The Online Marketer

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Automated Marketing

Sales Funnels

Sales funnels are used by businesses to nurture prospective customers through the whole buying process, starting with attraction and attention, to demand, evaluation, and decision.

What are sales funnels?

If you’re not getting new leads, you’re not making sales.
Sales funnels are a system of elements specifically designed to lead potential buyers through the sales & marketing process.
A sales funnel usually commences with an original entry point (typically a web page), which then guides visitors through a number of steps which eventually completes at the point of purchase. 
Sales funnels are used by businesses to nurture prospective customers through the whole buying process, starting with attraction and attention, to demand, evaluation, and decision.
Did you know that a sale can take place at any time during the buying process? It can happen before you even have a conversation with a lead. And even after that conversation, the lead might still need time to consider your offer.
The concept behind sales funnels dates back to the mid-1800s, when they were used by door-to-door salespeople. Salespeople would start with a wide net, dropping leaflets or other information about their product in as many homes as possible. From this broad pool of leads, they’d hone in on those who were most interested and make sales.
For sales funnels to be effective, they need to mimic the buying process of your lead. Here are the essential steps every lead needs to go through to become a customer:
Step 1: Identify Need
Step 2: Research Options/Compare Prices
Step 3: Consider Alternatives
Step 4: Purchase
You can think of a sales funnel like this: Imagine a group of people who are interested in your product—maybe they saw it advertised somewhere or heard about it from a friend or whatever. That group is at the top of the funnel. Then some number of them (let’s say 10) proceed down into the middle of the funnel, where they get more information about your product and make it through to the bottom—the narrow part of the funnel—to become prospects. Those are people who are ready and willing to buy your product right away.
Next, we’ll talk about what happens to those leads in your sales funnel once they’re added. Do you have specific ways you like to qualify and nurture your leads? Do you have certain products or services that only qualified prospects can access? Is there anything else your prospect needs before they can buy from you?

First things first: what is a lead or a prospect?

Leads and prospects are terms used to describe people who have shown interest in your business. At this stage, they’re not customers, but they are demonstrating an interest in what you do. In a business sense, these people have the potential to become customers, so when they do, it’s a big deal.
A lead is someone who has expressed interest in your product or service by completing an information request or survey. It’s important to note that everyone is a potential lead; you don’t want to miss out on anyone who might be interested in your product.
When you get a lead, it’s great! But when that lead becomes a sales prospect? Well, now you’re really talking. Remember how you first met your partner? They were probably a little aloof, with the occasional smile or nod… but then they actually reached out to you for something concrete. That moment is magic, and now it’s time to make it happen for your leads!
If your lead has engaged with you in some way—they responded to an email, they clicked on your website, or they called your business directly—they’re no longer just leads; they’ve become sales prospects. This means that they have potential to buy from you!
This is the moment where your skills as a businessperson kick in: you can use this opportunity to show them how you can help them solve their problems. The better you explain their challenges and how you can solve them, the better off both of you will be. This process can be automated. If you understand your customer well you should know what information to feed them in order to persuade them to buy your product or service.

Know who your ideal customers are.

We’ve all been there: You meet someone and instantly know you’re going to be great friends. You can’t wait to spend every waking moment together, and you can’t sleep at night because you’re so excited about what the future holds. Then, a month later, you realise that not only do you not have anything in common with this person, but they also don’t share your enthusiasm for the new leaf blower you bought.
Identifying who your ideal customer is begins by creating a picture in your mind of who that person is most likely to be. No two customers are identical, but there are some general characteristics that help define who they are and what they need.
The first step is to assess the tools you have access to right now. For instance, what do you already know about your customer base? Are they tech-savvy? Or are they more interested in activities like gardening or playing the ukulele? 
What about the industries they work in? Are they public-facing professionals like teachers or politicians, or are they more likely to be behind closed doors working as accountants or lawyers? Do they have families?
Once you’ve got some idea of who your ideal customer is, think about where they hang out online. Do they spend most of their time on Instagram or Twitter? Or do they prefer Facebook? Do they look for information mostly on YouTube or on websites like The Daily Maverick or Tripadvisor?
We call all these different types of customers sales personas. In effect they are a semi-fictional representation of your ideal customer based on market research and real data about your existing customers
You need insight into how these personas may behave. How they are likely to be influenced and what information they may need to make a decision. By understanding those things, you can tailor your messaging to fit these personas (and only them) perfectly.
In order to find leads that fit into your sales funnel, you must do some research. Do they spend money on the internet? Do they spend money on products like yours? What sites would they frequent? How can you reach out to them? This will help you define where your leads come from and how to get them involved in the sales funnel.

One size does not fit all

Before we dig into which essential steps make up the perfect sales funnel, let’s get one thing straight: There’s no such thing. Sales funnels are unique to each product and service, and even more important, they’re unique to each lead. That’s why it is important to have identfied a few personas that may be interested in your types of product or service.
A hospitality company may target leisure customers and or corporations. Leisure customers may take a longer time to make a decision than corporate clients, so the sales funnel would need to accommodate that. For instance, you may have one sales funnel for repeat business and another for new business.
Because the process that each set of leads goes through could be different. Each sales funnel will take into account the different buying processes, the gathering of information that each persona is likely to go through before making a decision to purchase.
So the hospitality company in the example above may have to develop the following sales funnels:
  1. Leisure customers who have never stayed at the property
  2. Leisure customers who have stayed at the property before.
  3. Corporate Clients who want conferencing or meeting facilities as well as accommodation.
  4. Corporate clients who just want meeting facilities and catering but no accommodation.
  5. Repeat corporate clients.
Armed with this research you can start putting your sales funnel elements together

Create a lead magnet.

You know what goes great with a hot cup of coffee? A cold, refreshing glass of water.
You know what doesn’t? An unsolicited email from someone you don’t know.
Here’s where it gets tricky,
You’re going to want to give your leads a taste of what’s on offer. You can do this by offering them something in exchange for their email address (which is called a lead magnet).
Now, you may be thinking, “What is a lead magnet?” And that’s a great question to ask! A lead magnet is something that helps you collect email addresses from your potential customers so they can learn more about your product or service (which is the whole point of your sales funnel, right?). And the cool thing about lead magnets is that there are all kinds of different things you can offer in order to get people excited enough to give you their email.
For example, if you run a hotel or bed and breakfast establishment, maybe you want to offer some kind of a guide for things to do in the area where your property is situated. If you’re in the investment industry, maybe you want to offer some insights on specific types of investments or even the latest thoughts on equities vs cash.
If you’re in the insurance world, maybe you’d like to offer some insights into how people can process a claim. Or if you run an events or wedding planning business, maybe you’d like to offer some secrets about different venues and how they differ from one another.
Or if you run a funeral home, maybe you would want a guide to choosing between burials and different types of cremation.The point is there is a lead magnet for every industry if you put your mind to it.
Finally, once they’ve spent some time learning about your product (or services), it’s time to make the ask: ask them if they want to buy!

Create your landing page.

The right landing page can make or break your business. A good one will convey your brand voice and values, create a sense of urgency without being pushy, clearly explain your offer, and get the user into your email nurture sequence as quickly as possible while still feeling like they’re on the same team with you.
What are some elements to keep in mind when designing a landing page that will help you get more subscribers?
If you want to get people to sign up for your email list, you have to start with a compelling offer. 
#1: Create a sense of urgency
#2: Use powerful language
#3: Create trust with the visitor
#4: Have a call to action
It is important to get your leads into your email nurturing system.
The elements of a great landing page include:
-A strong call to action (CTA)—People are on their computer for many reasons, but one of them is not to spend time reading about what you have to offer. You want them to take action and give you their email address or make a purchase or download an ebook or whatever it is you need from them in order for them to be part of your database for marketing purposes.
-Videos—Use video where applicable so people can see how your product works. Include testimonials as well if possible. Showing rather than telling is much more effective in getting someone’s attention and making them interested in what you’re offering.

Create an automated email sequence. Your Customer Journey

Firstly let’s deal with the elephant in the room.
Is email still relevant today as a lead nurturing device?
Email was once the king of lead nurturing. However, over the years it has been challenged by newer tools, such as social media, instant messaging and other marketing automation platforms. In fact, some people even say that email is dead and that there are better ways to engage with leads and prospects—including on platforms like Facebook Messenger, Twitter, or Instagram, Tick Tok or LinkedIn.
So is email still relevant today as a lead nurturing device? How can it best be used to nurture leads into sales-ready customers? Let’s see if we can get some answers to these questions.
Emailing is still the most effective way to reach out to your audience in a cost-effective manner. When used correctly, it can produce better results than many other strategies, including social media and PPC advertising. In fact, over 60% of online purchases are influenced by emails. It’s much easier to skip past ads on social media platforms than it is to delete emails from your inbox!
A study was conducted with a group of individuals who were at least 18 years old and who had purchased something using a sales funnel before. The results showed that the most important factor in creating desire was being able to picture the end result of using whatever it was they were selling.
Another key factor involved knowing the benefits customers would receive from using their product. In this case, the study found that if an individual was able to imagine what their life would be like after using a product, then they were more likely to purchase it than if they could not picture themselves using it or knowing what the benefits were going to be. The benefit of seeing themselves having fun with a product or being able to imagine how much easier their lives would be because of the item they were purchasing was also very important in creating desire among participants of the study.
Finally, when participants thought about how other people who were similar to them might react after seeing an advertisement for a product that used a sales funnel, they were more likely to want whatever it was the company was selling than if they didn’t think about how their friends or family members might react.
Most people don’t just wake up one morning and make an impulsive decision to purchase a brand-new combine harvester.  Rather, they spend time weighing the pros and cons of the product or service they want to buy.
In fact:
76% of customers research online before making a purchase
78% of customers rely on recommendations from friends and family before making a decision
91% of customers say positive reviews have a moderate to significant impact on their purchase decision
The good news for sales funnels is that even if someone is skeptical about purchasing something new, they’re still going to go through this process. To be effective, sales funnels need to mimic the exact process that your potential customer will go through—and then close at every step along the way.
Engage with the prospect – remember that by choosing to sign up with your email autoresponder by downloading your lead magnet, your lead has engaged with you and officially changed their status to a prospect. This is the first buying signal.
Your prospect now is in the process of gathering information before making the purchase.
Your email sequence is a process to get the prospect to trust and believe in you, and also get them to take action (buy, sign up, etc.). It’s important that this step ties into the next action- make it as short as possible! Give the prospect lots of opportunity to take action.
Give your prospect the vision of what it will be like for them to make the purchase decision. Tell them how it will make them feel.
Give them the support they need to make that decision.
Let them see that others have made the decision and their lives have become better as a result. Let them see the testimonials.
Make the sale

Automation saves you money

Automation correctly setup can save you hours of time and effort. It is the super power for sales funnels. Correctly setup a good CRM software solution can do automated up-sells and referrals. each of these can make a dramatic difference to your bottom line.
But how do you know which automation software is right for you? Deciding on an automation platform can be overwhelming and time-consuming, which is why we’ve done the legwork for you.
Here, we’ve outlined some key considerations to make when choosing an automation system:
At The Online Marketer we’ve tried many different automated emailing systems, evaluated a host of different CRM systems and finally settled on what in our opinion is the best value system with the required support. We have weighed the cost vs benefits as well and are convinced we have the best possible solution. And although it isn’t perfect it has endured through 10 years or so of rigorous testing.
Think about what kind of automation capabilities you need in the CRM. Do you like keeping track of things yourself? Or do you prefer having an automatic process that handles everything for you? Some CRMs have automated processes that are very easy to use, while others do not. You should try out as many different CRMs as possible so that you can find one that works well for your business.
You should also consider how easy the CRM will be for your employees to learn and use. While automation is a great feature in a CRM, it can also be problematic if employees don’t like using the system.
Critical to our recommendation, our CRM system needs to:
  1. Be able to send automated email journeys.
  2. Give you feedback on when leads turn into prospects.
  3. Measure how many times your prospects visit your website
  4. Know when your lead engages with you and automatically change their status to a prospect.
  5. Give you measurement statistics on how many of your emails generate clicks or sales.
  6. Opens sales funnels based on your prospects actions.
  7. Prompts you to call the prospect at appropriate times in the sales journey.
  8. Automatically ceases a sales journey when a sale is made.
  9. Move the prospect to a client.
  10. Automatically starts a referral journey once the client has made a purchase and waited for the client to experience the product.
  11. Asks the client if they were satisfied with the product or service.

Send leads to your top of the sales funnel

Getting leads into your sales funnel sounds easy.
Just put out some ads, send a few emails, and watch the leads roll in, right?
Not quite. You see, the goal of a sales funnel is to create a continuous stream of leads. To do that, you need to use every available source of lead generation you have—not just one or two at random.
An integrated campaign is one that includes several different types of advertising and content to generate leads and turn them into customers. By using this approach, you can reach your target audience across multiple platforms and media types at once. Your advertisements will be seen by your target audience on social media sites like Instagram, Facebook and Youtube, while your website will be optimised for search engines like Google and Yahoo so it comes up in search results when prospects look for what you offer. And if you have a blog or newsletter, you can use it to generate more leads and nurture relationships with existing customers.
By using an integrated campaign, you’re making sure that everyone who might be interested in buying from you knows about your business—so they can buy from you!
Online sales funnels might not drop leaflets on your doorstep, but they do collect input from potential customers through blog comments, ebooks left behind, paid ads, social media interactions, and more.
Here are some tips to help you find leads:
  • Keep an eye out for relevant news in your industry, and make sure to follow related publishers on social media.
  • If you’ve got a blog, make sure it’s updated at least once a week.
  • Start a newsletter for your business, and keep them interested with the latest news about your company. 
  • Make sure you have an engaging bio that clearly explains what you do, and make it easy to find on social media.
  • Share your content across multiple channels including LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook.
  • Be active in the professional group forums in your niche.
  • Start with your phone
  • Look at your history, Invoices etc
  • Make sure you stay engaged.
  • Do you ask guests to rate your services and give feedback on your service?
  • You need to think bigger.
    • -Google
    • Google Keyword Planner
    • Facebook Ads Manager (or Power Editor)
    • Facebook Audience Insights
    • Google Analytics
  • YouTube ads
  • Instagram carousel ads
  • Facebook ads
  • Instagram ads
  • Social media posts
But the keyword here is campaign. You need to focus on specific personas, catch them where they are likely to be and capture their imagination. A campaign means you target specifics. This is far more effective than a shot gun approach. Campaigns can revolve around:
  1. Events
    1. Festivals
    2. Community events
    3. Calendar events such as holidays or promotions such as Valentines Day, Mothers Day, Arbour Day etc
    4. Calendar events around religious holidays such as Christmas, Easter Diwali, Eid and others.
    5. Sporting events
  2. People or personas
    1. Focussing on needs or aspirations
    2. Shared activities or likes
  3. Clubs or mutual societies
    1. History buffs
    2. Birders
    3. Conservationists
The key is that every campaign and sales funnel needs a golden thread. A link that makes them all tie in together, that combines interests or behaviour and that appeals to the target market. It is expensive to add square pegs into round holes.

Measure, optimize, rinse and repeat!

What you cannot measure you cannot manage
There are a few more tools in your arsenal that need to be created. A Thank you page or two. Some code to measure engagement, Some integration with marketing and measurement tools. And of course right at the beginning some online market research to see if it is all viable at all.
Henry Ford famously said something like 50% of advertising works. We just do not know which 50% that may be.
Nothing could be further from the truth in the online world. Everything can be measured and therefore refined. You need to be able to measure the cost of your inputs to the results you get. How does this compare with other marketing efforts? Where is my money best spent? What is the real cost of acquisition of every customer? How can I get better value from each customer? How can I reduce the cost of acquisition? How does this square up with my assumptions? What should I be measuring? Is it cheaper to acquire new customers or to sell to past customers? Are my customers perceiving value from my offering? How can I increase the perceived value?
These are the questions one can concentrate on when the sales process is automated. This is where real value is created.
If you want to discuss your sales funnel and automated marketing

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