5 Steps to an Optimized Sales Funnel

A sales funnel is the process by which consumers move through the buying decision process. Here’s an example of a sales funnel I like from Impulse Creative. Customers enter the top (and widest part) of your funnel. At the bottom of the funnel are a much smaller group of loyal customers who are likely to recommend your company to family and friends. They’re generally called promoters.

But, what does a sales funnel actually represent and how can I use this blog to change my thinking and be better at closing sales? Glad you asked.

At each stage of the buying decision process, opportunities exist to test, analyze, iterate and then prioritize wins for roll-out to drive sales. An optimized sales funnel increases overall conversion rate, thus reducing your acquisition costs, and allowing you to become more effective at identifying and nurturing future high-value leads. This post covers some of the most important key elements of an optimized funnel.

Step 1: Design a landing page and start testing

Maybe you’re noticing a spike in traffic but the visitors aren’t converting to sales. Whether people find your site through an email, Google search or Facebook ad, they click through because they’re hoping to consider your product as the one they’ll end up buying. A successful landing page clearly and succinctly tells the consumer who you are and why your product is the one they want, and then moves the visitor to a customer as fast as possible.

When testing a landing page to drive conversions, here are some things to keep in mind:

a) Call to Action (CTA): When conducting your first test, look at industry-wide best practices by visiting your competitors’ sites. Glean learnings from them. If you see calls to action placed in similar locations on multiple sites, it may mean that the industry tested into those locations. So, you have a starting point. Not only location is important. Don’t forget to test colors, sizes and language too. Take into account your brand design, what’s already in the background, and the urgency of your text. For example, a bright box may seem too bold, but if your product needs minimal description to close a sale, it may convey just the right tone to drive the consumer’s eye toward it and achieve the result you want.

b) Heading / Body Copy: Try different font sizes and play around with your copy. For example, test certain words to determine if they resonate more with your consumers. There are words and phrases that work better than others. This book is a good example of what to read to understand words that motivate action.

c) Images: One may work better than another to provoke the reaction you want. Just make sure the images are relevant, are accretive to your brand and CTA, and do not detract from the most important goal of conversion.

Step 2: Segment audiences

When you segment the audience you drive to the funnel, you’ll be able to figure out how best to engage with each group. For example, if your ad is designed to pull in a particular demographic, your landing page needs to target their specific needs. Customizing the right message to the right people will strengthen the efficiency of your brand to solve your visitor’s problem. Segmentation is useless unless you track the variables, so make sure your test is set up properly to track from the ad source all the way through the funnel. Tracking responses helps you optimize your conversion strategy.

Here are several examples of how to segment your audience and a test idea or two. Note there are many examples. You should consider the importance of them to your business when testing:

a) Channel: Segmenting by preferred channel of communication will dictate where and how best to spend your resources. If most of your loyal customers find your company through email, then that’s where you should focus your energy. Test whether it’s important for your brand to have visual and verbal consistency between the email and landing pages.

Alternately, people may select your brand on Facebook, in a social environment. As a result, you hypothesize that your Facebook audience likes landing pages with social proof on them. You may test your control against a landing page with social proof that reminds customers of Facebook. Did it increase conversion?

b) Form Factor: What devices are your visitors using to engage with your brand? Make it easy to navigate your site whether on a mobile device or laptop. Or if you see conversion happening primarily on mobile, use your channels to direct visits to mobile and drive up your conversion rates.

c) Promoters: Survey your customers to see how likely they would be to recommend your company to a friend. Promoters are the ones who respond the most favorably. This could mean future communications with this group encourages them to refer new leads to you. In designing a test, it could mean that you use their success stories to convince visitors to convert or move deeper through the funnel.

d) Keywords: Use keyword to segment by behavior and interest. For example, potential consumers searching for “wholesale” may lead to larger orders. Design your pages appropriately.

Step 3: Personalize your Landing Page

Create a customized landing page experience for key audience segments. For example, you could appeal to specific age groups or geographic regions with relevant images or words. This means that having copy on your landing page in New York City that says something like “Welcome New Yorkers, there are 75,000 people online right now” may drive someone deeper into the funnel. For those who return to your site repeatedly but don’t buy, send them to a page where they can obtain product comparisons or case studies to help them make a purchase decision.

Additional methods for personalizing your landing pages include:

a) Time of day: Almost anything on a landing page can be tested to coincide with specific times of day, to leverage major events or even weather conditions.

b) Unique selling points: Emphasize certain product features to appeal to different groups. Further A/B testing can help to refine your unique selling proposition.

c) Incentives to convert now: Personalized incentives make it that much more enticing to respond to your CTA. They range from gifts with purchase to free time, discounts and more. Think about what you’re selling. The most likely incentives to make a visitor convert are ones that are directly relevant to your product.

Step 4: Reduce Site Friction

Friction are variables that slow down the buying decision process. In order to optimize your sales funnel, you need to figure out what is adversely affecting the urgency for consumers to convert to a sale. Never assume you know what’s causing friction. Instead, rely on the A/B testing we’ve talked about, as well as customer feedback, to improve your optimization strategy.

Here are some ways to reduce sales funnel friction:

a) Site Design: If possible, move elements around so you can test different layouts. Minimize consumer anxiety by avoiding lengthy landing pages and confusing site navigation. Unless, of course, you’ve tested into that and it performs better.

b) Incentives: Negate site friction by adding incentives such as targeted non-price or price-based promotions and value-added offers.

c) Autofill: Forms can become a friction point if they’re too long or complicated. One solution might be to allow for fields to automatically fill in when prompted.

Step 5: Prioritization

The key to an optimized sales funnel is to continually seek out ways to improve it, but where’s the best place to start? Regularly review every stage of your funnel to make sure its components are still working the way they should. The goal isn’t to haphazardly find something to break; it’s to make an informed hypothesis on what to change first. Start with small, fast tests to make sure they’re set up correctly and produce valid results. Once you have data on conversion improvements, you’re ready to prioritize the inclusion of the new variables into your control. Remember, data is your friend. Rely on it to guide your way. Iterate your way to success.

Bonus: Knowing when to take a big leap!

One of the benefits of iterative A/B testing is the ability to tweak isolated variables without having to worry about messing up your site or revenue streams.

So what happens when you have performed multiple tests and have statistically significant data telling you to jump to a big test? I say design a new creative, with the most relevant variables, and allocate a small percentage of traffic to it. Then, as results start to come in, read results. When you reach enough respondents that you have statistical significance, you’ll know whether you’ve beat your control and should migrate to this new page or whether you should abandon it. It’s always fun to throw in one of these types of tests to see if you can eke out a big win.

Hope this post helped. Good luck!