I talk to a lot of business owners who are struggling to get customers. They’ve tried running ads and found little success. Usually, the problem is pretty easily pinpointed to one of the following issues:
- Improper audience targeting – “Everyone” doesn’t count as an audience.
- Missing components in the messaging – Without a “what’s in it for me” or a story, your audience just won’t care.
- No funnel – Trying to drive directly to sales without any lead nurturing is like walking into a networking event, shouting “who wants to buy my product,” and being mad when it doesn’t work.
In this post, I want to focus on the last one: funnels.
DIRECT RESPONSE MARKETING WORKS…AFTER SOME WARM-UP.
I’m a huge fan of direct response marketing. It’s hard, but when it’s done right, the results are immediate and oh so satisfying.
But unless your product is an impulse purchase—picture a goofy t-shirt that’s under $30—direct response marketing just isn’t going to work without some audience warm-up.
It’s expensive and risky to try to go from cold lead straight to purchase on anything other than a low-cost impulse buy.
I work with clients to build funnels that help find cold leads—targeted appropriately so they’re people who need what you sell—and nurture them until it’s finally time to make the sale.
WHY FUNNELS WORK
Funnels are called funnels for a reason:
They funnel your clients through a journey. In general, you get narrower and narrower (and closer and closer to a sale) the further down the funnel you go.
Funnels work (when done right, of course) because you’re providing value to potential customers and letting them get to know you before they buy. You’re not taking cold traffic and trying to sell them. You’re building your brand and talking to the people who care about and need what you do/sell.
THE SIMPLEST FUNNEL
There are infinite ways to build out a funnel. From how you target the potential leads (Facebook ads, Google AdWords, etc.) to how you provide ongoing value to those leads once they’re in your funnel (webinars, emails, etc.), you can build millions of different funnel combinations. It’s about finding the funnel that works best with your customer journey.
When it comes down to it, the funnel illustrated below is the lowest common denominator for funnel simplicity.
It looks simple because it is. Of course simple doesn’t mean easy. I’ve seen a lot of example of this exact workflow bomb pretty hard. Here are the important elements of each step to help make sure the funnel will drive results.
The offer isn’t an individual step in the funnel; it’s woven through the entire process. And, honestly, it’s a huge factor in a funnel’s success. If your offer feels fake or gimmicky, your audience will be wary. Some examples of strong offers include:
- Free Download – Whether it’s a PDF, video, or email course, this resources needs to be 100% focused on providing value to the people who download it. Sure, you’re using it to get leads, but you won’t get those leads if they don’t find value in the download. If you over-promise and under-deliver, you lose credibility with your audience.
- A Discount (% off, BOGO, etc.) – Everybody loves a good deal. But a discount offer needs to be strategic. It needs to be strong enough to be compelling (research says 20%+) but shouldn’t be positioned such that you’re just attracting freebie seekers. If your brand doesn’t center around discounts and promotions, offering a discount early on can get leads in, sure, but may hinder long-term relationships. Leads who get to know your business through a discount will continue to expect discounts, which works great for restaurants and retail, but not as well for services or highly regulated industries.
- Audit or Consultation – This is the category that requires the most care. If targets don’t feel like they’re getting something special, they’ll ignore your offer or, worse, develop negative feelings for your brand. For example, I see a lot of web developers offering a “free consultation.” That’s not special. That’s expected. Having said that, free consultations CAN work in other industries such as home services and finance.An audit offer, when done right, can have a stronger effect than a consultation offer. With an audit, the lead learns something about their problems and needs…and you do too. The lead gets value, and you get information about their needs that you can use in the lead nurturing process.
- Other – This list is not exhaustive. Again, the offer is one of the most defining elements in whether a lead gen funnel will be successful. So be creative and be strategic.
These types of offers are often referred to as lead magnets because, when done right, they attract leads that align with the types of customers you want to work with.
The traffic you drive to your squeeze page determines the success of the campaign. If you’re driving traffic that doesn’t care about what you’re offering, they’re not going to convert.
In most funnels I work with, we’re driving cold traffic. Which means we’re using some sort of ad to drive visitors. There are plenty of other ways to drive traffic, but paid ads are usually the fastest way to test an offer, messaging, and funnel process and get leads rolling in.
The most important aspects of the ads are:
- WIIFM – Tell the viewer why they should care…not why you as the business owner care
- A Story – Stories are powerful. Using story ads can introduce viewers to your brand and show them why they may need what you have to offer.
- The Offer – Again, the offer is SO important. The way you talk about it in the ad can make or break the funnel.
- Testing – Even the best of us won’t nail and ad in one try. That’s part of what makes digital marketing so awesome—the flexibility to try things quickly and cheaply. When setting up an ad campaign for a funnel, try different things—copy, images, even offers. You’ll learn quickly what works and what doesn’t.
The squeeze page (also called a landing page or opt-in page) is where people land when they click your ad. The page should explain the offer, talk about why visitors should care, and have functionality to collect a lead’s information.
Important elements of a squeeze page include:
- Strong, value-driven headline
- Persuasive copy about the offer
- Any offer restrictions
- Trust-builders (social proof, testimonials, privacy reassurance)
- A clear call to action
There’s a lot of back-and-forth on whether long-form or short-form landing pages work best, and honestly, it depends. This is another opportunity to test what works best with your offer and leads.
The thank-you page in a funnel is an oft-overlooked opportunity to keep a lead engaged when you’re already top of mind with them. Some ways to take advantage of the thank-you page include:
- Showing a video about what they get with the offer, and a bit about what you sell (focused on why the lead should care)
- Providing even more value with another download, resource, or offer…where they DON’T have to put in their email again
- A one-time offer that shows even more buyer intent than the offer they just claimed
- A call to action to schedule a meeting, make a call, read your blog, or do something else
The thank-you page isn’t the end of a lead’s journey, it’s just step 2. Use it to continue to build the relationship.
Once you’ve collected a lead’s information (usually email address), you need to stay in contact with them. I see a lot of business collect emails and then do nothing with them. Aaaahhhh!! That’s letting revenue right out the door.
When you build a funnel, you should plan in lead follow-up strategies. Often, these are a series of emails sent automatically. But they could be phone calls, connecting on LinkedIn, or a variety of other options.
My go-to follow-up strategy is a series of 5-10 emails that first and foremost educate and provide value. You can mention your product/service, of course, but always keep it in the perspective of why the reader should care.
MY FAVORITE THING ABOUT FUNNELS
OK, I actually have two favorite things about funnels: automation and data.
Pretty much every step of a funnel can be automated…and can be done so very quickly. For things that are more complex to automate, I usually complete those manually until the funnel has been proven, then we automate.
I’ve met a lot of people who don’t understand just how much of the process can be automated. When it doubt, assume it can be automated.
I love data. I like knowing whether specific marketing activities are working or not. Funnel allow you to track analytics and data from a lot of different angles:
- Performance of the different ad variations
- Landing page A/B tests
- Offer effectiveness
- Email opens and clicks
- And, ultimately, conversions into customers
LET’S TALK ABOUT YOUR FUNNELS
Does the information about funnels resonate with you? Have you tried it before but not been successful? Then let’s talk.