If you’ve been doing this online business thing for any amount of time, you’ve seen the term “sales funnel.”
But do you know what a sales funnel is? Or are you intimidated because it sounds complicated and a little scary?
Today, we’re going to break it down and answer the question “what is a sales funnel,” as well as take a look at how to plan your first sales funnel.
What is an online sales funnel?
The first question people usually have is “what is an online sales funnel?”
It sounds so complicated and “internet-markety.”
The first thing to understand is that sales funnels are not unique to the online world.
Every business has a sales funnel. Your business has a sales funnel. Heck, even when I was a banker we had sales funnels.
It was easy to understand our sales funnel in the banking world because we had names for each stage in the process and fancy-schmancy software that produced a funnel-shaped visual showing how much potential business was in each stage of the funnel.
And therein lies the answer. A sales funnel is simply a visual representation of the path someone takes from prospect to lead to customer.
The sales funnel in banking starts with customer calls, then leads to an application for a loan (or other banking product), then moves to the approval process, and ends with closing.
A typical online sales funnel starts with driving traffic to a landing page, getting the prospect to opt-in to your email list, and ends when you make the sale.
Understanding the process means that you can be strategic about the path your customer takes. And when you have a strategic sales funnel, you’ll make more sales, have higher profits, and ultimately have a more stable business.
Get started with a simple online sales funnel
Let’s keep things simple and start with a basic three-stage sales funnel.
Stage 1: your funnel starts with free content
The top of the funnel usually starts with free content. This could be blog posts, social media content, or YouTube videos. Your audience can access this information at no cost.
This is where prospects enter your funnel (hence why it’s at the top). You could also think of this as where they start down the customer path.
Stage 2: add an enticing opt-in offer
The next step in the funnel is your opt-in offer. Now, this content is still available at no charge, but the prospect gives you something – an email address – in exchange for the content.
Your free opt-in offer might be an e-book, checklist, video series, template or other valuable content. This free opt-in offer is often called a “lead magnet,” because at this stage your reader moves from being a prospect to a lead.
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Stage 3: make a low-cost offer
Once you have the email address, you can begin presenting your lead with a series of low-cost offers.
You can make an offer immediately on a thank-you/upsell page (also known as a tripwire page). Or you can begin to make offers via email.
The advantage for the reader is that a low-cost offer has very little risk. They have a chance to “try out” your paid content without spending a lot of money.
The advantage for you is that you’ve turned a lead into a customer. And once someone becomes a customer, they are more likely to buy more products from you at a higher price (this assumes that your paid product meets their expectations – so bring your A-game).
The low-cost offer is a win-win.
How does a sales funnel work?
When you visualize a sales funnel, you see that your free content (at the top of the funnel) goes to the largest audience.
The next band in the funnel is smaller because not everyone who lands on your website is going to give you an email address. So, people start out consuming your completely free content and then a subset of that audience become leads.
People who buy your low-cost offer will be an even smaller group.
Finally, you find your most loyal customers and fans at the funnel’s tip. These are the people who will buy your higher-priced products (and maybe even everything you offer if they are super-fans).
Your job is to create a path that naturally leads your audience all the way from the free content at the top to the higher-priced products at the bottom. The more people that you move through your funnel, the more sales – and money — you’ll make.
Do I need a sales funnel?
If you’re selling anything, you have a sales funnel, even if you don’t realize it.
So the real question is “do you need an automated sales funnel?” And the answer is yes.
As a solopreneur, you must find ways to work smarter and automated sales funnels help you to do that.
Unless you are selling very high-ticket products or services, there’s no way you can make enough 1-to-1 sales to be profitable and efficient. An automated sales funnel works behind the scenes to sell your products and services without you having to be hands-on.
How do I create an online sales funnel?
To create your sales funnel, start at the bottom and work backward.
- Decide what you want the reader to do. What’s your end goal? What action do you want them to take? For example, in the simple sales funnel described above, you want them to buy your low-cost offer. So, decide what that offer will be.
- Decide what kind of freebie you want to offer as an opt-in. Will it be a pdf download? A free challenge? A video series? Your free offer should be closely related to your low-cost offer in order to attract the right kinds of leads.
- Decide where you will present your free offer. This is your free content at the top of the funnel. Will it be on a dedicated landing page? In a blog post? You could even do a series of blog posts, videos, or podcasts that all lead to the same opt-in offer.
- Finally, decide how you will get people to your free content. Will you drive traffic via social media? Will you use paid advertising such as Facebook ads or promoted pins? Will you write guest posts or appear on podcasts?
Beyond the basics: scaling your sales funnels
Once you’ve mastered creating simple online sales funnels, then you can start to scale your funnels.
You can offer order bumps, upsells, and downsells.
Or you can string together multiple sales funnels. When customers buy your low-cost product, you move them into another funnel where you present them with more products or higher-priced services.
Get started by creating a simple sales funnel
For most of us, it’s easy to visualize the top of the funnel. But if you want your solopreneur business to be profitable and to grow (and who doesn’t want that?), then you need to understand how to move people along the path from prospect to lead to customer. And the only way to really learn is to do it.
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Simple Sales Funnels
Grab your free sales funnel planning guide!