Sales is the activity of selling goods and services to customers in exchange of money. Every organization lives and breathes on this integral component and it forms the backbone of their business. Whether it be the retail industry or the online/internet industry, every firm in any industry is always keeping an eye on their sales conversion rates.
They always want to know how their revenues fair in comparison to their investment in marketing and advertising. Successful businesses monitor how much they spend, how they brand their products, and how much they earn, whereas unsuccessful organizations do not analyze all of this information.
Companies are looking for ways of attracting more prospective customers into buying their goods. A marketing model that is commonly employed by companies to deal with this issue is the Sales Funnel, also known as the Purchase Funnel or Marketing Funnel.
A sales funnel is a marketing model that depicts the journey consumers go through, from being unaware of your brand to actually purchasing your product. It is a very essential model that determines how successful your conversion rates are. Being able to convert more leads into actual customers is essential in boosting your sales and making your business more profitable.
A sales funnel is a visual representation of the steps required to sell your product or service. As its name suggests, it resembles a funnel, with a wide and large pool of leads at the very top and a narrow and smaller group of customers buying your product.
© Shutterstock.com | Red Deer
In this article, we will describe the sales funnel and how you can make use of it to boost your sales conversion rates. We will provide you some tips and tricks to double your return on investment (ROI) successfully attracting more customers and getting them to buy your products and services.
WHAT IS A SALES FUNNEL?
Over 100 years ago, Elias St. Elmo Lewis created a model that demonstrated the transition from consumers being attracted by a brand to consumers actually purchasing products from that same brand.
This model is called the sales funnel and it was based on the AIDA model, AIDA being an acronym of Awareness, Interest, Decision, and Action.
While this is a well established and trusted model, it is an outdated historical model and does not necessarily adhere to modern concepts. So many things have changed when it comes to business practices and customer interactions and expectations. Every sales process can be segmented based on a Sales Funnel that suits any particular business.
You will need to analyze and assess your own organization to completely understand the steps customers need to take in order to eventually purchase your product. Let’s have a look at each of the most important parts of the sales funnel.
Awareness – The first and most important step in the sales funnel is to make potential consumers aware of your brand and product. There are various ways of going about this and fortunately, in the 21st century businesses are not limited to traditional marketing. They can use online/digital marketing tactics, too. Besides placing advertising in newspapers and magazines and using TV commercials, companies now also use social media marketing (SMM), search engine advertising (SEA), and email marketing. There are plenty of avenues to explore when building awareness in potential consumers. Depending on the product or service you are promoting, you will need to select which route to go. Pursuing all of them simultaneously may not be the wisest choice and could lead to high expenses. Know your product and target audience, and place ads accordingly.
Interest – After your customers have become aware of your product, they need more convincing to get them into buying your product. They are only aware of your product, but are still not convinced that it is the best thing on the market and that they need it. After telling them what it is, you need to tell them why they need it. This is where quality content plays a crucial role. Very good advertisement consists of high quality content that hooks customers into buying something. Your job as a company is to educate your leads in order to convert them into prospective buyers. You must create desire within your target demographic.
Evaluation – Before arriving at a final decision, all customers will scope out the playing field and have a look at your competitors’ offers. Since consumers are about to spend money on a product, they need time to assess their options. They will weigh their options, compare and contrast, and then arrive at a decision. Having reviews of your product available to read online will significantly turn the tides in your favor, especially video reviews. Testimonials are a proven method of reeling in your customers, since people trust others who have reviewed the product.
Decision – In this stage of the sales funnel, prospects are almost ready to make their decision to purchase your product and are prepared to become your customers. Usually this stage of the sales process gets prolonged because of hesitancy and uncertainty on the part of customers. In some situations, you as the salesperson of your business can slightly improve the offer without being too overbearing on your customers. Sometimes, these last minute activities make the difference between a sealed deal and a broken one.
Action – This is the final stage of the sales funnel, where your customers have made their purchase and you will deliver your product to your customers. When the entire sell is successful, you will receive your payment. Many falsely assume that it ends here, when that is actually far from the truth. Businesses should strive to have loyal customers. Following up on their queries and complaints shows them that you are genuinely concerned with their satisfaction. When you are able to satisfy customers, then they will spread the word of your brand, creating a positive brand image on your behalf. Loyal consumers tend to be repeat consumers, so you have successfully generated a customer base.
These are the most common stages of any sales funnel in almost all industries. Depending on your specific industry, you may need to include extra stages due to the nature of your business.
We will not go into specific detail on those other stages, as they vary greatly from company to company. When you are able to identify which business model works perfectly for you, then you are able to convert more leads into prospects and eventually customers.
Look at how the sales pipeline works.
TIPS AND TRICKS TO DOUBLE YOUR ROI
When constructing a sales funnel that suits your business model, you must always keep in mind how effective it is. This can be determined by your return on investment (ROI). The ROI defines the effectiveness of investment, comparing profits to the capital investment.
A high ROI means that favorable gains were earned from an investment, whereas a low ROI implies that a loss was incurred on investments. All businesses strive to achieve very high ROI, spending as little money as investment and reaping a large profit from it.
That is easier said than done, but there are ways to accomplish that. Let’s look at the sales funnel in a manner that considers the consumers, the main target of any business, before moving on to how that relates to improving the ROI.
Alternative View on the Sales Funnel
Your sales funnel has a top, middle, and bottom section. The top section is where you have leads who need to be made aware of your product and brand. Leads typically have no idea of your product but with the help of advertising, they become familiar with your product. The middle section is the biggest chunk and it is concerned with sparking interest in these leads to make them prospects, consumers who are genuinely interested in purchasing your product. This is where your company needs to take appropriate measures in convincing potential customers into buying your products. The last portion of the funnel is the narrow bit where actual customers have purchased your goods.
Based on this, the very top of the funnel consists of leads and you have to cast a very wide net to catch as many leads as possible to widen your sales funnel. A percentage of these leads will become your prospects, people who are interested in your product and are qualified to make a purchase.
When you look at it statistically, the more leads you are able to bring into your funnel, the more prospects you could potentially have. When you have more prospects, then you can convert them to more customers. And this is the bottom line of your business – the customers, the ones who are buying your product. In order to improve your ROI, you need to improve your conversion rates down the funnel.
Understanding Conversion Rates
Far too many make the mistake of falsely associating more customers to a higher ROI, but that is not necessarily true.
Imagine a situation where your website attracts 1000 visitors per month. Those 1000 visitors are your leads, just dropping by the site but not doing much beyond that. If your website has a landing page and registration form, perhaps 100 people completed it. This means that 10% of your leads has now become your prospects, because they are genuinely interested. From those 100 leads, maybe 10 people have actually bought something from your site. This means that 10% of prospects are actual customers. When taking a top-down approach to the entire thing, 100 leads turned into 10 customers, resulting in an overall conversion rate of 1%.
Many may decide to spend more money on ad campaigns and generate more leads. For instance, if you happen to double your number of leads, prospects, and customers, then you will have 20 customers instead of 10. While that is definitely an improvement, your conversion rate remains at 1%. To acquire more customers, you had to invest more money and although you have more customers, thereby increasing your sales, you still have the same conversion rate. ROI is linked with conversion rates and as long as there is no improvement in the conversion rate, then your ROI will not improve.
There are techniques and methods to improve your ROI by investing less money on attracting a large number of leads and investing more money on converting these leads to prospects and eventually customers. Let’s see how we can do that efficiently with some tips and tricks.
Learn more on conversion rate optimization in the following video.
Spend Less Money on Traditional Marketing
Before the age of the internet, products and services were marketed traditionally. Advertisements were placed in newspapers and magazines, banners and billboards were posted around cities, and TV commercials were created.
Ad campaigns in the past were quite expensive and it came with a huge risk, because it was very difficult to guarantee that those efforts would results in a large number of conversions. With the advent of the internet came new marketing tactics, too, to acquire leads online.
Digital marketing, or online marketing, is a set of tools to advertise or market products and services online. Search engine optimization (SEO), search engine advertising (SEA), social media marketing (SMM), and email marketing are modern methods of promoting your brand at a very low cost.
Unlike traditional marketing schemes, these online methods are relatively cheap and have been proven to draw a large number of customers. Many people now use the internet 24/7, so if you can reach out to everyone around the world through this one medium, then you have cast a wide net with very little effort on your part.
As you shift your efforts from and dedicate more time on digital marketing, you are effectively spending less money on customer acquisition. Being able to generate more leads while not spending money is every company’s dream, and you can make that possible. Creating awareness, however, is only the first step. Now you have to find ingenious ways to get people to retain their interest and desire in your product and brand.
Always Keep Customers Interested
The top of the funnel is important, but nowhere near as important as the middle of the funnel, where you job as a company is to entice leads into becoming prospects by feeding them more information and appeasing them. Here are some methods of keeping your prospects hooked on your product.
Content Reigns Supreme
Google has become a ubiquitous part of our lives. We cannot live without the world’s most popular search engine. Whenever we want to have questions answered or want to find out some information, we search for it on Google. It has even become a verb in our vernacular!
Good quality content optimized for search engines like Google will always appear at the top of the search list, and that is what you should strive for. This is where search engine optimization (SEO) plays a vital role in assuring that your website frequently appears high on the search list. Using language that your audience easily understands and is relevant to your product will hook your prospects.
Know your target audience and understand your products and services extremely well so that you can create content around it and cater to your demographic. Provide as much relevant information as you can on your website, because the last thing you want is for your prospects to look elsewhere for more information and then they happen to stumble upon a competitor’s product.
Odds are that your competitor has something on their site that is stealing your prospects. You need to ensure that your prospects stay on your site. An effective and very successful method of keeping them interested is to create a landing page that directs them close to your products.
Click Through Landing Pages
One of the most popular types of landing pages is called a click through landing page. The goal of this landing page is to convince a website visitor into clicking through to go to another page. In most cases, it describes a particular sweet deal or special offer on an existing product that entices a visitor into buying it.
All successful ecommerce websites use this particular type of landing page, since people are looking to buy something when they come to your site and a special offer will only appeal to them. A landing page displays enough information that gets your lead closer to becoming a prospect and eventually a customer.
Click through pages result in an improved conversion rate because you are creating interest within your prospect. You are guiding them to the part of your website where they can actually make a purchase on a product you are promoting.
You might think that eliminating choices from a landing page (since it is not as detailed as a website) is a bad thing but in fact, the manner in which you write your landing page will make it more persuasive instead of forced.
Lead Capture Landing Pages
Another type of popular landing page is called a lead capture landing page. These landing pages are used to capture user data, like their name and email address. The goal was to collect email addresses of visitors and use email marketing to continually advertise products to these users.
After filling out a form and giving specific information, a company can personally advertise to specific visitors to remind them of special offers and deals and keep people interested.
Apart from promoting products and services to your prospects via email, other purposes of lead capture landing page include promoting ebooks, webinars, coupons, contests, and notifications of future products. Lead capture pages ensure that your leads do not lose interest. Email marketing is a very powerful tool of digital marketing and you should definitely take advantage of it by using lead capture landing pages.
A combination of the two types of landing pages in addition to optimized content for your customers will result in an improved conversion rate, since you piqued the interest of your leads. There is now a higher probability that they will decide to buy your product.
Advertise and Market on Social Media Networks
When people think of social networks, many immediately think of Facebook, the platform made for interacting with friends and connecting with new ones.
However, Facebook is also a powerful platform for businesses to display their corporate information and frequently make posts about their products. In addition to having a Facebook page, we suggest every company to have accounts in Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, Instagram, and Snapchat.
Here are some tips on using some social media platforms to reach out to more leads and get their interest in your goods.
Your Facebook page needs to frequently post about special deals and offers your company is making. Everybody who follows the page will be informed of these deals and this will entice them into buying your products. Constantly notifying your Facebook page followers will keep them interested and you have a higher chance to boost conversions. Facebook is the most popular social network for advertising products for corporations all over the globe.
Twitter is another popular social platform that companies use to broadcast their deals. Using hashtags will boost the popularity of your posts and draw more customers into seeing your posts.
Another platform that frequently uses hashtags is Instagram. Being just as big as Facebook and Twitter, Instagram is a great platform for advertising your product. Put appropriate hashtags to get more people to look at your product.
Lastly, we would urge everybody to use Google+ and post deals and offers on your products. Although it may not be as popular as the other aforementioned platforms, its popularity is on the rise, with many users adopting this network. Be one of the first companies to take advantage of this empty playing field and start advertising and posting offers on Google+.
Having all of these accounts up and running at all times will ensure that you always remind people of your products. In the 21st century, there are too many things going on at any given instance, so constantly reminding people of what you offer will grab their attention. This is a proven method of boosting conversion rates and increasing your ROI.
Moreover, it would be wise to place ads on these platforms. Having accounts and pages in these networks is great for posting content on a regular basis.
However, also having paid advertising on these platforms will ignite interest in those who do not necessarily follow your company. This may fall under the awareness aspect of the sales funnel, but it can also be categorized in the interest part, too.
Sometimes posts about your company may not appear in the feed on the homepage of these social networks, so you need advertising as a backup plan to pop up.
Customers Come First
Even if your customers are aware of who you are and what you are selling after seeing a ton of ads online, they still do not know if they can trust you. This is actually the most important question customers ask themselves before deciding to buy something – “Can I trust this company?”
Typical questions that you should ask yourself as a business are, “Am I reliable? Do I offer quality products at a good price? Is there a warranty or guarantee on my products? What sets me apart from my competitors?”
If you cannot answer these questions positively with any sort of justification, then you need to start working on that right now. That is how you can improve conversion rates, thereby increasing your ROI.
Emphasize Key Points to Customers
Earlier in this article, we talked about email marketing and how it is a very important tool in convincing people to buy product from you. You need to email all prospects who gave you their contact information via lead capture landing pages and reassure them that they can indeed trust you.
You need to send periodical emails to all prospects, stating that your products are unlike anything else on the market and that you are offering them at the most competitive price. Even though the world economy is improving, it is still struggling to get back completely on its feet, so people are still very price conscious.
Highlighting that your prices are very low by offering sales and discounts will tell you customers that you are providing economic incentives. This is a necessary ingredient in acquiring customers, by setting the best prices. This is an effective method of converting more leads.
In addition to price, people are very concerned about the quality of service they will receive. Customers need to receive good support; otherwise, they will not be inclined in buying your products. Your ads need to clearly state that you offer warranties on your goods. In case of any defective or broken goods, customers should be able to return their goods and receive a brand new one. This reassures them that they are making a smart investment and that the company (i.e. you) cares about them. This is another very effective method of converting leads.
Make sure to have a customer support team set up at your organization to answer queries from customers, helping customers solve the problems they may face using your product. A 24/7 tech support team will be able to answer all calls and emails promptly to deliver excellent customer support. Make sure to emphasize this piece of information in your ads and emails.
When customers see that your company is ready to answer all of their questions and help them at any time of the day or night, this gives them a strong reason to buy products from you. The keyword here is promptly – not the day after or several hours later. You should answer everything within an hour! Studies have shown that companies with amazing customer support are the ones with the highest customer conversion rate and experience the best ROI.
When you take all of these steps to provide excellent customer satisfaction with a 24/7 tech support team, warranties on all products, and the best prices on the market, then you have a very high chance of converting more prospects into customers. Providing all of these perks and services will only sweeten the deal for them and they have no choice but to take it. Think of these added bonuses as bait and they will get you more customers, you can count on that. More conversions, more ROI.
Here is why great customer service is so important for improving your ROI.
A big mistake that some organizations make is that after customers buy their products from them, they think that the deal has been sealed and there is nothing left to do. That could not be any further from the truth.
Your job as a company is to secure more leads, convert more leads into prospects and in turn customers, and hold on to the customers you do have. The last step is just as important, maybe even more important, than the first two. You need to keep these customers for the long run because they trust you and you need to value their trust in you.
The moment you fail to live up to their expectations, they will abandon you and you just lost a customer. Retaining customers is a key component of boosting your ROI and there are some proven methods in ensuring that.
Deliver on Quality and Service
The reasons for customers returning to you to purchase new products is that they liked the first product they originally purchased and they liked the customer service they received afterward. When you take the effort of being with your customers even after a purchase, then your customers will be in there for the long haul. Your brand image plays a vital role holding on to customers, so do everything you can to create a positive and friendly brand image that customers believe in.
For instance, company A manufacturers computers. They happen to be very good in terms of specifications. However, whenever there is a problem, the tech support is nowhere to be found. People will most likely not buy computers from them. A competing firm, company B, also manufactures computers that are inferior and poor in terms of hardware. However, they have a round-the-clock customer service team ready to help all customers at any time. Still, customers are likely not to buy computers from them. Now consider company C, a manufacturer that produces high quality computers and has a support team that helps customers promptly. Customers will instantly gravitate toward company C because they deliver what customers want – quality and service. That is how you retain customers and keep them coming back to buy more goods from you.
When customers are happy, they will always come back for more. In addition, they will market your brand and products for you. Word of mouth is an underappreciated yet powerful marketing tool in the industry. Whenever you satisfy any customer, studies show that they will inform their friends and convince them to buy products from you. Consequently, you have successfully raised your ROI, all because you made customers happy in the first place.
Whenever you are trying to sell your product or service to consumers, you must first analyze your own business model and design a sales funnel depicting how your customers go from being aware of your product to actually buying it. Do not fall in the trap of only attracting a large number of leads to boost the number of actual paying customers. While absolute numbers are important, they do not paint the whole picture; you need comparison data, too. In this case, the conversion rates and the ROI are a better indication of your marketing success and effectiveness.
Following the steps that were mentioned in this article will significantly boost your ROI, doubling it or perhaps even tripling it if done correctly. By converting more leads into prospects and in turn customers, you are gaining more from your initial capital investment. Always fine-tune your tactics to improve conversion rates.
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