What's a sales funnel? how can freelancers & small business use them?
By Steven Bennett
If you have had worked in, or skirted around, a sales or marketing department there is a good chance you will have heard of funnels. Often found in conversations about low hanging fruit, KPIs and ROIs, they have become synonymous with the cringy sales guy or online “guru” trying to sell you a get rich quick courses. Unfortunately, due to these associations, sales funnels can feel a little cold to many who consciously avoid using them on their beloved customers.
The truth is, for all the negative association many have with sales funnels, they are actually very useful if you run a business that involves turning strangers into customer, aka most businesses.
What is a sales funnel?
A sales funnel is a process in which you turn a prospect (not yet a customer but has potential) in to a customer by using a number of pre-defined steps.
The term funnel is used simply as an analogy of the process whereas a large number of prospects enter at the top and are funnelled down to the other end where they reappear as beautiful customers.
This is achieved by breaking the sales funnel into specific stages, each of which has been designed to deepen the commitment the prospect has to buying your products or services.
Should freelancers and small businesses use sales funnels?
Yes definitely, a sales funnel isn’t a creepy technique that’s reserved for online scammer. Sales funnels can provide you with a blueprint that works far better than just winging it. A good sales funnel can improve the experience for your prospect and, once you have developed a strong funnel, give you a much better chance of turning them into long term customers. In fact, if you advertise online, have a website or have a newsletter, there’s a high chance you are using a sales funnel already without even knowing it.
Do I need to build my own sales funnel or are they set?
Although technically you can build a sales funnel with as many stages as you want, the most common type of funnel, known as AIDA, has four key stages. These include:
Each of these is a key stage in the funnel process and although the stages in an AIDA funnel are generally fixed, the methods used within each stage aren’t.
The type of industry your business operates in, the persona of your clients and your products and services can all have an effect on how your funnel should be built. For this reason, we recommend you think long and hard about your business model and how one should be incorporate into your business.
Before we look into each stage a little closer, lets clear one thing up.
What is the difference between a sales funnel and a marketing funnel?
The terms marketing funnel and sales funnel are often used interchangeably, this is often due to difficulty determining where each one begins and ends.
In a nutshell, the marketing funnels sits at the top of the funnel and is responsible for turning strangers into leads through methods such as advertising. Whereas the sales funnel carries the process on, following up where the marketing funnel ends.
For the purpose of this article we will call the whole process a sales funnel.
What should I consider when building a sales funnel?
The two most important things you need to consider when designing your sales funnel are your prospects/customers and the desired outcome of your funnel. Think about who your customers are, what their needs are and what action it is you want them to take. Finally, it needs to be well organised and understood by your sales and marketing teams.
The best way to build a funnel is by using your past sales data. By analysing your successes and failures, you the ability to identify which stages should be used, adapted or discarded.
If starting out, and you don’t have the luxury of past data, you will need to look closely at your business and think about the methods and options you and your team have available. In this case, budgets, skillsets and time availability will all need consideration.
Building your sales funnel
As a small business or freelancer, you may feel that sales funnels are something that only larger enterprises use as they don’t have time, manpower, skillset or financial restraints. The truth is, sales funnels can and should be used if you are a small business or freelancer. In fact it’s likely that many of the things you already do can be used in a sales funnel. Here are a few examples that can be used in the AIDA sales funnel, with relatively low cost and time investment.
Blogging is a great way to generate awareness and Interest in your products and services. By using SEO and writing engaging copy you can reach customers organically through search engines (for free) and promote your blogs through social media to encourage sharing of your work to larger audiences.
Blogs are also great because they can have an unlimited shelf life.
By covering topics relevant to your business that has the potential of being relevant years into the future your articles have the potential of raising awareness and interest in your product for a long time to come.
Lead magnets are little “gifts” that can be given to prospects to add value and invoke interest. An example of this is a free eBook.
By giving your prospects something that they perceive as valuable you can position your business at the front of their mind whilst also obtaining valuable information such as their email address.
Great lead magnets tend to solve a problem, they are specific, quick and easy to digest, add value and demonstrate your expertise.
If offering a lead magnet, don’t forget to include a call to action. This often forget touch is a great way of guiding them closer to making a decision and taking action.
Videos are great anywhere in the funnel as long as the message and topic suite. They be used as advertisements at the awareness stage, found in YouTube and Google searches, used as a virtual salesperson and can be used to simplify complex information. They are also versatile enough to be placed on landing pages, product pages, emails and more.
Use videos often, but make sure their message has been crafted to suite the stage they are used.
Sales funnel tools
I hope I have convinced you to start using sales funnels in your small business or freelancing efforts. By building one, and refining it, you are guaranteed to start seeing results. Having the clarity of what actions need to be taken at each stage and having a more predictable system than winging it, you are sure to reap the benefits.
Within our set of tools, we place sales funnels highly. We provide customisable forms that you can embed onto your website or other landing pages for gathering leads and allow you to create customer funnels that can be modified and adapted as you wish.
If you have any queries regarding sales funnels or have experience in using them, we would love to hear from you.