Technology is a powerful tool to enable your marketing and sales processes. But understanding which technology to use, when it’s appropriate and how to use it can be instrumental in leveraging the sales funnel stages. The Sales Funnel process is merely a predictable course of transactions that your prospects and clients follow when engaging with you. While many different technologies are available to market your business, it’s important to understand where your prospects and clients fall within the purchase continuum. The dialogue, language and tools you use to communicate your message will then have the opportunity for the greatest impact.
Let’s review the sales funnel and identify the content value and tools that are best suited for each stage.
Stage One: Awareness Starting with a basic need or desire, prospects begin by searching for solutions that have the ability to meet their need. This may be done in a variety of ways including searching online, ads, promotional emails, social media posts, networking offline, word-of-mouth or offline discovery.
The best tools that correlate to these actions may include SEO, Facebook ads, introduction emails, business cards, social media platforms (i.e. Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc..). Tools that are ineffective at this stage might include texting (too personal), auto responder straight sales offers (offered too soon in the relationship) or continued social media selling.
So often in our attempt to sell, we forget that we are also consumers. Being “pitched to” over and over without establishing credibility or providing value will often result in your prospect seeking alternative solutions. Think about what would attract you and start with that tool first.
Stage Two: Consideration Once your prospect has determined or been made aware of your possible options, they move to the consideration stage. This is where they and begin to filter the results by criteria such as value to price, relevancy, recommendations, or incentives.
The technology tools that are useful in this stage may include newsletters, short auto responder value series, direct emails, webinars, live online events, information workshops, ebooks, white papers, blueprints, outlines, industry content or media promotion. These tools should represent content and information that provide detailed value that the prospect can use to make a decision. Positioning yourself as the expert to support them in this process is what the tools should focus on. Now is not the time to sell… that comes next.
Stage Three: Transaction Following the consideration stage, your prospect makes a selection and enters into the transaction stage in order to buy. Since 82% of prospects who pass from the consideration phase result in an inquiry, email or online communication it’s important to make the buying process as simple and direct as possible. Be sure to identify what the product(s) or service(s) are that being purchased, the price, taxes (if any), handling charges (if any), expected delivery time and method of delivery. And, don’t forget to provide a receipt and thank your customer for the sale!!
The tools for this stage and the buying process may be collected by webpage, sales cart, shopping cart systems, merchant solutions system, CRM solution or a simple “Buy Now” option such as PayPal. Many of these solutions provide all the setup you require including a thank you page and integrated electronic download options. For complex sales processes, some solutions provide upsell and downsell opportunities to offer additional products and services during the sales process. But for your initial transaction, remember keep it simple… or you could lose that sale!
Stage Four: Loyalty After that first transaction, you have now created a relationship with your customer. The data and information you collected during the consideration and transaction stages can help deepen the relationship by providing “after purchase” content and related information that further supports your client. The content value that you provide should be richer, more detailed and be more personal in nature. The systems you use to convey your material should support this process.
If the prospect has provided you permission to text them… do so. You may send a personal email thanking them. Auto responder emails should now be personalized and share other supporting products and services (without direct selling) and invite your customer or client to engage with you further. You might consider using surveys, VIP programs, continuity programs, bonuses and special opportunities for clients only. The tools you use may include both online and offline marketing systems. As with any relationship development, just remember it takes time… so don’t be in a rush. You are working towards building a fan base that receives consistent and deeper value.
Stage Five: Advocacy Finally, some customers who have developed a deep relationship with you or have been affected significantly by your products, services or information will move to the advocacy stage. These will be the people who have internalized a sense of loyalty and are happy to support, recommend and even promote your business. Nearly 90% of consumers report believing recommendations from friends, so they are a very powerful resource as your business grows.
The tools to support your advocates varies from all the other stages in terms of higher quality of content and personal interaction. Tools such as exclusive emails, personal calls or sharing of direct contact information, in-depth testimonials or referral programs, client “spotlight” programs, VIP or platinum level support programs with your personal touch, one-on-one high level coaching, referrals to partner solutions, exclusive invitations to intimate events are the online and offline tools that create deeper relationships and a sense of personal concern for your client and their specific needs. At this stage, it is likely that you know your best clients by name, remember to incorporate their needs in your overall sales and marketing strategies. As a business owner, understanding the Sales Funnel stages and the various technology tools is essential to developing a competitive advantage both online and offline. You must also keep in mind that your prospects or customers may enter or exit the funnel at any stage. Building the funnel and content is only the beginning of the entire process. Monitoring your funnel and keeping track of your campaigns and conversions are processes that need to be integrated into your overall sales strategy.
As you build your funnel, consider the way you search, how you interact with potential businesses and the places you spend your money. While there is a start to your purchase funnel, there is no end, because the purchase funnel is an ongoing customer experience where the gap between your customers needs meet the solutions you provide.