For those of you who think commenting on other people’s blogs is a waste of time and no one really reads them, think again: this whole post was triggered by a comment to a guest post I wrote earlier this week about three common marketing systems every solo needs for Danny Iny’s Firepole Marketing blog.
The comment from Owen McGab Enaohwo of Hire Your Virtual Assistant read:
Annie, I enjoyed your content but thought it’s missing a very important system which is a sales funnel system that actually gets folks to buy the product or service. All the systems you mentioned in my view are need only after a sales funnel has been set up because they will not have as much impact without a sales mechanism in place. Please share your thoughts on this?
Owen’s exactly right in this respect: the sales funnel is the most important system for any solopreneur. Without it, marketing is pointless – unless you’re engaged in this gig strictly for attention. But most solos I know actually would like to get paid, and thus, a sales funnel is a must.
While sales funnel systems are not strictly marketing systems, and thus were outside the scope of the post I wrote for Danny, they do implicate marketing, as well as sales, finance, and workflow systems.
So, rather than just pop off a few comments to Owen in reply to his comment there on Danny’s blog, I figured it was time to take a look at this system in some depth here on the PJP blog.
What’s a Sales Funnel?
At its most basic level, the sales funnel is how you get paid.
Why “funnel”? Because that’s the single best paradigm to describe what happens when prospects become paying clients or customers — or, rather, it‘s been considered to be the best paradigm (more on that in a moment):
- Let’s say through whatever means (links from other blogs, search engine traffic, etc.), 1,000 people come to your website.
- Out of those 1,000 visitors, 100 read your article.
- Out of those 100 readers, 10 sign up for your email list.
- Out of those 10 subscribers, 1 becomes a client or purchases your product.
Funnels are wider at the top, much narrower at the bottom – and that’s pretty much what happens to your prospects.
If you want a few more paying clients at the bottom, you basically feed a bunch more casually interested prospects in at the top. (Er. So to speak.)
The Funnel Vs. The System
This is an important distinction: your sales funnel is comprised of systems. It is also, in one sense of the word, a system itself – a series of moving parts that feed into a specific purpose.
But don’t mistake the funnel for the system itself. The funnel is just the visual representation of a workflow. In order to activate the funnel and get the most out of it, you need to build the systems to support the funnel.
Here’s an example – going back to our overly simplified “1000/100/10/1” scenario above, you have at least five systems at play:
- Your traffic system(s): how you get casually interested prospects to actually visit your site
- Your content system(s): how you plan, draft, schedule, and publish the helpful articles and, also, how you use those articles to convert readers into subscribers to your list
- Your email list system(s): how you plan, create, and publish content to your list subscribers
- Your client sign-up system(s): how you internally manage the conversion to paying client (i.e., administrative files, contact information, CRM management, etc.)
- Your work delivery system(s): how you perform and deliver whatever the client/customer bought to the client/customer
Creating Your Sales Funnel
Ideally, we should have several funnels leading to paying clients.
As an example, a coach can work one-on-one with clients, write and sell a book, lead live workshops and seminars, manage a paid membership site … the options for creating several streams of income are potential funnels in their own right.
Additionally, there are many ways you can move prospects down the funnel and get them to know, like, and trust you—the essential emotional state that comes before the vast majority of purchasing decisions.
Making a visual representation of your sales funnels is crucial if you want to get a clear picture of all the ways people become your clients. It’s also essential to know what state of readiness each element or component of the funnel is in at any given point in time, as this helps you focus and prioritize your tasks.
NB: This is a Word .DOCX format file. If you’d like another format, let me know – or you can use one of the many freebie file conversion tools on the web.
Nicole prepared her version of this document to share with the Blog Posse, the small mastermind group to which she and I both belong. It was so impressive that we all immediately began clamoring for a workable version for ourselves. (Seriously, if Nicole ever decides she’s had enough of being the brilliant Numbers Whisperer™ she’s totally got a career in graphics.)
As you’ll see in the template, the various elements are color-coded as to the status (“Major Gap,” “Needs Work,” “Setup Complete”). You can change the color of each element for your own funnel by going to Format/Shape.
The elements are also arranged in an hour-glass shape, instead of the more traditional funnel-shape. This is because Nicole used the principles behind John Jantsch’s Duct Tape Marketing in creating this template.
As John writes here, the familiar paradigm of “know-like-trust” is extended to “know-like-trust-try-buy-repeat-refer” which you’ll see down the right margin of the template.
I like this more than the funnel shape because I think it more accurately reflects the reality of a comprehensive digital marketing plan. So you can rearrange the box elements in the hourglass as you see fit, to most accurately reflect the reality of your business marketing plan.
I’ve left a few elements in the various text boxes just as examples. What you’d do is save the template as a separate file, then select the text in each box and change it to your elements – the things you’re working on, such as your next product, your ebook, your whitepaper, your guest posts, etc.
One final note: this is a big-picture tool. It’s designed to give you the bird’s eye overview of the whole shebang at one glimpse. To actually implement your plan, you need to take the next step of expanding each of these elements into their own systems.
Funnel On, My Friends
I’d like to thank Nicole for the amazing template and for giving me permission to share it here, and also Owen for the insight and motivation for this post!
Any questions? Not sure how this would work for your own business? Hit me up in the comments!