Marketing Funnel Design for Fun and Profit

marketing funnel design

You have to spread the word about your business and convince people to buy your stuff if you want to succeed. That much is apparent no matter your industry.

But how do you do it?

How do you know when to push for the sale and when to play it cool? An aggressive, used-car salesman approach costs you customers, but so does being too timid.

Terrible (or Non-Existent) Marketing Funnels: Par for the Course

Done right, marketing funnels create the perfect amount of motivation to turn traffic into buyers. Many businesses don’t have one. They publish a blog post every now and then, slap on an email opt-in form in a remote corner of their website, and call it a day. The rest of their time it’s sell, baby, sell.

Most businesses that do use marketing funnels aren’t using them effectively. Maybe they see what someone else is doing and copy them, but they don’t give marketing funnel design the attention it deserves.

They don’t customize their funnels to suit their specific situation, which costs them customers…

Is Your Funnel Full of Holes?

Your marketing funnel is a lot like a literal funnel. It’s the tool you use to pour “oil” (interested leads) into your engine to keep everything running smoothly. If your funnel’s full of holes, you spill would-be customers over the edge and into the welcoming arms of your competitors.

Bottom line: loose marketing funnels waste time, money, and can ruin your potential for long-term growth.

The worst part is having to “make up” all the ground you lose from a loose funnel. Discounting your price, using ads to track people down (people who could have turned into customers already if you caught them in your funnel the first time around), or resorting to other measures put a strain on your time and budget.

You can’t afford to be sloppy with your funnel. Not with new competitors showing up online every single day. You need to run a tighter ship.

Designing a Better Funnel

The solution is to tailor your marketing funnel to fit your business instead of trying to shoehorn in someone else’s model.

A great funnel separates people who could become customers from the rest of the population. It eases people towards becoming customers gradually, getting them to invest more time and attention until they run out of excuses not to buy.

There’s no pressure or hard selling needed. Moving down your funnel customer is like floating down a river with a strong current; it’s effortless.

Here’s how to make your own marketing funnel (or upgrade the one you already have)…

3 Factors to Create a Marketing Funnel That Fits Your Business

How do you design a funnel to fit your specific situation? There are 3 major factors to keep in mind:

Start with price. If you’re selling high-ticket items, you’ll probably need a larger funnel to nurture leads to become buyers. It’s all about the level of commitment it takes for prospects to go through with the transaction. If you’re selling an “impulse buy” – like $5 t-shirts on an ecommerce site – there’s less need to get a funnel in place.

Next is the complexity of what you’re selling. If you’re selling stuff that’s technology-heavy and hard to explain, you’ll probably need a bigger funnel. Getting people into a large funnel and working them down gives you time to educate them about what exactly you do and how it can help them. Service businesses are generally more complex than product-based businesses. If you’re selling shoes, you don’t need a huge funnel because everyone knows exactly why they need shoes. You get the idea.

Your industry is the third factor. Are you doing something well-established, or are you on the cutting edge of something new? If you’re a hardware store owner expanding his business online, you probably won’t need a huge funnel because you’re operating in an staple industry. Similar businesses have come before you and (at least until the robots take over) they’ll come after you too. But if you’re running a SEO agency or SaaS business, for example,  consider a larger funnel to acclimate prospects to your industry and make your case.

These are rough guidelines. There could be other mitigating factors in your specific situation, but the general idea is:

Complexity of marketing funnel design = average product/service price * product/service complexity * common practices in your industry.

Funnel Examples

Let’s go through some examples so you can get a better feel for this. We’ll start with a really basic funnel and work our way up to the more complicated ones:

eCommerce Store Selling T-Shirts

Let’s say  you have an ecommerce site that sells t-shirts. Your stuff isn’t designer or “top of the line.” The average price range is anywhere between $5 and $25.

Price is low (basically an impulse buy). Complexity is low as well; people buy T-shirts to wear and because they look cool. And you’re working in a well-established industry (apparel). So Price * Complexity * Industry = a basic funnel.

Because there aren’t really any intermediate steps between a visitor finding your site and becoming a customer, there isn’t much of a need for a funnel.

One thing I would do, however, is feature email opt-in forms on the site so the store could build a list. You could convince people to sign up by making a promo or special offer. Then you could email those people regularly and give them new reasons to come back and shop again (holiday sales, promos, etc.)

Carpet Cleaner Expanding Business Online

Let’s say you have a carpet cleaning business. The bad economy has hurt your sales numbers, but you keep hearing about all the opportunities online.

Price is moderate. It’s not like buying a car, but most people will at least want to shop around before spending a few hundred bucks. Complexity is low-medium; it’s a pretty basic business, but it is a service business. Industry is well-established. So we end up with a moderately complex funnel.

First, I’d set up a website and company blog. Depending on your budget, you could drive traffic with PPC ads, SEO from targeted blog posts, or a combination of the two. But what do we do with the people who land on your website but aren’t ready to buy yet? One way would be to have email opt-in forms on your site. You could give away a free report (something like “10 Things You Should Know Before You Hire a Carpet Cleaner”) to build your email list. You’d email these people new blog posts, special offers, and other valuable content.

We could also add another step in the funnel between “email subscriber” and “customer.” You could make a special offer to your list members to clean one room in their homes for free. This would be a way to get people to “taste” your service and hopefully get them to hire you to clean the rest of their houses.

Online Marketing Consultant

Say you’re running an marketing company. You offer a variety of services to help businesses get more leads and sales online. Price-wise, most of your services are high-end.

Price varies, but it’s on the high side. Complexity is medium-high. You aren’t selling crazy new technology, but you’ll need time to educate prospects about your services and they can help them. The industry is pretty well-established at this point. These factors leave us with a complex funnel.

The two main obstacles keeping prospects from becoming buyers are 1) lack of education about your services and 2) the high price point. We’ll need to chip away at these objections as we work people through the funnel.

I’d set up the top of this funnel similar to the carpet cleaner example. Regardless of how we drive most of the traffic, I’d invest heavily in top-quality blog content to give readers useful tips to grow their businesses and educate them about online marketing in an entertaining way. Then I’d get people to sign up to an email list by giving away a free report and drip email campaign packed with engaging, useful content.

If time and resources allowed, I’d add another step after this too. The marketer could host webinars (exclusively to email list members) where he could cover different topics, bond with prospects, and answer their marketing questions. Another option would be a podcast, which could serve as an alternate funnel entry point.

We’d focus on convincing subscribers and webinar attendees to purchase a low-priced service. You could also make bundle offers, cross-sells, and up-sells to high-ticket items. The key is getting people to commit to your introductory services, over-delivering, and working them up to more sophisticated offers.

Converting, Optimizing, and Dominating Your Niche

Creating a marketing funnel that fits your business sounds intimidating, but it’s not as difficult as it sounds. It’ll save you time and trouble, boost your conversions, and position your business for long-term domination in your niche.

Chart out the major steps a visitor takes before he or she becomes a customer, and design funnel steps to get them there. This isn’t set in stone. You can see how well your funnel works and optimize it along the way. That’s what the most successful businesses do.

What does your marketing funnel look like? What’s working well for you, and what are you struggling with? Leave a comment below and let me know. I’m happy to help in any way I can.

Photo Credit: Scott Ableman via Compfight cc