If you’re serious about growing your small business and building your customer base, it takes extensive research and planning. You can’t take anything for granted about your audience, your products, or your business environment. You need to understand the variables you’re working with and make every effort to control the ones you can. 

You can’t just build something innovative and sit around waiting for people to pay attention. Who are your customers going to be, and how exactly are they going to become your customers? One powerful model for taking charge of this process is the sales funnel. 

What is a Sales Funnel?

A sales funnel, simply put, is a comprehensive, planned sales process. It describes the course of the ideal customer in relation to your business. They learn more about your company, get excited about the brand, buy something, and then become loyal followers of the brand. 

As a concept, the sales funnel is a marketing strategy that helps businesses consider each step of that process. The aim is to make it a smooth and intuitive process from a potential customer’s first contact with your brand to conversion. Like real funnels, the sales funnel starts wide to attract new customers, and then narrows, working to effectively guide or channel something where you want it to go. 

By examining each of the funnel stages that take a potential customer from a stranger to a loyal brand ambassador, you can fix weak links and improve your overall marketing scheme.  

4 Stages of Sales Funnels, Explained:

The four stages of the sales funnel describe the steps of every relationship a customer forms with your company. The stages are awareness, interest, decision, and action. 

1. Become Aware

Awareness is the top of the funnel. It’s the widest part of the funnel because this is where you throw your net the widest. You’re reaching out to find potential customers and guiding them to your website. It would be best if you had a robust online marketing strategy to make these connections. 

This could come from social media posts or targeted advertising, or the potential customer might have stumbled upon your website through an internet search. The initial hook that brings someone to your website is known as a lead magnet. It could be an exciting offer, a compelling idea, or merely a well-positioned website in their search results. 

When a member of your target market makes it to your website, that means two things: they have a problem and are looking for a solution. They might be curious and not entirely set on following through. Or, they may know precisely what they want and when. What matters is that they’ve made it to your platform, and they have a chance to go through the sales funnel. 

2. Get Interested

The next stage of the sales funnel is interest. In an interpersonal relationship, this is when two people have met, and they start to learn more about each other. 

The immediate goal for every new visitor to your platform is to prolong their visit or create an opportunity for continuing communication. Perhaps they decide to read more about your company, or maybe they’ve given you their email by signing up for a newsletter or one of the free trials of a service you were offering. 

This is your opportunity to deepen the relationship by telling the story of your business. Give them a compelling story of your company and its values, but don’t tell it all at once. Ideally, you want to build this brand relationship over time through emails or social media posts or in whatever medium you’ve connected with this potential customer. 

3. Make the Decision

The potential customer has a problem, they’re looking for a solution, and they’ve started to learn more about your company and what you offer. At this stage of the sales cycle, they’re interested, but they still have to decide. 

You link them back to your website as often as possible. As they start to consider a purchase, this is when they will begin to seriously consider your offerings. This is the first phase when it’d be at all helpful for a sales rep to get involved. 

Reaching out to offer assistance or extending an offer of an enticing bargain may help seal the deal. Linking to testimonials from other customers in your targeted advertising can help customers imagine themselves using your service and close the gap for a sale.   

4. Take Action

Of course, the funnel doesn’t end when the customer is ready to buy and makes a purchase. Ideally, the first sale is only the beginning of a long client relationship. This signals the customers’ first concrete investment in your brand. You should repay that with high-quality service and continuing engagement. 

Keeping a customer happy and making sure they feel listened to and cared for is hugely beneficial for customer retention and long-term business growth. Consistent repeat customers are the building blocks you need for stable growth. 

If you convert visitors to customers but never see them again after the first purchase, you’re missing out on an incredible opportunity. It may also reflect something fundamental going wrong. Why aren’t they coming back, and what can you do to maintain customer relations and earn their loyalty? This part of the model will look different depending on the various businesses and the products or services.  

How to Create a Sales Funnel:

The next step is to figure out how to create a sales funnel that works for your business. As simple as it may be to describe, it can take a tremendous amount of effort. You have to know your audience and know your business. 

Audience Matters

You won’t be able to develop an effective sales funnel without thorough research. Who is your audience, and what are they looking for when they come to you? What is the problem that you are solving, and why should they choose you over other options? 

One crucial step is to develop a buyer persona. This is an image that comes out of your audience research. A buyer persona is the profile of your ideal customer. This will help you think critically and constructively about building an effective sales funnel for your buyer. 

Build a Landing Page

What will your ideal buyer see when they first visit your website? They follow a link from an advertisement, or they find your name in an online search, and they end up on your website. Their first experience of your website will be a landing page, so you must make the content and design compelling for their first visit. 

Landing pages are standalone pages explicitly designed to appear in online search results or function as the destination for an online advertisement. Share a compelling piece of your company’s story or values and leave them interested and looking for more. 

Create Compelling Upsells

Once you’ve got a new customer in the door with a free trial or their first purchase, you want to invite them into further engagement without overwhelming or pressuring them. 

A straightforward way to do this is with convenient and high-value upsell opportunities. Once they’ve committed to a purchase, give them a deal or other incentive to upgrade. The key is to know your customer well enough to be able to offer them more value. 

Create a Drip Email Campaign

One effective way to keep potential customers or repeat customers engaged is through ongoing drip email campaigns. A drip email campaign draws out an interaction over time with multiple emails instead of a larger amount of content in one email. 

A drip campaign is a wonderful opportunity to tell a story about the unique character of your company. You want your marketing campaigns to give your audience an authentic and compelling picture of your brand identity.

The long-term nature of a drip email campaign makes your company more memorable for the customer and improves the customer’s chances of reading all of the content each time. 

Optimize and Improve

Things change, and people are complex. You might see results immediately when you put effort into your sales funnel, or it might take a while for you to find your ideal market. The work is never finished.

The most important part of the sales funnel process is your adaptability as a small business. You should be continually reassessing and working on improving your funnel. 

Your paying customers will be more likely to return if they see you evolving and adapting. Listen to their concerns and expectations and invest in your customer service and your products or services. Show your customers you’re listening and focused on improvement, and you’ll win their loyalty and respect.  

Why Do You Need a Sales Funnel?

“If you build it, they will come” is not an effective growth strategy. You’re not going to grow your business without considering exactly how that happens. Where are your customers coming from, and how are they finding out about your business? How many would-be customers are falling through the cracks? 

Building a sales funnel means intentionally considering and improving every step of the journey a new customer takes through your marketing and business. In a chaotic digital environment during uncertain times, stability is at a premium. Shaping your sales funnel can give you control and an opportunity for stable growth.  

Ready to take your business to the next step? Learn how to grow your business with competitor research.

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Written by Dave Savoy

Dave Savoy leads Marketing with 1-800Accountant bringing 15+ years of experience in traditional and digital marketing platforms. Prior to j...