If you are wondering why your content and social media is not achieving any results then maybe it is because you have not considered the journey you need to take your prospects on. You need to know how the digital sales funnel works and you need to plan how you will take people through it. In this introductory blog post I want to explain the role of the digital sales funnel. In follow up posts I will detail how you can make each element work for your business.
Introducing TOFU, MOFU and BOFU
If this is the first time you have heard of the phrase ‘sales funnel’ then picture in your mind a funnel. At the top of the funnel it is open and wide. In digital marketing you will use social media, content marketing and possibly paid advertising to pour in as many opportunities as you can attract to your website or blog. This is sometimes called TOFU marketing tactics.
At the bottom of the funnel (BOFU) is a hole, smaller than the top but if your website, content, email marketing and your sales people are working effectively in the middle of the funnel (MOFU) then as many people as possible will come out of the bottom as a paying customer.
Now to think about how you could make this work better for you imagine you are a shop. Every person that comes in through your front door is a potential customer or a lead – the top of your funnel. If your shop is set up well and you are good at selling – middle of funnel – then some of those visitors may try something on, buy it from you to become a customer – the bottom of your funnel. As well you know though, not everyone who goes into a shop buys something. The customer journey i.e. the shop is not 100% effective at converting its leads into customers.
In digital marketing there is one major difference to this traditional scenario, and that is you can measure and monitor people all the way through the process. Depending on the tools you have available, you can literally see when people are on your website, what content they are looking at, how they are responding to your emails, when they are close to buying and when they might be ready to buy again.
Creating buyer personas and customer journeys
When you are aware of the sales funnel in digital marketing you can focus on each step of the journey and work to make it as effective as possible. You need to focus on your customers to define exactly who they are, how they use your services and what they need to succeed. These are you buyer personas and will help you plan out the content to move people through your funnel. I hope you can start to see how content creation is not just random bits of information you create and publish ad hoc.
What is a digital sales funnel?
There are so many ways of illustrating a digital sales funnel. Search for the term on Google images and you will see many variations. I love this from http://stevepatrizi.com/. The reason I love it is because it is simple and shows how digital marketing has swung so much more of the responsibility of generating the final sale over to marketing. If marketing can get the sales lead as ‘hot’ as possible and then hand it over the sales to convert quickly and a high value then your business will flourish.
How to move people through your sales funnel
Now we know what the sales funnel is let’s think about how we can make it work. The tools available to you are your full arsenal of digital marketing and social media tactics. In the early days of the internet it was just the content on your website, banner advertising and placement in effective web directories. Then along came search engines looking for keywords on your website and links to you from other websites. Email databases began to be created or available to rent which meant you could pull people back to your website. Even newspaper and TV adverts and billboards started to feature web addresses all pulling people into the top of your funnel.
Then blogs and social networks arrived and a whole new layer of traffic became available. Chris Brogan, a well-known social media commentator, summed the role and function of social networks in sales funnels when he described the relationship between your website and social networks as Passports, Outposts and Homebase.
I like to use this graphic to focus in on the Outpost and Homebase element
You use your social media activities to be present in the communities that your target audience and customers are already active in.
You produce content which goes on to your blog which is more interesting than the ‘brochureware’ on your normal website pages which just sell your services. Blogs are commonly about everyday problems and solutions which are full of the exact kind of things people search for on Google. This is why blogs are so powerful. They give you content to share and talk about on social media, and it gives Google more reasons to send people to your website.
Converting Your Traffic into Customers
As a digital marketer it is your job to move people along the sales funnel as effectively and efficiently as possible. You need to appreciate that the more people you get to the bottom, the more success your business will have. It is vital therefore that you don’t lose people along the way. This is called your conversion rate i.e. how many people you convert.
It is not always easy to convert people. They could chose a competitor, they could find your website too confusing or they could simply get distracted and forget to come back. You will need to use various tactics to ensure your conversion rate is as high as possible.
Generating leads – if you don’t get people’s contact details how are you going to be able to remarket to them? Using landing pages and data capture forms is vital. Commonly people will give you their contact details in exchange for some content which is of value to them, like an eBook or informative webinar.
Nurturing leads – if you don’t warm your leads up they are unlikely to convert. Stay in communication with personalised emails and make sure you have multiple forms of content to help them make a decision. Using a marketing automation system will help you efficiently do this. At Live And Social we are Act-On Agency Partner and can help you set this up.
Closing leads – as the image showed in a traditional sales process you can’t get away from the sales team needing to close the deal. Being able to inform sales when a lead is ready to purchase is another feature of marketing automation as leads can be scored as they visit the website, click content and consume content. If you have options to purchase from your site then again, timely personalised emails with appropriate offers and calls to action are vital to close the deal when the time is right. Digital marketing gives you the power to test these elements so you make them as powerful as possible.
Making the most of each stage of the digital sales funnel
First off you need to realise that the fewer people you put in the top however the fewer people you will get to the bottom. Here is a rundown on the different tactics and ways you can approach each section of your funnel.
Actions to Take
|Awareness||Anything you can do to draw people to your website, blog or social channels.||Organic search, social media, content, community activity, press, other peoples blogs, back links, email, direct mail,
Ads: PPC, banners, social advertising, press ads, affiliate partners.
|Interest||Early visits to the website, looking for answers to problems, topical opinion and info about the company.||Create blog content or social media conversations that answer everyday problems that you customers might have.|
|Consideration||Visitor begins to be interested in your business helping them or being able to solve their problem.||Create content that has a datacapture behind it. An ebook or webinar, that swaps their contact info for your helpful content.|
|Intent||Calls to action are vital. You need to tell people to ‘click to buy’ or ‘request a phone call’ or ‘upload your project requirements.||Think about contact forms, live webchat tools and inserting prominent calls to action around your site. Feed leads into a marketing automation tool to nurture them via email marketing|
|Evaluation||Providing confidence and assurances to someone considering your services.||Reviews, customer testimonials and case studies can all be a timely aids in helping close the sale.|
|Purchase||Not just an excellent and simple purchase experience but think about how you can data capture and upsell to your customers.||Use A/B tests to work out what leads to a successful sale. Be sure to monitor how many people you lose during the payment process. If you are not selling online, make sure you check to see how many of your leads the sales team are closing.|
Making the Most of Your Customers
It would be a mistake to presume that your job is done once a prospect reaches the bottom of the funnel and becomes a customer. As the digital marketer it is your job to ensure that you delight that customer so that they buy again and tell others about your business. This is often called Retention and Advocacy, and in truth will send a whole load more traffic back to the top of the funnel.
|Retention||Do all you can to make sure you keep a customer happy and loyal.||An email address is like a valued friendship. Think about looking after and respecting that friend. Add value, don’t pester them, help them do well, occasionally tell them about great opportunities. Getting people into a social media community is the same. You want people to enjoy and value being connected to you.|
|Advocacy||Do all you can to help people share about their experience with your business||Having people advertise and promote your business after they have bought from you is a powerful way to fill your funnel. Encourage social sharing, give them ‘friend get friend’ offers, provide social sharing buttons and most of all make it easy. Don’t forget to ask people to leave you reviews on your social channels also.|
Understanding the digital sales funnel is a vital element in any content marketing and social media strategy. The company that has not thought this through is just spinning its wheels, hoping for the best and likely wasting a lot of time and money.
It has been the evolution for many marketers to understand this process and I trust this blog post has helped you get a better understanding of it for your business. If you would like to know more about how to make it work for your business then I’d love to work on that strategy with you. Shout me up in the comments or tweet me @jonniejensen.