#21: The 5 main stages of any Sales Funnel

I believe in learning and investing in training. That goes for formal education as well as short online courses created by people who have experienced (and ideally also results) doing something I want to learn. 

However, when it comes to a digital marketing (which seems to be the only option for many business owners during the Coronavirus era), deciding on training most useful to you, it’s not so easy.

Especially when you are new to marketing. 

Helpful ads

As a marketing newbie, it’s easy to get confused and overwhelmed with so many options for free and paid training to choose from.

On any platform where most solopreneurs start their marketing activities, there are many ads promising a free education in which we will be given the secret to six-figure business (seen as the first step towards becoming a millionaire). 

Just scrolling through Instagram today, I saw 10 different ads, all inviting me to some kind of free training that would demystify a particular area of business or marketing. 

Every single ad convinces us that their solution is the Holy Grail of marketing and promotion: from webinars to sales pages, from email marketing to running workshops and events, Facebook groups, getting 100K followers on a particular social media platform, running ads and so on. The more aggressive advertisers will convince you that all other systems are dead and are no longer working. 

“Facebook ads and webinars are dead…”

Recently, I came across my favourite ad of all time! It was telling me how webinars and Facebook ads are no longer working (mind you, they targeted me via a Facebook ad). The only marketing system that works these days is theirs (of course) but…  it’s a secret! 

However, since they like me (oh, thanks) they have this video made especially for me (so sweet) for which I should sign up now, because, of course, there is a limited number of places and it’s only available for a limited time (a sure sign of an evergreen webinar page awaiting my visit). 

What really works

It took me a long time to uncover and understand the real secret behind the best marketing strategy. If you want to hear what it is – signs up for my free webinar…  (kidding).

Here is the secret: 

All marketing strategies are valid and they all work. Your choice will depend on what you are selling, to whom and what is the best method for you and your business? It will also depend on how many clients or customers your business needs in order to make a profit.

Each marketing method might not convert straight away. It will require some testing, learning and development of expertise. 

However, a good marketing strategy will never include just one method. It will utilise different forms of marketing for different stages of the customer journey. 

In other words: it’s not what you do, it’s why you are doing it that matters. What are you hoping to achieve by deploying this particular method? 

This is where we are venturing into the topic of Sales Funnels or Sales Pipelines as other people call it.

WHAT IS A SALES FUNNEL

The best way to think of a sales funnel is to imagine yourself on a piece of land surrounded by a river. On the other side of the river are several groups of ‘your people’: those who could benefit from what you are selling. 

Many of these people don’t even know they have a problem. Another group is aware of it, but don’t know what to do about it. A much smaller group knows they have a problem and have already tried different ways to solve it, which didn’t work. Only a tiny number know you.

To help these people come to you and have their problem fixed, you need to do the following: 

  • You need to get their attention so they listen to what you have to say
  • You need to make them trust you so they come closer and listen for long enough so you can build a rapport (know, trust and like factor)
  • You have to help them cross the river so they can come to you
  • You have to help them make a decision to buy from you by reassuring them that it is a good investment of money and time and that it will actually help them fix their problem

You do that by utilizing different forms of marketing that have all these groups of people in mind. 

THE FIVE MAIN STAGES OF A SALES FUNNEL

A funnel is a path from where your customer is to your offer. It’s made of small rocks (these are often different pieces of content) that you put across that river to help people from all these groups come to you.

There are five stages elements of any sales funnel: 

THE OFFER

Many teaching around funnels starts with discussing the traffic, the audience building part. I believe that the first thing we should do when building a funnel is to first evaluate the offer. 

What you are selling should be determined by who is your audience. Their needs, their values and how advanced they are in the subject, should inform what you sell.

Before you start building the path, you first have to answer two questions: 

  • Do I have the right offer for the people I’m speaking to? 
  • Am I speaking to the people with a problem that my offer fixes? 

NEW AUDIENCE (ALSO CALLED TRAFFIC)

This is where you find people to add to your funnel. At first, they are your ‘cold’ leads. They don’t know who you are and why they should trust you, but they have a problem and they are looking for ways to solve it.  Which marketing strategies you use to continuously find new people, will depend on who you want to attract.

ENGAGEMENT STAGE

Once you get their attention, you want as many of them to engage. This could mean a one to one conversation or signing up for a freebie.This could also be an invitation to an event. At this stage, you are finding out who is interested in what you have to say and who is willing to listen to you for longer.

NURTURING STAGE

At this stage, you are warming your prospects up. This is when you guide and educate your audience while building their trust. This stage can last from two hours (for example, on a well structured and delivered webinar), a few days (i.e. in a strategically written email sequence), to a few years. 

MAKING INVITATIONS

For many early stage business owners, especially service providers, this is often the most difficult stage of a sales funnel: inviting someone to buy. This stage also includes following up, as people need reminders or discounts as well as special offers.

HOW LONG DOES A CLIENT JOURNEY LAST?

That depends on many aspects: who is the client and how ready they are to solve that problem. How good are your marketing and conversion abilities? How expensive is your offer? Finally, on the relation, you’ve built with your client as well as your client’s personal circumstances. 

My friend, who is an artist, had been nurturing a relationship with a certain couple for many years. They loved his art and kept coming back to his exhibitions but they were only in a position to buy from him four years after they first met. By this point, the couple had a new home and was ready to decorate and invest in his artwork. 

A coach, whose workshop I attended last year, had many examples of women who followed her for five, seven even ten years before they bought into one of her programs. 

I’m sharing these examples, as waiting for clients to make a buying decision can be agonising. Sometimes, it might feel like you are doing something wrong or not enough. 

The way to overcome this is to build a solid path towards your offer and never wait for just one person at the time. The more people you get at the top of a funnel, the bigger number of them will get to the end. 

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