The sales funnel is a critical part of your business, even if you don’t view it as such. Understanding what it is and how yours works can also improve your sales and help eliminate inefficiencies. When you understand the buyer’s process, you can begin to tweak it in your favor.
In our first part of examining the sales funnel, we talked about what the funnel is and walked you through the basics you need to know. We also covered how you can start applying content to eliminate sticky areas (where customers tend to stack up and not proceed down the funnel) and get more conversions/sales.
For some small businesses funnel talk can put people off. You may not like to think of sales that way. Perhaps the sales cycle is more personal to you than a staged list of check-off points. While that’s likely the case for you personally, your business and most of your customers still proceed along the same predictable process. When you start to analyze that process, you can see the patterns and possible areas of improvement.
In this installment, we’ll go over the numbers of getting people through and how you can better understand your sales process (and increase sales!) by examining your sales funnel.
Step One: Identify Your Sales Process
In the first article we addressed the basics of a sales funnel:
Now let’s apply those to your business. Answer the following questions:
● How do customers find you? Break down the analytics here. What percentages are word of mouth referrals? What about ads or coupons? Any ideas what brings people in the door broken down by percentage?
● What is the next step for them once they know about you? Do you have a long buying process? Do they research your competition? Do they watch the videos you’ve made?
● How do they buy from you? Different ways may have different buying processes. For instance, you may find people who buy online have a shorter, more impulsive buying process than those who walk into your business.
If you’re looking at these questions thinking “Great but I have no idea,” here are a few ways to fill in the missing components.
Use a marketing automation platform to begin tracking interactions people have on your website. To do so, you need to give them a reason to “reveal” themselves to you. This is usually done by giving them something of value that they provide an email for. Ideas include:
● Downloadable piece
● VIP list, etc.
Once you know who they are, the platform will track every time they come to your site and do anything. You can see how often they visit and what they do. When you have this information on a lot of people, you can start seeing patterns.
Google Analytics can also help you do this in a more general way, not for specific customers.
Another way to do this, and one you’ll prefer if most of your customers are not reaching you online, is to simply ask them. “How did you find us?” is a great way to begin collecting information for your sales funnel.
Knowing the answer to this important question can help you understand where you should place your marketing dollars. For instance, if you know most of your new sales are coming from referrals from friends on Facebook, you can build out a program that will help you get more of those. Or if people are seeing your posts on Pinterest, then you know your time there is very valuable.
Step Two: Applying Your Learning
Gathering all that information is wasted if you don’t do something with it. So let’s take a look at how you can start using that data.
First, compare what is happening on your site that you’ve noticed either through Google Analytics or through your marketing automation software. Map out the steps most visitors are taking starting with visiting your site. Let’s say 47% of potential customers do this:
1. Visit site
2. Scroll homepage
3. Visit product page
4. Select item
5. Leave site
This is fairly common on online purchases. While it’s not ideal, it gives you something to work with. Map out what you really want the customer experience to look like. Probably this:
1. Visit site
2. Watch demo or product video
3. Read “why buy from us”
4. Visit product page
5. Select product
6. Add to cart
7. Check out
To go from what is happening to what you’d like to happen, you need to tweak the process. In the first article, we told you how to do that through content. Here we’re really more concerned about the 47%. That’s a large number.
If that’s fairly consistent month-to-month, you have an opportunity to win over a lot more customers just by adjusting your offerings to get them moving toward the next step in the buying process. Once you start analyzing this number, you can watch to see how the changes you are making are shortening that length of time it takes to make a purchase.
In-person purchases are slightly more difficult to analyze because it requires you to survey your customers. You can do this while they’re standing at the cash register or send a thank you email (with their receipt) and a quick one-question survey about how they heard about you. But don’t forget to poll the people who don’t buy too. Ask people what brings them in today. You need insights into those who stay in the sales funnel and those who don’t.
But that still only gets you to one part of the sales process, the initial step. And if you use an email, you’re only reaching those who answer, which can be biased to people who enjoy tech and is likely only a small sampling of your customers. If your purchases are mainly in-person, you need to be consistent about asking.
Another more limited way to understand your audience is through discounts or promotions. You can run special promotions with either a physical coupon or a code word you give to your Facebook audience. If the customer comes to you with your word for a special discount, you know they saw it on Facebook.
Let’s say you find the following information about how people find you:
● 57% personal referrals or reviews
● 14% mentions on Facebook
● 12% walking/driving by
● 7% Pinterest pin
● 10% other
These numbers give you an idea of where you need to spend your time. With this example, digital marketing seems to be driving traffic for your business. So it’s important to do more of that.
Sales funnels can be a little intimidating for small businesses that don’t think in those terms. If you feel that way, then call it something else. Call it the customer journey or customer round-up. The important part of the sales funnel is getting better insights into your business. How many people are going all the way to the sale? Where are they dropping off? Analyzing these numbers and phases is the best way you have to increase revenue.
The people who start the sales process with you showed some initial interest. You know they need what you offer. You just need to find a way to help them see it too and understanding your sales funnel is the best course of action in doing that.
Christina R. Green teaches small businesses, chambers, and associations how to connect through content. Her articles have appeared in the Midwest Society of Association Executives’ Magazine, NTEN.org, AssociationTech, and WritersWeekly. She is a regular blogger at Frankjkenny.com. Christina is an introverted writer on a quest to bring great storytelling to organizations everywhere.