#lemlist Guest Post, written by Berenika Teter, Content Marketing Specialist at Brainy Bees

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According to Hubspot, 74% of companies say converting leads into customers is their top priority. Yet, many of them have no idea where to begin when it comes to creating a functioning sales funnel.

Why is it important to create one for your business? Because sales funnels can help your whole sales team understand what steps need to be taken to turn a lead into a loyal customer. This, in turn, makes it easier to actually convert them.

Even though the exact shape of the sales funnel depends on the business, there are a few things that every company can keep in mind in order to outline theirs properly. To make it easier for you to create your own sales funnel, we asked a few experts for their opinion on the subject. Here’s what matters when creating sales funnels.

Creating killer sales funnels step by step

As already mentioned: not a lot of companies out there have an idea on how to create a simple sales funnel that can encourage potential clients to buy the products or services from them. How to approach the whole process, then?

The term "sales funnel“ became a massive buzzword with time, but not a lot of people actually understand how to develop and optimize one. The main idea should be to create a simple, friendly customer journey which will encourage your visitors to buy the product/service you're offering.

Firstly, your ads and landing pages make the first impression. Write compelling CTAs, present your product in the simplest and the best way possible and make sure you have a modern design of the page. First impressions last.

Set up your communication tools well, including live chat on your page. Customers nowadays are happy to use chats and communicate with brands. Be there for them and answer all inquiries in real time. This will massively increase the chance of their purchase.

Our customer support at Better Proposals is set up in a way that we're always there for our customers, happy to help, with plenty of resources available to support their business operations and pre-written, canned replies to make the communication faster

Also, I'd like to emphasize the importance of email marketing. Recently, we've restructured and edited our onboarding emails, having in mind the characteristics and habits of our target audience. This has drastically improved our trial-to-paid ratio and reduced our churn. Always have in mind your target customers' intentions, benefits they seek from your product and the phases of their businesses.

There are tons of valuable tactics to use, such as retargeting ads, building communities, publishing engaging lead magnets and offers, etc. Regardless of the strategy you use, remember that customers always look for solutions to their problems, not the product itself. Communicate the solutions well, add a reasonable amount of CTAs and generally care about your customers.

Petra Odak, Marketing Executive at Better Proposals

Get to know your customers

Sales funnels, like any other models, should always be created with a target group in mind. There’s no point in outlining the customer journey just for the sake of it - you have to understand what are the specific steps your prospects take before they become your customers.

Once you figure that out - it will be easier for you to assist the prospects every step of the way, and increase the chances of them making a purchase in the end.

Great sales funnels are based on a clear understanding of your current client base, but keep in mind that this is a dynamic process. Knowing what your clients’ needs are, and how your product can answer those needs - is, of course, the foundation of any solid approach. But it’s also important to constantly review the profile of your client base in order to catch any new trends in who is seeking out your product.

This is exactly the approach we took when we found out that a growing number of our customers are in the IT sector. After doing our research, we decided to create a solutions page dedicated to how our product answers the needs of IT companies. Once we had this up and running, we began specifically targeting IT companies through different channels, such as Adwords, Facebook, Twitter, etc. In this way, we tailored our marketing approach to an emerging group of clients.

Nikola Baldikov, Digital Marketing Manager at Brosix

Go omnichannel

Most likely, you will have a lot of people who “enter” the sales funnel - but not everyone will purchase from you in the end. And that’s perfectly normal. In order to increase the chances of conversion, though, you might want to attract as many people as possible at the very beginning.

That’s precisely why you should consider an omnichannel approach and take advantage of multiple communication channels to increase the chances of reaching your prospects from the start.

Create relevant content

For any sales and marketing professionals out there, it’s important to realize that these two departments should work together. It’s mostly because you need some sort of a relationship with a prospect in order to convince them to buy from you. This is when marketing comes in (especially inbound marketing).

In fact, creating relevant content can not only help you attract more prospects at the beginning but also help these prospects make an informed decision in the end. Provided that they find your content attractive every step of the way, that is.

Although the term “sales funnel” sounds as pure sales work, the approach can be used in inbound marketing as well. Inbound marketing is heavily focused on providing highly valuable content. Combined with the funnel approach, you would have to make sure that you offer the right content at each of these customer journey stages:

- Top of the funnel (TOFU)
- Middle of the funnel (MOFU)
- Bottom of the funnel (BOFU)

Now, you might be wondering what kind of content you should provide at what stages. Here’s a list of examples that might help you:

- TOFU: Blog articles, Free tools, Guest posts, Infographics, Videos,
- MOFU: Whitepapers. Case studies, Product webinars, Testimonials, Templates (that are close to your product),
- BOFU: Demos, Consulting calls, Discount codes, Free trial

Will Cannon, CEO and Founder at UpLead

At Feedier, our sales funnel is rather simple. We don't want to over-complicate things. We provide value with great content. When it comes to BOFU content, we find a way to attract the prospect and make him/her sign up to our product.

Then it's about product education, empathy and understanding of the prospect's needs, and finally creating a relationship.

There are so many "hacks" out there that I would not call anything conventional or unconventional. Long story short, the best marketing asset is your customers. We listen to their pain points by talking to them, create articles that resonate and expand it out to different channels.

When it comes to sales, we are keen on being different in our approach: using different channels, different messages, and different cadences.

Baptiste Debever, Growth at Feedier

Let people convert at every stage of the funnel

It’s important to realise that not every prospect will follow the same path when becoming your customer.

It means that you should make it easier for potential customers to convert at every stage of their journey, as they might want to purchase your product or service right away, instead of getting into details and checking out all their options.  

You’ve designed an amazing sales funnel that guides your prospects through different stages of their journey and provides a lot of value. After they’ve passed all checkpoints and reached the bottom of the funnel, they’ll get the possibility to convert. This is great but let’s face the truth: not all of your prospects will have to go through all stages.

In fact, the sales funnel is an ideal construct. That’s why it shouldn’t be too rigid. Instead, your sales funnel should be flexible enough to enable prospects to convert at each stage of the funnel. Of course, in the beginning, you don’t have to put as much emphasis on the conversion as in the end but if your leads like they should be able to purchase or trial.

Lisa Dietrich, Co-Founder at Let’s be crazy

Measure and optimize

Once again: sales funnel is a model, and no model can serve you for a long time if it’s not being optimized. That’s precisely why you should always keep an eye on the sales results stemming from your funnel.

This will help you keep it well-functioning at all times, and also spot areas for improvement.

When building an efficient sales funnel, you have to make sure that you’re measuring the right metrics. Otherwise, you won’t know if you’re successful or not. The metrics to track highly depend on your situation but let’s look at a sample website funnel of a SaaS product. It consists of:

- Website Visits
- Trial Signups
- Sales

When you would like to analyze (and later optimize) this funnel, you should first measure the absolute amount of website visits, trial signups and sales and second the relative conversion rates:

- Conversion Rate #1: Website Visits / Trial Signups
- Conversion Rate #2: Trial Signups / Sales

For example, if you’re generating 100 websites visits and 10 of them sign up for a trial, your conversion rate #1 would be 10 % (10/100). Tracking absolute and relative numbers is important to get the full picture. Otherwise, a conversion rate #1 of 100 % could mean either 10 websites visits (and 10 trial signups) or 10.000.000 websites visits (and 10.000.000 trial signups).

Max Benz, CEO and Co-Founder at suitApp

Use the right tools

Speaking of measuring progress and keeping your sales funnel up and running - it might actually be difficult without dedicated tools. Take a powerful CRM system, for example.

It can help you maintain relations with multiple prospects at the same time, which increases the chances of conversions - especially since you’ll know right away which prospects are on the right track to becoming your customers. Not to mention that it will also make it easier for you to measure the performance of your sales team.

This can also be done with business phone systems like CloudTalk, which shows you relevant insights on both your callers and your sales agents.

Customer expectations are changing - and so are sales funnels

Keeping your customers happy (both potential and existing ones) is an ongoing process you might want to invest some time and effort in. Keep in mind that even the best sales funnels won’t serve your business much if they become outdated, which is why you should keep optimizing them at all times.

We’re all familiar with the traditional sales funnel idea. In marketing, we try to map the user’s journey using various funnel models. Many marketers nowadays still build their entire strategies on traditional sales funnels, planning everything according to the idea of a linear, straightforward journey.

But the truth is that customers and their buying behaviour have significantly changed over the past 20 years.
Here are my five tips for today’s sales funnel:

1. Don’t focus on creating awareness, focus on providing value, helping people better understand the issues they have and lead them to your solution. Blog posts, ebooks, infographics, online manuals, landing pages, ad copy, etc. should all serve one purpose: to help your prospects find the answers they’re looking for.

2. Always track your campaigns and create custom audiences for remarketing in all your PPC tools. Be it Facebook, Quora, LinkedIn or Google Ads; you want to be able to reach your leads and visitors again. Many companies ignore remarketing. That’s why using it smartly as part of your sales funnel will be of great advantage for you.

3. Don’t stop at collecting email addresses, follow up with your leads by email and make sure the experience is personalized. Lemlist is the perfect cold email tool for that. If your lead downloaded an ebook about event marketing, then visited your page about event social media walls, don’t send them an email about social media website widgets. That will not bring any result.

4. Have in mind that people can enter your funnel at any stage. When a sales rep reaches out to a lead, they need to know at which stage they are in the buying process. I tend to read a lot about a tool before taking the time to talk to a salesperson. My expectations are high, and my questions are not simple. I am very disappointed sometimes to find out that I know more than they do about the tool they are selling. I suggest that you use a tool that offers lead scoring like Hubspot, for example, to find out what the user’s journey was up to the point where you pick up the phone. If they read your entire help centre and half of your blog, you can skip the basics.

5. Make sure that you pack your customer’s journey with joy. The more you know about your leads, the more successful you will be at personalizing their journey. Converting them to happy customers that stay and even advocate for your brand will be as easy as ABC.

Daniela Turcanu, Senior Marketing Manager at Walls.io

As you might have noticed, there’s no single best recipe for success when it comes to creating sales funnels. Nonetheless, by experimenting with different marketing & sales techniques, and optimizing your results constantly - you can get much closer to creating a perfect sales funnel for your business (and, more importantly, your customers).

One thing is certain: it’s high time to start working on it.