How do you turn strangers into happy customers?
You can put your product on the market and hope for the best… Or you can use a proven system: the 4-step conversion funnel.
The conversion funnel is a model where prospects go through 4 stages: awareness, interest, desire, and action. By the 4th stage, a complete stranger turns into a customer. Specific tactics, like Google Ads, are mapped out across all 4 stages.
As Australia’s top-rated marketing agency, we’ve helped clients create and optimise 6, 7, and 8-figure funnels. In today’s guide, we’ll walk through what a conversion funnel is, creating your first funnel, and more. Let’s dive in with…
What Is A Conversion Funnel?
A conversion funnel (or sales funnel) is a way to visualise the customer journey. It’s also the series of marketing processes behind the customer journey.
For example, the top of your funnel is “Awareness” or “Attention”. The processes you use to get people’s attention are Top of Funnel (TOFU) marketing efforts. Examples of TOFU efforts include cold email outreach and most blog posts.
Below, let’s talk about the 4 stages in some more detail.
The 4 Stages of a Conversion Funnel
“Awareness” is the first stage of a conversion funnel. In “Awareness”, prospects become aware of a need or problem. They may not be aware that your company or product exists yet – but they’re looking to change something.
Your goal here is to get in front of your target audience and introduce them to your brand. You want to get them thinking about possible solutions. You’re not trying to sell yet; just showing up and saying “hi” to potential customers.
There are a number of ways to generate awareness, for example:
- Social media ads
- SEM advertising
- Organic search traffic
- Cold email marketing
- Social media content
In the awareness stage of the conversion funnel, it’s important to cast a wide net but still focus on those likely to buy. You want to hit as many potential customers as possible while ignoring non-buyers.
“Interest” is the second stage of the conversion funnel. In this stage, prospects are aware of a problem or need. They are now looking for possible solutions and exploring your product.
Some ways to drive people from Awareness to Interest include:
- Email sequences
- Free classes and webinars
- Downloadable content: guides, reviews, etc
- Middle-of-funnel blog content
- Free tools
- Case studies
In the Interest stage, we’re still not trying to sell. Instead, we want to give prospects valuable content that educates or entertains. While doing that, we establish our brand as an authority and our product – as the perfect solution.
It’s important to note that not all prospects will progress through the Interest stage. Some will move on to Desire immediately; others may drop off after Awareness. The more qualified the traffic you generate in the Awareness stage, the more people move on to Desire.
In the Desire stage, your goal is to make prospects actively want your product or service. This is when we’re starting to sell them on what we have!
By this point, prospects should understand their problem or need… And increasingly see your product as the best possible solution. Your job in Desire is to show prospects your product is what they want and need.
The tactics used in this stage include:
- Sales pages
- Free consultations
- Product demos
- Coupons and discounts
- Trial offers
- Customer testimonials and reviews
- And more
The Action stage is the fourth and final stage of the sales funnel. In this stage, prospects are ready to buy your product or service.
They understand their problem or need, they’ve seen your product as the best possible solution, and now they just need that final push to make a purchase. This final step can take the form of…
- On-page calls-to-action (CTAs)
- Sales calls
- In-person meetings (if relevant)
- Checkout pages
Only a small percentage of prospects will make it all the way to the Action stage. Most will drop off at some point in the funnel. The better your funnel, the less friction you’re going to see at each stage – and the more people get to Action.
Conversion Funnel vs Customer Journey: What’s the Difference?
The customer journey is the specific path a customer takes as they move through the conversion funnel.
A key difference between the customer journey and conversion funnel is that the conversion funnel is linear, while the customer journey is not. A customer may start at any point on their journey, and move backwards or forwards as they please.
A customer journey may have people move from Interest to Awareness, from a social media post to a checkout page and back again. A conversion funnel only has 4 steps; it doesn’t matter what order or sequence people go through them in.
10 Steps To An Optimised Sales Conversion Funnel
We’ve helped hundreds of clients get incredible results with our conversion funnel methodology. Here’s how you can steal our best practices in just 10 steps.
1. Map Out the Customer Journey
Want an accurate conversion funnel? Start by mapping out your customer journey.
What do potential customers see first; an ad, an email? What happens between that and them making a purchase? The better you understand this, the better you can map out your conversion funnel.
Helpful things to consider:
- What your buyer’s journey is currently like; what are your marketing assets and efforts?
- What action you want a prospect to ultimately take
- How you can optimise the journey for better experiences and conversions
The more you think about it, the likelier you are to end up with a conversion funnel that’s true to life (and your target audience).
2. Determine OKRs
Next, determine the metrics you’ll use to measure performance at each funnel stage.
Common Awareness stage metrics include:
- Social media engagement
- Email sign up rate
- Organic search traffic
- Advertisement CTR
Some common Interest stage metrics include:
- Downloads of gated content (e.g. ebooks, whitepapers, etc.)
- Email sequence Click-Through-Rates (CTR)
- Time spent on site
Common Desire stage metrics include:
- Free trial sign-ups
- Webinar sign-ups
- Initial sales calls
For Action, only two metrics really matter:
- Purchases initiated
- Purchases completed
It’s important your metrics are value metrics, not vanity metrics. Focus on OKRs that drive bottom-line revenue. For example, a social media post may get lots of likes, but if that doesn’t translate into sales and revenue, those likes don’t matter.
To make sure you’re measuring OKRs accurately, use analytics tools from our marketing app recommendation list.
3. Set Goals for Each Funnel Stage
Once you’ve mapped out your funnel and determined your OKRs, set goals for each funnel stage. The primary goal should always move prospects forward. All secondary goals should be tied to the primary goal.
So, for example, you have an app. Your primary goal in the Awareness stage is getting eyeballs on your app. Metrics that measure that could include engagement, web traffic, PPC ad impressions, etc.
4. Develop A Mini-Plan For Each Stage
Each conversion funnel stage needs its own specific marketing plan. The same channel and message that got a prospect’s attention might not get their interest, let alone their sale.
That’s why you need a mini-plan for each stage of your conversion funnel. The mini-plan should include focus activities for each stage; here’s what we find works best:
Awareness Stage: SEO, social media, content marketing, paid advertising
Interest Stage: Email marketing, lead capture, webinars, retargeting
Desire Stage: Demo requests, sales calls, pricing page views
Action Stage: Customer testimonials, free trials, case studies, product reviews
Make sure you’re not pursuing too many marketing activities at once. It’s better to focus on a few high-quality activities and do them well, rather than trying to do everything at once and doing it all poorly. We recommend focusing on 1 or 2 tactics at a time.
5. Find Any Holes In Your Conversion Funnel
A leaky funnel is one that’s losing prospects excessively. Some prospects will naturally drop off because they are not a good fit for your product or service. Still, we want to hold on to as many prospects as we can and turn those into customers.
There are a number of reasons why prospects might drop off. It could be that your messaging isn’t resonating with them, they’re not seeing the value in your product, or they’re getting confused and giving up. It could be you’re sending traffic from the wrong platform.
Whatever the reason, it’s important to identify any leaks in your funnel and fix them as soon as possible. The longer you let a leak persist, the more prospects you’ll lose.
6. Optimise Each Stage of the Funnel
Once you’ve identified and fixed any leaks in your funnel, the next step is to start optimizing. This involves identifying and improving some part of your funnel – from traffic source to marketing messages to pricing.
Start with areas that have the biggest impact. For example, if you’re losing prospects at the Awareness stage, focus on optimizing “Awareness”-stage processes like your social media strategy and paid ad targeting.
Once you’ve identified an area for optimisation, run A/B tests to see which changes improve results. Try different messaging, call-to-actions, images, etc. and see what increases conversion rates.
It’s important to test one variable at a time so you know which change is producing which results. You should also periodically check your data to see how prospects move through the funnel, e.g. using Google Analytics. This can help you find more funnel elements to optimise.
7. Reduce Friction
Each stage of the conversion funnel has a little friction to it. Taking out a credit card to pay for something produces friction. So does clicking on an ad.
Your job is to make this friction minimal as potential customers go through your conversion funnel.
So if you’re trying to get their email, make sure the sign-up form is easy to find and fill out. Offer something in exchange for the email – a free ebook, a discount, a free consultation.
If you’re trying to get them to request a demo, make sure the button is prominently displayed with legible writing. Make the value of the demo as clear as possible.
The easier your funnel is to move through, the easier your marketing to say “yes” to – the better you’re going to do.
8. Nurture Leads Automatically
Leads take as many as 7 touch points to turn into customers. That’s why it’s important to nurture them. The more you reach out to a lead, the more likely they are to buy from you in the end.
This is where automations come in. You can use automation tools like Zapier to send personal emails to new subscribers, offer timed discounts, upsell to recent customers, and more. You can also use them to re-engage inactive leads and return them to the funnel.
Automation lets you nurture a large number of leads with personalised messages. But it’s important to remember that automation is not a replacement for human interaction. Reach out to people personally at critical touch points.
9. Retain Customers
Just because a customer makes a purchase doesn’t mean they’re going to remain a customer. To retain your customers, you need to continue providing value after they’ve made a purchase.
This can be done in a number of ways, such as through customer support, educational content, and exclusive offers.
It’s also important to keep an eye on your customer churn rate. This is the percentage of customers who stop doing business with you over a given period of time. A high churn rate is a sign that something is wrong with your funnel or your business.
If this is the case, you need to identify the reasons why customers are leaving and adapt. For example, if you’re losing customers because they’re not happy with your product, you need to make changes to the way you’re selling your product or the product itself.
Reducing customer churn is essential for any business that wants to be successful in the long term.
10. Test All the Time (TAT)
Your conversion funnel is more dynamic than static. As new trends emerge, it’ll need to evolve and adapt to them.
For example, a traffic source that’s very profitable today – let’s say Facebook Ads – may be replaced by another traffic source, e.g. Google Ads. When this happens, you need to be ready to change some or all of your funnel to keep making money.
Test new traffic sources, new marketing materials, even new products and pricing levels. The more you test, the faster you learn.
A conversion funnel is a crucial part of any business’s marketing strategy. It allows you to track your leads as they turn into customers and adjust your funnel accordingly.
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