Why It's Important to Understand Your Sales Funnel

  •    Mara is Content Manager at POWr.io. POWr makes free, cloud-based plugins, available on all major platforms.

A business is more than just a product. It’s an experience, a connection between you and your customers. Understanding that relationship – how customers find you, why they choose you, and why they come back – is key to managing and growing your business.

Cumulatively, this customer experience is known as the sales funnel. And if you’re not hitting sales goals, your funnel might help explain why.

Top of the Funnel: A Volume Game

The top of your funnel is composed of leads: people who land on your website by chance or on purpose. Every lead is a potential future customer, so maximizing traffic is vital. Your specific approach will depend on your audience, but some strategies apply across the board.

Blogging is a valuable tool for engaging with new users; according to HubSpot, 60% of businesses who blog acquire more customers. Your blog is fodder for social media and PR, giving your company a voice, and positioning you as experts in the field. Leverage SEO with unique content, designing for mobile, and choosing keywords to maximize visibility. An app like WordStream will find the most relevant keywords for your business.

Make your social media presence clear, consistent and appealing. It isn’t enough to tweet inspirational quotes – try promoting gated content via social media, doing targeted social media searches and choosing the best hashtags to reach the biggest audience.

Social media advertising allows advanced targeting. Facebook can direct ads toward people who recently viewed similar companies, and Twitter can connect you to specific networks. Figure out which medium suits you with this guide to social advertising.

Tools like Google Analytics pinpoint traffic sources to determine how customers find you. Understanding this is crucial to fine-tuning marketing efforts and playing to your strengths.

​Middle of the Funnel: Building the Relationship

If you have strong traffic, but limited conversions, the next step is building lasting relationships with visitors. Turn window shoppers into brand ambassadors by making a memorable connection the first time they visit.

The key to a long-lasting relationship is good communication. Keep in touch with visitors who aren’t prepared to buy with a newsletter. A Nielsen Norman study found that newsletters are particularly valuable for growing and maintaining relationships – specifically when customers are unsure about buying. Send news about sales, deals or discounts before they go public. Not everyone will want to sign up, so offer something genuinely tempting – like a giveaway that requires signup.

Make it easy and desirable for visitors to follow you on social media: show off how many followers you have, and provide direct links to your accounts. If your social media game is particularly strong, embed your feed onto your website. 70% of people trust the opinions of strangers posted online, so encourage satisfied customers to post testimonials to Facebook or Twitter.

A recent study found that 93% of web-based companies offer free trials, so give free trials to first-time visitors and convert skeptical shoppers.

Still not getting results? Reconsider your website design. Try testing out new eCommerce-focused design elements, different calls to action or new page layouts. ​

The Funnel Narrows: Closing the Sale

It’s time to close the sale. Getting visitors to choose a product is great, but the average rate of cart abandonment online is over 65%. So it’s something you’ll need to confront.

Half of cart abandoners blame sticker shock – when taxes, shipping and add-ons result in unexpectedly high prices. Avoid this by setting expectations, choosing competitive prices, and offering free shipping for first-time buyers

Others stop shopping because the time isn’t right. Add a sense of urgency and scarcity with flash sales or inventory limits. Or catch them at the door with an exit-intent popup, with a special offer before they leave the page.

Funnel Them Back In: Keep ‘em Coming

Your final goal is turning first-time shoppers into loyal, repeat customers. People are creatures of habit. A study by SumAll reveals that a first-time shopper has a 27% chance of making a second purchase, while a fourth-time visitor has a 59% chance of shopping again. Offer incentives to return soon.

Helpful, polite customer service is essential to retaining customers. McKinsey found that 85% of shoppers made more purchases after a positive experience-- after suboptimal experiences, 70% went elsewhere.

​​Round Up

Understanding your funnel is crucial to understanding your business. Knowing how visitors find you – and why they leave – is key for targeting marketing efforts, retaining customers and growing sales. By nurturing your relationship with your customers through personalized content, quality support, and special offers, your business will be irresistible to past, present, and future shoppers.