Don’t Panic! Here’s How to Fix Your Broken Sales Funnel
The term sales funnel is a hot topic in marketing circles but don’t let it put you off. If you sell a product or service online, you probably have a sales funnel, even if you don’t think about it as such. The important point is to ask yourself if you’re happy with the level of sales and, if not, how to fix the problem? The process you use to analyze your online sales is called CRO (conversion rate optimization). Another two dollar phrase but don’t let that throw you either.
All we’re talking about is how a website owner can figure out what’s wrong with sales and how to fix it. So… don’t panic! Here’s how to fix a broken sales funnel.
The Funnel Analogy
The idea of a sales funnel isn’t just cutesy terminology. It actually makes sense. Regardless of the exact construction of your sales process, you probably focus marketing efforts on drawing in a large number of people and then hope that a few of them engage with your sales message and buy something.
With a sales funnel, though, it’s not as easy as simply pouring potential customers into the top to see who falls out the bottom holding a credit card. You have to be proactive about offering incentives and creating an environment that makes people want to proceed to the next step. This process of figuring out which elements work best to draw an ever-larger number of people successfully through your sales process is what we’re here to talk about.
Perhaps the best way to evaluate a broken sales funnel is to take a look at one that does everything right.
Breaking Down the Sales Funnel
While a sales funnel can be either laughably simple, ridiculously complex, or somewhere in the middle, the five elements that define it are the same. Let’s analyze each.
Cast a Net but Not Too Wide
The first mission of an online entrepreneur is to draw attention to the fact that your business exists. Seems pretty simple, right? Maybe. It also could be a huge money suck that doesn’t target the right audience. A difficult concept for many to accept is that the entire population of the earth is not your target market unless the name Amazon or Walmart hangs above the door.
If you’re drawing in a healthy chunk of traffic to your website but only a small fraction of them proceed to the next step, it could be that you’re going after the wrong people. An example. If you’re selling peanut butter, make sure you aren’t wasting money advertising to people who are allergic to nuts.
Get ‘Em Interested
It’s incredibly hard to draw attention online these days, and you don’t want to be the equivalent of a used car salesman with a police siren and flashing red light attached to your website. But you need to present something of interest to newly arrived potential customers that convince them at least to part with an email address so you can follow up with more marketing messages.
Focus your efforts on creating appealing headlines, professional graphics, and quality written copy that makes cold traffic turn into a warm body that wants to pull up a chair and stay a while. Cheap tricks won’t get you far but well-executed professionalism and a dash of good humor can. A compelling giveaway doesn’t hurt either.
Make Them Want What You’re Selling
At this point, they haven’t clicked away. That’s good. They’re at least moderately interested in your website. Now’s the time to create a sense of desire that makes it impossible for them to leave until they’ve interacted in some way either through signing up to your email list or actually buying something.
This is the time to throw enticing, high-quality product photos in front of them. Videos would be even better. Don’t forget in-depth product descriptions with an extended list of features and options. The point is to anticipate any questions they might have an answer it before they get frustrated and leave.
Keep in mind that things like free shipping and a generous returns policy go a long ways towards creating the kind of goodwill that makes a visitor think that not only do they need the product or service, but they need it from you.
Take Care of the Technical
Website visitors have little patience for technical glitches, slow-loading pages, or any of a hundred other frustrations or distractions that can arise in the checkout or signup process. Your goal is to eliminate any source of confusion that could foul up the conversion journey.
This means you should test the shopping cart flow (if you sell a product) or the email autoresponders if you are selling or giving away something digital. Does your website load fast? Google recently set two seconds as the standard for all websites to load and thinks the metric is so important that it now penalizes those that miss the mark by too much with lowered search engine rankings. If you still rely on the sometimes shaky quality of a shared server, it might be time to consider the moderate additional expense of a faster, more secure dedicated server or VPS (virtual private server).
Encourage Repeat Business
Once the purchase is complete, your job has only begun. Happy customers whom you encourage to shop with you again can be an (almost) endless supply of profit. Failing to communicate your appreciation for their business and following up with additional offers are two common points of funnel breakage. It seems so easy but so many website owners miss this most profitable of opportunities.
We’re not saying you should bombard every customer with an increasingly frantic stream of emails. Just don’t let them fall through the cracks and fail to nurture the relationship.
A Final Thought
Perhaps the best advice is to take a journey through your website as if you are a customer. Let go of your owner hat long enough to pretend like you’re buying something from – well – you. Ask friends or family to do the same. If you start to get complaints about a certain point in the sales funnel process, guess what? The preceding discussion points you towards how to fix it.
Keep in mind that tweaking a sales funnel is a mission that will never be complete. It’s a slow, sometimes tedious process of making small adjustments and then evaluating the effect, negative or positive. Take actions that result in less of the former and more of the latter.
Good luck out there!
(Cover image courtesy of Flickr | Krysten_N)
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