The Sales Funnel and How it Applies to Your Website

Let’s dive into the concept of the sales funnel and how it relates to your website. I’ll explain the concept of the sales funnel, what each stage is, and also give examples of how to tell when part of your funnel is not working. 

In a very simplified version of the sales funnel, there are four stages: 

  • Awareness —  when someone first hears about your service or product. 

  • Interest — the next phase when they visit your website to learn more. 

  • Decision — building trust through case studies, testimonials, social proof, press etc.

  • Action — making it quick and efficient for them to purchase, sign-up or otherwise complete your call-to-action.


TOP OF THE FUNNEL: AWARENESS

Awareness can be almost anything that gets your business in front of the public. Common ways in the digital realm are social media, PPC advertising, and content marketing. More traditional methods include advertising, direct mail or press mentions. In-person methods such as word of mouth, networking or professional organizations can also be a key.

Generally the most cited cited metric to test if the top of your funnel is working is the number of visitors to your website. Which of course begs the question: what’s considered good traffic? This is always a tricky question.

I’ve heard a range of numbers with most online discussions turning into bragging matches. A better metric is whether the traffic to your site is growing over time. If there’s been no increase in visitors to your website, there is probably an issue with the top of your funnel. 
 

Example of an Awareness Problem

A good example of a top of an awareness problem is when we got contacted by a business offering organic lawn care. They had a limited marketing budget but wanted to redesign their website in order to grow their business. However when we looked at their site’s analytics we found that actually a high number of visitors (around 30%) were signing up for their free consultation — they just didn’t have much traffic. 

This was a clear case of an issue in the awareness stage of the funnel. Instead of a redesign, they started a local area, pay-per-click campaign to drive additional traffic to their site.  


Middle of the Funnel: Interest

The middle of the funnel contains much of the quantitative information about what your product is, who it’s for and what makes it special. It includes guides, lists, detailed product information and and other factual information about your product or services services. 

A way to measure the success of this stage of the funnel is to, once again, review the website’s analytics. When people come to your website but bounce or don’t engage with the content, that’s usually a problems with the middle of the funnel. Common ways to fix the middle of the tunnel are through improving the design and creating a content marketing strategy. There could also be a mismatch between the messaging that attracts visitors to your website, and the product or service you are selling. Making sure that everything is in alignment is the best way to solidify the middle of the funnel.


Example of an Interest Problem

A skincare device company was running a PPC (pay-per-click) campaign that was driving a lot of traffic to their website, but they found that people were bouncing the minute they got to their site. They reached out to us to help them redesign their website so that it felt like a prestige beauty company that their ideal customer would connect with rather than a do-it-yourself website. The redesigned website reduced their bounce rate and retained their ideal customers rather than scaring them away.


MIDDLE of the Funnel: DECISION

After the factual information, next comes the more qualitative stage. Here visitors seek to discover what sets you apart from your competitors and look for reassurance in their decision making. Trust and authority are key and can be built in a number of ways including blogging, press mentions, case studies, testimonials, product reviews, money back guarantees or social proof on social media. 

During this phase you want the potential customer to go from being interested in your product to deciding to take action. If you have problems at this part of your funnel, you likely will see low conversion rates.

There is considerable variance in what a healthy conversion rate might be, I’ve seen numbers from 1% to 5% tossed around for e-commerce. Obviously the more expensive your product or service is, generally the longer and more involved your selling cycle will be. While there’s is no exact percentage for successful conversion rates, if you’re seeing visitors engaging with your content but not taking the next step, it's likely you need to work on building trust and authority. 


Example of an Decision Problem

We recently worked with a dentist and in an early version of the website we had all the basic information of where she is located, what services they offer, and what kind of insurance they take.

However as we continued working on it and did more research, the questions transitioned from these basics to questions such as if the dentist is nice and friendly? Do they take the time to listen to their patients? Are they trustworthy? Do they try to upsell their clients on expensive services?

So we added testimonials from other patients to build trust and answer these qualitative questions, showing her to be both technically qualified AND a nice, friendly person to have poking around in your mouth.


Bottom OF THE FUNNEL: ACTION

The final part of the funnel, and what we’ve all been waiting for, is action. This is the point from which the visitor decides to take action and commit. Generally everything up to this point involves increasing motivation — after this it's all about reducing friction and getting the visitor from deciding to buy to actually making the purchase.

I'm sure we've all been in the situation where we decide to buy something but don’t quite get around to it. Whether you can’t find your credit card, get distracted by a hard-to-get Pokemon or have a technical issue with the website during the process, the order gets lost. While we can't control the customer's real world experiences, we can streamline their online experiences to create the best circumstances for them to follow through. Examining the user flow, the layout of your check-out pages and implementing an abandoned cart program are good methods to combat problems in this area of the funnel.


Example of an Action Problem

Recently we started working with a new client and saw that while visitors were clicking the buy button, a large number were leaving during checkout and not completing their orders. Upon closer inspection, we saw that there was a large green button for financing options which took them off to another site whereas the button to continue with their purchase was buried down below a lot of legal jargon and required some scrolling to get to. As you might expect, visitors were absent-mindedly clicking on the financing button because it was large and obvious, then getting confused and abandoning the site altogether.


And to wrap it all up, here’s a handy cheat sheet to remember everything:

  • Awareness Problems = No Traffic to Your Site
    Solve with social media, PPC advertising, content marketing, print advertising, direct mail, press mentions, word of mouth, networking or professional organizations

  • Interest Problems = People are Bouncing from Your Site
    Solve with better visual design, content marketing strategy, or improving alignment

  • Decision Problems = People are Engaging but Not Buying
    Solve with blogging, press mentions, case studies, testimonials, product reviews, money back guarantees or social proof.

  • Action Problems = People aren't Finalizing their Purchase.
    Solve with reducing friction, improving user flow, examining check-out pages and implementing an abandoned cart.


For another example of using the sales funnel on a website, please check out our Brain Picking: Handsocks.com Homepage Analysis.