If you’ve wondered this question, you’ve probably been working on your sales funnel for awhile but have been underwhelmed. Or perhaps you’re just getting serious about tightening up your online website sales system, but aren’t sure where to begin. Our aim here is to create some clarity for you.

The goal of any sales funnel is to create what are often called “conversions.” The sales funnel allows you to organize your material to address each stage of the decision-making process someone goes through to improve the trust you earn and the chances that person will take a conversion action.

We’ll walk through how you can optimize each stage of the sales funnel in today’s post.

To begin, it’s worth clarifying that conversion actions can be any of these things:

  • Use of a contact form
  • A phone call
  • Making a purchase off of a product page (or landing page)
  • Sharing your content on a social media channel
  • Leaving a blog comment
  • Subscriptions and social follows

Each of these involve different stages of the sales funnel, which we’ll delve into next. The idea is that these actions a prospect can take either allow you to continue communicating with them to the next stage, or leverage the end stage they are at and move them to take a buying action.

Each Stage Of The Sales Funnel

Visual of each step of the sales funnel

The Awareness Phase

This is the beginning of the funnel, when a prospective customer first becomes aware they have a need. They may have an earache, for instance, and hop online to begin doing some reading about what causes one and what they can do about it.

You can think of this as a “window shopping” phase where that person is simply familiarizing themself with what sort of options even exist. They aren’t ready to buy anything yet.

Words like why, what, when, where, and how are most important here.

You can optimize for Awareness by:

  • Making sure you have pages or blogs on your site that address specific information-gathering questions that person is asking.
  • Social media posts can also help here, since people often begin searches on networks like Facebook, Tik Tok, and YouTube.

When they find you via these mediums, its an opportunity to demonstrate the types of solutions that are even available to them, which helps inform their next step.

The Interest Phase

This is where that person is now aware of the products and solutions that are out there that could solve their problem. But which of those products makes the most sense for them? This is the research they are now doing.

Examples of searches they might be doing:

  • Invisalign versus braces (costs, ease of use, how long they last, etc.)
  • Solar panels versus wind turbines

Your goal here is to help them understand the pros and cons of the different options. Wherever possible, establish a sense of urgency to select an option so they move efficiently into the next phase.

If you offer several of the options that are available in your industry, you’ll be helping them to determine which of them makes the most sense per their situation. And if you offer one option and not others, you’ll be selling the value of why you think the solution you offer is ideally suited to them.

Ways you can leverage this phase:

  • Overview costs and timelines
  • Explain how getting started works
  • Webinars, video guides, eBooks, and white papers

The Decision Phase

Now the prospective customer has decided upon what type of product or solution they are going to buy. The question now is, who from?

This phase and the next one, which can often happen at the same time, require a bit more finesse than earlier stages. You must assume at this point that the buyer is familiar enough with what they are looking for that they don’t need explanations. They probably have a short list of sellers they have either already looked at or are ready to look at.

That’s important to bear in mind because this is a key area where positioning the wrong content, content that may have been ideal for the beginning of this process instead, can seem too basic or immediately drive the reader away.

At this point the buyer is mainly concerned about two things: That the price is right and that you are a trustworthy place to buy from. Showcasing competitive features of a product may or may not be as compelling anymore, and the main things that will be persuasive now are testimonials, stories of your product being exactly what people need, and any sense of urgency established with sales, special offers, etc.

Effective content for this phase includes:

  • Landing pages (focused, no distraction with one offer)
  • Limited time offers
  • Free demos
  • Webinars and videos

The Action Phase

This is it. This is the step where the buyer is ready to take action. As mentioned before, this can sometimes happen right along side of the previous phase where a list of social proof and attractive price may quickly motivate the individual to take action. This particular step is less about persuading someone to buy your product and more about making that moment as seamless as possible.

We’ve all probably encountered a scenario where we knew we wanted the product and were ready to act, but then couldn’t figure out where or how to actually get started. And how long were we going to scroll and click around looking before we simply gave up and moved onto another seller?

If the user interface has already been a little confusing and that reader has already had to put in a bit of work to make it here, any minor inconvenience or visual aspect that creates doubt could jeopardize the sale.

Any call to action color that seems out of place, or language that goes against the tone of the rest of the page, or even a sales process that feels convoluted can work against everything we have built to this point.

One of the most common mistakes for websites in this regard is having too many calls to action. For instance, if you are prompting someone to sign up for your newsletter but also encouraging them to check out your Facebook page, and then elsewhere on the page also want them to call you it may feel overwhelming. 

The moment it feels confusing or overwhelming, it’s no longer a matter of which action they are going to take. The result is that they will likely take none of them.

The best way to begin on any given page to avoid this issue is to be very clear on the purpose of that page. What specific things is this page addressing? What phase of the sales funnel does it best appeal to? If we had to pick one type of call to action for this page, which would make the most sense?

When there is focus and the entire page is subtly guiding the reader toward a singular endpoint, the chances are highest that will be what indeed happens.

In SEO this is probably the aspect where strong web design comes to play the most. You’ve done a lot of work to capture attention and get people to your page, and in some cases you can accomplish the whole rest of the sales funnel even with a very basic design.

But fumbling this stage with an unfocused series of calls to action — or a dated design that doesn’t speak to your expertise — can lead to those confusing analytics where it seems like you are getting decent traffic but the phone is not ringing. 

Understanding the Phase You’re Writing For

to craft content that connects there’s an inherent understanding of that prospective customer you need to have. It needs to go deeper than just, “what problem are they having?”

In some industries the question and exploration phase will need to be very basic. In others, it may require infographics and a lot of data to be valuable enough to that reader to continue down the funnel.

For some fields such as looking for a traffic attorney to get out of a speeding ticket, it’s possible to answer a question and address most of the sales funnel in one shot. That’s because this type of customer needs to move quickly and probably doesn’t want to spend a ton of time on this issue. After all, in that example the main things the attorney is offering are a speedy resolution and taking the concern off the person’s shoulders. 

If that attorney’s content reads as knowledgeable and the price is right, there may not be any other barriers to that person making a phone call.

That’s a different process than, say, buying a car or choosing a company to remodel your kitchen.

This is highly relevant to SEO as well, both in keyword research and in prioritizing what pages you create. For instance, addressing a lot of the top questions is a great way to demonstrate expertise and build a general rankings for your website, but focusing too much on that content will leave the site weak in the later stages of the sales funnel.

That could lead to a lot of empty traffic to the site. 

Going the other direction is just as common an error, where too much of the website is sales-heavy and doesn’t spend enough time addressing questions or building any trust with the reader. Just as a pushy salesman might be annoying in person, it’s actually even more troublesome on a website because it’s easier to click the back button than exit a conversation.

slide show cover page for presentation about crafting conversion driven websites

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