or service while carrying out their research.
2. Middle of the Funnel: This is where prospects become leads. They like what they see but they aren’t yet ready to invest in you just yet.
3. Bottom of the Funnel (the narrowest part): This is where leads are ready to become customers.
The Buyer’s Journey
Let’s look at the buyer’s journey:
From the customer side, these phases can be broken down into five steps that align with the mindset prospects are in as they work their way through the funnel:
1. The Awareness Phase: When a prospect becomes aware of your brand (advertising, social media, etc).
2. The Consideration Phase: When a prospect is researching existing solutions (yours might be one of them).
3. The Evaluation Phase: When a prospect is looking deep into their options and pitting your product against other potential solutions.
4. The Decision Phase: When a prospect makes the final decision to purchase.
5. The Post-Purchase Phase: When a prospect becomes a loyal customer Prospects at different stages of the sales funnel and, therefore, in different mindsets, need different types of content to help push them into the next stage. This is where the funnel really starts to come together.
How to Build a Sales Funnel
At each stage of the funnel, you need to provide value that pushes prospects to the next stage.
Think about it:
Someone who isn’t even aware they have a problem that needs solving yet is going to have very different needs to someone who is well aware they have a problem and is currently weighing their options. This also means they’re going to need very different information to encourage them to act.
Here’s a step-by-step guide to making sure your sales funnel is set up to perform its best.
1. Know Your Audience
Before you do anything, you need to know who you’re serving so that you can provide them with continuous value throughout the sales cycle.
A finance brand that sells complex software to enterprise businesses is going to have a very different audience to a recipe blog that serves busy working professionals.
Start the process by creating customer personas for your brand. Think about:
- Who they are (what are their job roles? What responsibilities do they have? What life stage are they at?)
- What their biggest challenges are
- Where they want to be and what’s stopping them from getting their
- What big problem they need your solution for
Gaining a deep understanding of your audience will help you create content that really resonates at each stage of the funnel. As a result, more people will convert to the next stage.
2. Understand What Happens At Each Stage of the Sales Funnel
Next, think about what customers need from you to move to the next stage of the sales funnel.
Put in simple terms, the general consensus is:
- At the awareness stage: You need to solidify the problem your prospects have and position your product as a potential solution.
- At the consideration stage: You need to share value and outline the benefits of your product and how it will solve the problem a prospect has.
- At the evaluation stage: You need to position your brand as the best option for the prospect.
- At the decision stage: You need to provide a smooth onboarding process for prospects.
Content is your secret sauce here. Content will tap into these needs and provide prospects with the information they need to move seamlessly into the next stage.
3. Create Relevant Content Every Step of the Way
Content is what will bring your sales funnel to life.
Once you have an understanding of who your audience is and what happens at each stage of the funnel, you should be able to slot appropriate content into each stage.
After this section, we’ll take a look at the kinds of content you might include.
4. Measure and Tweak Your Sales Funnel
A great, high-converting sales funnel isn’t born overnight.
Instead, it takes time to figure out how all the moving parts fit together, and optimizing each stage so it’s performing at its best is a case of trial and error. This is why it’s important to test, tweak, measure, and optimize each stage of the funnel regularly.
Think about things like:
- How many visitors are landing on your site. Can you improve that? How? Would it mean injecting more money into ads or creating more SEO keyword blog posts?
- How many people give you their email addresses. Can you get more? How can you do that? Do you need to switch up your offer so it’s more compelling?
Constantly measuring and tweaking small parts of your sales funnel will ensure that, over time, you build a system that consistently generates new leads and turns them into loyal customers.
The Best Type of Content for Each Stage
1. Awareness Stage Content
This is where you populate your funnel with prospects and, to get a consistent stream of sales, you need a consistent stream of people coming in at the top.
At this point, marketers should think about how prospects are going to find out about your business and what you offer.
Content you might use here includes: Blog posts that uncover the “why” of a problem a prospect might have, advertising to reach new potential leads, SEO guides that target a well-searched and relevant term. This blog post tackles why someone might need a chiropractor, attracting people in the awareness stage who might not know they need one yet.
It’s important to build out the top of your funnel with a handful of lead generation methods. Choose 2-3 to begin with and track them to see what works best.
2. Consideration Stage Content
Content at this stage is used to turn prospects from website visitors into subscribers (or leads). To do this, you need to get their email addresses.
Content you might use here includes: valuable downloads in exchange for a prospect’s email address so you can continue to engage with them (this might be an ebook, a guide, a checklist, a video series, or something else that’s valuable enough to gate) through email sequences that nurture prospects and share even more value.
An example of a valuable download prospects can get in exchange for their email address.
Tip: With these email addresses, create email drip campaigns: mission-critical messages at scale to stay at the forefront of prospect’s minds and drive engagement.
3. Evaluation Stage Content
Here, you should continue to convey value. Prospects at this stage are gearing up to make a decision, so if you drop off the radar at this point, they’re going to go elsewhere.
Content you might use here includes: webinars, demos, customer stories, case studies that show what’s possible with your product, email sequences that keep your brand top of mind, etc.
This email promotes a webinar that digs into a solution that the brand is selling.
4. Decision Stage Content
This is the final push towards the sale. Think about how you can help your prospects get to the final decision stage.
Content you might use here includes: FAQs and answers to common objections prospects might have about choosing your brand over a competitor. Or product guides that help them figure out what features your product has that a competitor’s product doesn’t.
5. Post-Purchase Stage Content
The purpose of content at the post-purchase stage is to continue to nurture existing customers in your sales process so that they keep coming back.
Creating a loyal community of buyers is far more cost-effective than acquiring new customers and is a far more sustainable way of running a business.
Content you might use here includes: nurturing email sequences that continue to build relationships, exclusive offers for existing customers, regular helpful content that allows customers to continue to make the most of your product or service.
The kind of content you include in your sales funnel will depend entirely on what you’re selling and who you’re selling it to, but for the sake of ease, this is a very popular backbone of a sales funnel.
Once a prospect is in your funnel, it’s up to you to serve them the information they need at the right points.
And remember, your sales funnel doesn’t have to be complicated. Instead, think about it from your customers’ perspective: what do they need at each step? What information will help them move to the next stage?
Think about it like this, and you’ll be able to create a simple but powerful sales funnel in no time at all.