Sales funnels need not be complicated. Indeed, Kat Sullivan contends that these marketing channels used to direct sales are simple. She backs that up by bringing lots of experience to the conversation.
Sullivan is an entrepreneur, author, speaker, CEO and founder of Marketing Solved, and co-founder of Software as a Service company Tassi. She talked about funnels with Chelsea Krost, a Top 20 millennial marketing strategist and coach, LinkedIn instructor and global speaker.
Together, they discussed stages of a sales funnel, what products and services work with funnel marketing, the best apps and tools to use, and much more.
A sales funnel moves business in a systematic, repeatable way that takes care of basic processes. That lets you concentrate on customers’ individual wants and needs.
“A simple sales funnel is really just the process of getting in front of customers,” Sullivan said. “Move them through from brand new contact — ‘Who the heck are you?’ — to happy customer — ‘I just bought your product, and I love it.’
“Businesses need a sales funnel — sales process — so they know how they’re going to get in front of people, acquire new leads and generate revenue,” she said.
Sullivan’s definition of a sales funnel focuses on people.
“It’s the steps, opt-ins and experiences your potential customers move through within their consumer journey,” she said. “It is how a consumer gets from A to Z to — we hope — purchase your product or service.”
Krost explained that sales funnels are beneficial in several ways:
- Increase brand awareness
- Drive traffic to your website
- Generate warm leads
- Automate your sales process
“In my marketing career, I’ve learned that many experts and industry leaders have funnel methods that vary,” Krost said. “I’ve seen different versions of what these stages should or could look like. I don’t think it is a one-size-fits-all concept.”
Generally speaking, she breaks down a sales funnel in these steps:
“I don’t think a funnel should end at the sale,” Krost said. “We must think about how to retain those customers and how we can turn them into advocates for our brand.”
Sullivan’s sales funnel has four stages:
- Awareness: Get in front of potential customers via social media, videos, articles, podcasts, advertising, etc.
- Incentive: Give them a reason to be attracted to your business with a free gift, coupon, sample, free trial, etc.
- Lead: Connect with them. Get them in your door, to your social pages, on your email list to give you their phone number
- Close: Sell them and create a relationship.
The overall goal of a sales funnel is to channel people to you and your business — whether that be a product or service — for customer fulfillment.
“Absolutely!” Sullivan said. “Sales funnels work in any industry for any sale because it’s really just another phrase for customer journey. It can be customized for any business.”
Certain products or services convert best with funnel marketing. Krost’s list includes coaching services; fitness or health coaching or programs; financial services, Realtors and beauty products.
“Things that sell online work particularly well,” Sullivan said. “Personally, I’ve sold info products, coaching, digital courses and software. Sales funnels work like magic.
“I’ve also seen sales funnels perform really well with books, physical products, website design, personal training, social media services and even monthly membership sites,” she said. “It’s a pretty wide range.”
Creating a sales funnel follows a basic process.
“Just like anything else in your marketing, set your goals,” Krost said. “Ask yourself, How many leads do I want to attract? Am I looking to build my social following using this sales funnel?
“Awareness is Step 1 in the funnel,” she said. “It makes sense to start there. Decide how you’re going to teach people who you are and why you matter. This can be through a webinar, signature traffic builder — Twitter chat, podcast — or blog.”
Naturally, Sullivan starts with her four stages for sales funnels in mind and moves ahead from there.
“Try to get crystal clear on how you’re going to get that awareness,” she said. “Incentivize people to connect with you, turn them into a hot lead, and close them. Map it out, and create the customer journey.
“I use ‘customer journey’ quite a bit because it puts the focus back on the customer and less on the sale,” Sullivan said.
Test trial ads first
The best social media platforms for sales funnels are those where your customers are. Otherwise, you’re just shooting wild and wasting your time.
“Facebook is a great platform when building your sales funnel,” Krost said. “I always suggest to my private coaching clients that they run a few ads on Facebook for their product and services. Facebook is also ideal for promoting your incentive or offer.
“Instagram presents more challenges to marketers when creating a sales funnel because they do not allow you to include links in posts,” she said. “However, you can include them in your stories when you have at least 10,000 followers or are verified.”
Sullivan said the list of top incentives — also known as lead magnets — for a sales funnel is virtually endless, giving her favorites: discounts, coupons, special offers, free reports, checklists, worksheets, PDFs, video training, free consultation, free strategy session, free estimate, free shipping, bonus products, upgrades, giveaways and sweepstakes.
“Think about giving amazing value,” Krost said, offering her lead magnet examples: free email course, free guide, interactive quiz that reveals important insights, discovery call, case study, giveaways, coupons and discounts.
The more engaged you are, the more attractive your lead funnel will be. Putting it in motion and forgetting about it will turn off prospective clients.
“Create a survey or quiz that helps gets people thinking and interacting,” Krost said. “A survey or quiz can lead prospects to realize the things that they might need more knowledge about or are missing in their life.
“Don’t forget about interactive elements such as Twitter chats, live streaming and public speaking,” she said. “These are amazing ways to fuel your funnel.”
Sullivan is a big fan of being creative and unique, which starts by asking these questions:
- What can you do that other people aren’t doing?
- Can you do something fun with video?
- Can you do something creative with an ad?
“Look for ways to embed your personality into it,” Sullivan said.
Tools support metrics
Set metrics from the start that let you measure success of your sales funnel and overall marketing.
“Analytics are key when building a successful sales funnel,” Krost said. “Be sure to check ad analytics on Facebook and Google; website visitors; email open and response rate, and determine where in your funnel you are losing potential customers.
“Determine if your sales funnel is working by evaluating how many sales you have made and your return on investment after marketing costs,” she said.
Sullivan has a basic gauge of sales funnel success: “If you start seeing revenue, you’ll know it’s working.”
Aside from that, she preached patience.
“Funnels do take time to get going and get optimized,” Sullivan said. “It’s good to monitor and track for at least seven days before making changes.
“As for metrics, they’ll vary,” she said. “The fun part for us data nerds is almost everything has a measurable metric. You can dive into impressions, clicks, landing page views, landing page conversions, email open rates, click-through rates, product views and purchases.”
Try to avoid unrealistic goals. Understand how a sales funnel works. Then you’ll have reasonable expectations from start to finish. Another mistake to avoid is not providing value.
“Make sure you incentivize people by teaching them something and show them how your product or service can make their routine easier and more effective,” Krost said.
“No follow up is a sure way to lose potential customers,” she said. “Be sure to check in via direct message, email or phone call to see what they think of your product or service, Determine what might be holding them back from purchasing or committing.”
From a customer’s perspective
There also is value in seeing your process from the customer’s eyes.
“One mistake I see quite a bit is that people don’t go through their own sales funnel as a consumer,” Sullivan said. “You can learn a lot by stepping into the shoes of your customers and seeing how they would view the process. It’s a huge learning tool.
“Test the technology,” she said. “Because so many tools need to communicate, it can be complicated setting up a funnel and getting it to work properly. You definitely want to take the time to go through it and ensure it’s functioning appropriately.”
Nothing is absolute. Some people and businesses see funnel success and others don’t.
“It’s definitely a long-term strategy,” Sullivan said. “It takes patience and the right strategy. We’ve been very fortunate to have several Pinterest pins go viral. Years after we create them, they continue to perform. Once you understand the platform, you can really leverage the traffic.
“Sometimes the offer isn’t right,” she said. “Sometimes the audience isn’t right. Sometimes the offer is perfect and the audience is perfect. The key to a successful sales funnel is to play the long game.”
Sullivan offered these guidelines:
- Don’t get impatient.
- Make adjustments.
- Make more adjustments.
- Learn more.
- Make adjustments.
- Rinse and repeat.
“When my clients ask me what to test, my response is test everything, “Sullivan said. “Test is always best.”
Krost also urged entrepreneurs to persevere.
“The biggest reason people see success is because they don’t give up,” she said. “A sales funnel is all about trial and error. If your current funnel isn’t working, see where you can make improvements. Sometimes that one tweak can make all the difference.”