Ecommerce, when taken as a whole, is incredibly broad. And the reality is that you can buy almost anything online.
Physical products, consulting services, even trips to faraway places are ready for purchase. Basically, if you can sell it, you can buy it from your smartphone, tablet, or laptop.
For a seller, and in particular, a first-timer who’s trying to get a business up and running, this massive confluence of competing goods and services can be a daunting labyrinth to navigate.
It doesn’t need to be though.
When you take a step back and see through the noisy and crowded aspects of the billion-dollar behemoth that online sales have become, you can narrow down your path to potential success with three simple steps.
Close the sale.
Easy enough, right?
Unfortunately, many ecommerce start-ups struggle to get their business moving because they are unable to find the right buyer or enough of them.
There is, however, a straightforward method of achieving ecommerce success.
The sales funnel.
Your Traffic, Your Customers, Your Terms
Everyone knows how a kitchen funnel works. Splash in a large volume of liquid at the wide open top and from the narrower end comes a steady and more manageable stream.
A sales funnel works the same way, through four basic steps:
- Target Your Advertising
- Connect With Potential Customers
- Build a Relationship
- Close the Sale
Pretty straightforward. Draw in an ideal group of potential customers or traffic and qualify them down to a more workable group of would-be buyers.
The trouble is, in a rush to get our ecommerce businesses going, a lot of us undervalue a cohesive, multi-layered plan like the sales funnel. We instead opt for a quick hit volume approach.
For example, let’s say you create a generic add that aims to appeal to as many people as possible. You throw it up in a few spots online where you think you’ll capture the most eyeballs and sit back and wait.
You’re excited to see people click on your ad, go to your eCommerce store, and then immediately purchase.
Good idea, right?
Not so much.
You’ll undoubtedly connect with a large group of people with that method, but there’s going to be a lot of people in there who aren’t really that interested in what you have to offer. To find success, you’ll have to weed through all of the uninterested parties to find the people who are truly interested.
By taking a volume approach with your traffic, you end up wasting valuable time and effort trying to sell to people who have no intention of actually buying.
The tire kickers, if you will.
Further, by spending all of your time at the front end of the sales cycle, trying to warm up cold traffic, you have very little time or resources remaining to sell to the people who actually care.
Sure, this approach might pay off in getting a handful of sales, but the effort exerted for those sales is anything but efficient.
So how do you start from a more advantageous position?
Let’s jump into what makes the sales funnel the ideal approach.
Target Your Advertising
The first step in your sales funnel is the need to build awareness and attract the right customers. However, as we noted, you’re not seeking out just anybody, you’re seeking those more apt to do business with you.
In this stage, you need to make a compelling initial argument as to what you can offer the prospect to pull them into your funnel. In other words, you inform the potential customer why your product or service is a better solution to their problem than that of a competitor.
In some cases, the customer may not even know they have a problem until you present them with the solution in your highly specific ad, blog post, or social media post.
Regardless of the initial spark, you need to gear your ads and content to those who stand to benefit the most, and then ensure the content drives the customer to a landing page to engage them directly and start the funnel process.
You’ll want to ensure that your ad makes a compelling argument for them not just wanting to find out more but believing they need to find out more.
We will touch on a goldmine of targeted traffic generation shortly, but first, we need to review what is arguably the most vital step in the funnel process.
Qualifying Your Customer
The secondary level of your funnel is customer qualification. It’s where you separate the pretenders from the contenders.
The landing page we mentioned is where it comes into focus.
You utilize that landing page to expand your message, offering the prospect a more detailed look at your product or service, thus drawing them into your funnel.
A good landing page is vital to the process and is also the spot that you can offer a carrot or small freebie in return for their contact info. It could be any of the following:
- A free download such as an ebook, guide, or report
- A free trial of a service or product
- A webinar that is set up to provide a more direct explanation of your offer
- A video similar to the ebook or report or the webinar
Websites, as a general rule, should not be used as your landing page since they serve a broader purpose and can easily distract a prospect from the information you want them to consume.
However, if you do end up tasking your website in your funnel ensure you have compelling materials set up to engage the prospect once they arrive.
Remember, the ultimate goal is to get your prospect to commit to exploring the product or service further and moving on to the next level of the sales funnel.
Build a Relationship
This phase of the funnel uses many names to describe the process – education, evaluation, decision. We are fans of the first description as your ability to educate the prospect will prove vital to building a relationship with them and acquiring a sale.
Your approach will vary greatly, as you can structure this section of the funnel based on your product, service, or industry.
Although we mentioned webinars in the customer qualification section, they would work well here too, as a more personalized layer of educating the prospect. A webinar is also more likely to lead them into direct engagement with you or your team.
You could also implement some sort of case study or showing how your customers use your products. Even blog posts that are related to your product can be helpful. The goal is simply to help potential customers envision how they could truly benefit from what you’re selling.
Also at this point, don’t be shy about having your prospect complete any applications or paperwork that might be part of your sales process. Yes, it’s another layer of qualification, but it will also tell you who is closest to making a purchase and who might need some additional attention.
Close the Sale
Up to this point, you identified a quality pool of traffic, further qualified those customers into high-value prospects, and provided those prospects with reasons why your ecommerce solution is the clear choice for them.
So now, the part of the funnel you’ve been waiting for – the sale – where the hard work of setting up and refining your sales funnel pays off.
Similar to the relationship phase, you should build this portion of the funnel around what works for your company. In some cases, combining these two steps could be worthwhile if your relationship building merges well with your closing pitch.
Regardless of how you set it up, you want to have a clear call-to-action at this portion of your funnel. You’ve developed a relationship with your customers at this point. They should trust you and have a sense of knowing who you are.
Because you’ve built this trust, you’re in a place to make the “ask”. In other words, you can specifically call them to purchase something from you.
You don’t want to be wishy-washy at this point. You’re trying to get the customer to actually purchase from you. So whether you’re communicating via email or phone, clearly communicate that you want them to purchase your product.
There’s no doubt the sales funnel would seem daunting if you had to do it all manually. Setting up all the emails and landing pages and personal connections would take forever.
Thankfully, you don’t.
In fact, the sales funnel shows it true advantages when it’s automated.
That’s right, as in automatic.
The automated sales funnel brings the customer to your doorstep. As we pointed out, these aren’t just any customers. They’re customers you want. Customers that have a higher chance of success, or more pointedly, of turning into a sale.
Remember, it all starts with the targeted ad, which leads to qualification through the landing page, and then developing the relationship further through email or a hands-on webinar or similar demonstration of what you can offer your would-be customer.
In automating three of the four levels of your sales funnel you are rewarding you and your team with more time to work on what’s important – directly making sales with those who came through the funnel and providing customer services to those who’ve already made a purchase.
The Facebook Factor
So how can you get the sales funnel to work for you? Well, remember that goldmine we mentioned early?
Yes, that goldmine is Facebook.
Aside from being the go-to social site to keep up with friends, family, and, well, everyone else, Facebook is an incredibly powerful marketing tool for your ecommerce business.
It’s also one of the best places to start putting your automated sales funnel in action. It’s the initial place where you make contact with possible customers.
Facebook has data. A lot of data. Data you can utilize to bring your ideal prospect into your sales funnel.
Using the Facebook ad platform, you can access a wealth of information to target your perfect client. This goes way beyond your basic demographics.
With a Facebook ad, not only can you pinpoint a prospects age, income, and education level, but also their behaviors, interests and of course, their likes and dislikes. This allows you to build your marketing campaign around those that will most likely want to engage with you or your company.
Just think what your conversion ratio would be if your prospects have been pre-qualified long before they see an ad.
Will your automated sales funnel instantly double your conversions and send your revenues skyrocketing to the moon?
We can tell you, that once you launch your sales funnel, you’ll see improved efficiencies and a lot more quality customers.
As you continue to refine that funnel – more compelling and direct ads, improved landing pages, increased personalization of your pitch and a sharper close – you’ll come to realize the most lucrative aspect of having one.
Revenue. Lots and lots of revenue.