You know your company’s value proposition is solid. You know your salespeople are great at what they do. You know your marketing is reaching a wide audience.
So why aren’t your conversions and revenues where they need to be?
Often, business owners and marketers find themselves in positions like this, where the ingredients for success are there but the revenue numbers just aren’t back that up.
If this becomes the case, it may be time to organize your sales funnel.
A sales funnel is a tool for classifying leads and contacts into different categories, to be approached strategically based on their place in the buyer’s journey. It’s value is based on the idea that different types of marketing and sales strategies apply more saliently for different contacts. Largely, this is done based on their readiness to purchase. Using this concept, you can qualify your leads and prospects as they move through the funnel. As they move on to each successive phase, you can confidently present them with content specifically geared for someone getting increasingly ready to purchase.
In 2016, 67% of marketers rated their content marketing maturity as adolescent, young, or in its first steps. This means that there is still immense room to grow, especially for businesses using content to guide prospects through a targeted sales funnel. As marketers learn more about how to create engaging content, they’ll naturally start to improve at using that content strategically.
These strategies will vary across different industries and product categories. Many B2B marketers, for instance, will find themselves working with a longer, more involved funnel due to the complexity of delivering a value proposition to another business owner.
Top Of The Funnel (ToFu)
The top of your sales funnel should correlate with the beginning of the buyer’s journey for your prospects. These are people who are only recently aware that your business exists. Accordingly, it’s important not to scare them away by coming on too strong right off the bat.
This is where the prospect is experiencing what HubSpot would define as the awareness stage of the buyer’s journey. At this point, they are aware of their problem and can benefit from educational resources in the general area of their problem.
The content presented here should be introductory. Good examples are how-to guides, educational ebooks, and best practices checklists. The idea is to demonstrate value to the prospect on a macro level. It’s not time to drill down into specific solutions to their problem quite yet or come across as overly aggressive and salesy.
Middle Of The Funnel (MoFu)
The middle of the funnel is a tough place for salespeople and marketers to navigate. On the one hand, the prospect has shown some demonstrable level of interest. The building blocks of what could be a fruitful business relationship are in place. On the other, you’re right on the precipice of a real commitment. You still have a chance to get out before committing too much of your time and resources if it doesn’t seem like the return on the investment will be worth it.
As for the buyer’s journey, HubSpot considers this the prospect’s evaluation phase. They’ve identified your business as a possible solution for their pain point. They may still be considering other options, but at the very least you have a seat at the table.
Content during this phase should be a bit more directly related to the prospect’s problem. Some good examples are comparison white papers, in-depth guides, and pertinent video content. As you inch closer to the time to actually sell, you’ll start to establish your business as a good fit for the prospect and vice versa. If this isn’t quite “gelling”, it may be time to simply recognize a poor fit and move on. This can be a tough pill to swallow, but the time and frustration it saves you by avoiding a lengthy and unfruitful entanglement may be worth it.
Bottom Of The Funnel (BoFu)
By this point, you’ve convinced your prospect that your company is legitimate and trustworthy. Here, the prospect is at the purchase stage of the buyer’s journey. They are fairly certain how they’ll solve their pain point; they just haven’t decided who will be best to help them accomplish this. The remaining hesitation is more likely to be based on budget concerns and/or standard due diligence. Accordingly, it’s important to give them a more detailed look at what they will get out of doing business with you.
It’s been said that BoFu content offers are invitations to be sold to. The prospect’s engagement with the content serves as confirmation that they’ve accepted the invitation. Once this occurs, you can move towards a more formal sales proposition and it won’t feel out of place because of the contextual background you’ve built up with your targeted content.
Good content for the bottom of the funnel prospects includes product-specific breakdowns, pricing comparisons, case studies, and, if your potential client is in the same geographic area as you, a live demo can be a great closing technique.
One underestimated aspect of using an organized sales funnel is the insight it gives you about your salespeople. That doesn’t have to be understood in a cutthroat, “Hit your quotas or else” kind of way, either. Sales funnels can show you how each salesperson is performing at each specific stage of the funnel. If one person does consistently well at a particular stage, investigate further. Is there some technique or piece of content that he/she has found to be especially effective prospects in that stage?
Finally, it’s also important to optimize each stage of the sales funnel, a process that will be ongoing, and constantly in flux. As Brian Ainsley Horn has written for Entrepreneur, “The last step in the sales funnel is to keep your momentum going. Follow up with all the new customers you have acquired and ensure they are happy with their product or service.”
If so, find a way to impart that selling wisdom to the rest of the team. Even if that means setting aside time for a training or team meeting, the results – in the form of more conversions – just may surprise you.