Contributors from members of the Copper team
So you’ve charted your customer’s path to purchase.
It’s a carefully planned path that’ll guide your prospects from the moment they become aware of your brand all the way to making their purchase.
All you need to do now is snap a finger and your sales funnel will be live—sending sales through the roof and consistently reeling in new customers.
Except there’s just one problem: 50% of leads entering a sales funnel aren’t ready to buy. No matter how you source them, no matter where they come from, half of your prospects won’t buy your product or service right away.
That’s where funnel optimization comes into play.
Funnel optimization is the process of fine-tuning a sales funnel and its stages for the highest acquisition, conversion and retention of prospective customers. While no sales funnel is perfect, there’s nothing to say that you can’t influence the purchase decision of potential buyers and improve your sales funnel conversion rate.
In this article, you’ll learn about what a sales funnel is and the different stages that make up a funnel. Then, we’ll talk about optimization techniques you can use to improve conversions at each stage.
Let’s jump in.
What is a sales funnel?
A sales funnel is the path or journey taken by a potential customer from the time they become aware of your product or service to when they buy what you have to offer. It’s usually represented by a graphical image that illustrates the key stages of the customer’s journey and the role each stage plays in increasing engagement and trust. A typical sales funnel might look something like this:
Though the number of stages may vary slightly based on whose sales funnel you’re looking at, the majority of the funnels out there have these four stages:
- Awareness: This is the initial stage where you make your prospects aware of who you are, what you offer, and how you’re different.
- Interest & Evaluation: At this stage, your prospects are evaluating whether or not your product or service would be able to fulfill their needs.
- Desire: In the Desire stage, your prospects are paying more attention to what your business has to offer, including different options and pricing, so they can make the final decision to purchase.
- Action: This is where the prospects are ready to give you their business—they’re about to become paying customers.
If you can optimize for each of the four stages, you stand a better chance of achieving a higher sales funnel conversion rate.
How do I optimize sales funnel stages for maximum conversions?
While your sales funnel is always going to lose some prospects, you can drastically reduce the lost count and nurture those who aren’t ready to commit by taking these steps:
1. Create educational content (awareness).
At the very beginning of your sales funnel, prospects become aware of your brand. They realize they need to achieve an objective or address a problem, so they look for solutions.
You’re just one of the many providers they’re likely to come across.
Before they’re going to give you their business, they want to know who you are and what makes you different from the rest.
Hence, the key to improving conversions in the awareness stage is to focus on creating educational content that presents your company as an expert in its field.
According to Conductor, people are 131% more likely to buy from a brand immediately after reading a piece of educational content, indicating that informative articles, videos, etc. can have a profound impact on early-stage buyers.
You can educate buyers with nearly any type of content, but we’ve found the specific types below to be best at moving leads further into the funnel:
- Solution-oriented articles
These articles focus on highlighting all possible solutions to a specific problem. For example, if you’re targeting people who are looking for a way to free up storage space on their iPhones, you could write about the different solutions that do that and gently mention that your product can also cater to their need.
Here’s a real-life example:
If you search “how to clean mac computer” in Google, you’ll come across this article from MacPaw. It talks about 10 ways to clean up a Mac and make it run faster. What’s intriguing is that MacPaw has also listed one of its flagship products—CleanMyMac X—as a potential solution.
Instead of pushing CleanMyMac X from the get-go, the brand is educating buyers and demonstrating its thought leadership in the Mac space with solution-oriented pieces that drive traffic and engagement.
- How-to videos
These videos give you the opportunity to answer questions and share your expertise with your visitors. While recording, you can introduce your brand and then jump right into helping your audience solve a specific problem.
Here’s an example:
This video is posted by The Idle Man, an ecommerce website specializing in menswear.
Obviously, The Idle Man's inventory includes a range of leather shoes. By educating people on how to clean these shoes, the brand makes a good first impression that can engage prospective customers.
- Research reports
If you’re a B2B company, you can conduct research on a certain aspect of your industry and present your findings in the form of a report to your audience. All those numbers and data should leave prospective buyers impressed.
Microsoft Azure, for instance, published a report on the economics of serverless cloud computing.
The report educates B2B buyers on the core benefits of serverless cloud computing. Being an event-driven serverless computing experience itself, Azure is making people aware of the serverless cloud with resources that perfectly align with its brand.
After you create some educational content, promote it on social media. With people spending more time on social, sharing content on Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, and other channels will give it some much-needed exposure.
2. Set up a landing page (interest + evaluation).
Now that you’ve got their attention, you can’t let your audience escape. Figure out what they’re aiming to achieve. Then, show your brand is there to help them fulfill their goals.
To do this, you’ll need to get your prospects’ contact information so that you can begin a relationship with them. The best way to do this is to set up a landing page that’s relevant to their interests.
According to Aberdeen, targeting people with content relevant to their position in the buying cycle can yield 72% higher conversions. And that’s just what a landing page does.
In a sales funnel, the landing page is created solely to promote a specific product or service to interested buyers. Its content, therefore, should build up excitement in your prospects.
For instance, take a look at this landing page from Frost & Sullivan:
You can see that the business consulting firm knows its prospects well—the headline talks about the solution its audience desires: making sure their content marketing efforts drive returns. The second-person voice makes it enticing as the content speaks directly to the reader.
For the best results, make sure your landing page targets and impresses people who are interested in your products. Ideally, it should have an eye-catching design and offer something in exchange for leads’ contact details—like a free ebook or webinar in exchange for their email ID.
3. Present social proof (desire).
Have you ever been on the fence about buying a subscription but were ultimately convinced by a friend to make the purchase after hearing how much they’ve gained from it?
You were exposed to a type of social proof—your friend’s experience—which had an impact on your buying decision.
Simply put, social proof is showing prospects evidence of your company’s success or popularity through testimonials, customer reviews, success stories, and customer count across your website and landing pages.
For the people exploring your product or service who don’t turn into immediate customers, you need to show that your brand actually lives up to your claims.
Social Media Examiner, a popular social media magazine, does this really well. You’ll find social proof in the form of customer testimonials and success stories on most of its landing pages. Here’s one example:
Taken from Social Media Examiner’s landing page for its annual social media marketing conference
With 97% of consumers factoring reviews into their purchase decisions, positive word from people who’ve attended the conference lends credibility to Social Media Examiner both as a host and a brand.
Social proof exists in many forms, and there are several ways to utilize it through your sales funnel. When it comes to the Desire stage, try using the following on your landing page to move buyers towards the sale.
- Customer count
- Video testimonials
- Positive reviews
- Industry awards
- Client logos
Used smartly, social proof makes it easier to edge out the competition and proves that you’re worthy of the investment.
4. Put up a clear CTA (call-to-action).
You’ve put in all the work to get your prospects to the last stage of your funnel. Don’t make the mistake of leaving the choice of what to do next up to them. Use a clear CTA that motivates your prospects to buy from your brand.
Because they’re close to making a purchase, use CTA copy that encourage prospects to seal the deal, such as:
- Schedule your appointment
- Book now
- Go premium
- Buy your favorites today
- Secure membership access
- Start your free trial
The appearance of your CTA needs to be as visually enticing as its copy. One best practice is to use a contrasting color with the background if your CTA is a button.
Notice how most buttons are usually red, blue, or green? If you incorporate the same color as the background, prospects might not notice it at all. So, use a contrasting color to draw attention to what’s perhaps the most important element in your sales funnel.
Lastly, place the CTA at a prominent location.
If you have a long landing page, the call-to-action shouldn’t just be at the bottom of the content. Visitors might not read through the whole page to the end. Because of that, consider placing the CTA both above and below the fold. That way, prospects already interested in your product or service can “buy now” quickly without getting distracted.
Here’s an example of a well-executed CTA:
The presentation software company Prezi uses a clear CTA on the landing page for its product. The button stands out because its color contrasts with the background color, and it’s placed right at the top. Whoever lands on this landing page quickly knows where to click.
In case the visitor decides to scroll down to the end of the page, Prezi has another CTA ready to remind them about taking action.
Achieve the ultimate goal: turning leads into sales.
At the end of the day, it isn’t just about creating a sales funnel, it’s about optimizing it too.
While some leads are always going to slip through the cracks, visualizing the customer journey and providing value to prospects can lead to an uptick in your sales funnel conversion rate.
Focus on every step of the conversion path and guide potential customers through your sales funnel stages.
With enough time and effort, you should start to see more engagement, more conversions, and ultimately, more sales.