December 12, 2012



Focusing on your sales funnel

When it comes to thinking digital you can often forget the fundamentals in sales. It’s easy to lose sight of some of the great stuff good marketers do really well. Like the sales funnel for instance.

Today we’re distracted in real-time by the online analytical tools we have at our disposal. In isolation, traffic sources, mobile visits, EDM performance, sales figures, conversion tracking and events can often be a little polarising. They can also make you a little reactive to increasing inbound efforts when perhaps the key is a greater focus on converting the current numbers within the sales funnel. I really respect an approach with a little old school and new school thinking.

What all of this digital insight should really be telling you is where your customers are within your sales funnel. In particular, the type of content they’re consuming and the type of engagement tools they’re responding to. Making every effort to push them from consideration to conversion more efficiently is the objective. Don’t lose sight of this. These exchanges or funnel decisions reflect choices consumers are making about your products and services, and are critical in identifying and optimising lead opportunities.

Not all digital scenarios are the same. For most major eCommerce sites driven by analytics and insights, your funnel is often purely online and comprehensive. But, like many businesses out there, if a visit online doesn’t end at the checkout, it’s more likely to be driving a registration of interest, an application, quote request or product comparison which will ultimately lead to offline influences and conclusions – and there’s more to focus on in these scenarios.

Ask yourself where your consumers are in the funnel. Map it out as best you can. How many exchanges and phases are in the funnel? Like all things, the simpler the better. Review your website. Most funnels start here and there are a lot of websites you visit that can feel more like a library book or catalog. Clever sites driving more conversion are often leaner direct mail pieces with a tear off coupon.

Let’s think a little new school again. How are consumers responding to exchanges in your funnel? Are your consumers researching on devices better suited for the start of the funnel – on the desktop at lunchtime or the tablet in bed at night? Are they on their mobile on the way back from lunch on a weekend looking for directions or a number to call? Whatever the type of business, regardless of where they are in the sales cycle, it is critical to identify what part of the funnel they’re in, on what type of device, and what exchange will prove most valuable to them at this time.

Define the overall conversion time. Then identify the length of each phase within it and where the lulls are. Work on your lulls. Some funnels we’ve worked on can last anything up to three months. The process can begin with research and a quote request for budgeting purposes. While SEO, SEM and other initiatives may have led them to this exchange, the next part of the funnel for them might be two months down the track and a call from a mobile to visit a location when it’s convenient to them to do the final inspection of products or services. That’s a long time and the nature of their first exchange means they are just as likely to fall out. So what can you do to fix the lulls?

Think old-school. Learn to respect the reason for the lull may be more rational than you would expect. This may be as simple as asking your customers what happened in between – why the lag? What would have motivated them to convert sooner? Discover whether time, price, other factors were not aligning. By identifying and recognising the lag, you have a chance to act and understand better your consumer and their motivations within in your funnel.

In most instances you can make tactical changes to address the lag and dramatically reduce the funnel time-frame. Bingo! Increased conversion. While I can only comment from our own category and client experience, it’s important to note each situation and motivation to act is very different.

Often when starting from scratch, our strategy will involve developing a new website, micro-site or landing page which is responsive to all consumer needs in the funnel – meaning desktop, tablet and mobile. We’ll also focus heavily on UI/UX to ensure the right experience and conversion tools are present to align with our funnel exchanges and strategy. Clients sometimes give too much content away early in the funnel where they could be engaging with consumers and pushing them through the funnel via registration walls, engaging tools or other content offerings. Each exchange must deliver some form of consumer benefit. EDMs play a large role along the journey, with auto-responder sequences being a relevant way of planting more seeds along the path through content.

You often hear of success being measured by where you rank in search engine results, or how many visits the site is getting. Sorry, it really means nothing unless your sales or conversion is using this to full advantage. The funnel runs deep, that’s the lesson here. So focus on inbound channels in the funnel both online and offline, and more importantly integrate the best of old school and new school thinking into your process to get them through.