Marketing tactics are constantly evolving and changing.
Platforms change, new strategies emerge, and tools, techniques and technology switch, update or become obsolete.
But there’s one thing that remains constant — the need to continuously optimize the sales funnel you’re sending leads to. Optimizing your sales funnel should be among your company’s top priorities if you’re serious about consistently delivering leads and sales.
And though gurus and blog posts alike love to speak about sales funnels in simple “easy to hack” terms, ensuring your sales funnel is always converting is hard.
It’s hard because the key to success is creating a customer-driven sales funnel focused completely on delivering valuable and persuasive content that connects with your prospect and converts them.
A high-converting sales funnel is one that turns a high percentage of your leads into sales. But that’s easier said than done, right?
Almost every brand I speak to, from the solopreneur who’s trying to book sales calls, to the enterprise software that HAS to hit their MQL (marketing qualified leads) quotas each month to stay in business, has a hard time knowing what changes to make to their sales funnel to make it work.
That’s why I’m going to explain five key things in this article:
- How sales funnels work
- Why you need a good sales funnel
- How to develop a sales funnel strategy
- How to use a sales funnel
- How to get traffic for your sales funnel
First, Let’s Get On The Same Page About The Sales Funnel Definition
A sales funnel is a deliberate process for attracting potential customers to your business, winning their trust, and converting them into your brand’s loyal fans. In the digital space, sales funnels are directly linked to some type of landing page that leads to conversions.
But let me make something crystal clear. Linear sales funnels don’t always work. We need to adapt to the people who leave and come back from multiple devices, return at multiple times, and choose not to directly follow the paths we’ve so carefully laid out for them.
That’s why marketing attribution (outside of paid advertising) is such a challenge. People don’t think linearly and will engage with your brand in multiple ways. Rand Fishkin, SparkToro’s CEO, said it well in a post.
Check out Rand’s article here ➡️ Provable Marketing Attribution is a Boondoggle; Trust Your Gut Instead.
While we cannot predict the sales funnel (since it isn’t linear), I’m teaching you the foundations for ANY type of funnel, not just a linear one. I discuss a few key components such as your landing page, thank you page, and email sequence. But the core is in planning, knowing your audience, identifying their pains, and so on. The strategic essence of what I’m sharing in this article is good even for the “dark funnel” (the parts of the customer journey we can’t clearly track in a CRM tool).
I love working with my team to create sales funnels for our clients. I also love helping the students in our programs The Income Engine and Emotion Sells create them too. The beauty of the process is seeing the sales-generating results these funnels create.
You’ll only get these results though if three parts of your funnel are solid:
- Your offer
- Your landing page
- And your email nurture sequence
We’ll discuss these three components in more detail later in this article.
Side Note: Check out 26 Sales Funnels Examples That Lead To Passive Income for inspiration about the types of sales funnels you can create.
Why Is A Sales Funnel Important?
The best way to understand how a sales funnel works is to look closely at why it’s important for you to have one in the first place. After putting together hundreds of sales funnels, I’ve realized they play four crucial roles.
1. You Get Critical Feedback On What’s Working And What Isn’t
Sales funnels make it easier to identify issues preventing prospects from becoming customers along their journeys. It’s harder to know what’s working and what isn’t when using a full website, but a sales funnel is designed to take you down a specific path. For instance, heatmap analysis can help you identify areas of your landing page people are clicking that they shouldn’t be. That’s super helpful information to have because it may mean your messaging and imagery aren’t clear. You can run A/B tests to figure out what really needs to be changed.
You won’t get this type of awesome information though if you aren’t constantly monitoring, evaluating, and learning from what’s happening with your sales funnel. A sales funnel isn’t a one-and-done type of thing. Consistent assessment leads to meaningful improvements.
2. It’s Easier To Track The Customer’s Journey
As I mentioned earlier, no one follows a perfectly linear path towards becoming a customer. But it becomes a bit easier to track a customer’s journey when you’re deliberate about creating a funnel that includes the three ingredients previously mentioned (compelling offer, landing page, and email sequence). You can clearly track:
- How the person became aware of your offer (webinar attendee, paid ad, blog post etc.)
- The email in your sequence that compelled the person to act
- What that customer purchased
I’m not saying that it isn’t possible for a customer to purchase a product or service outside of the sales funnel you’ve created. There’ll always be a “dark funnel” that’s difficult to directly track unless you speak directly with every customer who buys. What I’m saying is that a sales funnel makes it easier to directly track the actions of those customers who engage with each aspect of the funnel.
3. You’re Attracting People To A Channel You Own
There are many ways to attract leads to your landing page with either organic or paid social media efforts often topping the list. But you run a huge risk when you depend solely on social media as a traffic source. Casey Graham, Founder and CEO of Gravy, was temporarily suspended from LinkedIn for using the word “hunting” in his post.
As soon as he regained access to his LinkedIn account, he immediately decided to get people into his email list instead. There are many other people who’ve had their social media accounts temporarily suspended — from celebrities to ordinary business people like you and me who never know when something we post may trigger a suspension.
Also, algorithms change all the time. One minute you’re getting great results on Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, or Facebook. The next minute these social media platforms decide to change things around so you’re not showing up as much and not getting as much engagement. An email list is something you own. If the email platform shuts down, you simply export your email list to another platform.
The point? A sales funnel allows you to attract people to your owned channels (your landing page and email marketing funnel). That way, you have more control over the sales process rather than depending solely on your social media profile.
4. It’s Easier To Optimize A Sales Funnel
With a sales funnel, you’re focusing on ONE (and only ONE) goal. That makes it easier to optimize the funnel for conversions. One of the most challenging parts of marketing is identifying what’s not working, what needs fixing, and how you should fix it.
When people are sent into a single funnel, you can track each piece of the funnel and clearly identify the problems that need to be fixed. This gives you control over what’s happening so you can get better results. The more you optimize, the more sales you get.
How To Plan A Sales Funnel
As you know, a sales funnel isn’t something you create on a whim and hope it works. In order to get the results you need for your business, the ones that actually lead to sales, your sales funnel has to be planned properly.
The more specific the planning is (around your business, your audience, and goals) the more likely it is you’ll see results quickly.
So, let’s plan your funnel.
The 4-Step Process I Use To Create An Effective Sales Funnel Plan
1. Identify Your Audience
My team and I recently used our emotional marketing process to increase PowerUp Toys’ sales by 95%. One of the issues we noticed during our research was that PowerUp Toys was speaking to the wrong customers. They were saying one thing but their real audience, the one that buys, didn’t care at ALL about that message.
There were DIYers and Tinkerers who were looking for a product they could build with their two hands, work with their children on, or provide a fun project they could do themselves. But the website kept focusing on how easy the product was to use.
That’s why their real target audience was bouncing from their site. The hobbyists who were purchasing ended up being disappointed when they got it. They said things like, “I couldn’t get it to work” or “My niece was so disappointed”.
This example proves that knowing your audience is the foundation of EVERYTHING. Without this knowledge, you can’t expect to have a high converting funnel.
You may be using the wrong messages that completely alienate your audience. But it’s only through deeply understanding your customers that you will create something that appeals to them, include the messages and experiences that will affect their decision-making process, AND create a sales funnel that converts.
The bottom line — if you’re speaking to everyone, you’re speaking to no one.
A clear understanding of the emotions that drive purchases is one of the most important bits of information you can get during the customer research process. Emotions sell. Master emotional marketing and you’ll be on your way to sales funnel paradise.
Side Note: You can learn how to do emotional marketing effectively by checking out my comprehensive, no holding back emotional marketing guide.
2. Identify Your Customer’s Stage Of Awareness
Your funnel should clearly target your customer’s stage of awareness There are five stages: unaware, pain aware, solution aware, product aware, and most aware.
Unaware – Going about their everyday lives and have no idea they have an issue or problem that needs to be solved. Your startup is likely dealing with prospects at this stage of awareness if you’ve created a product that’s trying to disrupt an industry by solving a problem people don’t know exists.
Pain Aware – Know they have a pain but they aren’t actively doing anything about it. They know the pain exists and they just exist with it.
Solution Aware – Know the pain they have and are becoming interested in solving it. These are the people on Google Search, Bing, Yahoo, and other search engines who’re typing in keywords, reading articles, watching videos, and trying to figure out the solutions that already exist.
Product Aware – Know the available solutions and are now comparing. These are people who come to your website and compare you with your competitor. They’re trying to determine whether they should choose you or the other guy.
Most Aware – These people come to your website ready to convert. All you have to do is show them the right call-to-action.
Google Analytics has a landing page report that provides a good way to figure out the stage of awareness for your landing page visitors. Google Search Console is another great option.
Your only job with stages of awareness is to move people from one stage to the other. You can’t skip stages. So, you have two ways to create a sales funnel based on the stages of awareness.
Each step in the funnel is designed to address one or two stages of awareness. For example, a Facebook ad turns unaware people into pain aware. It lingers for a while and after a week someone clicks on it thus becoming solution aware.
They may also just google the pain/situation then get to your landing page where they are solution aware. You can walk them from solution aware all the way to most aware on the page itself OR get them to subscribe to your email list, make them product aware, and then send emails to turn them from product aware to most aware.
Use your sales page (the biggest part of the funnel) to do the heavy lifting. For example, ads send them to your page (maybe they’re unaware and now aware/solution aware) and then throughout the entire page you start with the pain (to ensure they’re pain aware) and move them all the way down to most aware and convert them on that page into a customer/student/client/call/user etc. You then follow up with an email sequence for lifetime value.
This brings up another point. You should also use audience segmentation to cater to each prospect’s stage of awareness in your email automations. The tweet below by Tyllah explains this well.
3. Identify The One True Problem You’re Solving For Your Audience
One of the biggest mistakes I see brands make is focusing only on selling, selling, selling at all stages of their sales funnels. Sure, you want a sale at the end of the day but the best way to get that sale is to help prospects achieve something. You’re empowering them to take small, actionable steps towards getting rid of the pains they’re experiencing.
There are a lot of problems you could help your customers solve. But what’s that one HUGE problem that’s like a thorn in their sides that they’re dying to get rid of? Find that BIG problem and help prospects chip away at it gradually in your email sequence. The ultimate solution that you provide would then be the paid solution but, by the time you get there, your customers would already trust that you can truly help them solve the problem.
After mapping out that one big pain they’re challenged with, map out how it’s affecting your customers’ lives — why MUST they solve it and fix it. The whole idea here is that you get a much better picture of the pain you’re solving so you can offer a solution.
Let’s say you’re a life coach trying to get prospects on a call. There are many pains that they could be feeling such as not finding their purpose, feeling overwhelmed, feeling lonely, or not knowing what direction to take. Your sales funnel doesn’t have to solve all their life problems or mention them all. You can choose ONE big problem to present on a landing page and solve it by offering a worksheet to solve that specific problem. After adding them to your email subscriber list, you can start solving their other pains using an email sequence with each email tackling a different problem and selling your coaching service.
Here’s another example. Let’s say you’re a freelance graphic designer and one of the biggest pains your clients face is knowing what visuals to use on their FB ads. Sure, there are other big problems they need to solve but this is the biggest one. So, you solve a little problem for them by offering Facebook ad templates in Canva. You then email them about their other design challenges and turn them into paying clients.
So, focus on solving one specific problem for your customers with your sales funnel.
4. Identify Your One Big Promise To Your Prospects
Your one big promise is less about the features or actions you’re going to take and more about the outcome. Prospects need to understand the overall outcome they should expect and the action they need to take to achieve that outcome.
There are two ways to look at this big promise. There’s the big promise of your funnel such as learning how to live a healthy life you can maintain forever. Then there’s the one big promise of your ads or landing page such as finding healthy recipes for you and your kids that taste good. The point is to ensure that your sales funnel delivers on the one big promise you’ve made.
The 4 Steps For Building A High Converting Sales Funnel
It’s called a sales funnel for a reason — your prospects are going through steps you deliberately created to lead them towards a specific action. These steps are the same regardless of the type of funnel you create. Let’s go through them.
1. Define Your Traffic Sources
You could create the most captivating offer but it’ll be meaningless if nobody knows about it! If you already have a large audience, it won’t be difficult for you to get traffic to your offer organically through social media posts or your existing email list. The real challenge occurs when you don’t have a large enough audience to attract to your offer.
There are three options in that scenario — paid ads, influencer marketing, or Search Engine Optimization (SEO). You could even choose a combination of all three. Paid ads and influencer marketing are great for attracting traffic to time-sensitive offers. SEO takes a bit longer to generate results and would be better suited for your evergreen funnels and those funnels that have a longer lifespan.
2. Create Your Landing Page
Your landing page bears a lot of responsibility. It’s the page that’s going to convince prospects your offer is EXACTLY what they need. Every element on your landing page (images, text, design) must speak to your prospects’ emotions and influence action.
Side Note: Our emotional marketing guide teaches you everything you need to know about using emotions to drive purchase decisions. I suggest you check it out before creating your landing page.
One of the biggest mistakes I see people make with landing pages is focusing solely on how amazing the offer is because of its irresistible features. Your prospects don’t care about that; they care about how your offer speaks directly to their needs. That’s what you need to capture on your landing page.
Here are some tested and proven tips:
- Create copy based on voice-of-customer research.
- Make sure you first write your copy and only then design the page and build everything else around it. Your messaging should be the leader, NOT an afterthought.
- Use visuals that connect and relate to your prospects. The images you use should amplify your emotional message. So, avoid using stock images and instead use authentic images that demonstrate your offer in a way that resonates with your audience. Get more tips in my guide for choosing landing page images.
- Design the page for the best possible user experience. UX matters just as much as visuals and copy. Elements such as the hierarchy of information, the colors you choose, the clarity of the page, and the action people must take are paramount for a high-converting landing page.
You can test UX using tools like the 5-second test to know whether the right elements on the page are standing out, people know what action to take immediately, and people are reading the content in the way you intended them to.
Hierarchy of information on the page is SUPER important because you can write great copy and have lovely images, but if the copy is in three columns side-by-side, it could present a challenge to read. Also, if your CTAs are all in different colors, people won’t identify them quickly and act.
Need help creating high converting landing pages?
Check out our Complete Guide To High Converting Landing Pages.
After deciding what should be on your landing page, the next step is choosing the right landing page builder for your needs. I’m a huge fan of LeadPages but there are also many other options such as Carrd.co, Unbounce, Elementor, Hubspot, and many others. Start by creating a list of the top three landing page builders you like most and figuring out the one that works best for your needs.
3. Build a Thank You Page
Your landing page will lead landing page visitors towards a specific action — sign up for a webinar, download a lead magnet, purchase a course, or book a call. What’s going to happen when they follow through with the desired action? Let me tell you what often does happen; the visitor clicks through, receives a “thanks” pop up, and is told to check their inbox for a follow-up email. And that’s it, the funnel simply ends. There’s nothing in-between to keep the visitor engaged.
That’s where the thank you page comes in. It’s that in-between spot where you thank website visitors for taking action, remind them that it was a great decision to take that action, and show them what else they can do to achieve their goals. For example, direct them to engage with more of your content (blog posts, guides etc.) or invite them to a webinar, course or schedule a call. Since they’ve already taken one action with you, they’re far more likely to take another.
Here’s the thank you page people see when they subscribe to Getuplift’s email list.
I don’t see enough brands using thank you pages. It’s such a missed opportunity! In some cases, we’ve been able to increase our clients’ sales by 97% by simply leveraging a thank you page.
4. Follow Up with an Email Sequence
Congrats! They’re now on your email list. It’s time to start sending emails — not just one, but a sequence of emails.
A great email sequence can help you turn an absolute stranger into someone who trusts you enough to become a customer. Your email sequence should help your subscribers meet their goals and build a bond with your brand.
It’s all about getting your subscribers to connect with the message you’re sharing, and that’s where having great copywriting skills comes into play. You can learn how to write emails that actually convert in our free email marketing course. In the meantime, here are some useful tips on how to create engaging emails your subscribers will love:
- Write with your reader’s goal in mind and make it about them.
- Before writing a single word, create an outline that includes: the reader’s main challenge, how this challenge affects your reader, and the solution you’re going to offer in the email. It helps to focus each email on one individual challenge at a time.
- Leverage the preview pane to increase open rates.
- When writing your emails, share a compelling and relatable story, not just facts or data. If possible, share quotes and real stories from customers who have leveraged your offer to solve this problem.
- Segment your email list so that your subscribers are getting emails relevant to them.
Reminder: You’re not going to create a perfect sales funnel. It’s not about being perfect; it’s about continuously optimizing the funnel to get the best results.
You may be interested in How To Turn Your (Boring, Generic and Barely Converting) Emails Into Emails that Convert.
The 5 Elements Of A Solid Sales Funnel Strategy
While you may not be able to create a perfect sales funnel from the get-go, there are a few elements you can have in place to launch with a sales funnel that will attract leads and convert them into customers.
Let’s dive into the most important part of a sales funnel — the strategy. There are 5 elements you MUST have in place for a strong, high-converting sales funnel.
1. A Compelling Offer
Your offer needs to be something people care about. I’ve seen some really bad offers such as one-page checklists that offer generic advice like “write high-converting headlines” or “make sure to always eat healthy”. These offers are far from compelling and can damage your brand. Whatever you’re offering should help your audience achieve their desired outcomes and solve a problem for them.
Think back to the examples I gave earlier about the consultant and the freelance graphic designer. Those offers specifically matched what each group of customers needed. That’s how you create a compelling offer for your sales funnel.
The only way to know whether you’ve created a compelling offer is to look closely at what your audience demands. Here’s an example. My team and I spent a lot of time carefully researching and analyzing our audience so that we could create a lead magnet that would help them better understand the psychology of their buyers. We got 4,000 new email subscribers and some incredible feedback and love:
Here’s a checklist you can use to determine whether you’ve created a compelling offer:
- You’ve done audience research to truly understand what pains or challenges your customers are facing and what desired outcomes they’re looking for.
- Your offer solves one specific pain for your prospects and does so in a meaningful way.
- Your prospects gain value from downloading this resource and can now clearly solve the problem.
2. Strong Rapport With Your Audience
Soooo many sales funnels make this mistake. They focus on their amazing offer and solution rather than their customers. That’s why I love this Twitter conversation sparked by Dagobert Renouf’s tweet.
As Maxime said, we should be building rapport in the sales funnel. Each stage of the funnel provides an opportunity for you to build a relationship with your audience. You can create a bond and a relationship by simply making it about them and focusing on their challenges and desired outcomes.
3. Tech Setup
Everyone talks about the fun stuff — strategy, copy and design. But you also need actual tech. After creating sales funnels for many years, I’ve learned a few tricks that can help make the process easier for you.
First, there are sales funnel building tools that take you through the process step-by-step and have everything you need in one place for creating your funnel. Some of the most popular sales funnel software include Elementor, GetResponse, Clickfunnels, and Unbounce.
If you choose not to use one of these sales funnel building tools, you need to get additional tech support. There are many amazing freelancers out there who can help you with copywriting, web design, lead magnet design, and each element of the sales funnel process. Some reasonably priced freelancers can be found on Upwork and Fiverr, but you can also find great freelancers on LinkedIn and Twitter.
I hired a virtual assistant (VA) when I created my first few sales funnels. I needed someone who could organize it all, hire the right people to get each element done, and put everything together so that all I needed to do was give approval. This was a game-changer for me because I saved soooo much time!
4. A Traffic Plan
Your sales funnel is dead without traffic. I mentioned traffic sources in the previous section and I’m mentioning it here again because knowing where your traffic is coming from is important for your sales funnel strategy.
Here are some additional ideas for driving traffic to a sales funnel. You can go through the list and determine which combination of traffic sources you want to include in your plan.
- Existing email subscribers
- Collaborations with other content creators, business owners, and thought leaders
- Paid social media ads (Check out my video on How To Boost Social Media Conversions Using the Power of Emotions to write better social media ads.)
- Paid Google Search ads
- Actively participate in social media communities (particularly Facebook groups and Twitter communities)
- Nano-influencers and micro-influencers
- Youtube video series
- Guest blogging on niche websites
- Pins and boards on Pinterest
- Series of social media posts
- A cluster of blog articles related to the topic
- LinkedIn newsletter series
- Twitter newsletter series
- Guest podcasting
5. Data Analysis
There are always opportunities for sales funnel optimization. But you won’t see these opportunities unless you track how each stage of your funnel is performing. The tech tools and platforms you use at each stage of your funnel will have their own analytics tools. There are also great sales funnel analytic tools that you can use to assess each aspect of your funnel.
Google is phasing out Universal Analytics and making Google Analytics 4 (GA4) mandatory. You need to make the switch or risk losing all your historical data. I mention a course that can help you make a seamless transition and use GA4 effectively in my 11 Courses Conversion Rate Optimizers Should Take article. The metrics you need to track in GA4 include:
- Sessions by source
- Goal completions
- Visitor to conversion ratio (conversion rate)
- General bounce rate (just to know if people find the page relevant to them)
Also, use heatmaps to track user behavior. Heatmaps will show you what people are clicking on, how far they scroll, and how they’re interacting with elements on your page. You can also watch screen recordings for further insights about how people actually use the landing page.
Take Your Sales Funnel To The Next Level
When it comes to setting up your funnel, there’s one rule that matters more than any — make it about your customer. The key to getting the conversions and results you need is creating a sales funnel that isn’t about sales at all, but about providing value to your audience and helping them achieve their goals.
Want to take your sales funnel to the next level? Sign up for The Income Engine waitlist.
Also, check out the other resources in this sales funnel series.
26 Sales Funnel Examples That Help Bring In Passive Income
10 Powerful Ways To Drive Traffic To Your Sales Funnel [Without Paid Ads]
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