The sales funnel is an essential digital marketing model that helps businesses better understand the buyer’s journey. If you want to increase sales, you’ll need to focus on increasing the conversion rate across the sales funnel. But first you need to understand each stage in the sales funnel and what consumers need to get them to the next step. Below, we’ll investigate what happens during each stage of the sales conversion funnel and discuss how to optimize your campaigns for maximum conversions each step of the way.
What is a Sales Funnel?
The sales funnel is a digital marketing tool that helps marketers visualize the process buyers go through as they make a purchasing decision. Much like any other type of funnel, the sales conversion funnel is wider at the top and tapers down. That’s because at the top of the funnel, you have prospects with all levels of engagement and the number of prospects starts to decrease as less qualified prospects stop engaging with your brand throughout their buyer’s journey.
Given that the sales funnel is a visual tool, it helps to take a look at what this might look like. Here’s an example that we like:
Though the names of the stages may vary slightly, depending on which version of the sales conversion funnel you are looking at, there are typically four general stages:
Sales Conversion Funnel Stage 1 - Awareness
The awareness stage is when consumers start their buyer’s journey. This is when they first become aware that they have a problem or challenge that they want to solve. They may enter your brand’s funnel through a variety of different channels like search engines or social media or may encounter your brand through different assets including email newsletters, e-books, blogs, online quizzes, and more.
At this stage of the funnel, consumers don’t know what they need yet. They may not even be able to give voice to their problems or concerns. They just know that they face certain challenges that they need help with. During this stage in the funnel, you are building content that helps draw these consumers in and better understand their needs and challenges. Rather than telling consumers about your products, you’re educating them about their unique challenges.
Sales Conversion Funnel Stage 2 - Interest
The interest stage of the sales conversion funnel is when prospects start to demonstrate interest in a product or solution. Research becomes an important part of this stage for most consumers. Now that they are educated about their challenges and aware of potential solutions, they will now take the time to research and consider which products or solutions might be right for them.
At this stage, consumers know what they are looking for. It’s just a matter of learning more about their options. To appeal to consumers in this stage, you will need to build content that helps consumers relate to your brand and understand your products. Your business has the opportunity to position your brand in a number of different ways that help you get the attention of your target audience.
Sales Conversion Funnel Stage 3 - Decision
The decision stage is just that – the time when consumers make a decision on which product or solution they will purchase. Getting prospective customers to make a decision isn’t easy. No matter what industry you are in, there will always be competition. And the online marketplace makes it easy for consumers to gain access to a variety of options. Your goal during this stage is to make an effort to convince consumers that your product or service is the best option.
There are a few different strategies that you can take to influence the consumer’s purchasing decision. One of the most powerful ways to impact the consumer’s purchasing decision is through social proof. This involves showcasing the positive experiences of those who have converted through online reviews or testimonials. However, if you really want to sway their decision, you will need to have done the work in earlier stages of the sales funnel to provide value throughout the journey.
Sales Conversion Funnel Stage 4 - Action
The final stage in the sales conversion funnel is when consumers finally take the action that you are trying to get them to take. In most cases, this will be to make a purchase. Though it would seem logical that consumers would quickly take action after making a decision, this isn’t always the case. Often, consumers will need a gentle push toward finally taking action.
If you want to ensure that consumers who are ready to buy take the final action toward conversion, you need to make it as easy as possible for these consumers to convert. That means making your purchase process simple and convenient while also finding ways to reinforce or make them confident in their final decision.
Now that you know what each stage in the sales funnel looks like and what consumers are thinking about, let’s talk more about how to actually increase conversions across the funnel…
Increasing Conversions in the Awareness Stage of the Sales Funnel
If you want to increase conversions in the awareness stage, you need to keep consumers coming back to your site. Not only are you creating awareness for your brand during this stage, but you also want to build trust along the way. The content you create during this stage should help you get your brand’s name out while also establishing authority in your industry.
Here are some ways you can do just that:
Blogs are a great way to inform, educate, and entertain potential prospects about your brand. Your blog content should be focused on more than just your products or services, you should also discuss topics that are important in your industry and explore different aspects of your target audience’s challenges. Consider what interests your audience, and use this to grab their attention and get them interested in what your brand has to say. For instance, let’s say that you sell camping equipment. Rather than just writing content about different types of camping equipment, you might offer tips for camping in cold weather or content about the best places to camp in the summer.
Not only does blog content help you establish authority in your industry, but it works wonders for your search engine optimization. When you publish quality blog content that emphasizes certain topics and keywords that are important to your audience, you have the opportunity to rank for these topics and keywords on the search engines, where many consumers are looking for information on brands like yours.
Social Media Networks
Another great way to get the attention of your target audience during the awareness stage is by posting consistent quality content on social media networks like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Many consumers will use these platforms like a search engine, searching for relevant topics and brands to get the information they need about their challenges.
Additionally, social media channels are a great place to build social proof. Today’s consumers are looking for evidence that your brand is trustworthy and that you provide quality products or services. Social media reviews allow you to showcase your brand’s best features through the experiences and words of your favorite customers.
Developing an active presence on social media helps you build that initial trust with prospective customers. They are able to see that you are active within your customer community and that you post on topics they care about most. They can also see how others interact with your brand, which may encourage them to continue engaging as well.
Pay-per-click, or PPC campaigns are another great tactic for attracting potential customers to your sales funnel. These paid ads help you increase your visibility on the search engines while also driving traffic to specific landing pages where you will have the opportunity to guide the consumer to the next stage in the sales conversion funnel.
One of the best ways to use PPC campaigns to move consumers through the funnel is have your PPC ads lead to an email opt-in page or landing page with a lead form.
That way, you are able to capture their contact information very early on in the buyer’s journey. Once you have the consumer’s contact information, you’ll be able to send them more targeted content and offers that help move them through the path to conversion.
Increasing Conversions in the Interest Stage of the Sales Funnel
At this point in the sales funnel, consumers have already become familiar with your business. They are now interested in what you have to say and want to learn more about your products. Your goal during this stage is to get their contact information so that you can continue to engage them throughout their buyer’s journey.
However, if you want to get the prospect’s contact information, you’ve got to give them something in return. You’ll need to find ways to create value that will encourage them to hand over their email address or phone number in exchange for something valuable. Here are a few different assets that you’ll need to develop to make this happen:
A targeted landing page plays a vital role in helping you get your prospective customer’s contact information. Unlike a site page, a landing page has one primary purpose and single, specific call to action. The entire goal of this landing page is to get the consumer to take one action. In this stage, that would be to provide their contact information. (In a later stage, you might use landing pages to make a sale.)
Make sure that the landing page is focused on your primary goal (getting contact information), but also makes it clear what value you will provide in exchange for the information. For example, if the landing page is for email newsletter signups, you might provide some details on what types of valuable content the consumer will receive in their inbox. Similarly, if you are giving the consumer an e-book download in exchange for their email, you might explain what they can gain from reading the e-book.
The lead form is another important element of facilitating conversions during the interest phase of the sales conversion funnel. There are a number of different lead forms that you might utilize, depending on your goals:
Lead Form – A lead form is just a simple form that captures your lead’s information. Be sure to only ask for the info that’s absolutely necessary like name and email.
Contact Form – You can also include a contact form on your site to encourage consumers to contact you to get more information during this stage. Consumers who fill out this form are more likely to be interested in your products or services and willing to purchase.
Exit Intent Pop-Up – Another tactic you might use to collect contact information is the exit intent pop-up. This is a form that pops up just before the consumer is about to leave the page, offering them something of value to get them to stay and provide contact information. For example, you might offer free shipping on their order in exchange for their email.
Now that you’ve got your audience’s attention (and their contact information), you want to continue to engage them. This will allow you to help guide them to the decision and action stages of the sales funnel. Email is one of the best ways to keep the conversation going while stimulating further interest and pushing them along to the decision phase.
Make sure that your email communications are personalized and valuable. Segment your email lists so that you are only sending the most relevant information to your prospects. Sharing valuable content like new blogs posts or e-books is a great way to keep your audience’s interest and continue to educate them until they are ready to make a purchase.
Increasing Conversions in the Decision and Action Stages of the Sales Funnel
So you’ve got your audience’s attention and you’ve engaged with them to keep their interest while they are researching different products and services. Now, it’s time to influence their decision and get them to finally take action and make a purchase.
Case studies are a great way to influence the consumer’s purchasing decision. These customer success stories allow you to show prospective customers just how your products or services could benefit them in a real way. By showing how other clients or customers have benefited from working with your brand, you’re giving them real examples of your products or services at work.
Strategically choose which customer stories you use as case studies. The best case studies are those that make for a great story that clearly shows the value of your products or services. Stats and customer quotes are great to include in your case studies as they can show tangible value.
Testimonials and Reviews
We mentioned this earlier, but it’s worth reiterating here. When consumers are at the decision phase in the buyer’s journey, they are looking for something that will help them choose on product or service over another. Often, that “something” is a customer review or testimonial that helps them feel more confident in their decision.
Make it easy for customers to leave reviews on your social media pages, review sites, or even your website. Encourage your happiest customers to leave you a review by reaching out to them through email or on social after they have made a purchase. Positive reviews can go a long way in giving prospective customers the push they need to make a final decision.
Even after consumers have made a decision on which product to purchase, they still may be hesitant to make the leap. Promotions are one of the best ways to encourage immediate action and get customers to make a purchase sooner. Whether you offer a discount, free shipping offer, or some other small perk, this might be just the push the customer needs to finally take action and buy.
Ultimately, increasing the conversion rate across the sales funnel will allow you to keep more prospective consumers engaged throughout their buyer’s journey. The more prospective buyers you are engaging and influencing, the more opportunities you have to make the sale. Using the tips above, you can work on optimizing the sales conversion funnel and improving your sales.