What is an Online Sales Funnel and How It Boost Your Sales
If you own or manage a business then you probably know the importance of having an online presence. However, what many people tend to overlook is that just having a presence online via a website and/or social media accounts isn’t enough. All of your online assets need to work together to achieve a single goal: turning the people you reach into paying customers or clients. In other words, your online assets need to form a sales funnel.
What is a Sales Funnel?
A sales funnel is a process through which you make contact with people, preferably in your target demographic, and convert them into a paying customer or client. As you can imagine, a sales funnel consists of various parts which each play their role in leading people towards this goal.
The main hub of your sale funnel will likely be your website if you’re selling multiple products and/or services, or a landing page of some sort if you’re selling a single product or service. Connecting to this hub are your traffic sources. The three biggest traffic sources online are:
- SEO (search engine optimization)
- Social Media
To get traffic to your website you can use one or more of these sources. There are of course offline sources as well such as business cards, flyers, and TV/radio commercials but those don’t really apply to the concept of an online sales funnel so we won’t be covering them.
A simple online sales funnel might go something like this:
Your Google Ad -> Sales Page on Your Website
In this example people within your demographic will come across your ad on Google, click on it, and be taken to your landing page. On your landing page they’ll then be “sold” on whatever it is you have to offer, and become a paying customer or client. Very simple.
In other cases, your sales funnel might be a little more complex. This is especially true if you’re using social media which tends to be a lot more indirect when it comes to promoting your business. As a result, a more complex sales funnel might look like this:
A Twitter Post You Make -> A Blog Post on Your Website -> A Popup Offering a Discount if They Schedule a Phone Call -> They Call You and You Close the Sale
Regardless of what your sales funnel looks like or how complex it is, it’s goal is pretty much always the same: making sales. In some cases you may use a sales funnel to build a mailing list using a loss leader, but that has more to do with making money on the back end. For now, let’s talk about the most critical aspect of your sales funnel: your website.
Your Website – The Central Hub of Your Sales Funnel
Some business have websites just for the sake of having them and as a result they’re not very good at converting visitors into paying customers and clients. This is a huge problem since your website is the central hub of your sales funnel in most cases. If your website isn’t converting visitors into buyers, then you might as well not even have one really.
Optimizing Your Homepage
In most cases the first place a visitor will land on your site is the homepage. This is especially true if you are a local business targeting local traffic. As a result, your home page needs to immediately show your visitors that you have what they’re looking for. Having a strong headline and images that communicate this is incredibly important.
How you format your homepage depends on your business model, but for the most part going for a “soft-sell” approach is generally a good idea. Let your visitors know that you have what they want, explain the benefits, and tell about any special sales and/or offers you have. However, don’t list prices, and don’t be pushy about it. Use a low pressure “Click here for more information” and link them to your product/services page instead of littering your home page with buy buttons.
Using a Landing Page
In some cases you may want to immediately go for a hard sell, like if you’re selling a single product or service and you’re getting most of your traffic from ads. To accomplish this you can have a sales page that’s completely separate from your homepage, or the entirely of your site could just be this single landing page.
How you set up your landing page depends on your goal. If you want to make sales right then and there, you could use a long form sales letter. On the other hand if you just want to collect email addresses you could have a short above the fold landing page. Regardless of how you decide to do this, a hard sell landing page must be written by a professional copywriter if you want to get good conversion rates.
Developing a Blog
In cases where you want an even softer sell than what you’d normally expect on a homepage, you can create a blog. Having a business blog gives you the opportunity to showcase your expertise and experience within your niche/industry. This will build up trust and credibility among your readers. Just make sure that your blog posts aren’t dead ends in your sales funnel. Have a CTA (call to action) at the end of each post linking to your products or services page, and showcase some of your more popular products and services in the side bar.
Now that you get the general concept behind how your website fits into your sales funnel, let’s go over traffic sources. The first traffic source you should know about is SEO. Search engine optimization traffic is super valuable because people preforming searches with Google and other search engines are already looking for what you have to offer. This makes SEO traffic very easy to convert into paying customers and clients.
Modern SEO consists of things like making sure that your website is mobile friendly, having good navigation and meta data, and of course having your keywords sprinkled around your site in moderate amounts. If you’re doing SEO to attract a very specific local audience, then you should use the following local SEO strategies:
- List your company in online business directories
- Create a Google My Business account
- Target location specific keywords like “best Denver baker”
- Optimize for voice search
- Get reviews from satisfied customers
- Put location specific keywords in your image descriptions and URLs
Running Paid Advertisements
Running paid ads can be risky, but can pay off in a big way. However, be prepared to lose money upfront as you test your ads in batches to find the real money makers. Also, make sure that your ads are professional written and offer true value or they won’t get clicks. As mentioned previously, ads will typically lead people to a “hard-sell” landing page. This is because ads need to offset their cost quickly, and having extra steps in your sales funnel after an ad can lose people before they buy from you.
Social Media Done Right
Social media is not for selling, it’s for branding. Use social media to interact with your target demographic, build up good will, and develop a loyal following. You can then occasionally link them to your website, a special offer, or something else that draws them further down your sales funnel. Out of all the parts of your sales funnel social media is by far the most indirect, but it can also be extremely powerful if used correctly.
Optimizing Your Sales Funnel
Your online sales funnel will always be a work in progress. Track your stats, identify the weak points, and make fixes. These are the basics of sales funnel optimization, and how you’ll steadily increase your revenue flow. The downside here is that this work can be tedious, and does require an eye for analytics. Fortunately there are professionals who specialize in optimizing sales funnels. In many cases a quick tune-up can take a failing sales funnel and turn it into a huge money maker.
If your sales funnel is failing or underperforming, don’t ignore it. Make the changes necessary to improve it, or get someone else to do it for you. You’d be surprised at how big of a difference optimizing your online sales funnel can make in helping you to grow your business, and boost your income.