How to Improve the Middle of Your Sales Funnel

How do you talk about your leads? Are all leads the same—a person expresses interest and they’re just a lead, no matter what?

If that’s the beginning and end of your lead qualification process, then you’re probably not collecting enough data and you’re not doing enough to make sure your customers get through the sales funnel with as little trouble—and as much chance of conversion—as possible.

For starters, you as a company have to ask yourself: Who is your ideal customer? Although they’re all different, what characteristics do they share and how can you monitor them for some specific actions? What actions should they be taking to let you know that they’re moving along—and when are you going to lose them (or when will they get stuck in the sales funnel)? This graphic helps you understand more about the sales funnel and what you can do to improve yours.

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Encourage Customer Journeys and Improve the Middle of Your Funnel

Via Salesforce

New Series: The Marketing Funnel

The marketing funnel - sometimes called the sales funnel, the purchase funnel, or the buyer’s journey, - is a fundamental concept in marketing for understanding the step by step process that consumers go through to make a purchasing decision.

The marketing funnel varies slightly depending on who you ask, with some steps added over time to include post-purchase steps. In some industries, the buying process is shorter than others, and so consumers move through steps more quickly. But the same basic model still exists.

For the next eight weeks, we will break down the marketing funnel step-by-step, elaborating on what each step in the process means and how marketers can use tried and true strategies to help move customers on the path to conversion.

To start, here is a quick overview of the marketing funnel we will be using.

How to Improve Your Sales Funnel

Yesterday’s post was all about sales funnel analysis. It is the necessary lead up to today’s post, so if you didn’t get a chance to read it already, quickly do that now.

What you should have now is a full look at your sales funnel, with audience sizes for each layer or level, and conversion rates going from each level to the next.

Using that as your baseline, now you need to identify which transition you want to improve. Do you want to get more people from Intent to Purchase? Purchase to Loyalty? Awareness to Interest?

You might ask, how do I pick one? The truth is, most marketers over time will focus on all levels of the funnel. But you want to start where you see the most opportunity. Where is your conversion rate lowest? Where are most people falling out of the funnel?

If it’s a toss-up, flip a coin. Know that you can’t go wrong. If you improve one level of the funnel, it should improve the overall performance. Then you move on to the next level and keep going until you’ve hit them all.

Once you have decided which level you are looking to affect, now it’s time to decide what to do to improve it. Make a list of all the things you do today that impact the conversion rate at that level of the funnel. At the bottom of this post I will list some examples for each level.

Once you have your list of what you do today, make a list of changes, new processes, and other ideas you think will improve performance. Assign a cost to each one, and an expected outcome. Then prioritize them based on the expected return on each activity. For example, if one idea will cost you nothing to put in place and you expect it to improve conversion rate by 1%, that would likely go at the top of your list.

Then execute those ideas at the top of your list and measure the impact that they have. I know it sounds like I’m simplifying a complicated process here, and I am. But at a high level, that’s all you have to do.

Some ideas for each level of the funnel:

  • Grow UNQUALIFIED PROSPECTS through new products, new features, or new uses for your products, thereby growing the target market
  • Grow AWARENESS through social media outreach, PR, and advertising
  • Grow INTEREST through email marketing and an improved website experience
  • Grow CONSIDERATION through special offers and promotions
  • Grow INTENT through outbound and inbound sales processes, discounts and deadlines, and promotional literature
  • Grow PURCHASE through sales people and coaching, pricing plans, contracts and checkout process improvement
  • Grow LOYALTY through membership programs, exclusive offers, email, surveys, and customer service improvements

How to Analyze Your Sales Funnel

Last week we took our first look at your sales funnel. Here are the different levels we used, from top down:

  • Unqualified Prospects
  • Awareness
  • Interest
  • Consideration
  • Intent
  • Purchase
  • Loyalty

Your company or industry might use variations on those terms, but for the most part the meanings and buckets will be the same.

So once you have a clear picture of your funnel, the next thing you need to do is begin to analyze it. How do you do that?

You start by assigning numbers to each level. How many people are in the pool of unqualified prospects? How many are in the awareness stage? And so on.

It might be difficult to get to exact numbers for each one, but you should have a sense, based on your own internal metrics and tracking.

You should know how big your target market is. If you got every single person in the market to purchase from you, how many people would that be?

You should know how many people came to your website, filled out your forms, became a sales lead, and purchased. And you should also know how many customers came back and made a repeat purchase. Adding a little bit of art to this science, you will end up with good estimates for each level on the funnel.

When you write those numbers down, you can do some quick math to see what percentage of people from each level make it down to the next level. This is your conversion rate at each stage.

For example, let’s say you have a total market size of 1000 people. That’s what you write down next to Unqualified Prospects. And you’ve judged 500 people to be in the awareness stage or beyond, meaning they have had some exposure to your brand. So you have an awareness rate of 50%.

Calculate that percentage throughout the funnel and you will have a complete look at the effectiveness of each stage of the sales process.

Tomorrow, we’ll take that analysis one step further and talk about how to use those numbers to improve your sales funnel.

Know Your Funnel

When marketers talk about funnels, we’re talking about the process that takes a person from not ever having heard about our brand to becoming a paying customer. You’ll often hear it referred to as a sales funnel, and it has a number of steps.

It can take many forms, depending on your business and industry, but generally it looks like this:

  • Unqualified prospects make up the largest group, this is your target market, all those people you might turn into customers.
  • Awareness is the second level down, where some percentage of that top group has now heard about your brand or product somehow.
  • Interest comes one step further, where some group of those in the awareness bucket have now taken an action to investigate your offers.
  • Consideration is next. Here, not only are they interested, but they are actively weighing your brand against your competitors.
  • Intent is the next level down the funnel, where they have chosen you as the company they wish to purchase from.
  • Purchase is the final level at the very bottom of the funnel. There, the final sale has been made.

I would argue that marketers take the funnel a step further, adding loyalty as a stage when those who make a first purchase come back and make another.

Regardless whether or not your funnel matches the one described above, the important first step is outlining it. Once you know your funnel, you can start to fill in the numbers necessary to do a full funnel analysis. How many people are at each stage, what are your conversion rates, and where can you make changes to get more people further down the funnel.