Why Online Business?
Any business lives and breathes by the frequency of their customers’ purchases. Some businesses can get by with a small set of recurring customers, and a few referrals. But most businesses need some way of getting people that they don’t know to come along and buy their products or services – a sales funnel.
Historically, this is where advertising, directories, listings, demonstrations, and all of that traditional marketing activity would take place. A business owner would decide how much money to allocate to do “the marketing”, and hope that customers would arrive at the far end.
In the digital age, we can add the online presence to the marketing mix. There are millions of transactions online every day – they’re literally flying past your head as you read this. We contend that it’s up to every responsible business owner to reach out and take their share.
What’s more – it’s incredibly measurable now. We can show exactly how many people saw your ad, clicked your link, read your email, and even added to cart – before we finally get a set of purchases. That sequence of activities that you guide your potential customers through is what we’ll refer to as your Sales Funnel.
What is a Sales Funnel?
Simply put – it’s a pre-defined sequence of online elements, designed and tuned to turn strangers into lifelong customers.
First, we need to find people. This is referred to as “traffic” – and traffic can be anywhere on the scale of awareness of your product or service – from having never heard of you (“cold traffic”, to being immediately ready to buy without exploring your site (“hot”).
Then, we build a relationship – depending on your purchase price and competition, this can be anything from a simple web page describing your offer, through to a series of automated emails, web presentations (“webinars”), giving away free stuff, and even making incredibly low priced offers, before the main sales push.
Finally, we allow options to buy the product or service online, and design the sequence of instructions to immediately get started.
Often, the cycle starts again, with up-sells of additional services, or the start of a new campaign to sell a related product or service, or even simply to ensure that they are able to get full use of their purchase.
Let’s dig into those a bit deeper.
Traffic – Sources
The ideal outcome of any online presence is to acquire a list of email addresses that we can reach out to and sell stuff – totally in our control, and basically free. Email marketing is still king in the online world, despite all of the other platforms out there, nothing quite catches attention as deeply as a well written email. So the goal in the traffic stage is to bring people to our web site – our “landing page” – and make them an offer, generally in exchange for an email address, and perhaps a small fee.
If the person hasn’t heard of you before, they would be “Cold Traffic”. They generally come to you as a result of a paid advertisement, interrupting them as they watch a YouTube video, scroll through their Facebook news feed, or read their favourite blog on the interwebs like this one. An offer is placed in front of them that seems too good to be true – normally in exchange for their prized email address – or for lower priced items we can go straight for the sale.
If they have heard of your service, but maybe not of your company, they might find you through the power of the search engine. This would be “warm traffic”. There are two ways to get featured on the response – the fastest is to pay for it, advertising for key words related to your offer, in your service area. You’ll hear this referred to as “Adwords” or “PPC” (pay-per-click). Alternatively, with some effort and depending on your competition, you can post content and links that Google and Bing find useful and relevant. Their scores mean you’ll feature higher up the “organic” (unpaid) search rankings – this is known as SEO, “Search Engine Optimisation”.
Your social media plays a presence here as well. A well-engaged audience on Facebook or Instagram can we a good source of warm leads. You can write engaging, funny, and/or interesting content, and encourage sharing and discussion. You can post links to your own articles on your website, videos, or other third party sources that your audience would find useful. By building trust and utility, more people will see your stuff organically, reducing the need for advertising spend.
Warming Up an Audience
This is the dating phase of the relationship – we offer smaller items with less commitment, in exchange for an email, a small price, or an entry to a competition. Having grabbed their ATTENTION, we then stoke their INTEREST until we make them an offer that they DECISION, and they take ACTION to make a purchase. This sequence – attention, interest, desire, action – has been the foundation of marketing from the early days of newspaper advertorials.
A typical way to warm up an audience is by putting loads of information on a landing page – this can be videos, testimonials, FAQs, and are carefully crafted to make an immediate sale. This can work up to £2000, but generally is better at a lower price point.
For more complex investments, we’ll want to build a deeper relationship – we’ll send a sequence of emails describing ourselves, our back story, how the product came to be, and share some success stories with the customer. Typically we’ll add on a range of supporting services to seem like unbeatable value when we finally present the offer.
If the investment is particularly complex, such as training courses – we’ll run a webinar, where people can watch a presentation online to understand in much more depth exactly what is being offered and how it can benefit the customer.
Finally, for personal services with a high investment such as business consulting, we’ll want to schedule a 1:1 call with the customer to really understand their problems and make sure we’re a great fit, before giving them the opportunity to buy.
Maximising the Sale
Have you ever bought something online, and then immediately been presented with the option to buy two or three for a discount? This is known as up-selling – and is one of the most powerful ways to increase your revenue. If you can find a complementary product or service, you can offer it at this point, and the net additional marketing spend is zero. It’s the “go large” option at McDonald’s – where the extra 30p is pure profit, compared to the narrow margin on the base purchase.
If they don’t want to buy, we can make them a different offer – perhaps a payment plan, or a template without the services at a lower price point. The “down-sell” can be just as valuable for turning interested parties into customers.
Climbing the Ladder
Once we’ve got a customer’s email, and they’ve bought something from us, that shouldn’t be the end of the journey. Of course, we should deliver
brilliantly on what they’ve bought, to build a reputation. But we can also step up the ladder in terms of value and price. Think of a mechanic – they could offer a free winter tyre check, then sell you a repair if needed, and finally offer you a monthly payment plan to have them maintain your car all year round. The lifetime value of your customer is there – and as soon as they are in your customer, it’s your duty to offer them a great service so that buying more of your product or service is an easy choice in future – and encourage them to invite their friends along too!
So what, after all that, is a sales funnel? As I mentioned, it’s a pre-defined sequence of online elements, designed and tuned to turn strangers into lifelong customers. It contains all of the elements that you need, tuned to your customer’s needs – from ads, videos, and articles to get attention – through to landing pages, email, and webinars to build trust – and onto sales pages and startup sequence, with future sales and customer referrals all in place too.
Interested in talking more about your business? Drop us a line on [email protected] or fill in the form on the home page, and we’ll be happy to talk through your situation.