What Is a Sales Funnel? How to Create One in 2020

Sales Funnel Software Tools

“Sales funnel,” has been at the heart of marketing for ages as every business needs sales to funnel to convert his visitors into paying customers.

Closely analyzed by everyone internal to the company, from individual sales representatives all the way to the CEO, the sales funnel has been a fundamental sales culture for years.

At any given time, your customers are at different points in their journeys toward making a purchase. Therefore, as a marketer, it’s your job to move them along the sales funnel toward a purchase.

According to the marketing disciplines, it’s important to understand your customers and audience, how they think, the path they intend to take to find a solution, and the answers they seek. From that research, you can begin creating a content strategy that maps your content to various stages of the buyer’s journey.

Whats on This Page

In this article, I’ll begin by defining the sales funnel by its three main stages: the top of the funnel (TOFU), the middle of the funnel (MOFU), and the bottom of the funnel (BOFU). 

I’ll also offer ideas to create effective types of sales funnel to create for folks in each stage, including basic marketing strategies and plans.

What is a Sales Funnel?

Marketing funnel

sales funnel represents a traditional sales process from start to end. It is called a funnel as its a conical shape that forms as you add additional norms to each deal.

A sales funnel a marketing theory that maps out the journey a customer goes through making any purchase. This theory uses a funnel as an analogy as a large number of consumers may begin at the top end of the sales process, but only a part of these people end up making a purchase.

On a macro-level, a sales funnel will begin with a large number of buyers at the top based on a certain criterion. This number of potential buyers is reduced to a less number of possible prospects. 

Heading towards the middle of the customer journey, the prospects reduce to fewer opportunities, and after the decision-making stage, the sales end with a closed-lost or closed-won deal.

As each individual, the deal moves and changes through each phase, therefore, the probability of closing the sale will also change. Along the sales funnel, more information is exchanged, and more actual, it becomes if using the product will be useful to the customer. 

At some point, there is a chance for that deal to be finally closed and successful. However, in the case, if the deal is moved to closed/lost, the probability moves to zero.

The sales funnel solves several problems for almost every sales leadership:

How Do Sales Funnel Work?

Sales and purchase funnel

There are many terms used to describe sales funnel stages; however, we’re going to start with the 4 most common terms to explain how each stage works as a consumer goes from a visitor to a buyer to a lead.

A viewer or visitor lands on your website through a search engine or a social link. He/she is now a prospect. This visitor might browse your product listings or check out your blog posts. During this time, your website might offer him/her a chance to sign up for your email list.

If the visitor fills out this form, he/she becomes a lead. You can now market the customer outside of your website via phone call, email, text, etc.

This customer (lead) tend to come back to your site when you offer them information about new blog posts, special offers, or other interesting messages. Maybe you offer them a coupon code or some sort of giveaway.

The sales funnel narrows as visitors or viewers move through it. This is moderate because you’ll have more prospects at the top of the funnel than consumers at the bottom and because your method of interaction needs to become increasingly targeted.

It’s easy to remember the 4 sales funnel stages by the abbreviation AIDA: Awareness, Interest, Decision, and Action. These stages represent your customer’s mindset.

Each stage requires a different approach from the marketer, the right message at the right time.

Let’s look at the 4 stages of the sales funnel in more detail.

Awareness

This is the time at which you first catch a customer’s attention. It might be a Facebook post shared by a friend, tweet, a Google search, or something else.

Your prospect now becomes aware of your brand and what you offer.

When the chemistry sets outright, consumers sometimes purchase immediately. It’s like a right-time, right-place scenario. The customer has already completed the research and knows what you’re offering—something desirable at a fair price.

Often, the awareness stage is more of an engagement. You’re trying to encourage the prospect to return to your site and engaging more with your products or services.

Interest

The consumers in the interest stage, do proper research, think over their options, and comparison shopping. This is the time to jump in with incredible unique content that helps them but doesn’t sell to them.

If you try to push your product or service from the beginning, you’ll turn off customers and chase them away. The main aim here is to establish your capability, help the customer make an informed decision, and educate or help them in all the possible ways.

Decision

The decision stage comes into the picture when the customer is ready to purchase. He/she might be considering two-three options – hopefully, including you.

This is the right time to make your best offer. It could be a discount code, free shipping when most of your competition charges, or a bonus product. Whatever the case, make it so desirable that your lead can’t wait to benefit.

Action

Now is the time for customer’s action to purchase your product or service and becomes part of your business’s network.

Just because a customer reaches the bottom of the funnel, doesn’t mean your work is over. Action is for the marketer and the consumer. Do your best and turn one purchase into 10, 100, 1000, and so on.

In other words, focus on customer retention. Invite your customer to provide feedback, express appreciation for the purchase, and make yourself available 24/7 for tech support.

Sales Funnel Stages

Sales funnel stages

Every stage of the sales funnel represents a different step in the customer’s journey based on their overall awareness of your product, service, or solution. It is influenced by the marketing content they’ve been relating to.

In most cases, you can base your approach around a three-stage funnel:

TOFU (Top of the Funnel): The “awareness” stage, where people looking for answers, education, resources, opinions, research data, and insight.

Middle of the Funnel (MOFU): The “evaluation” stage, where people are doing heavy research on whether to buy your products or service.

Bottom of the Funnel (BOFU): The “purchase” stage, where people think about what it would take to become a customer.

Your funnel may look different depending on your business model, industry, product, audience, and pricing.

For example, some B2C customers spend a little time in the MOFU compared to B2B customers that require more engagement, nurturing, and relationship development before a purchase is made.

For instance, a $60 pair of sneakers require less handholding than making the purchase decisions for a $20,000 business software investment.

Price is not the only factor to be considered. Because the audiences can vary widely based on intent and industry. Therefore, persona research is most important. 

Only by understanding their unique process for evaluation and awareness, you will be able to create an effective content marketing strategy. This strategy should be packed with unique and custom content that best supports the customer’s journey toward making a purchase.

Now, let’s look at the funnel and what you can expect at each phase:

Top of the Funnel: Awareness

At this point, a customer is trying to solve problems, meet a need, or get an answer. They’re looking for top-level educational content to help them with a solution, via blog posts, eBooks, and social content. Their value as a lead is low, as there’s no guarantee that they’ll purchase from you. But those who find your content interesting and helpful may drive themselves on to the middle of the funnel.

Middle of the Funnel: Evaluation

The customer moves into the middle of your funnel, congratulations, you’ve captured their attention. Customers know they have a problem that needs to be solved, and now they try to find the best solution. The need for a future purchase commitment moves up as they’re evaluating their options.

The top of the funnel is designed to educate a customer, and this is the stage where you want to show that your solutions are the best fit for your customers. You can also help people to determine if they’re not a good fit. This will be very important for healthy future customer retention.

The middle of the funnel is usually a point of extended engagement where you’re building a relationship, nurturing a lead, and establishing trust between the audience and your brand.

Bottom of the Funnel: Purchase

This is the stage bottom of the funnel where your customers want to make an actual purchase decision. They’re ready to buy services or products, but that still doesn’t mean that they’re going to buy from you. That’s the last choice they have to make and the last stage to get the solution they’re seeking.

In most cases, conversions and leads at the bottom of the funnel need that final push and that convincing call-to-action to get them to make a purchase decision. The right content and offer at this stage can have an effective impact on lifting your conversions.

How to Create a Sales Funnel?

Creating sales funnel

Now it’s the best time to create your sales funnel. You can use the following steps to create your sales funnel strategy.

1. Understand Your Customers

The best and easy way to understand your customers is to talk to them.

According to Matt Ackerson, by doing so, you will understand their frustrations and needs, and how well you offer help to solve their problem.

This is the best way to adjust your funnel to focus on such key and relevant selling points. You may also increase insights that lead you to adjust your products and services to make them better.

Interact with them and try to ask some important questions such as:

Based on your data, create relevant content for each stage of your sales funnel and help prospects move down with your pipeline.

2. Create a Buyer Persona

Customer loyalty for business

The reality is you can’t have the same sales funnel for all your prospects and customers.

Maybe because:

It’s a smarter move to create different buyer personas for all customer types and create different sales funnels to match their experience.

You need to understand your audience as you do for yourself. 

For example, you’re aware of your likes and dislikes, you know what difficulties you face and the people that you will allow to help you with those problems. Similarly, if you learn to know your audience in the same manner, establishing a genuine connection increases massively. You can guide more people through your sales funnel and get those ‘closed-wons.’

3. Lead Generation and Traffic

There are 3 different tracks you can go with increasing lead generation and traffic with sales funnel:

Free traffic is the one for which you don’t pay directly. However, this doesn’t mean it’s completely free.

You might need to spend money and resources on paid tools such as Google AnalyticsQuantcastClickTale & CrazyEgg, etc. and work hard to optimize your site for Google and other search engines. This to earn the attention of customers, so they start talking about you.

Free traffic includes:

The paid traffic is the best and easiest way to bring traffic to your website. You pay for an advertisement, and as soon as someone clicks on it, you will have a customer on your site.

You can also use Facebook Ads, Google AdWords, Twitter Ads, and LinkedIn Ads to increase traffic.

One of the major disadvantages of paid traffic is that if you stop paying for these ads, your traffic will stop, and you won’t get any leads.

Affiliate marketing is also a method of paid traffic. The major difference between the affiliate and paid marketing is that you pay after a sale has been made.

Cold outreach is a strategy that includes sending cold emails or calling companies that might need your products or services.

There’s also the use of pricing plans that help you build awareness in terms of Ps of marketing, a lesser-known but effective strategy.

It is the most time-consuming strategy among all methods.

4. How to Use Content Marketing for Each Stage of the Sales Funnel

Content strategy

Content Ideas for the Awareness Stage

According to Adweek, 82% of consumers conduct online research before making a purchase decision. There’s a chance that the majority of your viewers fall into that category. Remember, these people are looking for answers and information about a problem that points back to a product or service need.

The most effective and powerful way to capture their attention is through optimized and high-value written content like eBooks, blog posts, white papers, and reports with original research.

Don’t limit yourself to written content, though, the top-of-funnel content can also include social media content, videos, courses, certifications, and other forms of educational content.

Content Ideas for the Evaluation Stage

Content ideas such as blogs are a great way to draw attention to your website. They lack the personal engagement of marketing that helps your business to qualify prospects and nurture relationships. This kind of engagement is important, especially for marketers in the middle of the funnel.

Evaluation is perhaps the most critical point in the consumer’s journey because this is where prospective customers start removing solutions that aren’t a good fit.

Unfortunately, 68% of B2B organizations haven’t defined the stages in the sales funnels. Without defining the funnel stages, they can’t nurture leads effectively, meaning they’re making little or no concentrated effort to move consumers to the purchase stage.

People in the middle of sales funnel are likely to be looking at you for content showcasing that you’re the experts in your industry. That’s why the most real types of content in the evaluation stage are things like webinars, expert guides, whitepapers, and live interactions that compare your benefits and features with that of your competitors.

Content Ideas for the Purchase Stage

The more time you spend surfing online, the more you’ll see the bottom-of-the-funnel content. Websites are full of demos, calls-to-action for trial offers, estimate request buttons, and downloads, although most customers aren’t ready to buy initially.

In fact, CEB’s The Digital Evolution and Google in B2B Marketing report state that people reach 60% of the way through a purchase process before discussing with anyone about making a purchase.

By itself, a BOFU offer isn’t likely to lose a lot of leads into clients. However, when you map it suitably to the buyer journey, you’re combining the convincing nature of that final offer with all the engagement you’ve created leading up to that point. You’re far more likely to reach the close and see that lift in changes.

The most effective types of content in the purchase stage can be trial offers, case studies, demos, and product literature.

5. How to Engage Your Leads

You can also engage and promote your leads magnets on social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, etc. to generate leads or include your website link to the landing page to your email signature.

According to a recent report, 34% of businesses use email signatures for marketing and generating leads by adding clickable banners or CTAs (Call-To-Action) to their sign-offs. Email signature marketing platforms like my signature or Newoldstamp allow us to automate the process.

This could be performed well when your audience already has an interest in the solution and content that you offer.

Keep in mind that 97-99% of people will not be ready to buy. So it’s a much better way to turn them into email subscribers. You need to continually engage your leads, educate them on specific topics they are interested in, and help them move down the pipeline.

That way, at a point, they will be prepared to make a purchase decision.

You can also engage them with videos, blog posts, podcasts, social media posts, Facebook Live, and webinars.

6. Closing Strategies

Marketing 101

These are the best strategies that you use to convert your audience into customers.

For closing the sales funnel and converting customers into leads, you can use:

It’s important is to build the demand for your customers in advance and turn their implicit needs into explicit needs.

This way, you can make a clear and precise offer that targets your customers’ needs, thus closing the deal.

It’s important to explain to the user who you are and what they need to do to buy from you.

7. Find Cracks in Your Sales Funnel

Your work is not completed when you create your sales funnel. In fact, this is the point where it all begins.

It’s important to analyze and measure your results once everything is set up. Choose your KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) first, then set up a measurement program.

You need to gather data, find leaks, and improve your funnel if you want to achieve better results.

You need to see out where your weaknesses and strengths lie. Explore and ask some questions for a better understanding of your prospects, are you good at closing leads but getting nervous about creating awareness? Or are you expertise in your field but can’t succeed in closing a sale?

Such questions will help you to decide where and how you need to work on your sales funnel. And then focus all your assets there.

A good flow of audience right from the top to the action stage will ensure you have a sound and healthy business.

Conclusion

Sales Funnel Software Tools

Every business has a unique sales funnel, designed, and sculpted around their customer’s unique journey. It’s a recipe that can’t be replicated from one business to another.

That said, the general methodology remains the same: Understand your target audience, develop your sales funnel around your audience intent and industry, and create a well-documented content marketing strategy that maps custom content in detail to each phase of their journey through the funnel.

Do it well!! And the end process will have the greatest impact on your customer relationships, and the greatest possible lift in your overall leads and conversions.

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