What is a sales funnel?

sales funnel

If you run an online business, you already have a sales funnel whether you’re aware of it or not.

If you are aware of your sales funnel, then the good news is that you have much more influence over it and can build it to become more effective. 

If you have no idea what a sales funnel is, don’t worry. We’re here to educate you.

Putting it simply, the sales funnel is a process that relates to how browsers navigate your website and decide to make a purchase.

If you understand the process as a marketer, you can craft it to lead to more sales.

Think of a sales funnel like a real-life funnel. At the top of the funnel, substance flows in, filtering down to a destination. With a sales funnel, a similar process occurs. 

At the top of the sales funnel, lots of browsers arrive who may or may not enter your funnel. 

However, unlike a real funnel, not everyone will reach the end.

Your goal as a marketer is to attract as many of the right people to the destination of your funnel.

Confused? You may well be. 

If you’re still wondering – ‘what is a sales funnel?’ keep reading to learn more about it in-depth, why it’s so important for your business, and how to create a sales funnel with best practice.

What is a sales funnel?

Let’s dig deeper into the art of the sales funnel.

As mentioned, the sales funnel is the path that browsers take on the way to purchasing your product or service.

Some visitors never leave the top of the funnel, while others reach the end and make a purchase.

As a marketer, you have plenty of influence on how many people, and the type of people that are more likely to reach the end of the funnel.

Let’s digress from the website for a moment and compare the sales funnel to a real-life sales in a shop.

The individuals at the top of the sales funnel walk into a store to browse the items. The sales assistant says hello warmly and assists them.

One of the customers at the top of the funnel spots a rack of tee shirts in funky colors that catches their eye and decides to go closer to thumb through the items.

This is where the shop assistant connects with the customer, letting him or she knows that they can offer an extra discount if the customer purchases more than two tee shirts.

The customer is keen and chooses three tee shirts. Before the customer makes their purchase, the sales assistant recommends some jeans that would pair perfectly with the tee shirts. 

The customer is once again impressed and adds the jeans to the order. They pay for the clothing and leave.

The customer is so pleased with the service and the deal they nabbed, that in a couple more weeks they return to see if there are any more offers.

The process works similarly on a website.

Just replace the helpful sales assistant with carefully designed pages that work to guide browsers in making a sale.

Why is a sales funnel important?

Why is a sales funnel important?

Why is a sales funnel important?

Understanding your sales funnel is so important as you can identify places where the funnel doesn’t work very well.

For example, perhaps a lot of browsers click off the website on a certain page.

That is the page you should look over and make some adjustments to improve the sales funnel process.

Perhaps the copy is untidy, or there isn’t a clear call to action. Analyze it along with the behaviors of your audience and you should be able to understand the issues or pick up a pattern.

Your sales funnel directs visitors to a path that ends in the purchase of your product or service, so it makes sense to understand it as well as you can.

After all, if you don’t plan and understand your sales funnel, you can’t optimize it to gain more sales.

The sales funnel process

Sales Funnel Process

Sales Funnel Process

There’s a pattern to a successful sales funnel and there are four main stages of the sales funnel that helps transform a browser to a prospect to a lead to a purchaser.

To start with, a browser reaches your website through a Google search or via a link from social media. They then become a prospect.

The prospect may browse different pages of your website, such as a couple of blog posts or your product listings.

At some point, the prospect may be asked if they’d like to sign up for your newsletter.

You can always add variety of newsletter examples in your email in order to improve your customer's experience.

If the prospect fills out the form with their email address, they become a lead. You can then market to the lead outside the website which makes marketing to them a lot easier.

Leads are often attracted back to the website with special deals, interesting blog posts, and intriguing sales messages.

The number of people in the sales funnel becomes less and less as visitors pass through it.

Of course, there are more prospects towards the top of the funnel than buyers at the bottom because it gets more and more difficult to capture the attention of visitors the closer they get to making a purchase.

The four funnel stages

four funnel stages

AIDA concept 

The best way to remember the four stages of the sales funnel is by memorizing the famous acronym AIDA. This stands for awareness, interest, decision, and action. 

Each stage of the process requires a different approach from you as a marketer, as you need to be careful to present the right message at each point of the process.

After all, each stage represents a customer’s mindset and they can be put off when faced with a certain message at an inappropriate stage in the journey.

Ready to learn?

1. Awareness

Awareness is the very beginning of the sales funnel when you first draw the attention of a potential customer.

It could be via anything – a tweet posted by your company, a Google search, a Facebook advert, or an Instagram tag from a friend.

With this attention, your browser turns into a prospect as they’re aware of your brand and what you offer.

In some cases, the customer will be wowed and will purchase immediately. It may be that they’ve found exactly what they’re looking for, or perhaps their mood and circumstances influence their decision. 

Or maybe the customer has already conducted research and knows your products and prices well.

However, in most cases, the awareness stage is like a courting phase.

You’re trying to impress and woo the prospect into returning to the website and making a purchase, but they usually need more time to consider their options.

2. Interest

During the interest stage, the customer is intrigued by your product or service but needs more convincing to close the deal.

They may be conducting internet research, reading reviews, comparison shopping, and considering their options.

During the sales funnel process, this is the ideal time to offer valuable and interesting content that’s useful but isn’t too hard selling.

The goal is to display your expertise and to offer your help in the choosing process.

This is a delicate time during the process, as if you try to sell too hard you can put off prospects and chase them away.

3. Decision

At the decision stage of the sales funnel, the customer is ready to make a choice and buy.

They may be weighing up a couple of options, and hopefully one of them is your product or service!

This is the best time to swoop in and make a desirable offer.

Perhaps you can offer free shipping, a discount code, or an extra product. Anything to set yourself apart from the rest of the competition. 

Make the treat so irresistible that your lead wouldn’t dare miss out.

4. Act

Finally, at the very bottom of the sales funnel, the customer acts.

Usually, this results in a sale and he or she makes a purchase and becomes part of your business’s ecosystem.

Think the sales funnel is finished here? Think again.

Just because a customer made a purchase, it doesn’t mean the hard work is finished. What you want now is a repeat, loyal customer. Don’t leave it at one sale, aim for many!

This is where the focus turns to customer retention.

To keep a customer, consider sending a thank you email, invite feedback on your product or service, or make yourself available for support.

Send loyal customers marketing emails with the latest discounts, codes, and interesting blog posts so they still have your brand in front of mind and may one day return.

Tips on building a sales funnel

You may be wondering how to create an effective sales funnel.

Luckily, there are plenty of practices available to help you succeed.

Here are a few tips and tricks to help you.

1. Know your audience

Before even starting your sales funnel, you should know the audience you’re targeting.

The more you know about your customers, the easier it is to create a sales funnel and the more successful it becomes too.

Remember, you can’t market to everyone – it’s too overwhelming. Instead, focus on the people who are a good fit for your product or service.

For example, if you’re selling fun gadgets for young people, you might want to use creative and casual copy to match across your pages, alongside some quirky images.

Monitor your site activity and learn the behaviors of your audience too. 

Where do they click often? When do they scroll? Which pages are popular? And which aren’t?

Once you understand the navigation and behaviors of your audience, you can adjust your sales funnel to fit their persona.

2. Capture your audience's attention

You won’t attract anyone to your sales funnel if you don’t lure people into it and put it out there.

This means displaying your adverts wherever you can.

Sharing your sales funnel across social media platforms, via email marketing, and Google adverts is a great place to start and guarantee lots of views.

Share your content in fun and creative ways that suit your brand through infographics, pictures, videos, and other types of content.

3. Build landing pages

It may be obvious, but for your sales funnel to work you need strong landing pages that help prompt the browser into becoming a buyer.

These can be product pages, campaign pages, or can’t-miss deal pages.

As those visiting these pages are still quite high in the sales funnel, be sure not to be too pushy.

Instead, focus on gaining leads for nurturing.

A landing page should encourage a visitor to carry on journeying through the sales funnel so be gentle and be sure to include a clear and bold call to action.

That’s whether it’s a prompt to browse product pages or to download a complimentary e-book.

4. Use Systeme to build a sales dunnel

build sales funnel with systeme.io

Systeme.io funnel builder 

While you can design and implement a sales funnel without any special tools, it can be a difficult and tedious job without any help, especially if you’ve never created one and don’t know where to start.

That’s where Systeme comes in to save the day. Already popular in France, Systeme has recently launched in the USA with fantastic feedback.

Systeme is an all-inclusive marketing platform created for budding entrepreneurs and new business owners seeking an easy way to manage their online business.

The platform is completely integrated so it’s super easy to use and can perform many marketing tasks. 

This includes creating entire sales funnels from scratch, managing email lists, sending unlimited emails, launching a blog, creating memberships, and starting affiliate programs.

Compared to many competitors, the platform is very affordable too.

Systeme.io has introduced a 100% free plan, which gives you access to all of the features listed above, at no cost whatsoever.

And if you need more power, their paid plans have you covered:

The startup package costs $27 a month, the webinars package is $47 a month, and the enterprise package $97 a month

By using Systeme with our tips and advice you can plan how to effectively guide the leads you want through your funnel, resulting in plenty of sales.

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