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Winning Strategies

How to Choose The Right Sales Funnel (and Email Strategy)

Why do so many business owners cringe when they hear the term "sales funnel?"

Probably because it sounds more complicated than it actually is. In reality, the term is much less mysterious than most sales professionals would have you believe. At a fundamental level, the sales funnel is simply the process someone goes through before deciding to do business with you. 

That's it.

The prospect identifies a need, want or desire; begins evaluating potential matches and ultimately decides upon a purchase. So, whether you own a dry cleaners, a micro brewery or a financial consultancy you already have a sales funnel in place. 

The question is: Could your current funnel(s) be more effective?

And the answer for most business owners is YES.

Not only is it likely your current funnel could be improved upon, it's also likely you could be benefiting from putting additional funnels in place. That's right, there's more than one type of sales funnel! And you can maximize success by thinking through the strategy for each one.

Sales Funnels and Email

The Sales Funnel

In this article we'll review the three categories of sales funnels you could be using in your business, how to determine which one to focus on now, and how to use email marketing to support it. Let's get started.

1. The "Nice to Meet You" Funnel

Also called the Acquisition Funnel, this one is all about offering cold prospects an opportunity to sample your work in a low to no-cost way. If you've ever had the experience of being single and asking a person out on a first date, you already understand the importance of this funnel.

Would you walk up to a girl in a bar and say, "Hey, marry me?" Absolutely not. She would look at you like you were crazy. The reason being? Marriage is a high-commitment offer (about as high as it gets) that is only reciprocated after a high level of trust, attraction, and understanding have been achieved. What's not a high-commitment offer? A cup of coffee.

If the girl likes what she sees, and is in the market for a companion, she'll say yes because coffee is a low-risk offer. The same approach must be taken with your prospects—create introductory offers that entice and provide real value. It's unrealistic to think you can turn cold prospects into leads, customers, and multi-buyers in one swoop.

So, if your business is just beginning to build its reputation and is looking to build a steady stream of qualified leads, you'll want to focus on refining your Acquisition Funnel. While there are several ways to build an introductory offer, the easiest is perhaps "splintering off" the products and services you already have.

Ex. You sell original, h​and-woven sandals.

Splinter an introductory offer of a FREE e-zine that narrates the stories of the artisans who handmake the sandals, provides useful fashion tips, and offers a coupon for a first purchase.

Ex. You sell language training programs.

Splinter an introductory offer for a free video series that teaches best practices for studying, memorizing, and acquiring new languages.

Ex. You sell SEO services for brick & mortar businesses.

Splinter a complimentary business listing service on Google, Yahoo, Bing, and/or Yelp in conjunction with an SEO primer eBook.

NOTE: In all of these instances, you should be obtaining contact information in exchange for your introductory offer so you can follow-up at a later time.

How to Do It

Once you've created your offer, it's time to set-up a lead capturing sequence; here are the basics:

  • Create a prominently placed CTA (call to action) on your website's home page.
  • Use an attention-grabbing headline and a clear summary to describe the exact benefit this introductory offer provides, who it's for, and how they can get it .
  • Create a landing page with an information capturing opt-in which further expands upon these points.
  • Create a confirmation page that directs sign-ups to their Inbox for more information about how to obtain their offering.
  • Write a "Thank You" email that a). Clearly outlines next steps b). Informs prospects you would like to stay in touch by sending along relevant information c). Clarifies that you will NOT be spamming them and d). Lets them know how they can unsubscribe at any time.

2. The "Buy Now" Funnel

OK, now that you've got a steady stream of warm leads in your funnel, it's time to begin thinking about your "Buy Now" funnel. Also called the Activation Funnel, this funnel is all about converting large chunks of leads into buyers. At this point, your prospects have already "sampled" what it's like to work with you.

Going back to our dating example, y'all have "had coffee." With that level of trust and familiarity in place, you can now confidently approach your prospects with a full-priced offer. In other words, the goal of the Activation Funnel is making it easy for prospects to take the next step in the Buyer's Journey.

As you can imagine, you have a number of strategies at your disposal. The key question to answer for your prospects: Why should I buy now?

One often used strategy is the "Flash Sales Funnel." It involves offering either a large discount or limited time offer as an incentive to buyers. Retail companies do this ALL the time: Black Friday, Labor Day, and Memorial Day sales permeate the online space. The primary goal of such sales isn't maximum profit—it's quantity.

How to Do It

Once you've created your offer, it's time to set-up a customer acquisition sequence. Here are the basics:

  • Make a landing page for your offer.
  • Clearly position the reason for "buying now."
  • Send an email to your warm list who has already gone through your first funnel that directs prospects to your landing page (i.e. the sales page for your language training program).

3. The "Upgrade" Funnel

Also called the Monetization Funnel, this one is all about converting existing customers into multi-buyers. That means, the person has already bought from you and would like to "upgrade" to a larger purchase. Keeping with our dating example, this is "the proposal."

You've taken her to coffee, you've gone on several dates and you've both determined you're a "good match." From a business standpoint, this is the presentation of an offer that requires significant investment of time and resources. The goal: Generate revenue for your highest priced offers. As with our previous funnels, you have many strategies at your disposal. Webinars, live events and smaller offers can all serve as "jumping off" points in your Monetization Funnel.

One common method for finally presenting your highest value offering is the "Magic Question" method. And it is simply asking, "Do you want some help?"

  • Ex. Want some help determining which of our sandals would work best with YOUR wardrobe?
  • Ex. Want some help FINALLY achieving your goal of fluency in (insert language)?
  • Ex. Want some help creating an SEO strategy that multiples your Web traffic?

At this point, your prospects already have a solid understanding of who you are, what you can do and why they would want to work with you. The only part missing is perhaps "the how." How can you guarantee x results for your clients? What is your process for generating results? Why should they have confidence in you?

How to Do It

Again, you'll want to set-up a special sequence for this high-value offer. What you need will depend on the nature of your business, but here are the basics:

  • Create a landing page for your offer.
  • Use a video or compelling sales copy to explain exactly what you want to help with.
  • Create either a). A lead-capturing form which takes them to a questionnaire that will give you the information you need to have a mutually beneficial sales call with them or b). A fully functional sales page that will allow them to purchase on the spot.

What Next?

As you can see, each funnel is designed to better acquaint prospects with your business. It's all about providing the right information and the right offers at the right time. Eventually, you'll want to refine all three funnels: Nice to Meet You, Buy Now and Upgrade. Determine which type of funnel will have the greatest impact NOW and put the others on the "to do" list for another time.

Which type of funnel are you currently doing a great job of executing? Which one needs the most work? Let us know in the comments below.

Content Repurposing Toolkit

Written by Ashley Gwilliam / April 22, 2016

Ashley is a content writer and brand developer. After graduating with a degree in print-journalism, Ashley’s storytelling skills took her from the bizarre world of on-camera acting to the practice courts of NBA basketball players to the virtual meetings of inbound marketers. Today she specializes in building memorable brand voices online, with a focus on the travel & tourism, e-commerce and tech industries.

Articles by Ashley Gwilliam