Your sales funnel is the journey that your customers take to get from Never-Heard-Of-You to Buy-Something-And-Tell-Their-Friends. Sales funnel strategy, then, is the roadmap you create to tell those travellers the quickest, easiest route to get to the sale.
So how do you create a sales funnel strategy? Here are six steps to get started.
Sales funnel strategy step #1: Start with the end in mind
Like other types of strategy, your sales funnel strategy will only be as good as the clarity of purpose you are trying to achieve. If you define your end goal as “business success”, any strategy will fall short because “business success” sounds nice but it’s as easy to nail down as pond scum.
Clearly define the goal you are trying to achieve with your sales funnel strategy. If you’re just starting a new business, your goal might be “To make my first sale”. If you already have a business and are working on your existing sales funnel, your goal might be “To maintain my current level of sales while I halve my involvement in the marketing activities leading up to each sale”.
A purpose for your sales funnel strategy gives you something to work toward. It can be a big purpose (like “I want to earn $500,000 in the next calendar year”) or it can be something much smaller (like “I want to increase my existing sales by 5%”).
In my experience, the purpose of any sales funnel strategy usually involves a more specific version of the following general goals:
- To increase the number of contacts in the sales funnel
- To increase the speed through which a contact moves through the sales funnel
- To increase the amount of money a contact spends on a sale
- To decrease the investment (of time/money/effort) that the business puts into each contact in the sale funnel
Sales funnel strategy step #2: Assess what needs to change
Now you need to figure out what elements of your existing sales funnel need to change to achieve the goal. There can be any combination of elements in your sales funnel that need to change. It all depends on the size and scope of your purpose. These could include some of the following:
- The number of steps in a stage
- The order of steps in stage
- The goal of a particular step or stage
- The media used in the step or stage
- The messages used
- The target market that enters the sales funnel
- The location of the paygate
- The deliverable
- … These are just a few. There are so many more elements in a sales funnel that could be changed.
At this point, you don’t have to know how to change these things. Just start with figuring out what needs to change to get your sales funnel to reflect your purpose outlined earlier. And, in my experience, you’ll continue going through each of these steps (below) but you’ll come back to this step again and again throughout the process.
Sales funnel strategy step #3: Determine your influence
Not all of the sales funnel elements listed above can be easily tweaked by you to get where you need to be. Sure, some can: Changing the number of steps in a stage is all about you lifting the hood on your sales funnel and getting your hands dirty. Easy enough!
But some of the elements in your sales funnel aren’t directly changed by your effort. They’re only influenced by you based on other things you do. For example, changing your target market isn’t as easy as making an adjustment with a wrench. However, there are things you can do to influence who is attracted into your sales funnel.
Let’s look more closely at the target market example. If you want to change your target market, you can’t flip a switch but you can do some of the following to influence who becomes your target market:
- Change your messages to speak to your new target market
- Ensure you are communicating in the places where your new target market is listening
- Review your offering to make sure that it is attractive to your target market
- … There are other ways, too, but this gives you an idea
For the moment, let’s call these things “areas of influence” — they’re the decisions and activities you make to influence the things you cannot easily change.
Sales funnel strategy step #4: Get specific
Okay, it’s easy to list out what you can influence. Now comes the roll-up-your-sleeves part of strategy development. Start listing in detail the changes you need to make for each of the areas you influence. Again, this is going to be pretty straightforward for the stuff you listed in step 2 that you have direct control over (like the number of steps in one of your sales funnel stages). List out specific things you can do to make changes.
But let’s use a more challenging example of trying to change your target market. Since you can’t directly change your target market, you list out areas of influence that can compel change in your target market. Next, you list out specific things you can do to change those areas of influence:
- The first one is “Change your messages to speak to your new target market”. For this area of influence you might write out specific messages that resonate with your target market. You should test some of those messages in different ways to find the messages that really resonate.
- The second one is “Ensure you are communicating in the places where your new target market is listening”. For this area of influence you might identify areas where your new target market spends its time. This will probably follow with a period of research to make sure it’s the right fit for you.
- The third area of influence is “Review offering to make sure that it is attractive to the target market”. For this area of influence you might review competitive offerings to see what your target market is buying from the competition and map your offering against theirs to see if you have a point of difference that your target market is interested in.
Sales funnel strategy step #5: Implement
You’ve created a big list of to-dos in step #4, now it’s time to implement those to-dos. Implementation can trip people up because they see a giant list of to-dos and it’s almost overwhelming. The best thing to do is review your list to make sure that the to-dos flow in a logical order (stuff that needs to happen first does indeed happen first) and then schedule each one in and start crossing them off of your list.
Yes, I’m making it sound simpler than it is. Sometimes it’s just a matter of doing it but I’m realistic enough to recognize that it can be (or at least seem to be) more complicated than that. But I also believe that action – even if it’s not 100% correct every time – is superior to inaction. Just get out there and start making those changes.
Sales funnel strategy step #6: Make course corrections
With any strategy you create, course corrections will be the norm. You need to implement the strategy but then measure, troubleshoot, and make changes as you go because of the innumerable unforeseen and unpredictable situations that can affect the success of your sales funnel strategy.
This is normal. You won’t ever create a foolproof strategy that creates a flawless sales funnel. But creating a sales funnel strategy that makes sense and works toward what you need to achieve – with some adjustments along the way – is the next best thing.
A quick word about strategic development
I love strategy and strategic development. It’s a complex analysis and it’s as much an art as it is a science. By writing this list, it may seem like I have over-simplified strategic development. However, my hope is to empower entrepreneurs to try doing some of their own strategic development and strategic management on their own. Yes, strategy can be so much more complex that what I’ve listed here, but entrepreneurs don’t have to be scared off by the idea of developing their own strategy, they just need to know how to get started.
If you’re an entrepreneur and want to get your hands dirty with some straightforward, workable strategy, follow this list. (And if you find that you want to get more advance, or you don’t want to get your hands dirty on the strategy, that’s where a consultant comes in… but give it try first!)