When it comes to building a business, founders and company leaders face many hurdles as they fight to prove their worth in the marketplace. These hurdles range from typical company growing pains, like staffing, accounting, and processes; to more unique, industry-specific challenges, like whether to outsource or internally add a department.
Regardless of industry, leaders commonly focus on lead generation in order to help a company carve out its market share. Common lead generation strategies include sales tactics, email marketing, content marketing, paid marketing, and more.
While these strategies work, successful companies realize that lead generation is only a part of the ideal growth plan they need to create. Often, in an attempt to find a scalable lead generation process, money is left on the table. It doesn't make sense to focus on generating more leads if you are failing to nurture the leads you already generate.
Nurturing leads already in your funnel is always more important than generating new ones. The most valuable customers are those in your store, so to speak.
Many of your leads aren't ready to purchase anything yet, but that doesn't mean they won't be ready at some point in the future. If you properly nurture those leads you will be the natural choice when they are ready.
With this in mind, your marketing focus should move from only lead generation to include optimizing every stage of your conversion funnel. To do this, every business needs to understand their unique conversion funnel and work to make it convert at the highest rate possible.
While conversion funnel is a marketing term that often gets thrown around, it is more than just a fluffy marketing word. It's incredibly important to your bottom line. Along with conversion funnel, you will hear it called a number of other terms, like:
- Marketing funnel
- Sales funnel
- Sales process
- Sales pipeline
Understanding the conversion funnel, and how to use it to best effect, is key to improving your marketing results and maximizing marketing spend.
3 Types of Marketing Funnels
Before we get into best practices, we need to understand the types of conversion funnels that exist.
Content found in the three types of funnels we describe below include:
- Social Messages
- Premium Content Offers
- Demos and Trials
Whether you are a fresh new startup or a developed marketing team, every piece of content your team uses or creates from this point forward should have a designated lead generation or lead nurturing purpose. Do your best to focus on content that will fit naturally into your conversion funnel.
1. The Acquisition Funnel
This funnel generates leads and occurs at the beginning of the buyer's journey, where you cast the widest net.
With this funnel, you seek to bring in new opportunities for your business. Any piece of content that is created to reach new leads will live in an acquisition funnel.
Businesses often use blog posts, paid content amplification, and premium content offers like eBooks and checklists to generate leads in the acquisition funnel.
2. The Activation Funnel
This is the sales funnel, where your content and marketing automation works relentlessly to convert leads into paying customers.
Once your acquisition funnel has fired successfully, take the new contact and nurture them to—and through—the buying decision.
This process can look drastically different from one company to the next, but the structures are often the same: Take a new top-of-funnel lead and answer their questions, educating them until they are in the middle of the buyer's journey where they understand the need for solution like yours. At this point, your potential customer is starting to "shop around."
An activation funnel usually consists of a well-timed and relevant email marketing series coupled with premium content focused on each stage of the buyer's journey.
- Beginning of the journey: Make them aware of a problem.
- Middle of the journey: Make them aware there are solutions to that problem.
- End of the journey: Make them aware of why your solution is the best choice.
3. The 'Double Funnel'
Too many companies forget a contact once they purchase a product. This is a huge mistake—and a costly one.
Companies need a double funnel to continue nurturing customers who have made a purchase—a sales funnel followed by a customer success funnel.
Your customers are full of additional revenue and referral revenue, if you treat them right.
Even after a customer puts their money on the table, they are still judging your company and your solution. Entering them into a customer success funnel, where you walk them through how to be successful with your product, helps them fully appreciate your company and service.
For instance, if you sell a water bed, you should have content mapped out to help customers set it up and maximize its potential, plus tips for enjoying a good night's sleep on a water bed. Afterward, an automated "checkup" on your customers can make a huge impression.
If you have a service or product that needs to be renewed or repurchased, customer nurturing is even more pivotal.
Customers who have had a good purchasing experience with you in the past are far more likely to buy from you in the future. Which means you can offer up-sells or additional products to maximize revenue per customer.
The best way to do this is with a "magic question." Ask the customer if they "want some help" with a problem that your product can easily solve. Take them to a video, pitch, or questionnaire that will provide some of the answers they are looking for. Offer to set them up with a free consultation and explain why your complimentary product or service meets their needs or adds value in a way that justifies the additional purchase.
Above all—provide service! Think, "How can I make my customers love our products and company?" And then use that as inspiration to set up the secondary funnel.
6 Best Practices for High Converting Funnels
Understanding the different conversion funnels is just the beginning. When optimizing your funnel, there are best practices that can be employed to maximize your efforts and to convert more leads.
1. Companies Must Build Trust
The most important strategy to keep in mind is to build customer trust. Building trust is essential whether you are in the acquisition, activation, or double funnel/customer success type of funnel.
A customer's trust should never be taken for granted.
Customers value their time, so don't waste it with grand offers or promises you can't keep. Remember, it is impossible to sell to someone who isn't listening, and no one will pay any attention to your business if you makes promises you can't keep, talk about yourself with no objectivity, or talk down your competitors with no proof.
Keep your content objective—understand that your solution won't be right for everyone.
Your content needs to clearly present what differentiates your brand. Find out where you fit, and be honest with your audience that you're not the best for every situation or problem. Your readers will appreciate the honesty and transparency, and be more willing to trust you in areas where you claim to excel.
2. Provide Content the Lead Wants
Make sure the content you create is something the end customer wants. Listen to your customers and leads, iterate, build trust, and create valuable content that answers their questions.
Use data, surveys, and customer insights to steer your marketing decisions. Lead and customer data should determine what is relevant and effective for your lead, not hunches or marketing trends.
3. Understand the Timing of the Funnel
View the sales funnel as a journey and move leads through it in a timely manner.
Well-timed content performs much better than content thrown out into the inter-webs without a plan. Great timing can be accomplished by setting automated workflows and triggers for your content as you build out your content marketing plan. These workflows should trigger content and premium offers to nurture your leads through their journey based on different factors.
Lead scoring becomes a big part of this as you learn to identify the signals each lead gives when they are ready to move to the next stage of the buyer's journey.
4. Segmenting Leads
Once these funnels are in place and operating effectively, you can begin to segment your leads into a variety of lists. An example of this is segmenting leads that are interested in different products or services and nurturing them with content supporting their indicated interest.
For instance, if a lead shows interest in wearable motorcycle gear, you can send them different lead nurturing material than you would the lead that is interested in vintage cars.
Segmenting leads enables campaigns to more effectively provide leads with what they want, and keeps them in your conversion funnel.
5. Psychological Triggers
Throughout the buyer journey, focus on the mindset of your lead or customer in relation to their position in the funnel. The key to success in any business is to understand the psychology behind where the customer is and what they are looking for. The same can be said for content marketing.
Psychological triggers can be incorporated into every piece of content you produce.
A/B tests are a great way to ensure your content is effectively creating an impact, and heatmaps can help identify where people are clicking and what is motivating them. This will enable you to understand a bit more about where your lead is coming from, and what they are thinking as they experience your site.
6. Customer Success
Customer success is central to every business. Developing and maintaining friendly customer service keeps people coming back rather than driving them away. This is true whether someone is at your office, on your website or social platforms, or reading your emails.
Take the time to educate your team on how your conversion funnel works, and how to identify where leads and customers are in the funnel. Empowering your team helps to improve conversion numbers in every stage of the funnel, and keep customers coming back.
Conversions Come from Lead Nurturing
When it comes to growing a business, nurturing leads is just as important as generating them. Companies that have a proven lead nurturing strategy transition more leads into conversions, sales, and repeat buyers.
A definitive strategy, that generates and nurtures leads, helps maintain a steady stream of paying customers, opportunities, and a healthy bottom line.
What do you consider a key strategy in improving conversion funnels and using lead nurturing to increase conversions? Leave us a comment below, and tell us your most effective strategy.