How to build a sales funnel: A guide for small business

16 July 2020

One of the main components of your marketing plan, a sales funnel refers to the journey your customers are led through, from the moment they discover your business to the second they make a purchase. The funnel refers to the fact that with each stage of the cycle, the number of customers gets whittled down to those deciding they want to purchase your product or service.

It's a strong visual that, from the start to its end, can give you more insight into your customer's decision-making and buying processes. This, in turn, can help your business figure out how to attract more customers, improve its sales, and better budget for its marketing efforts going forward.

In these unprecedented times, creating a robust pipeline of new business opportunities will likely be a concern for many businesses. Here, in this guide, we'll equip with you with everything you need to know to navigate this process, from definitions, the correct steps to take and how to create and implement a sales funnel the right way.

What are the stages of a sales funnel?

Your sales funnel takes potential customers along a buyer journey, which typically consists of the following stages:

  • Awareness: When a potential customer hears about your business. They may have a requirement or need to be addressed, but they aren't sure what the specific problem is. Depending on your business, you'll have content to draw attention to the need.
  • Interest: When a potential customer wants to learn about your products or services. At this stage, they're actively seeking, or are interested in, information to help them address their needs.
  • Decision: When a potential customer debates a purchase. They have a desire for a solution to their needs or problem. A proper sales funnel will convince them that your product or service is the solution that they're looking for.
  • Action: When a customer makes the purchase. The easier you make it for people to take action, the more sales you'll generate through your sales funnel.

With that said, the journey doesn't have to stop there. A well-designed sales funnel can be expanded to include the following:

  • Loyalty: Customers are happy with your product or service, and continue to buy from you on a regular basis.
  • Advocacy: Loyal customers actively promote your business through word-of-mouth and on social media.

What are the main components of a sales funnel?

Top of the Funnel (TOFU)

At the awareness stage, your focus should be on getting your brand, message or product in front of potential customers, and there are all sorts of methods you can use at this top-of-the-funnel step.

Depending on the sector you're in, your marketing budget, and customer demographics, things like Google Adwords, paid social media posts, blog posts, influencer campaigns and even traditional promotional materials, like flyers and signs, can have a profound impact on potential customers.

Your goals at this stage are to pique user interest, which you'll achieve through showing you have the solution to their problem, building their trust with useful information and establishing your business as an industry leader. The idea here is not to sell to them, but to provide that all-important nudge to get them to the next stage and turn them into leads.

Middle of the Funnel (MOFU)

Once they're through to your company's website, you now have a better opportunity to engage with them. Ideally, your website should be optimised to improve the customer experience and make them more likely to purchase your products or services. A clean, user-friendly interface, attractive visuals and compelling copy will all go a long way here.

A degree of transparency can help out too; publish customer reviews and make your prices clear, as this can encourage your customers to continue browsing your product and web pages. Some keyword research can help you figure out the kinds of content you should be creating for this middle stage too. Here you can find out which search terms in your business' niche can garner high volumes of traffic, which you can then base your content around.

At this stage, your potential customers will start to better understand their needs and learn about a possible solution. However, you'll also start to learn more about your customers at this stage too. You'll understand exactly what they need, and their interests, based on the ways they've interacted with your content.

That means you can deliver more targeted, personalised messaging to these customers. This can create a stronger rapport and get them closer to the all-important sale. The types of content that can work best at this stage include:

  • Reports
  • Case studies
  • Customer success stories
  • Testimonials
  • Product demos and tutorials
  • Webinars

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Bottom of the Funnel (BOFU)

With your leads in a position to purchase, you'll need to persuade them further so that they fully commit to their decision to buy. They can still be swayed one way or the other, so you must ensure that they finalise their purchase. Things like strict return policies, shipping costs and a lack of payment options at the checkout page can all negatively impact the user experience, and turn your hard-earned leads away in droves.

Look to the different ways you can streamline the checkout process. Reducing the number of forms they have to fill is always welcome, as is allowing customers to purchase without the need to sign up first. If you only have limited payment options, then broadening the ways customers can pay will surely be appreciated; things like PayPal, Google Wallet, and Klarna, in addition to credit and debit options, ensure they'll have the option to part with their cash in their preferred manner.

the sales process

Re-connecting with lost prospects

Over the course of your sales funnel, there'll be leads and prospects who inevitably abandon the process and move on. However, there's still the opportunity to recapture these people and bring them back into the funnel in different ways.

- Retargeting ads

Users who have entered the funnel but haven't yet completed a purchase will see retargeting ads of your products or services on any website they visit for a set period of time (provided they don't have an ad blocker running).

- Remarketing emails

These are emails sent to users reminding them of certain offers, recovering the shopping carts they abandoned or pitching them related products, for instance.

Both retargeting and remarketing emails can convince the user seeing such ads to re-engage with your site, product or service and enter the funnel once more. They're well worth adding into your marketing plan if you don't plan on letting prospects slip through the net.

Customer retention

The Loyalty and Advocacy steps we mentioned above are critically important too. Not only can nurturing existing customers lead to repeat business and greater revenue, but it's far cheaper to do than it is to acquire new ones.

Keep your existing customers coming back again and again by thanking them for their purchase, inviting them to leave feedback and offering them loyalty/reward programmes. Retaining customers also provide opportunities to upsell, offering your most dedicated users your more expensive products and services to increase the value of your customers and increase your overall profitability.

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