The almost, nearly perfect Sales Funnel plan for startups.

 

Remember the “build it and they will come”, well it doesn’t quite hold as much weight as it used to. In today's markets those "overnight" success stories we hear about are often the result of years of hard work, and a well-timed and executed sales & marketing plan. 

 The sales funnel consists of the different stages your prospective buyer goes through - from looking at your website, to downloading content and reading your blog, until they are ready to take a sales conversation directly with you.

Although it's called a "sales" funnel, it's always been at the heart of marketing. That's because it's a marketer's responsibility to deliver great content to prospects to get them into the sales funnel and to move them toward a sale.

A Complex Sales Cycle.

In today's new digital world, traditional marketing as we have known it, does not always work - especially if you are a start-up, SaaS or a tech business that's a high-cost investment or involves a complex sales process.

The Power Of Self-Research & Inbound Marketing.

Traditional marketers are skilled at understanding traditional products, but the Internet continues to redefine the way we buy, research and seek to self-educate online. As a result companies are now gradually understanding that they need to move away from a traditional marketing approach for doing business.

Relatively new on the scene has been the inbound methodology which seeks to draw in website visitors by helping them find relevant and timely information. Today's buyers do far more research online themselves and don't necessarily make contact with a sales representative until the latter stages of the buying process.

The chart below tracks the HubSpot inbound marketing methodology - going from the Attract stage where a stranger becomes a website visitor to delivering in the Delight stage a customer and brand promoter.

InboundMethodology.png

Content Marketing - Fuels The Lead Generation Engine 

Content marketing is a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing content, growing your website organic traffic and helping to engage and nurture your leads .

Regardless of what type of marketing tactics you use, content marketing should be part of your marketing strategy and can take many forms:

  • Social media marketing through your posts and comments
  • SEO - Search engines reward businesses that publish high quality content
  • Public Relations - Successful PR strategies are those that address issues that prospects are looking to solve
  • Pay Per Click ads - For PPC to work, you need great content to convert a visitor o Inbound marketing – blogging, emails, etc.
  • Blogging, emails, website activity that drives customer engagement

To connect your content to your buyers you have to map out how your customers buy (the Buyer’s Journey -  see chart below). As a prospect moves from the Awareness through to the Decision stage, their content needs change.

The buyers journey and the different marketing content needs for each stage.

How To Create Content For The Buyer's Journey

Typically as buyers we will go through our own unique process of elimination, to research, select and then make our purchase. So, when you don't have a complete understanding of your audience, producing content can be a hit and miss exercise.

So to create content it's best to begin by defining the buyer's journey as it aligns with the sales funnel, by its three main parts: the top of the funnel (Awareness), the middle of the funnel (Consideration), and the bottom of the funnel (Decision).

Content Mapping with the buyers journey and the sales funnel with inbound marketing

 

When you start to analyse your leads ask yourself when a prospect enters a new stage of the buyer's journey - what is their status and needs? This exercise provides context for each buyer persona you create on the type of question(s) that they are searching answers for.

There will be different levels of how informed or aware a prospect is - so tailor the content to what is the "sweet spot" of nurturing them with the right format and type of content to keep them moving along the funnel, doing this for all three stages from Awareness to Decision.

For example:

Awareness {status} I am a buyer ….

  • I am a buyer with a problem.
  • I am a buyer aware of a problem.
  • I am a buyer aware of a problem/opportunity.
  • I am a buyer becoming aware of my problem.
  • I am a buyer seeking (greater) awareness of my problem.

Awareness {needs} I am a buyer ….

  • I need to improve our skills for ….
  • I need to talk with somebody who understands ...
  • I need to prevent …. from happening
  • I need to learn more about ….how to stop
  • I want to address ….this particular problem
  • I need to ... understand more of ....changing this outcome

We have similar examples for the Consideration and Decision stage which you can download as a PDF below:

 

DOWNLOAD QUESTIONS FOR STATUS & NEEDS FOR THE BUYERS JOURNEY 

 

Because audiences differ buyer persona research is critical for an effective content marketing strategy in orde to reveal the buyer's pain and lifecycle stage. Below is an example of a HubSpot template that helps plan the content based on the buyer persona and their lifecycle stage.

using buyr persona and lifecycle stage to create teh right content marketing

(click for a bigger image)

How Do I Make A Sales Funnel For My Business?

Keep in mind your funnel may look different depending on factors such as industry, business model, pricing and target audience. When you create your sales funnel it helps to organise yourself around defined Buying Lifecycle Stages.

For example these stages could be:

Visit: Those visitors that arrive at your website, and either immediately jump-off or stick around to explore what you have.

Lead: Typically a lead has filled out a form with an email address and you have collected additional intelligence on them, often for some sort of content-based offer on your website.

Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL):  MQLs are those people who have identified themselves as being engaged because they have filled out a form found further down the sales funnel such as a demo request.

Sales Qualified Lead (SQL): SQLs are those leads that your sales team has accepted as valuable enough to warrant a direct sales follow up.

Opportunity: Opportunities are contacts who have become real sales opportunities in your CRM and are deemed ready to buy.

Customer: You have closed the sale, now the effort is to keep your customers loyal and get them to become brand advocates.

Optimise The Stages of Your Sales Funnel

Now that you've identified the different stages of your sales funnel, it's important to continually analyse and assess key metrics, such as:

  • Visit-to-Lead Conversion Rate
  • Lead-to-MQL Conversion Rate
  • MQL-to-SQL Rate
  • Opportunity-to-Customer Conversion Rate
  • Lead-to-Customer Conversion Rate

Below are typical sales funnel conversion rates based on estimates from SiriusDecisions:

sales funnel conversion percentage with inbound marketing

(click for bigger image)

How Do I Use Content Marketing Across The Sales Funnel?

To be able to combine your sales and marketing efforts through-out the sales funnel there are a few questions that you need to consider:

  1. Who are we selling to? 
  2. What are we selling?
  3. How do we define the MQL and SQL?
  4. How do companies in this marketplace buy your product/service?
  5. Who should you expect to participate in the buying process? 

So to help you plan your actions around the sales funnel, we have suggested some activities for top, middle and bottom of the funnel:

The Top of the Funnel (TOFU)

Goals: Indirect customer acquisition; increase brand awareness

Tactic: Educational content rather than selling mode. In this first phase of content marketing, you're trying to lift the awareness of your brand and product.

In some cases, if you are a start-up or launching a new product you may also be trying to educate the market to generate curiousity in your solution. The top of the funnel is focused on generating visitor traffic to your website and showing an understanding for your buyer personas and what they are trying to solve.

Types of content that work well during this phase include: Blog posts, whitepapers,  social media your website, webinars, e-books or research from third parties.

The Middle of the Funnel (MOFU)

Goal: Direct customer acquisition; communicate what makes you unique

Tactic: Start building trust and a level of competency in your offering - but no "sales talk"

Hopefully buyers start to associate your brand with a particular solution as they are able to define their own problem through their symptoms. This is the time when you want to produce content that helps them evaluate you and your products.

The customer is now committed to research and understanding all the available approaches and methods to solve their problem. 

At this stage people will be looking for: Blogging, calls-to-action, landing pages and forms for content, case studies, etc.

The Bottom of the Funnel (BOFU)

Goal: Customer sales

Tactic: With most companies when it comes to decision making it involves usually a selected group of stakeholders who together make the decisions, so it is important not to build a message that focuses on one role within an organisation.

Within the B2B environment there can be between 3 – 5 people involved, take this into account when you are producing content for different points-of-view. With all of the content that is available online, buyers are well prepared in terms of information, research and lists of suitable vendors. 

Be ready to impress with your knowledge of your prospects needs, and why your product is right for them before they make their final decision.

You will need to prepare content on: testimonials and endorsements, reviews, product descriptions, etc.

Take Away

So if you are a startup, scaling up or looking to re-invent your business take a look at our 7 tips on generating leads and interest in your brand and implement it with your newly created sales funnel:

  1. Know your customers, understand their pain
  2. Work on how you address that pain
  3. Understand your visitors digital behaviour
  4. Target a market with few or no competitors
  5. Plan to use your inbound marketing tactics in an authentic and respectful way
  6. Price at a point that the market can afford
  7. And have a website ready for conversion

But that's just our funnel ... so what does yours look like?

powerpoint template for customising your marketing presentation

Image source: www.freepik.com