How to Build A Sales Funnel that Converts Strategies and Tips to Lead Generation, Nurturing, and Conversion

In eCommerce

Building a truly efficient sales funnel is one of the best ways to boost sales and improve your bottom line. What is a sales funnel? Well, a sales funnel can be described as a way of visualizing the entire conversion process.

Every sales funnel has three stages:

  1. Lead generation,
  2. Lead nurturing, and
  3. Customer acquisition and expansion.

The top of the funnel, the lead generation stage, is expansive. The wider your lead generation strategy the better, as the idea is to get as many people as possible into contact with your brand and your brand’s content. The second part of the funnel, the lead nurturing stage, is narrower. The idea is that at this stage, people learn more about your brand and products, and you strategically encourage them to make a purchase. The last stage of the sales funnel, customer acquisition and expansion, is all about turning casual customers into loyal fans of your brand through sustained contact.

So how can you build a sales funnel that converts? We’re here to break it down for you, taking an in-depth look at each of the three specific stages.

LEAD GENERATION

Lead generation is the top part of your funnel.

It is also the widest part of your funnel, and should be designed to catch as many potential customers as possible.

For example, let’s say you are running a Facebook advertising campaign and it reaches 100,000 people. That means you’ve generated 100,000 leads—people who have come into contact with your brand and may make a purchase from you. Ultimately, effective lead generation all boils down to creating compelling content and forming smart marketing strategies to maximize brand awareness. When it comes to lead generation, be sure to keep the following in mind.

1. Leverage the power of compelling content to generate leads

The foundational element of every excellent sales funnel is compelling content. Invest time, resources, and dollars in social media and content marketing.

2. Write content that is directly relevant to consumers

Many brands make the mistake of trying to write content that appeals to everyone.

This tends to result in content that is bland and uninspiring.

It is true that during the lead generation stage, you want to cast a wide net in terms of attracting people. But generating traffic isn’t everything. Many marketers consider their content ROI in terms of traffic generated, but this isn’t really the best way to judge success. You need to consider how people are engaging with the content that you are producing. This means considering metrics such as number of comments, number of shares, time on site, and number of pages visited. The more people are engaging with your brand at this stage, the better.

3. Gate your content to capture lead information

Content wall at Conversion XL. Readers will need to subscribe in order to access more information.
Content wall at ConversionXL Blog. Readers will need to subscribe in order to access more information.

The key to reading how a sales funnel converts is capturing lead information, including names, email addresses, etc. The more information you have about your leads, the better.

How can you efficiently capture this information?

Gating content is an easy solution. That means that in order for a potential buyer to access content, they need to provide you with some kind of information, most commonly an email address. However, there are several important caveats here. First of all, you don’t want to gate all of your content. In fact, the key to success is to exclusively gate high-value content, and only ever require one form fill per a session. If consumers have to fill out endless forms to access content, they will get frustrated.

LEAD NURTURING

The middle stage of the sales funnel, lead nurturing, is where you turn leads into prospects. Basically, you’re turning people who have casually come into contact with your brand or browsed your website into interested customers. It is critical to note that this is where most businesses lose their leads, so it is critical to pay particular attention to building a lead-nurturing strategy that works, especially considering that nurtured leads produce an average of a 20-percent increase in sales opportunities when compared to non-nurtured leads.

How can you build a lead-nurturing strategy that works? Let’s take a look.

1. Blend lead scoring and lead grading to establish objective lead qualification

At some point, you need to determine which leads to nurture in order to maximize the efficiency and efficacy of your sales funnel.

Lead scoring refers to ascertaining how much interest a prospect has demonstrated in your product, while a lead grade establishes how good a fit a prospect is for your product.

In order to define a qualified lead, it is critical to take both lead score and lead grade into consideration. A blended qualification strategy allows you to devote the most time and resources to prospects who have both a demonstrated interest in your products and have a need or preference that aligns with what your product offers. As an added bonus, a blended lead qualification strategy will help your marketing team and sales team to find common ground. It keeps your sales people from wasting time on leads that aren’t a good fit for your products, and makes it easy for your marketing people to automate the nurturing process once leads have reached a specific interest threshold.

2. Build trust

Customers are more likely to buy from you if they trust you, so when you’re at the lead nurturing stage of the funnel, you want to make sure you are building trust with your consumers. How can you build trust? Highlight third-party certifications, such as VeriSign and Better Business Bureau (BBB) certifications, display any press mentions, include customer testimonials, and invest in high-quality web design so your brand appears professional and reputable.

Testimonial at Success Blogging. This is trust signal.
Testimonial at the homepage of Success Blogging. This is trust signal.

3. Focus on selling smaller products first

It is very, very difficult for companies to sell their most expensive products to customers right off the bat. If you push a prospective customer to buy your most expensive, premium product right away, you probably aren’t going to have much luck. The bottom line is that it is advantageous to start small.

4. Invest in good customer service

There is no denying it: Customer service can make or break your conversion rates. According to the 2011 Customer Experience Impact Report, close to 9 out of 10 consumers opted to stop buying from an online store after experiencing poor customer service. And while bad customer service is bad for your business, good customer service can work wonders in nurturing leads and driving sales. Research shows that 31 percent of consumers are more likely to make a purchase from a company after chatting online with a representative of the company.

5. Retarget lost leads

If someone visits your site and doesn’t sign up for anything, and you therefore don’t get their email address, don’t worry. All hope isn’t lost. The best thing to do is to set up cookies on your website to track visitors. You can then “retarget” leads who didn’t sign up for anything by sending advertisements to them, putting them right back at the top of the sales funnel.

6. Automate follow-ups

When you are trying to close a deal with a buyer, fast follow-ups are absolutely key. However, your sales and marketing teams likely have a lot on their plates, which is why it can be incredibly advantageous to automate follow-ups. Ideally, you want to identify suitable follow-ups for certain situations, and then automate the follow-up messages.

CUSTOMER ACQUISITION AND EXPANSION

Just because you’ve converted a customer and made a sale doesn’t mean you can call it a day.

This is where the bottom of the funnel, the customer acquisition and expansion part, comes into play.

Once you have acquired a customer and moved them to the bottom of the sales funnel, they tend to start taking big actions. At this point, you have gained the customer’s trust. You’ve probably sold them at least a few products, and they might even be ready to buy some of your premium, most expensive products.

1. Actively cultivate relationships with existing customers

It’s common for businesses to get customers to convert on a first sale, but then other after-conversion metrics, such as returning visitors, additional orders, and email click-through rates, go down. In fact, many businesses fall into the trap of directing all of their time and effort into lead generation, letting their existing customers fall by the wayside. Therefore, it is key to actively cultivate relationships with your existing customers. That means providing them with relevant news and case studies, as well as sending them new deals and offers. Maintaining contact is key!

2. Run upsell campaigns to encourage your existing customers to try new products and services

Once you’ve gotten a customer to make a purchase, you need to work on getting them to buy more expensive items. Up selling is an excellent way to do this. How can you effectively leverage the power of up selling? First of all, make sure you have an in-depth understanding of your consumers’ requirements. Secondly, offer rewards and incentives when consumers spend more. Combine these two things and you should be able to run a successful up-selling campaign.

3. Make sure that you have ways to reward loyal customers

70% of companies say it’s cheaper to retain a customer than acquire one.
Studies by Econsultancy showed that 70% of companies say it’s cheaper to retain a customer than acquire one (source).

In order to maintain relationships with your best buyers, you need to show that you are thankful for their loyalty. Ideally, that means having some kind of customer-loyalty program in place. And remember, a thank you every now and then goes a long way. From holiday cards to personal gifts, customers truly appreciate a personal touch every now and then.

The bottom line is…

…that investing in developing a sales funnel that converts is well worth your time and resources. When people are looking to make a purchase, a full 77% want to receive different content at each stage of their research. Ultimately, a sales funnel that converts is one of the best ways to drive sales and boost your bottom line.

Written by Jerry Low

Geekdad, full time student in life, Netrepreneur, growth hacker, SEO junkie, and founder of WebRevenue Inc. Live to eat, loves all things Internet, and owns more domain names he can handle. Say hello to me on Twitter!

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