Sales funnels are a core mechanism to the marketing industry. But they’re nothing new. In fact, the process of sales and marketing has always followed a funnel method of prospecting, relationship building and converting. The main difference is nowadays, the process is more or less online and automated. So understanding how to make a sales funnel that converts is essential to stay competitive, relevant and profitable as a business today, whether you operate online or not.

This post is part 1 of my funnel series and will provide you with an overview guide for creating high-converting sales funnels. 

I’ll start by introducing different funnel tools, how to segment your audience(s) and why customizing the stages of your funnel to suit your different target customers is essential.

I’ve also included in this post optimization tactics and different traffic strategies you can use to boost growth online. 

In part 2, I’ll be walking you through an actual sales funnel set-up using a specific offer and industry (so stay tuned!).

For now, let’s take a look at a typical funnel:

Although this image depicts a straightforward process, sales funnels are most often not linear or consecutive in steps.

Rather, it’s a complex matrix of intertwined audience touch points, retargeting and followup communications all bouncing back and forth between each other.

So you might imagine how implementing an effective funnel requires a relatively strategic approach.

The good news is, everything starts with awareness and using the right tools.

Of course, having a good offer with effective targeting and retargeting while remaining consistent and clear in your messaging and copy are important as well!

If you’re new to sales funnel and online marketing, it’s my hope that by the end of this article, you’ll walk away with 1.) a confident grasp of exactly where to start and 2.) how to improve any existing sales funnels you may be using. 

Ultimately, I hope you can enjoy the process and that you’re able to apply these ideas and tools to increase your engagement, conversions and revenue.

Outline

  1. Choosing The Right Tools To Get Started
    1. Sales Funnel Building Software
    2. Email Automation Software
  2. Customization & Specificity
    1. Creating For Your Target Audience
    2. Creating For Your Offer & Your Objective
  3. Optimizing Your Sales Funnel
    1. 12 Points to Optimize For
  4. Getting Traffic
    1. SEO VS. Paid Traffic
  5. Conclusion
*This post contains affiliate links, which I may receive compensation from. This is at no cost to you and lets me keep the lights on. Read more here…

1. Choosing the Right Tools to Get Started

Sales Funnel Building Software

Perhaps this goes without saying, but we’ll need to have a sales funnel builder if we want to actually make an effective sales funnel. 

This will serve as the software platform that operates outside of your actual website and will serve as your marketing hub.

If you’re wondering why you need a sales funnel builder and whether you can simply just use your existing website, well just know that websites serve a very specific purpose. A purpose that is very different from a landing page or funnel.

Funnels have one, hyper-specific goal and offer presented to one, hyper-specific audience. There is only one clear call-to-action and no outside distractions to confuse prospects or influence conversions. 

Basically, funnel building software provide a suite of useful and intuitive tools to boost conversions, efficiency and the overall effectiveness of your online marketing campaigns.

This is something that websites simply cannot and do not do.

So I’ve included in this list a selection of both free and paid choices (of which come with free trials). 

These are definitely worth checking out if you’re ready to use sales funnels to seriously start growing your business online.

Let’s dig in!

  • ClickFunnels 
    • 14-Day Free Trial; $97/month
    • Automatically a member of their unique affiliate program, with a chance to win a free car
    • Strong online community, full sales funnel builder & can share sales funnel designs
      • This allows you to download pre-built premium funnels from other advanced members
    • Can create your own affiliate program and membership sites as well
  • Builderall
    • Free plan option
    • Strong competitor to ClickFunnels – full sales funnel builder, membership sites, can share funnels and websites
    • Many features and upgrade options for optimization and customization
  • Kartra
    • Plans start at $99/month
    • Full business automation and management platform
    • Client account management, calendar booking system, customer service and support system, membership portals, full sales funnel building, client and lead management system
  • Instapage
    • Pricing starts at $149/month
    • Advanced customer tracking, analytics and split-testing features
      • Heatmaps track on-site customer behavior and Admap allows you to fully visualize and customize your funnel from the advertisement through the landing pages and funnel system
    • Strong team collaboration tools and great for larger and/or expanding businesses
  • Unbounce
    • Pricing starts at $79/month
    • Team collaboration tools and AI powered Smart Traffic lets you split-test pages for optimization with as little as 50 visits
    • Dynamic pages, sticky bars and pop-ups let you customize to each unique user
  • Ontraport
    • Pricing starts at $79;/month
    • Full business automation, marketing management and CRM system
    • A great option for expanding business or businesses with larger sales teams and client management requirements
  • GetResponse
    • Pricing starts at $15/month
    • Powerful email automation platform with simple landing page builder
    • Autofunnel feature lets users build complete sales funnels, complete with email followup and landing pages automatically
  • Mailerlite
    • Free plan option
    • Intuitive and very simple email automation software
    • Easily create simple landing pages
  • Renderforest
    • Free plan option
    • Build landing pages & websites
    • Powerful professional video builder and editor
    • Create free logos
  • Leadpages
    • Start at $25/month (*if billed annually)
    • Can make Facebook & Instagram ads directly inside the Leadpages dashboard
  • Ucraft
    • Free plan option
    • Simple and straightforward landing page builder with fully customizable templates
    • Impressive premium upgrade options
  • Landingi
    • Plans start at $11/month
    • Team collaboration, client account management, one-click publishing and automation features (including an email autoresponder and a landing page scheduler)
    • Over 200 customizable templates to choose from

Email Automation Software

If you’ve looked through the landing page builders and sales funnel software above, then you’ve probably noticed that some also offer email automation as part of their platform. 

This is a great way to automatically integrate two business and marketing facets under one roof. 

Either way, below is a short list of some top choices when choosing an email autoresponder.

  • HubSpot
    • Free plan option
    • A powerful email autoresponder with a CRM, landing page builder and business/marketing management system
  • Mailerlite
    • Free plan option
    • Extremely simple to use, track customer interactions for customization and optimization using Click Maps
    • Build landing pages
  • AWeber
    • $19/month
    • A trusted name for email automation and works great for small businesses
    • A large library of templates and a new Smart Builder feature to automatically create branded emails
    • An intuitive drag-and-drop editor with advanced list segmenting and personalization features through keyword tags
  • Mailigen
    • $10/month
    • Great SMS features, social media integration and multi-user account set-up
  • Benchmark
    • Free plan option
    • Awesome drag-and-drop editor and built-in photo editor
  • Mailjet
    • Free plan option
    • A great team collaboration feature and advanced dynamic email and customization features
  • Sendinblue
    • Free plan option
    • Email marketing + SMS marketing + chat integration
    • Make landing pages, sign-up forms, Facebook ads and put your marketing on full automation
    • Built-in CRM and retargeting functionality
  • SendPulse
    • Free plan option
    • Great multi-channel communication integration (Facebook messenger, Viber, email, SMS) and use of push notifications
  • GetResponse
    • $15/month
    • Create full sales funnels and use automation tools to manage email and landing pages

2. Customization & Specifity

The hallmark of a great landing page is customization and specificity. This means making your design, messaging and content to suit a very specific target audience with a very specific offer. 

As much as possible, you want your prospects and customers to feel like you’re speaking directly to them.

We can start optimizing for this by consciously creating your sales funnel for your target audience, for your offer and for your objective. 

Let’s break this down a little more, shall we?

Creating For Your Target Audience

We already know that a sales funnel should be customized for a very specific target audience. 

After all, it’s your opportunity to create a (hyper-)personalized experience and to communicate directly with a prospect’s issues, pain points and concerns by offering them a very specific and custom solution.

And increasing personalization in marketing is definitely a growing trend online. 

So it’s something that businesses will need to start adopting sooner than later if they want to stay competitive and enhance the buyer experience (which of course translates to more customer loyalty, more engagement and more sales).

I’ll be talking more specifically about how to optimize your sales funnels and landing pages below, but for now let’s go through a few more tools that could be of use for you.

There are a variety of personalization opportunities throughout a typical sales funnel and using a software tool that dynamically customizes your communications is one of the most efficient ways to start optimizing your marketing.

Here are a couple examples of tools that offer automatic customization features:

  • MarketerMagic
    • LivePic is an email customization tool that allows users to upload welcoming email pictures that will automatically embed the email user’s name onto the photo
  • Instapage
    • This software’s advanced features offer dynamic page personalization for each of your target audiences
    • This means that you can create unlimited variations (images, headlines, etc.) to your landing pages to suit different subsets of your target audience
    • Your target audience will then be automatically directed to the most relevant page based on past actions, inaction, data and on-site behavior
  • Unbounce
    • Use the New AI Powered Smart Traffic Feature to Boost Conversions
    • This let’s you run A/B split tests and make optimization decisions with as little as 50 page visits!
    • Dynamic pages, sticky bars and pop-ups let you customize to each unique user

This can seem like some pretty advanced stuff, but all you need to know is that using dynamically updated elements means your messaging and content can automatically change and adapt to match each individual customer, their name and their previous on-site behavior.

Regardless if you decide to use dynamic pages and advanced customization plugins, just remember to always create funnels for a specific target audience solving a specific problem of theirs.

This way, you’ll naturally be optimizing your sales pages for relevance and conversions.

So always ask yourself how your content, messaging and design are connected with your offer and your audience’s pain points, transformations, values and situations.

Creating For Your Offer & Your Objective

If you’re strategically building out a sales funnel, then you’ve probably thought about what your objective and offer will be. 

If not, then you’ll want to clearly identify this since these details will determine your landing page designs, messaging, followup sequences, sales funnel length and complexity and followup protocol.

For example, if your offer is a high-ticket item (such as something $1,000+), then your sales funnel is naturally going to have more stages, more communication and followup and more information.

However, if you’re creating a sales funnel where your main objective is to capture an email by offering something for free (i.e., a lead magnet), then you could get by with a simple two-step funnel including an email opt-in and direct, to-the-point messaging.

So your sales funnel design and customization aspects will heavily depend on your specific objectives and you unique offer package:

  • Are you capturing emails 
  • Is this for a webinar registration 
  • Are you focusing on brand awareness, product info or product selling? 
  • Are you offering a free downloadable guide? 
  • Are you giving away a free product or trial? 
  • Is this offer a discount or coupon of some sort? 
  • Or perhaps you’re giving away a free eBook! 
As you can see, there are many ways to structure your offer and funnel design! 

To reiterate, as a general rule of thumb, the more expensive or complex your offer is, the more complex and longer your sales funnel will be. 

When creating your offer, also keep in mind the type of customer you’re targeting. If your target audience is cold traffic, then they’ll be at the top of your sales funnel, so you’ll want to focus on:
 
  • Giving value
  • Capturing emails
  • Building and strengthening relationships
  • Retargeting and using followup communication

Your actual sales conversions will generally happen at the bottom of your funnel, after the customer is warmed up to you and your brand.

This is when they will start to trust you and will be ready to convert after enough points of contact (or touch points). So stay patient, on message and focus on giving value and retargeting the most engaged prospects.

Now that we have some foundation elements of your sales funnel established, let’s talk more about how we can optimize our landing pages and funnels for conversions and engagement.

3. Optimizing Your Sales Funnel

There are some great best practices to consider when building your landing pages and sales funnels to optimize for conversions and user experience. 

I’ve actually written a whole article on this topic here, but I’ll just present the main points below.

Some tips may echo what I’ve already mentioned above, but this will serve as a nice and organized summation for ways to improve your sales funnel optimization. Let’s check them out!

  • Be Specific & Communicate the Customer Transformation
    • This basically echos what I’ve been saying above
  • Keep It On-Message & Have Clear Call To Actions (CTAs)
    • A CTA is the button telling the customer exactly what you want them to do next
    • Have one CTA objective per landing page and objective
    • Have multiple CTAs buttons, both at the top of your page (above the fold) and at the bottom (and also throughout the page if you have longer-form script and information)
  • Match Your Messaging Throughout Your Funnel
    • Don’t get off topic and start adding other offers
    • Although, one-click up-sells and order bumps can be a great way to boost your average cart value during the checkout process
  • Add A Privacy Policy & Other Relevant Legal Pages
    • This is often overlooked and can actually lead to disapproved ads (if you’re running Facebook or Instagram marketing for example)
  • If It’s Cheap Or Uncomplicated, Keep It Short & Simple
    • I’ve talked about this point, so remember what you’re offering and use logic to match your landing pages and messaging to that thing
  • Create With A Mobile-First Approach
    • Mobile use continues to grow steadily and actually surpasses desktop use
    • So having a mobile-first approach ensures your optimizing for this trend
  • Split-Test Different Landing Pages
    • Most landing page and sales funnel builders will have an A/B split-testing option already built-in (another benefit to using a sales funnel software)
    • Testing for different headlines, creatives, text/image placement and colors can all yield different levels of engagement and conversions
  • Take Advantage Of Templates & Done-For-You Designs
    • This can of course save you invaluable time and you can be rest assured that you’re using a design that’s optimized and of high quality
  • Keep It Visually Interesting By Using High-Quality Images & Videos
    • Although raw, unedited videos can be very effective also, using high-quality creatives (especially video, as this is a continually growing trend) will increase your conversions and optimization throughout your funnel
  • Use Social Proof
    • This can be customer reviews or live visitor pop-ups that show who else is viewing the page they’re on or pop-ups showing people who are currently purchasing the product/offer
  • Use Different Landing Pages For Different Customers
    • Again, don’t treat all customers the same
    • Hyper-personalization in marketing is a growing trend
  • Use Scarcity & Timelines
    • FOMO (fear of missing out) is a real thing!

4. Getting Traffic

I decided to add a section on traffic since this will be the fuel to your funnel. For simplicity, all online traffic can essentially be split into two basic sources: paid and unpaid. 

Paid will yield faster results, but requires a decent budget and technical know-how for digital marketing.

Free, organic traffic on the other hand is a longer-term goal. However, this approach also involves strategic implementation and application.

Regardless of the approach you use, you’ll want to focus on providing high-quality content that’s value-adding for your prospects. 

This will be a crucial element of your paid campaign funnels just the same as a more strategic search engine ranking methodology.

Ideally, you’ll want to be using both and/or a combination of the two traffic strategies. But if you’re new to marketing strategies, I recommend you choose one platform and strategy at a time, test it out and learn it before moving on to and combining other methods. 

Here is a list of some common paid and unpaid methods for getting traffic:

  • Free, Organic Traffic
    • SEO (search engine optimization) + Content Marketing
    • Pinterest SEO (one of my favorite methods for getting free traffic quickly)
    • Influencer Marketing (reaching out to influencers with smaller followings; often for very cheap or even free)
    • Social Media & Organic Brand Building (engaging & commenting meaningfully on other influencer accounts)
    • Email Marketing (this is perfect if you have an existing subscriber list; never buy an email list!)
  • Paid Traffic
    • Social Media Advertising (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.)
    • Google Display Ads (Banners shown across millions of websites online)
    • Influencer Marketing (reaching out directly to negotiate a sponsored post for your brand)

Recommended Read: How To Virtually Guarantee Sales Online

$$ Tip Jar

Understand your target market and where they spend their time. 

  • Choose a social media platform and traffic strategy that aligns with this research. 

Create your content to match the platform. 

  • For example, people use YouTube more often to learn new things and to be entertained (great for tutorials and how-to videos).
  • However, people go on Facebook to see updates from friends and family and will share/engage with content that is surprising, interesting, helpful and humorous. 

So create your content with the platform user’s objectives in mind.

Conclusion

This post has provided a detailed overview of everything you need to know to get started with building a sales funnel for your business online. I’ve introduced necessary tools, best practices and traffic strategies to help you get started on the right foot.

If you’re at all new to sales funnels, you may have wondered at some point whether you actually need to use a sales funnel method and a special funnel building software.

This is a great question and the answer is that virtually every business can benefit from having a strategic funnel and automated marketing system in place.

Your approach and the extent to which you use these tools and strategies will ultimately depend on your individual objectives, budget, preferences and willingness to test and learn new business methodologies.

Personally, I love the convenience of having a separate sales funnel (or landing page) builder and putting in place automated marketing and business management systems.

These softwares and strategies can save you time, money and resources providing you with more business flexibility, growth and opportunities to scale.

A core goal for my site is to provide you with solutions that give you more freedom and business flexibility, so you can enjoy more in life and spend less time with the tedious tasks associated with marketing and running a business.

So thank you for your time today and I hope this article has provided you with useful value and actionable information!

 

Let me know in the comments if you’ve tried using a sales funnel or what parts of this concept still confuse you!

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