If you’re a small business owner, you might be a one-man (or one-woman) show, wearing several hats, including both sales and marketing. As your business grows, though, you’ll need to hire people for your team. One of the biggest mistakes I see companies make over and over again is having their sales team and marketing team work completely independently of one another.
You want to capture leads at every stage of the sales funnel and target them with messages that reflect their state of mind. To do this, you need to assign user actions to each stage of your marketing funnel. For example, a first-time visitor on your site will fit into the “awareness” category while someone who has repeatedly visited the same product page probably fits in the “consideration” stage.
In this scenario, you’re asking people to take little steps, instead of going right from “mailing list sign up” to “spend $1000”. Downloading a free ebook isn’t a big step. Once you’ve done that, sure, why not share? Hey, if the info was valuable in the free book, the info in a $19 book is probably great! Oh, there’s a $197 program? Yes, I would love to join, because I already got more than that much value from your lower-cost items. Spend $1000? Sure!
Your sales funnel is healthy if you have enough prospects going through it. If you’re moving enough prospects through the funnel with the experiences and interactions you create, and if you are able to profitably convert enough prospects into paying customers, your sales funnel is healthy. See our article on Sales Metrics—17 Reports That Improve Your Sales Pipeline Performance to help measure your funnel’s health.
You’d probably think I’d lost my marbles, and I don’t blame you. Back in the 1980s and 1990s, it was a common marketing strategy to send out mass advertisements via fax machine, similar to today’s mass-email marketing campaigns. They worked. They were a viable marketing strategy because everyone had a fax machine, and used it on a daily basis. Now? Millennials are stumped when it comes time to operate one and the majority of Gen-Z doesn’t even know what a fax machine is.
Visitor-to-lead conversion rate: This metric will tell you what percentage of your website visitors end up becoming leads. You can use this as an indicator of how attractive your offer to become a lead (we’ll talk about the type of content you should use in this stage in a second) is to your visitors. As you might expect, you should aim for a high conversion rate. If you use tools to capture leads with popups forms, this metric will be tracked and provided to you. However, if you use other tactics to collect leads you might need to use Google Analytics goals to keep track of this metric.
The intent stage is a ringing bell for a possible conversion. The evaluation stage is the final stage before the purchase decision. This stage involves the customer to evaluate the product, price, and offer provided by the brand and makes his decision upon them. The sales team is more involved than the marketing team in this stage of the marketing funnel.
The Discovery stage is where your prospect’s interest is piqued. They are curious about your company and products and want to learn more. In this stage, you are sharing valuable educational content related to your prospect’s problem or need. This stage occurs while you are qualifying your prospect, conducting initial meetings, and defining their needs.
After you’ve mapped out your prospect’s experience, make sure they align with your team’s pipeline stages. You can do this on paper or in CRM software like Salesforce Essentials. Sales pipeline stages are stages in your sales process, while your sales funnel stages are the stages in your customer journey. Refer to our article on how to create an effective sales plan for more information about pipeline stages and how they relate to your sales strategy.
Exits from stage – Similarly, seeing an excessively high number of people falling out of a particular stage is an indication that you aren’t doing enough to answer their questions or you’re asking them for too much of a commitment too early. Add more content to give them the information they need to move forward or make it easier for people to convert (e.g. don’t ask for a phone number when they’re downloading a certain e-book).
As noted, the pizza shop funnel example above is really simple; there aren’t many steps. Sometimes this is okay (for example, in our pizza funnel, adding more steps may or may not hinder down the sales process). However, for better results, it is often beneficial to add more levels to your sales funnel. This is especially true if you’re selling high-ticket items.
Setting up your sales funnel is the key to creating powerful prospect experiences. It is important that you map them out ahead of time to ensure your sales process is in alignment with the customer’s journey. CRM software set up to mirror your funnel activities can then help you manage and stay focused on the most important tasks during each stage in the process.
Prospecting and marketing are all the things you do to get people into the first of your sales funnel stages. Note that stages are broken into two or more steps wherever possible. A demo could be called a single stage, but in real life it involves a lot of things: contacting the customer, sending reminders, doing the demo, and then following up. Whatever your own sales stages look like, the support you need in managing them will be the same.
When these would-be buyers become interested enough in her products, they request an online demonstration by filling out the form on her landing pages. These requests are routed directly to her salespeople, who, because they’re dealing with warm leads, close roughly 50% of the customers to whom they demo. Molly’s company closes more sales than Norman’s, with fewer salespeople and no time spent on cold calling.
Traffic sources. As you’ve probably noticed throughout this article, different traffic sources work better for different stages in the marketing funnel. Sometimes, however, a traffic source can surprise you, so it is a good idea to track how many people are entering your marketing funnel from each source and stage so that you can give your top sources more budget and attention.
Remarketing: We already covered remarketing in the middle of the funnel section of the post. In this stage of the funnel, you can use remarketing to target those leads who are really close to purchasing your product. For example, you could target people who visited your sales page but didn’t purchase the product, or maybe target those who downloaded one of your lead magnets to offer them a special discount.
Depending on your business and industry, you could have 1,000 prospects at the top of your funnel. However, towards the end of your funnel, you may have 25 qualified leads. While these 25 prospects are more likely to convert than the ones at the top of the sales funnel, at the very end, there may only be five customers who make a purchase and only two that go on to become repeat customers.
SEO: Search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of improving your content’s visibility in search engines. Or, in simpler terms, SEO is about getting traffic to your site from sites like Google, Yahoo, Bing, and other search engines (this type of traffic is known as organic traffic.) For that to happen you have to try to rank your content in the top positions of the search results for specific terms or phrases (known as keywords.) Something you should keep in mind about SEO is that it’s not a fast process. Pursuing SEO early can have a huge pay off down the line—when you start getting free and consistent traffic from search engines—but if you are just getting started and need traffic right away, I recommend that you look into immediate sources of traffic while you work on SEO.
A lead is someone who becomes aware of your company or someone who you decide to pursue for a sale, even if they don’t know about your company yet.. Typically, this includes everyone in one big group, but you could also break this down further to only look at qualified leads, which are leads that meet certain qualifications to becoming customers. For example, if you’re selling pet products, a qualified lead is someone who has a pet, versus someone who simply likes the cute animal pictures on your blog, but will never buy anything from you.
In the Intent stage, your prospect has made a decision to buy from you, but the deal hasn’t closed yet. They plan to buy but want to make sure your quote or proposal encompass everything they need at a price they are willing to pay. Here, you are negotiating terms or finalizing your proposal. Objections around price and other key terms usually surface here.
Now your marketing automation funnel is giving you a boost at every stage: It responded within five minutes of their first contact, and that helped get you the chance to make your pitch. Now, after the pitch, you're ready to stay in contact and respond to objections in a friendly, targeted way. (And if they love the pitch, automation can help you stay in close touch until closing.)
Sales funnels are important so that you stay focused on carrying out the right sales activities at the right time in the prospect relationship. If you’re in the Awareness phase, you are engaging in prospecting or lead generation activities. If you’re in the Evaluation phase, you are sending your customers quotes or proposals so they can evaluate their options and ultimately make a purchase. They serve as reminders of what needs to be done and when.
Now, optimally, you’ll want to add more steps to your sales funnel (more on that later), but let’s say this is your bare-bones funnel. To generate leads and collect customer information, you offer a loyalty program, where people earn points for buying pizzas that they can cash in for discounts on future orders. Then, you email them a special coupon, and a percentage of your leads will open that email. A percentage of those opens will actually buy a pizza.
As you can see, each color-coded section of the funnel pictured above corresponds to a stage in the buying process. The widest tier at the top of the funnel represents “awareness,” the point at which potential customers are beginning their information search. The second tier is “interest,” roughly corresponding to the evaluation of alternatives described in the purchase process above. And, finally, the third and fourth tiers, “desire” and “action,” are self-explanatory.
How to get started: Look through your most popular blog post, video, podcast episode and turn that content into a lead magnet. If you have several related pieces of content that perform really well, you can consider combining them into an ebook. If you don’t have content yet, think of a simple resource that your audience would value enough to give you their email address: worksheets, cheatsheets, and checklists are all easy to create and perform really well as lead magnets. Then, you can use a free tool like Canva to turn that content into a lead magnet. You can also grab the lead magnets templates included we created for you.
There are email warming sequences that include things like personalized value-driven stories, tutorials and even soft pushes to webinars, and of course product suggestions that happen over days or even weeks. The truth is that most prospects won't buy from your website at first glance, especially if they're only just becoming aware of you today. It takes time. Thus, the funnel is a multi-modality process, as there are a variety of relationship-building experiences and "touches" that occur through several stages.
Next, you need to educate your prospects. In other words, you need to teach people why they need your product/service and how it works. In this stage, you can start promoting sales, but getting too aggressive can be a bit of a turn off. Instead, think about how to become a friend to a potential customers. For example, if you’re a car salesman speaking to someone looking at vehicles on your lot, you might have a common connection in the fact that you both have kids, so you can direct the prospect to vehicles that have a high safety rating or are great for growing families, as you’re talking about your own experiences dealing with a snarky teen or potty-training a toddler.
A customer is made aware of the product through marketing and advertising campaigns, consumer research and discovery. The awareness is followed by gathering information in some form from him. This process of gathering information is called lead generation and the information is further used in the lead management system to nurture it down the system.
Beyond terms and process, one of the best ways brands can align both sales and marketing is through shared programs such as account-based marketing (ABM) and lead nurturing. In 2018, Salesforce Research found high-performing marketing organizations to be 1.5x more likely to use ABM methods, and 1.9x more likely to use lead nurturing than underperforming marketing organizations. They are “shared programs” since both marketing and sales should work together to create them. Marketing handles the technology and setup while sales pick the targets and help create the content. Sharing in the creation of the programs allows sales to feel ownership of the programs, increasing their use and overall effectiveness.
Make no mistake, creating a sales and marketing funnel using the process described above is no easy feat. This isn’t a project you’re going to complete in one afternoon — it’s a pursuit that you’ll want to actively address as long as your company is in business. It’s not a simple undertaking, but it’s one of the few opportunities you have to drive significant improvements in your efficiency and effectiveness when closing deals.
No matter what kind of purchase we’re making or how much we intend to spend, all of us follow a relatively similar path when it comes to deciding what to buy. This buying process, or stages, was first introduced by John Dewey in 1910, but even now — more than 100 years later — it’s still the foundation of understanding buyer behavior and marketing funnel creation.