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What Is A Sales Funnel (& How to Boost Conversions in 2024)

Are you using a sales funnel?

After all, you put in the effort, time, and money into marketing your product or service.

Only instead of seeing sales roll in, all you hear is crickets.

sales funnel - Season 6 Episode 21 GIF by Parks and Recreation

What gives?

Having any old sales funnel (or worse, no sales funnel at all), won't give you the results you want.

Here's how to use a sales funnel to boost sales, make you more money, and validate your digital marketing efforts.

What is a Sales Funnel?

A sales funnel (also known as a marketing funnel) is a prospective customer's decision-making journey prospective customer toward a potential purchase.

A sales funnel has four main stages. Marketers can use these stages to determine how to best appeal to the customer journey at each point in the sales process.

In addition, there are three common sales funnel terms to know:

  • Top of the sales funnel (TOFU)
  • Middle of the sales funnel (MOFU)
  • Bottom of the sales funnel (BOFU)

How Does a Sales Funnel Work? What Marketers Get Wrong

Knowing the sales funnel definition is one thing. Using it to your advantage is a different, more complicated story.

Here's what many marketers get wrong about the sales funnel process:

They try to sell at the beginning of the funnel.

Even though less than 4% of people buy a product at first glance.

Instead of trying to sell immediately and appear pushy, use a well-developed sales pipeline to draw in your customer at just the right time.

How Important is a Sales Funnel?

A sales funnel is important because it can make or break your conversion rate. If used incorrectly, you could waste thousands of dollars trying to convert the wrong customer at the wrong time.

The sales funnel is the difference between a customer either buying or never visiting your website again.

Sales funnels describe a customer's journey β€” your job is to make this journey a no-brainer for the customer to click "purchase".

Let's Talk About the Sales Funnel Stages

sales funnel - Infographic About the Sales Funnel Stages

These sales funnel stages guide your marketing strategy so you know what's most effective at the best opportune time.

Let's look at each stage and your role.

Stage 1: Awareness Phase

This sales funnel stage is when a potential customer learns that your company exists. This could be from an Instagram ad or a friend mentioning your business in conversation.

The awareness stage is considered part of the top funnel (TOFU).

Your goal at the awareness stage is to introduce your company in a non-obtrusive way.

Your potential buyers might only just realize they have a problem. They might not have looked into solving it yet, so you simply just want to be on their radar.

Stage 2: Interest Phase

The interest stage is when a customer does more research to solve their problem. They're probably not ready to buy but are weighing their options between you and your competitors.

This stage is part of the middle funnel (MOFU).

Your goal at this stage is to build trust to create a relationship between your company and the customer.

You provide your expertise and value to warm up your lead so they continue to see you as a trustworthy authority during their research.

Stage 3: Decision Phase

The decision stage of the sales funnel is when the customer wants to buy but is deciding the best way to go about solving their problem.

This stage is at the bottom of the sales funnel (BOFU).

Your goal is to help them realize that your company is the superior solution to fix their pain point.

The customer wants to know that your product or service fits exactly with their needs. They want assurance that they won't feel buyer's remorse afterward.

Stage 4: Action Phase

This final stage determines the success of your sales funnel. Did your potential customer buy your product or service or did they leave the funnel at any point before this step?

This stage is at the bottom of the sales funnel (BOFU).

Your goal at this stage is customer retention. You want to convert your clients and set them up for success with your product so that and they become loyal customers.

Use Your Content to Up Your Sales Funnel Game

Don't waste hours of your time creating content that doesn't connect with your audience.

Here are some common content marketing strategies and when to best use them in your marketing funnel.

1. Blogging

Blogging is a great tool to use at the top of your sales funnel, specifically the awareness and interest stages.

These beginning stages are crucial for generating leads. No audience or traffic means no buyers.

Blogging is an effective strategy to do just that. In fact, companies with blogs create 67% more leads every month than those without.

Blogging maximizes your sales funnel by:

2. Lead Magnets

Lead magnets during the interest stage of the sales funnel are effective when used concurrently with blogging.

This is because 95% of website visitors won't return to your site again.

Don't let your blogging traffic exit out of your website and never return.

Retain them with a lead magnet.

Instead of someone reading your blog post then bouncing, offer them a free checklist, template, or additional tips.

During this lead nurturing, the reader gets the opportunity for more value, and you get their email address in exchange.

3. Webinars

Unlike blogging and lead magnets, a webinar is more frequently used at the bottom of sales funnels, specifically in the decision and action stages.

During these later stages, potential leads are looking to solve a specific pain point. A webinar is a perfect way to address how your digital product or service fixes the problem.

Webinars are a highly effective digital marketing strategy β€” they can turn 20-40% of viewers into qualified leads, with 5% purchasing during the webinar itself.

4. Videos

Video can be used in all stages depending on how you use it. For instance, here are sales funnel examples that involve video:

  • Awareness: Youtube or influencer ads
  • Interest: Educational tips on a related topic
  • Decision: Testimonials from current clients
  • Action: Thank you or instructional video

Over 80% of marketers say that video helps with lead generation, traffic, and sales.

Not using video means you're missing out on an extremely viable video marketing strategy.

Leverage Social Media in Your Sales Funnel Strategy

sales funnel - woman with her hand a cup of coffee and her other hand scrolling a smartphone with social media icons popping out of it

Social media strategy is a gold mine that can directly increase the size of your funnel. Here's how to use it to make the biggest impact on your business.

1. Tailor Content to Your Audience's Interests

Slim Jim's Instagram account grew from 5,000 followers to over 1 million in 2 years by posting memes.

This type of content increases brand awareness and fits their audience's interests.

People don't follow the Slim Jim account for news on jerky products. They just want a laugh.

2. Diversify Your Social Media Channels

A potential lead could've seen your business mentioned in a Facebook Ad. Another saw your Instagram reel on the explore page.

To capture these potential customers, post on multiple social channels.

Make sure you are using effective social media management tools and social media analytics to help you manage all of your accounts.

3. Cross-Post Your Other Content

Don't leave your blog posts and lead magnets alone for others to try and find.

Share them on your social media channels so your audience continues to get as much value from you as possible.

Providing this value creates social media engagement until they trust you enough to buy from you.

How to Build Your Sales Funnel

The million-dollar question you might be asking right now:

How do I create a sales funnel?

Follow this sales funnel template to get your revenue funnel up quickly.

1. Analyze the Behavior of Your Audience

Your sales funnel shouldn't be designed to attract everyone.

If it is, you're casting too wide of a net.

Instead, ensure that your sales funnel targets your ideal customer. What is the ideal age, interests, location, or most visited social platforms?

You can research your audience behavior by:

2. Grab the Attention of Your Audience

sales funnel - The Office gif. Phyllis, Bob Vance, and other people in the audience get up from their seats to give a standing ovation, while Leslie David Baker as Stanley looks at us begrudgingly and rises.

A mentality of "If you build it, they will come" doesn't work in inbound marketing.

You must purposely put your brand in front of your ideal customer.

Use social media strategy and the above content funnel methods to continually repurpose your content on multiple platforms.

3. Create a Landing Page

Creating a good landing page is an effective way to nurture a potential buyer by capturing the reader's email.

In fact, landing pages convert at 23%, which is the highest converting form. By comparison, popup forms convert at 3%.

Whether you want the reader to sign up for a free webinar or download an eBook, each landing page should have only one offer and one call to action.

4. Use an Email Marketing Campaign

Remember: building an email list is sacred.

Show them that they made the right choice.

To do this, ensure you're signed up with an email service provider.

Then, set up an email marketing campaign.

Your email marketing campaign can be as simple as a welcome email with your offer or as complex as an automated email marketing sales funnel with multiple emails that build up your offer at the end.

5. Keep the Communication Going

If someone doesn't buy, that doesn't mean the relationship is over.

They just weren't ready to buy yet. Nurture this lead with continued value.

If someone does buy, don't forget about them. Show your appreciation by adding more value, upgrades, and even coupons.

After all, it's common to see coupons for "new customers only" and rarely coupons for an existing customer.

How to Measure the Success of Your Sales Funnel

What does a good sales funnel look like?

There's really only one true measure of an effective sales funnel:

Whether or not it's generating your desired number of sales.

The Best Way to Identify Sales Funnel Weak Spots

What do you do if your sales funnel isn't giving you the sales you want?

You have to find the leak in the funnel.

To do this, review conversion rates at each conversion funnel stage.

For example, if your social media ad has an above-average click-through rate, then you know that's not what's hindering your sales funnel.

But if that ad leads to a landing page where only 1% of readers are signing up, then you have now located what needs improvement.

Lead Generation and Traffic Strategies

Sales funnel marketing depends on leads and traffic. Without them, your funnel stalls.

Here are ways to get your company in front of the perfect potential customers.

1. Influencer Marketing

People love user-generated content and authenticity. Influencers help market your product to an audience that already trusts the authority of that influencer.

2. Referral Marketing

Offer an affiliate marketing or referral program, and people are happy to market your brand and make sales for you. It's a win-win.

3. Search Engine Optimization

Optimizing your SEO content marketing and website for SEO marketing means you're making yourself visible on search engines. If people can't search, they'll never find you.

☝️To really get your content optimized for SEO, check out our list of the top picks for SEO keyword research tools!

4. Paid Ads

Paying for sponsored posts or social media ads can be highly effective in getting your brand out there.

5. Content Marketing

Content marketing is king, and giving away value is what allows customers to find and trust you.

(Pro Tip: Check out our top picks for content marketing platforms and content marketing tools!)

6. Cold Outreach

Sometimes, pitching yourself is an effective strategy for getting noticed. Reaching out directly to other brands can also get your foot in the door.

7. Great Customer Service

You can offer phone calls without 30-minute hold times, 24/7 chat boxes, or even just fast email responses.

Plus, you get direct insight into what a repeat customer has questions about.

Strategies for Engagement

Does your content address what your audience cares about?

Below are highly effective content marketing strategies that skyrocket customer engagement.

1. Case Studies

People love reading real-life stories of others who have successfully solved the problem they're currently going through.

2. Content Upgrades

Give additional content in exchange for an email address. This additional content could be secret tips, an accompanying worksheet, or a related template.

3. Social Media Live Demos

Utilize social media video marketing to showcase your product or service live on social media to create trust and authenticity.

4. Engaging Copy

Even the most captivating product won't go anywhere if the copy is written like a textbook. Make sure each line of copy has a purpose.

5. Images

People are visual learners. Whether through product images or educational infographics, use images in your social media content.

Conversion Strategies

Sometimes, a lead just needs a little extra push to buy. Use these strategies to nudge that prospect into becoming a customer.

1. Provide Urgency

Countdowns and limited-time offers influence customers to buy now rather than in two weeks, eight months, or never.

2. Create Time-Sensitive Webinars

Similar to providing urgency, this educates while creating scarcity. Create a webinar with an offer that is only available during the webinar itself.

3. Give Social Proof

Would you rather buy a product with 100+ reviews or 1 review?

Use testimonials (video and written), reviews, or even influencers to create social proof that your product has already worked for other people.

4. Offer Free Trials

If you're selling a high-ticket item, let your customers try it for free. Once they fall in love with your product, they won't be able to go without it after the free trial ends.

5. Get On Sales Calls

Customer service can go a long way. If a prospect has questions, personally jump on a call with them. That extra 15 minutes of your time can create a lifelong customer.

Optimize Your Sales Funnel

What you assume will resonate with your audience might not be true in reality.

Continuously improve your sales funnel with marketing tools so you can be confident that you're addressing your customers' needs and buying process.

Here are ways you can optimize it.

1. A/B Test

Not just one ad against another, but A/B test different headlines, your offer, or even the color of your CTA button.

2. Track Analytics

What's your average click-through rate on emails or your bounce rate on a landing page?

Knowing these marketing analytics helps you identify what your target audience is doing in real-time.

3. Improve Mobile

People who have a negative experience with your mobile website are 62% less likely to purchase from you in the future.

4. Website Experience

Maybe your copy is perfect, your CTA is brilliant, and your price is undeniable.

None of that matters if your audience doesn't like your website. Something as simple as page speed can affect sales β€” 40% of customers won't wait more than 3 seconds for a page to load.

Sales Funnel Management

As a business owner, it never feels like there are enough hours in a day.

Marketing automation can help. In fact, it helped 77% of companies increase conversions.

Here's how marketing automation can solve the three most common issues that can cost you a sale.

1. Don't Dismiss Those "No's"

When a prospect says no, don't move on.

If you do, you're missing out on a huge number of sales.

Only 3% of customers in your target audience are actually ready to buy. The other 97% either aren't ready or are only just beginning their search.

How do you nurture those who aren't ready to buy?

By using automated email list segmentation, you can gently nurture your lead by addressing their specific concerns based on their "no" reason.

2. Follow-Up, Follow-Up, Follow-Up

80% of customers need 5-12 contacts with you before they're ready to buy.

Here's how you can use marketing automation to create these follow-ups:

  • Vary touchpoints. Does your prospect let calls go straight to voicemail but will respond to a text in seconds? Vary your automated messages over different mediums.
  • Be consistent. Ensure your brand stays at the front of their minds with your value-packed content.
  • Behavior-triggered emails. Create an email funnel based on how someone interacts with your emails.

3. Don't Wait Too Long

Increase your sales just by responding faster than your competitors do.

After all, 30-50% of customers buy from the company that responded first.

If someone is interested outside of working hours, send an automated message. This message can include answers to common questions, a scheduler for a phone call, or even a 24/7 chat box option.

Is Your Sales Funnel Setup to Maximize Results?

The importance of a successful sales funnel can't be overlooked.

Knowing the sales funnel stages and what content strategy best fits each stage allows you to optimize your sales funnels confidently.

Before you know it, you'll stop hearing crickets and will start experiencing sales like never before.

Charis Barg is a certified freelance content marketing writer, specializing in writing SEO-based articles. She mainly writes content related to personal finance and SaaS. For writing samples, check out her portfolio or LinkedIn profile. She also writes personal finance articles on her blog, Choose Frugal, and on BuzzFeed.