The internet has opened up a lot of things to our world: cat videos, forum trolls, and digital marketing. Salesforce.com estimates that consumers are 75% of the way to making their decision to buy your brand BEFORE they ever visit your store or see a sales rep. Thus, it's critical to address all their issues on your website and use influence strategies effectively throughout the site.
Allow me to introduce you to the most misused and misunderstood words in all of sales and marketing: FUNNEL. It's not just for digital marketers, online or offline, e-commerce store or dry-cleaner; if you have a business, and you have customers, then you have some type of funnel (even if you call it something else). You might call it a "marketing funnel," a "conversion funnel," a "marketing pipeline," a "sales funnel," a "sales pipeline," a "sales process," a "sales cycle," or any number of other terms that are all describing the exact same thing. Bottom line, if you have a business, it's because you have processes in place to:
- Acquire new prospects and leads
- Convert those leads into buyers
- Get those buyers to buy more or buy more often!
Now, it might not be an optimized process, but every business has some way of doing all the things listed above.
Business2Community outlines the ideal steps your digital sales funnel should take. It begins with keeping the lines of communication between you and your customer open; consider offering a freebie service like downloading a white paper in exchange for an email address. Pick something that a visitor to your website considers valuable enough that they would give up their contact information in exchange. Once you get visitors to sign up, redirect them to a page that not only thanks them but offers a special deal on a product you're selling or is an extension of the free product you gave visitors. The big end goal is to redirect your visitor to a final sales page that offers you the product you ultimately are trying to sell.
A Conversion Funnel is a multi-step, multi-modality campaign that seamlessly and subtly leads a prospect toward a desired action. Let's break this definition down:
- Multi-step, multi-modality – You don't turn cold prospects into leads, customers, and multi-buyers all at once. A solid conversion funnel anticipates each step necessary to lead the prospect to the conversion.
- Campaign – Depending on your business and what you sell, a conversion funnel can require all types of different elements, sales appointments, consultations, landing pages, email follow-up, phone follow up, visits to your store and more to accomplish the ultimate goal. The important thing to remember is that it's a process, not a single event.
- Seamlessly and subtly – A well-oiled conversion funnel removes the friction between the prospect and the conversion.
Here's what a conversion funnel is NOT: a silver bullet. It's not easy—nothing worthwhile is.
Think about the last time you were shopping for something significant—a new television, for example:
- First, you might read something about the optimal TV size for your home.
- Then, you may have Googled "best 55 inch TV models."
- From those lists, you may have read reviews on each suggestion.
- By now, you're close to making a decision—and you haven't even visited a website like Target or Amazon, places that actually sell TVs.
All versions of the marketing funnel start with awareness since you can't do anything until consumers become aware of your brand. Digital adds another option to other forms creating awareness and harnesses the power of word-of-mouth, which is much more effective than traditional advertising. Getting users to share your content gives it the patina of legitimacy missing from advertising. Search also helps share your content. Hence, your exposure strategy consists of:
- SEO (search engine marketing) to get found in organic search.
- Content marketing – to create content worthy of sharing.
- Building a community – who shares as part of the tit for tat of the community.
Add in a little traditional digital advertising through banners and PPC and you've got the beginnings of a great funnel.