All you need to know about sales funnels (and the best tools)

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Mick Jagger may have been a fan of Prince in 1981, but the public? Not so much.

Jagger invited the young artist and his band to open up two of his rock concerts during the 1981 tour. At that time Prince was an unknown, quirky singer in thigh-high boots, bikini briefs, and see-through jacket.

The result? 94,000 people hurling trash and edible projectiles at the stage.

Eventually, Prince would become one of the top, most respected musicians in the world. But before the public could be sold on the artist's unique style and music, they needed to acclimate to him.

And your customers have to go through their own acclimation process before they trust you and will buy from you.

That process is known as a sales funnel.

What Is a Marketing Sales Funnel?

A marketing sales funnel describes the psychological journey a lead must experience before they feel confident enough to make a purchase. Your goal is to guide them through the sales process gently, so they are always getting closer to buying what you're offering.

How Do Sales Funnels Work?

The most bare-bones marketing sales funnel is made up of four stages (awareness, interest, decision, and action).

The depiction of a funnel fits nicely because you start off with a large audience who gets smaller as you go through each sales phase. As the marketer, you're corraling them through each stage using targeted marketing strategies. 

As a result of those efforts, they'll begin spiralling down the funnel to the action you want them to take—like buying a product or service, signing up for an email list, and sharing a post.

Why Are Sales Funnels Important?

Have you ever had a lead show interest but never purchase, or even more frustratingly, back out at the last minute? Chances are they got tripped up somewhere in the sales funnel. By finding out where, you can revise your marketing strategy to increase your conversion rates. 

Sales funnels should also guide your marketing efforts and the materials you create. At each stage, the customer needs something different from you, and unless she has it, you'll lose her attention to someone else who does.

What Are the Stages of a Sales Funnel?

A sales funnel can have as many stages as you want but there are four main ones:

Awareness

Have you ever watched a commercial and by the end of it thought, "Yes! I need this in my life!" even though 30 seconds before you didn't know the product existed, much less that it was a must have?

That's what happens during this first stage. A prospect finds you from traffic sources like Google, social media, or an ad. You create awareness not only for your product but also a craving for it. 

Interest

Once you have the customer's attention, they're interested in the solution to their problem and how it would benefit them. While they know you may have the answer, chances are they'll still search Google for other solutions.

And here's where content creation and SEO tactics become crucial.

Does your website show up when your target audience does a search for their problem or the solution they want? Are you shown as an authoritative source? 

If you check all the right boxes for your prospect, expect them to express interest by adding you to their social media accounts or signing up for your email list.

Decision

This is when your lead goes from stalking you from the outer edges of the ring to jumping inside. They're not buying just yet, but they're actively seeking you out and looking at your packages, prices, and whatever other information you have about your product or service.

Action

Here, your prospect becomes a customer. They know you, they've followed you, and they're convinced by you. They pull the trigger on the purchase, and you get your payday.

Of course, this doesn't mean you can roll up your sleeve, sit back, and start counting cash like a mafioso. 

You'll probably want to start an onboarding process with them and focus on keeping them happy. This will ensure they turn into repeat customers and spread the word.

How Do I Build a Successful Sales Funnel From Scratch?

Sales funnels don't have to be overwhelming and complicated. Follow this 5-step process to create yours.

1. Know Thy Audience

This is one of the top commandments when it comes to sales. If you don't understand your audience, your sales funnel is doomed to fail. Knowing your pain points, frustration, and needs will give you the upper hand in finding them and positioning yourself as the answer to their woes.

Best tools: Customer interviews, email surveys, live chats, social media analytics 

2. Build-A-Buyer

General marketing campaigns resonate with no one.

To catch your prospect's attention, start by creating different buyer personas, and then using their profiles to build targeted marketing campaigns. Your prospect will feel like you're talking directly to them.

Best tools: Customer avatar templates

3. Get Traffic

This is where you start building awareness about your brand and the solutions you have to offer. Developing a strategy for traffic and lead generation is the goal. You're trying to catch them in your funnel so you can start swirling them through the sales process.

Best tools: Influencer marketing, guest posting, blog posts, SEO, PPC campaigns, landing page optimization

4. Hook Your Audience

Like fish biting on bait, your trying to get your prospects to engage with you. You'll want to nurture the leads you have by schooling them on how your product or service can benefit them, even if they didn't know they needed it.

Best tools: Blog posts, informative videos, promoting content on email and social media, influencer reviews, Facebook Lives, webinars

5. Convert Leads

Lead conversion is the last phase. It's the place where your prospects become paying customers. See below for a variety of marketing tactics you can use to help them take action.

Once your prospect is onboard with your brand and product or service, it needs to be as easy as possible for them to make that purchase. 

Best tools: Incentives, time limits, follow-ups, customer feedback, email marketing, streamlined checkout experience

Wrapping up

For those new to business, a sales funnel doesn't have to be intimidating. While they can be expanded to have multiple phases, the most basic ones have just four (awareness, interest, decision, action). Implementing a simple 5-step process into your marketing strategy will ensure you're hitting all four phases and maximizing your lead conversion.

(Images via StockUnlimited and Pixabay)

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Written by
Lorraine Roberte is a freelance writer for hire who offers blogging and article writing services. Her specialities include creating personal finance and digital marketing content for businesses and startups. She uses her expert knowledge, skills, and experience to draft content that gets attention on social media and visibility on search engines.