Caroline Donahue, CMO at Intuit, oversees numerous web-based products for which “the product and the marketing become one thing.” The funnel changes because “with cross-sell and up-sell, you move from awareness to action instantaneously.” Instead of a Customer Decision Journey, her approach might best be described as a User Experience Journey into which opportunities for transactions are thoughtfully embedded.
Social media: Social media platforms are great marketing channels for the top of the funnel. Social media users spend a lot of time in them and usually spend a good amount of that time consuming content shared by other people. When it comes to getting non-paid traffic from social media channels there are two main ways to do it: you can grow your own social media audience and share your content with your followers, or you can participate and contribute to already existing communities.
Today’s online consumer is much better educated than the consumers of yesteryear. While they enjoy learning about new products and services from brands, they hate being sold to. They digital buyer’s journey has many different touchpoints, and different people follow different patterns. That’s why you need to invest in more than one middle of the funnel marketing strategy.
Content that introduces the company and intrigues potential customers enough to move to the next stage of the buying process. For example, a Facebook post called “Behind the Scenes at Molly Marketer’s Company. This works especially well if you have a company with a corporate citizenship mission, such as selling sustainable, environmentally friendly goods.
Now sales start its own screening process where they start calling up the lead and asking them for requirements. The pre-sales team starts analyzing their actual requirement and how good of a fit they are for the business. The best way to do this is to have a lead scoring tool, which will let you assign scores based on lead activities. Once pre-sales deems them as good leads, they now get passed on to the sales team
After you have mapped out your sales funnel and have a good idea of what happens to leads when they come into your system, spend time mapping your lead generation efforts to buying stages. You can define a buying stage by how close a lead is to making a buying decision — and it’s critical to create lead generation programs that resonate to where buyers are in their purchasing decisions.
Exits from stage – Similarly, seeing an excessively high number of people falling out of a particular stage is an indication that you aren’t doing enough to answer their questions or you’re asking them for too much of a commitment too early. Add more content to give them the information they need to move forward or make it easier for people to convert (e.g. don’t ask for a phone number when they’re downloading a certain e-book).
This is VERY important (as you can see above)! You can use a simple spreadsheet to make this happen quickly. Tracking your leads will help you understand where to tweak your funnel AND understand what is working. For me, it took me almost a year to realize my best deals were coming from one deal source. Once I realized that, I leaned in hard to that one source—my business exploded and my time to vet leads plummeted!
Generating revenue is a multi-step process in which you have to progressively nurture people before they are ready to make a purchase. A shoe salesperson is nurturing you when they ask your size, show you lots of options, help you try a few pairs on, and let you know about a deal. It’s giving you the information and support you need to make a decision about buying.
If your new customers are greeted by a thoughtful onboarding process, personal attention and all the resources they need to use your product successfully, they’re more likely to confirm to themselves that they made the right choice. And when they’re confident, they’re more likely to pass on their satisfaction to others in the form of recommendations and product endorsements.
While your sales funnel “ends” when someone makes a purchase, there’s another level outside of the sales funnel. Actually, there are two levels, working simultaneously: loyal fan and repeat customer. First, someone can become a loyal fan. They may or may not make a purchase again (for example, someone who purchases a home from your may not make a purchase again for a long time), but they tell others about your company and encourage them to make a purchase. This is extremely important to finding more leads for the “awareness” part of your sales funnel. Word of mouth is powerful.
First, a common language needs to be set up to ensure marketing knows when a lead should be moved from marketing’s control, and placed in the sales funnel. There are two terms, "marketing-qualified lead" (MQL) and "sales-qualified lead" (SQL) or “sales-accepted-lead,” which all sales funnels must embrace to keep both teams aligned. When marketing has a lead ready to talk to sales, the lead should be marked as an MQL, meaning marketing has gotten it to the point where they believe sales should take over. If sales agree the lead is sales-ready, they accept the lead and move it from MQL to SQL (or SAL), and the handoff is complete. If not, the lead goes back to marketing.
Following their information search — or sometimes running concurrently with this process — potential customers start comparing the alternatives that your article has discussed. Again, the time spent in this stage will vary based on the type of purchase being contemplated. Choosing a restaurant might be as simple as deciding, “Well, I feel like Chinese food, not Mexican, tonight.”
It all goes back to lead nurturing. Moving people down each level requires the same process: education, evaluation, engagement, commitment, purchase (or “action” – sometimes they aren’t actually making a purchase, but rather taking an action like sending out a tweet). In some cases, that process happens within a single email. Other times, it takes days, weeks, or even months. To make matters even more complicated, every customer is different. While some people might make the decision to buy your $19 within a few hours of downloading and sharing your ebook, other customers might be in “deciding” mode for 6 months.
Setting up your sales funnel is the key to creating powerful prospect experiences. It is important that you map them out ahead of time to ensure your sales process is in alignment with the customer’s journey. CRM software set up to mirror your funnel activities can then help you manage and stay focused on the most important tasks during each stage in the process.
As an example, consider a real world journey of a family’s trip from the U.S. to Mexico. Visa has mapped out the entire experience, from where the family gets ideas on where to go (TripAdvisor), to how they gather input from friends (Facebook), to how they pay for their cab (cash from an ATM) or hotel (credit card), to how they share photos of their trip with friends back home (Instagram). Only a few of these situations are opportunities for transactions, but they are all opportunities for relationship. “When you change from decision to engagement,” Antonio says, “you change the entire model.”
Capturing leads is the first step to the sales process. Some sales funnel software have the capability to capture leads who visit your website, submit a form, email your company, etc. So it’s easier for sales reps to start working with leads instead of wasting time on data entry. It can also segment leads based on predefined criteria and assign them to the right sales reps.
How to get started: Gather a list of contacts from the groups mentioned above and email them to share the content you’ve created. Important: If your list is large and you plan on emailing them in bulk, you must give them an option to unsubscribe or stop receiving emails from you. An “unsubscribe” button is auto-generated on most email service providers.
Sales funnels are right for businesses that rely on a high degree of prospect interaction and engagement to make sales or close deals. Their sales process may be long and complex or they may be selling a high-ticket item that requires a lot of consideration by the customer. Both business-to-business (B2B) and business-to-consumer (B2C) businesses use sales funnels.
Interest: Once leads are generated, they move on to the interest stage, where they learn more about the company, its products, and any helpful information and research it provides. Here is an opportunity for brands to develop a relationship with the people in its lead database and introduce its positioning. Marketers can nurture leads through emails, content that is more targeted around industries and brands, classes, newsletters, and more.