How A Winning Funnel Works
The more you know about funnels, the more you realize just how complex they can get. But if we took a step back and looked at the strategy behind all funnels, they are actually pretty simple.
Something that I believe is important, but rarely defined, is what funnel we’re talking about. There is the overall marketing & sales funnel for the business, and that encompasses the process the business uses to gain sales/clients (and what happens after they purchase). Now, within that overall funnel, there are smaller funnels (it might be helpful to look at them as gears in a machine), that have specific goals like gaining email list subscribers or test drive appointments. These “gears” can and should link together. But more on that later.
Regardless of what kind of funnel we’re talking about, a funnel is simply a strategy that takes people from one stage of their buying process to another. Usually, it will focus on taking strangers all the way to customer or clients, but there are many other starting points and conversions. And there are many ways to get there. I’ve included a few popular examples of funnels below:
- Ad -> Blog post -> Newsletter Opt-In -> Exclusive/Low Barrier Offer -> Purchase
- Video Ad -> Retarget Viewers With An Offer Or Lead Magnet -> Landing Page Offer -> Purchase -> Retarget Unconverted Visitors -> Purchase
- Ad -> Webinar Content + Offer -> Email Follow-Up Offer -> Retargeting Ads & Email Drip Campaign For Unconverted Attendees -> Purchase
- Ad -> Consultation -> Appointment Occurs -> Sale -> Retargeting Ads & Email Drip Campaign For Unconverted Leads
- Ads Targeting Customers -> Exclusive Offer -> Sale -> Retargeting Ads For Unconverted Leads
As different as each of those examples are I hope that you can also see that the underlying strategy is to “graduate” people from one level of their buying process to another.
In Figure 1, you can see that funnels focus on 3 main things: Attraction, Destination, and Conversion Goal.
A Winning Strategy
When you’re creating your own winning funnel, it’s best to work backwards from the product being offered all the way back to ad strategy.
If you have data, use it. If don’t have data, get it.
Whether you would like a sale, client, subscriber, content consumption, download, or a follow, go with what has worked best in the past. If you have a winning product/service/article/video/ebook that you know your market is usually very interested in, that’s a good conversion goal to start with.
So if you’re an established business, let’s say an auto dealership, and a traditionally popular service offering is discount oil changes, this offer is the conversion goal that I’d create the first winning funnel around. We want easy success first so that we can build more funnels that connect or compliment to the first one. I won’t cover how to do this in this article, but in a later one.
If you’re a new business or any business that has created a new offer/service/content, a more involved process is required. You can test the interest in this new conversion goal by approaching current clients on social media or in your email lists. A more advanced method is to test your goal by advertising it to your target market. There is a specific process to follow (I will outline this in another article), but this method will essentially pit a few conversion goals against each other to determine a “winner”. This winning offer will be the one your target market has displayed the most interest in.
Whether your conversion goal is tried and true, or brand new, use data to determine what conversion goal your market is most likely to be interested in.
The last stage of the funnel is about what your traffic receives (e.g. ebook, product deal, etc). This stage of the funnel is about where traffic arrives to take action and convert. Continuing with our auto dealership example, this is the landing page where our prospects would fill out a form to claim their discount oil change. Usually when the conversion goal of a funnel is a lead, client, or sale, the destination is a landing page. But as we will soon see, it doesn’t have to be.
I want to be clear here, this component of your funnel strategy is VITAL. Your ads may be stellar and your offer may be remarkable, but if traffic is directed to a website, lead form, video, or blog article that doesn’t perform correctly, you won’t have a winning funnel.
The first step in determining where your ads will send people to claim their offer is to think about what needs to happen for you to fulfill a conversion. By that I mean, what would you need to complete a person’s online purchase? You’d likely need a website with an online store, the ability to process payments, a way to ship the product over, etc. In this case, the destination is on your website. If your conversion goal is an ebook, you could choose a landing page, a blog post (that leads the reader into wanting to download the ebook), or even a video on Facebook or YouTube as a destination.
In our example, the destination in our dealership’s funnel could either be a landing page or a Facebook Lead Form. Both options will need to reiterate the deal on oil changes and have the wording fit well with what the prospect saw in the ad that led them to this stage.
Here are a few of my rules when creating a form or landing page:
- The visitor needs to know who’s page they’re on, why they’re there, and have an option take action without needing to scroll down.
- Every time the visitor scrolls past a call to action button or a form, consider it a “No” or “Not yet”. The visitor needs additional info on the feature and benefits of your offer.
- Don’t forget to showcase happy clients and testimonials/case studies.
- Only collect the information you absolutely need for the next step in the funnel. For example: Ebook – First Name, Email | Consultation – First Name, Email, Phone Number, Booking Time & Date.
- The number of questions you ask will affect the number of conversions you receive and their quality.
- Create a good user experience. No broken links, keep page load speed high, prioritize mobile visitors (unless data suggests otherwise).
There is a huge gap in complexity between the destinations of content-based funnels vs lead or sales generating funnels. A content-based funnel (e.g. downloading an ebook) could have a destination that includes one Landing Page and a Thank You Page…that’s all. An ecommerce funnel would have a destination with many moving parts. I’ll cover more of these differences in another article!
This is the part of the funnel that requires the most upkeep. Once you have your conversion goal dialled in, it’s rare that you need to change it. Improving your landing page, form, or “cornerstone” content is important, but happens infrequently. But the front-end of your funnel, the Attraction phase, needs to be kept up to date and tracked all the time.
In this phase, you are using ads, emails, guest blog posts, podcasts, etc to generate interest and traffic. Remember, your only is to get the right people to the destination you’ve already prepared for them.
Outlining what works in this stage is difficult because it’s similar to asking “How can I get my marketing to work?”. A simple, catch-all answer would be unsatisfying and a detailed one may not be applicable to multiple scenarios.
One thing that does apply across the board is that you must know who you are talking to. Who is it that you’re trying to appeal to and attract? You may have heard about personas before, but if you haven’t developed them for your business, it’s time to take care of that now. Understanding who you’re speaking to and what their motivations are will help you craft a successful approach and “hook” in your presentation of the conversion goal.
Take the time to develop your personas. Filter your goal through those personas to see what benefits they’d enjoy most or what problems they need solved most. This will then allow you to build copy, creative, scripts, articles, and more.
In our dealership example, let’s say we had a persona that was busy with work or children, wasn’t knowledgable about cars, and drove a mid-range vehicle (not a luxury car and not a beater). The benefits this kind of person may appreciate are:
- 20 min oil change
- Oil change reminder call & text 2 weeks prior to recommended oil change dates
- Priority scheduling for repeat clients
- Simple, affordable service and oil that will help maintain the vehicle’s life for as long as possible
- Pick up and drop off service available (with conditions)
As far as how exactly to structure your copy, what kind of creative to use, and the million other possible questions there are about making successful ad campaigns, that isn’t the focus of this article so we’ll leave that for now. There are many great resources available, like DigitalMarketer’s blog article on how to Create Your First Facebook Ad.
Once you’ve completed the Conversion, Destination, and Attraction components of your funnel, it’s time to launch it and watch it very very closely. Treat every day and every week as a test of your offers, landing pages, forms, ads, videos, etc. You’ll need to give the funnel time to stabilize and give you enough data so you know what your baseline is. Once you have that, you can feel free to optimize your funnel to amplify its successes.
Please note that there are a number of ways to strategize a funnel and even more levels of complexity (we didn’t even touch on retargeting, audiences, testing, and more). After reading this article and sketching out a few ideas for a funnel of your own, I hope you continue your research to get more familiar with the interesting world of funnel creation and conversion optimization!
As always, if you’d like to connect with me for a consultation on this topic, just tap here to get in touch.