Sixty-five percent of businesses say their biggest challenge is generating traffic and leads. Another 74 percent of companies say converting leads is a top priority. What can these organizations do to get the results they need?
For one thing, they can use a carefully planned sales funnels to drive inbound leads to their business.
It's proven that content marketing works. Ninety-three percent of B2B companies say content marketing generates the most leads. When you take into account that 96 percent of visitors aren't ready to buy when they come to your site, it is easy to see why you need a funnel to drive them to that conversion.
What is a sales funnel and, more importantly, what's the best way to speed up your conversion time as your leads travel through that funnel?
What Makes Up a Sales Funnel?
In the past, there were only four stages of the buyer's journey: awareness, interest, consideration, and purchase. Today, it goes a bit further than that:
With the enhanced funnel, you're able to hone in on the different groups of buyers as they make the journey to the purchase (and beyond).
What's smart about this funnel is that it focuses on building loyalty after the purchase (by re-engaging). In other words, it boosts your customer retention rates.
There are different forms of content you can and should use at each stage of the funnel. To understand what to use and when to use it, you need to understand what's happening in the consumer's mind at each stage.
Understanding the Buyer's Journey through the Sales Funnel
The key to developing a sales funnel that converts inbound leads as quickly as possible is to understand your audience. Let's look at each stage in more depth.
Awareness (Recognizing a Need or Desire)
When your prospects are in the awareness stage, they may have either just learned that they have a problem or may still be unaware that a problem exists. Either way, the content you use at this stage should educate your prospects on the issues they may be facing and solutions they can use (your product or service). You'll find landing pages geared toward this audience can work well in building interest (and sometimes conversions).
Interest (Searching for Information)
They now want to understand why a particular product or service is ideal. So at this stage, you want to deliver content that includes customer reviews, guides, and long-form informational blog posts.
This is the opportunity to provide value to your audience, so they begin to build trust with your brand. In this stage, 70 percent of consumers use Google to conduct research. To help them find your content, you can use link building, SEO, PPC, and even social media ads to capture their attention.
It's also a good idea to use forms to collect emails from prospective customers. Email marketing is an excellent way to build authority and trust, which can ultimately lead to conversions.
Desire (Evaluation of Your Service or Product)
You've captured the attention of prospects, garnered their interest, and now they're considering purchasing from your brand. At this point, they're likely considering several options and will narrow it down with additional research.
If you're a service provider, then offering a free trial is one way you can push them through to the conversion stage. Another option is to use resources and guides to help them understand how to use your product or service to defeat the problem they're looking to resolve. Some brands develop pricing guides and content detailing how to choose the best product or service to meet their needs. These are all excellent for catering to consumers who are still on the ledge about what to purchase.
Conversion (The Final Decision)
The purchase is what you've long been waiting for. Your prospects are convinced of their problem and the solution to resolve it.
But will it be yours?
One way to ensure they select your brand is to improve your landing and product pages. The goal is to make the conversion as simple as possible. For instance, making your call to action buttons visible throughout the page is a best practice, as is having a checkout flow that's consistent and smooth.
Re-Engage (Building Customer Loyalty)
Don't make the same mistake many other brands are making. If you think the end of the funnel is when prospects convert into customers, then you're leaving money on the table for your competition to snag.
You need to continue your communications with your customers so you can re-engage them time and time again. This way, when they need your product or service, they come to you versus a competitor. Eventually, you can turn customers into brand advocates, which will help your brand earn more business via word of mouth.
One of the best methods for re-engaging your customer is email marketing. This is why it's critical to capture this data within the first three stages of your sales funnel.
How to Improve Conversion Time for Inbound Leads
Now that you have a better understanding of your customers' buying journey, it's time to review some of the ways you can speed up conversion time. This is important, especially since nearly half of businesses say their leads require a long cycle of nurturing (according to Ascend2).
If your sales cycle is on the long end, then here are some ways to speed things up your conversion time a bit.
Drive More Inbound Leads in the Awareness Stage
Remember, in the awareness stage, buyers are looking for information about their problems. In some cases, they don't even know their problem exists.
Write Informational Blog Posts
One way to deliver this information is by blogging. The key to making this work is to select topics that answer the questions your audience has.
For example, if your business offers solutions for eliminating mice, then you could discuss topics like:
- How to tell if you have mice
- X things you should do when you find evidence of mice
- How to get rid of mice fast
- X hacks to keep rodents out of your home
The list goes on. The idea is to create a resource your audience can visit to learn steps they can take to resolve their problem.
Quick tip: For the people who don't know they have mice, you can use an infographic you share on social media demonstrating signs of a mice infestation.
Use Social Media to Attract Prospects
Blogging is great, but you won't get far if you're not also promoting your content. Sure, some people may eventually find your posts using search engines, but that's not good enough. You need to attract the right people, those who are more likely to convert.
Social media is an excellent tool for building awareness for your brand (and your blog). The key is to use a mix of promotional and information posts. If you're too promotional, you'll come off as self-serving. That's what makes promoting blog posts an excellent idea: you get to promote content your audience will find valuable.
As you drive more targeted traffic to your site, you can work on pushing them to the next stage of the funnel.
Create Pay-Per-Click Ads
Eighty-one percent of retail consumers conduct research online before making a purchasing decision. However, getting to the first page of Google for your content can take months.
When you need to drive leads now, you can and should incorporate pay-per-click (PPC) ads into your strategy. These are posted right away and can begin generating results instantly.
What's also notable is that Google's ads appear like regular links in search, which makes consumers more likely to click on them. Plus, these ads appear before the search results, which gives you a higher chance of getting more clicks.
Drive More Inbound Leads in the Consideration Stage
You've got attention from the right audience. Now, you need content that'll cater to those who made it to the consideration stage.
It'll be a lot easier to do this if you capture their email addresses. This way, once they leave your site, you can continue communicating with them over the weeks and months. A lead magnet is a perfect way to "bribe" visitors for their name and email. This can be a free download to an e-book, guide, checklist, or another piece of valuable content.
From here, you need to do the following.
Build Landing Pages
You should use a call to action in all of the content you create: blog posts, social media posts, email newsletters, and PPC ads.
They should contain a link to a landing page that speaks directly to that group of consumers. You'll need to segment your campaigns for each landing page to make this work.
A landing page can be long-winding, or it can be short and sweet. It should most definitely explain their problem, how your solution can benefit them, and how it's helped others in the past (testimonials and/or case studies).
Don't forget to include multiple calls to action. Ideally, you should place these near the top, middle, and end of the page. Some visitors may be quicker to convert than others, so place them strategically throughout the page.
Create Contact Forms
You can't capture email addresses and names from your visitors if you don't have a form for them to fill out.
We recommend taking it a step further with SmartForms, which will help ensure your contact database contains accurate and up-to-date information.
Driving Inbound Leads in the Desire Stage
At this point, your audience is looking to learn more about your product or service. This means you can do more soft-selling to nudge them along (while also educating them). Once they have the info they need, they'll make an informed decision.
Some ways you can do this are:
Develop an Email Marketing Strategy
You collected all of those emails, and now it's time to put them to use. Use your emails to build trust by giving them tips for resolving their problems and tie in how your product or service can help.
Since you're too busy to sit around writing emails to each subscriber, you'll need to set up an autoresponder series with drip emails.
Drip campaigns are designed to drive leads through the funnel to the purchase gradually. You can tell customer stories, give demonstrations, offer tips, and answer questions.
It'll be easier to pull this off if you're using a CRM software.
Speed Up Conversion Time with Promotions
Whether you're selling a product or a service, if buyers can purchase it online, then you need to make it so they're able to do so seamlessly.
At the purchase stage of the cycle, consumers need a smooth transaction.
You can provide this by...
Creating Promotional Content
There's nothing that seals the deal quicker than offering a sale on a product or service. You can emphasize current discounts and deals you're holding exclusively for your email subscribers. You can make it a time-sensitive sale to help boost conversions quicker.
Be sure your landing pages and product pages make it easy to purchase. Include a cart if there are multiple items to buy. Ensure the checkout page is flawless.
It should ask only for essential details so prospects can complete their purchase fast.
Delivering Transactional Content
Next, you need to ensure you deliver a confirmation email of their purchase. You can also segment customers in your future emails so they're getting information on using your product or service, as well as promotions on related items.
Re-Engaging Your Customers with Re-Sells, Upsells, and Cross-Sells
Your email campaign will come in handy at this point. This is how you'll maintain your relationships with buyers.
In this stage, you'll use this platform to send content that showcases related items. This can be something that complements what they purchased or a premium version of their purchase.
Then if what they purchased runs out, you can send reminders to buy more.
Wrapping It Up
You're a marketer, so it's your job to deliver content that resonates with your prospects. The only way to achieve this is if you have content for each stage of the sales funnel.
With these tips, you should have no issue driving qualified leads through the buyer's journey and into your customer base. To make your job even easier, try enriching inbound leads in real-time!