How to Build a Meaningful Online Sales Funnel?

One of the core aspects of a successful organization is having spot-on marketing to drive a healthy ROI.

Sales and marketing have a complex relationship that complement each other, with a common thread binding them: the sales funnel. Because of this, it is extremely important to invest time and effort to craft a high-performance sales funnel.

Assuming that you know what a sales funnel is, the most critical question is: how effective is your funnel? When we map out a business’s funnels and assign numbers to them, many of them are stunned by how many people drop out at each step.

Here are some statistics from Hubspot and Marketing Sherpa:

  • 79% of marketing leads never become sales
  • 46% of marketers with quality lead management processes also have sales teams that will follow up on over 75% of their leads.
  • Nurtured leads make 47% larger purchases than those which are not.
  • Leads that are nurtured will increase sales opportunities by 20%.

How to Build a Meaningful Online Sales Funnel

Before we delve further on how to build a strong sales funnel, let us look at some critical factors that make or break the performance of a sales funnel.

  1. Do not have too many steps. (Reason: The more steps you have, the more people you lose during the process.)
  2. Check to make sure you are getting enough people into your funnel. (Reason: Unless your content drives a lot of traffic, you won’t have enough leads into your funnel.)
  3. Make your content shareable. (Reason: To balance the people lost at every stage, ensure high quality content and make the content shareable.)

Now, let us look at some examples of highly successful sales funnels.

The Crazy Egg Funnel is a successful SaaS business with a strong sales funnel. The products they offer have not changed much over the years. They offer an alternative to Google analytics that provides metrics that Google does not. This is important to note, because people often focus on products rather than marketing. Marketing is at least 50% responsible for a product’s success. People must be properly informed about your product and organization, and they must also be convinced that you are who they want and need to do business with.

CrazyEgg receives traffic through referrals, blogs, ads, and people who find their site organically. People are then required to enter an email and password before advancing to the next step. Next, they are presented with pricing, and if they leave the site at that point, a cookie is set so that their next use of the site (assuming they do not clear cookies) is easier. The email they provided is also used to offer them sales assistance and FAQ (frequently asked questions). The next step is the purchase form, and if they entered an email, their information will be automatically filled in.

This is a good funnel because it utilizes a combination of good sales practices and good user experience design. The user is not forced to remember certain details. If the user engages in behavior that suggests that there is a problem, there are mechanisms in place to guide them through the purchasing process. There is a good balance between helping customers and encouraging them to buy without being too aggressive. The site also features an original design (which makes it stand out) and customer-focused copywriting. Another smart feature of the site is the exit-intent popup. This appears when the user’s mouse moves off the page.

The Groupon Sales Funnel is of the fastest growing companies in history. It is now a multi-billion dollar organization. Groupon is a global e-commerce marketplace that connects millions of people to merchants. Activities, goods, services, and other assorted products are sold on this platform.

Groupon receives traffic through referrals, blogs, ads, and people who find their site organically. The user is then prompted to enter their email address and location information, so that they can be sent to a page that is relevant to their location. The page they are sent to offers location-based deals. They are then presented with a purchase form.
This is a good funnel because people love exclusive offers and because Groupon has strong brand awareness; furthermore, even if there is no relevant deal to offer you on the day that you access the site, your email address will be used to send offers.

Groupon’s business model is focused on building and maintaining its email list. They could be described as a large, consumer email marketing business that is segmented by location. This is why they insist on collecting emails initially. The user is not permitted to see offers without providing one. They are able to get away with this because their offers are competitive. They offer deals like 50% off (or 90% off) and more at local restaurants and shops.

It is not enough to acknowledge the relationship between sales and marketing and use generic strategies—this will result in a leaky and bubble-filled funnel. The funnel must be carefully crafted and then refined. Now we know how to make a funnel, but how do you tweak it?

Best practices for ensuring that your funnel is constantly being improved:

  • Segment the customers. Determine the traits of the best and average customers. Analyze what they expect, want, and may want in the future. Even more importantly, identify who future customers might be and what the current customers will become. Devise strategies to appeal to different audiences without creating conflict.
    Many organizations develop multiple offers for each type of customer based on data that determines the customer’s likelihood to accept them. Salespeople employ this information in real time, based on interaction with the customer. They use details like their conversation, the customer’s emotions in response to offers, and the level of comfort the salesperson has established with them.
  • Assess your offerings. Examine what you are really giving customers and what sets you apart from competitors. Ask why customers should be loyal and why they would not. Also, analyze the attributes of the things you offer in order to better tailor your funnel.
    There are some products and services with qualities that are easy to assess and utilize to target customers, but others require more investigation; for example, manufacturers of clothing do not make a distinction between trendy items and other items, but films are heavily categorized and easy to separate.
  • Be agile. The only way to truly improve is to adapt. Adapt to the needs and expectations of customers. This does not require massive changes. It just requires being attentive to responses to various activities.
    Organizations develop different rules to guide the development of new offers, and they change those rules as new data is received. Footlocker opts to only promote “fashion-forward” shoes via social media. CVS only offers discounts on things that customers have purchased before. Sam’s Club offers individually-relevant offers for categories that the customer has not previously purchased in, and they reward loyalty.
  • Exploit sales metrics. Sales metrics are  the key that gives you direction and confirmation.
  • Funnel Analysis. This involves diving into the business analytics of your channels. You must determine where and how leads are lost, or why and how they lag.
    Analytics can provide a wealth of information, including the likelihood of someone responding to a mobile offer or how particular demographics respond to certain offers. But data with only shallow analysis is not viable.
    An amazing email offer that is never opened essentially does not exist. Maybe it needs to be presented face-to-face, at a kiosk, or sent to a mobile device as a pop-up. The best channel is often the one that the customer used for contact.
  • Funnel Testing. You may not see the significance of minor details. You may not see much of a difference between strategies. This is why you must test. Verify as much as you can.
    It is common for companies to test offers on multiple channels to determine which is the most effective; for example, CVS tests its ExtraCare offers through multiple points. Those points include kiosks, register receipts, emails, circulars, and mobile coupons. Qdoba Mexican Grill has expanded its loyalty program with mobile coupons delivered at certain times or days of the week. This serves the purpose of boosting sales and curbing demand. Coupons sent late at night have yielded 40% in responses at stores near universities, but the overall response rate is 16%. Starbucks utilizes a minimum of 10 different channels to delivered targeted offers, determine customer response, improve brand advocacy, and develop their products.
  • Accommodate Mobile Users. The web is the most important aspect of modern marketing, and second to that is mobile usage. A web presence and a mobile access point in the form of a dedicated application are modern business standards.
    Accommodating web users is fairly straightforward and simple, but accommodating mobile users requires a lot of consideration, especially given the limitations of mobile platforms. The limitations of mobile platforms must be considered along with the way mobile devices are used, the way people would like to use them, and the effects new developments will have.

Be Aware of Customer Evolution

Many issues with sales funnels are not due to the strategies employed. Rather, they are a result of professionals not realizing that, though the product remains the same, the customers have changed. Many products have expanded into different markets with different tastes, in which case the original funnel becomes ineffective. In some cases, the volume of customers has dropped and the funnel must be adjusted. In other cases, the objective of the funnel does not serve the goals of the organization; for example, sales may not be focused on high volume because the substance of business revenue is long-term customers rather than high volume.

Excellent Sales Funnels are optimized for the Web

How to Build a Meaningful Online Sales FunnelThe importance of the web cannot be stressed enough in modern marketing. It is constantly changing; new opportunities and strategies are constantly presenting themselves, and you must not lose focus on this area. Most of your optimization strategies will be focused in this area because you cannot predict and see the various leads and channels like you would with brick-and-mortar aspects of funnels. You obviously cannot optimize what you do not know, so devote time to examining all of the channels offered by the web. They do change frequently!
Those changes to channels are the result of trends in the popularity of certain websites, mobile apps, communities, and other means of connecting with audiences. If you do not pay attention to these trends, your mistakes can be as bad as marketing through a long-abandoned social media site or sending notifications that are automatically blocked. This is another aspect of awareness: the things that irritate your audience.

Years ago, popup windows were common and they were loathed. Now, they have been replaced with a different type of popup, which appears inside the page, and audiences find these less irritating. This is a combination of aesthetic, convenience, and content. Modern pop-ups are not unpleasant to view because they are merely a piece of the page, matching the overall design and behavior of the website. They are easy to remove and do not affect user experience unless they are abused (too many or too frequent). They also often have information that users want or make navigating through the site easier in viable ways.

Users have also grown tired of websites that are loaded with advertisements in various forms. These annoying ads often load automatically and include loud audio or video that negatively affects the user’s experience as they attempt to enjoy content or services. In response, developers and browser developers have offered a wide variety of ways to block that content. Most users do not mind ads, but like pop-ups, they mind how those ads are delivered. This is an important part of how you connect with your users because it is possible that a large percentage of your efforts might never reach the audience because of a single checked box; thus, carefully consider your choices.

To sum up, ask why at every step before you get into the how.


About the Author Yaagneshwaran Ganesh

Yaagneshwaran Ganesh is a marketing enthusiast, speaker and the author of "Is your marketing in sync or sinking?". His mission "One globe, one experience" is to explore marketing practices at organizations of different sizes, industry and cultures across the globe and help align marketing operations to organizational strategy. He has an MBA from Jansons School of Business and a certificate in strategy management from Indian Institute of Management, Kozhikode.

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