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How to Optimize Your Sales Funnel for Success

This post was written by the Web Marketing Ninja — a professional online marketer for a major web brand, who’s sharing his tips undercover here at ProBlogger. Curious? So are we!

As online marketers, we often devote a large amount of time to finding ways to attract eyeballs to our online assets. We put such effort into simply get the readers there that we allow the rest to take care of itself. Money will flow, Ferraris will be purchased, and we can all retire nice and young…

Then we discover the concept of sales funnels.

You may already know what a sales funnel is, but if you don’t, let me quickly describe it for you.

A sales funnel is a simple map of your lead-to-sale process.

  1. Let’s imagine you start with 1,000 leads (visitors to your web site).
  2. 100 might click on a sales page link for of one of your products.
  3. 50 might click your Order Now button and enter your shopping cart.
  4. Ten complete the checkout process and buy the product.

So your sales funnel starts and 1,000 and ends in ten sales—that’s a 1% conversion.

That’s a bare-bones view of a sales funnel, but as you can see it takes four steps, not one, to increase the amount of sales your site delivers. If we put all our attention on attracting new visitors, we’re essentially forgetting 75% of the puzzle—and we’ve all done that.

But that’s not where online marketers go wrong!

It’s not hard to sell people the idea of the sales funnel—it’s simple to understand and easy to quantify. It’s also been around for a long time. Offline sales professionals have been using it for decades.

The problem with the sales funnel is that in the offline world it’s a simple and straightforward methodology, but in the online world, it’s not.

The image below is a quick process map I prepared for a Managing Director of a large retail operation, who’s focusing heavily on online strategy.

As you can see, that organization’s sales funnel is a lot more complicated than the simple four-step process I mentioned above. There are some key points I want to highlight in this map:

  • Seven different types of traffic that visit the site.
  • There are multiple behaviors that we need to analyse: what pages visitors view, how long they stay, the navigational path, and their user profiles (locations, browsers, etc.).
  • There’s a connection outcome, as well as a buy outcome.
  • A visitor can become a customer in a range of ways.

Now my idea of a funnel resembles something I use to fill my car with oil, and this looks nothing like it. This depiction reminds me more of the tubes game I play on my iPhone. In even more bad news, I made this process map in five minutes. The reality is that this business’s online sales funnel is probably twice as complicated!

The key to sales funnel success

The key to creating a more successful sales funnel is: step away from the keyboard. While I work in an office, I actually have a whiteboard in my house. I actually use it, and it’s better than any online tool I’ve seen for laying out the bare bones of a real, live sales funnel.

I start by detailing every single way people can enter the funnel, identifying where they have come from, what their persona is, and where they’re at in the purchase cycle.

Then, I identify every activity that someone can undertake on the site: read some content, read some more content, subscribe to a newsletter, view a social media profile, buy something, or exit the site.

Finally I detail the measures I can put on each activity: time on page, entry path, exit path, and so on.

Then I start connecting the dots and putting together all the different pathways a visitor can take thought my funnel. The key here is not to change anything about your site yet.

Putting theory into practice

Once the funnel is mapped, and the measures are in place, I start collating reports at every step. What I’m trying to do here is understand how my funnel works in practice, not in theory.

Try this on your blog. Once you’ve collated enough information to start making decisions, I guarantee there will be obvious points of failure in your process, and they’re likely to arise in two main areas:

  1. a page that does a great job at encouraging a secondary behaviour (that is, rather than keeping someone in the sales funnel)
  2. a page that fundamentally fails to move a customer to the next step in the funnel.

Initially, you’ll probably feel like there is a lot to do, so you’ll need to prioritize the changes you want to make. Focus on the areas that are costing you the most sales (which might actually be at the bottom end of your funnel).
With time, effort, and focus, you could see huge improvements in the performance of your site, without your having to attract one new visitor to your site. Sounds good to me!

Have you tweaked your sales funnel recently? What changes have worked best for you?

Stay tuned from most posts by the secretive Web Marketing Ninja—a professional online marketer for a major web brand, who’s sharing his tips undercover here at ProBlogger. Questions? Suggestions? Email him.

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Comments

  1. Blog Tyrant says:

    Fantastic article! I think this will really help a lot of people around here.

    The graphic really highlights why as few steps as possible are important. I talk about that a bit in this article: http://www.blogtyrant.com/increase-conversions/

    Well done.

    Tyrant

  2. Brad Gosse says:

    Great post :-)

    The best thing I ever did with my own sales funnels was I added a one-time offer to the confirmation link when people join my mailing list. Over 90% of my sales come through this single channel.

  3. Gold says:

    That 1% mentioned doesn’t tell anything and should not be on interest or help to anyone. When you betted on that horse and won; how much did you profit that day after betting on horses in all the races of that day???
    Why don’t you talk about how much in dollars profit you expect !

    Gold

  4. Ishan says:

    Well, I have no funnel as of now because I have no products but I am working a bit on getting more people to subscribe. I have built some cornerstone pages as of now and am measuring the results.
    Your post really highlights some important points.

  5. I am just beginning my website and am working on ways I will slowly incorporate revenue streams into my blog. This article helped put into words the way I was thinking. Thank you for posting this one! I will certainly use it!!

  6. samir says:

    Nice concept. But i had to read it twice for understanding it. When i read it first time it went like a bouncer. Hope to learn more soon ;)

  7. Great post,
    thanks for the info.

    They are really useful for me that I am actually starting my mailing list.

  8. David Perdew says:

    It’s true, there are a number of ways to approach a sales funnel, but the important part is having a plan before you implement one. Your post does a good job of explaining that, and you can’t expect results too quickly. It takes time to attract customers and gain their trust in you and your products.

  9. Excellent article and graphic display about the online sales funnel and conversion! It’s all about planning and setting goals for achievement!

  10. Pete Carr says:

    Hello Mr Ninja,
    The thank you page is where most people go wrong, and it is the start of the funnel. Put a offer on it, your own or affiliate, you will see sales.
    I use this method on my list building blogs, and as mentioned above that is where most of my initial income comes from.
    Pete

  11. cshandyman says:

    Well, I have no funnel as of now because I have no products but I am working a bit on getting more people to subscribe. Thanks for the useful information.

  12. Simon Dodd says:

    Thanks for a great article, it’s all about using the 80-20 rule to your favour. Work on the 20% of things that create 80% of the positive changes.

    Don’t focus on the little things that aren’t having much effect until everything else is sorted.

    Thanks for another great post

    Simon

  13. Lisa says:

    It is so refreshing to read intelligent thoughts and practical tips. Very well written article. Preparing a plan and analyzing KPI’s can do wonders. Willy nilly will not produce the desired results…ever!

  14. I love that line ‘step away from the keyboard’…. will have it emblazoned above my desk I think :)

    Here’s to more use of whiteboards and post-it…

    Cathy

  15. Interesting post, thanks for that.

    At this point I’m not sure what the tools are to measure what you propose. I’ve googleanalytics, like all of us, but I sometimes feel overwhelmed by the amount of information it provides. This is where your whiteboard idea sounds good. I’ll try that.

  16. Nice Post!, I’ve got to a stage now where my traffic has hit it’s limit for the niche…

    The good thing is, there is enough interest in the site to get sales. This means that with the tweeks we could get a great amount of sales!…

    David Edwards

  17. Christian says:

    I’m amazed how little this gets discussed in the internet marketing space. Blows my mind. Rock on for covering it. Obviously it’s a huge issue, but this post will hopefully pique some people’s interest. You simply cannot run your business at maximum efficiency until you fine tune your sales funnel and revisit it regularly.

    • I’m amazed how little this gets discussed in the internet marketing space. Blows my mind. Rock on for covering it. Obviously it’s a huge issue, but this post will hopefully pique some people’s interest. You simply cannot run your business at maximum efficiency until you fine tune your sales funnel and revisit it regularly.Nice Post!, I’ve got to a stage now where my traffic has hit it’s limit for the niche…

      The good thing is, there is enough interest in the site to get sales. This means that with the tweeks we could get a great amount of sales!…

  18. Shelly says:

    Being a very visual woman, what I liked about this post was the process mapping and the whiteboard techniques. Nice post!!

  19. Have you tried mindmanager software instead of the witheboard?, great post by the way

    • WebMarketingNinja says:

      Yep I’ve tried them — but to be honest (and this is just me), I like the fact that when I’m doing this planning I’m standing up, walking around, waving my arms — it just feels so much more creative than stagnent on a chair moving a mouse.

  20. I agree about the WhiteBoard. In fact I bought that paint that makes your wall into a WhiteBoard and it really does help out alot to see everything as a flowchart per se.