In the past, businesses just needed to place advertisements on TV and magazines to convert people into customers. Today traditional ads are no longer the best way to reach people as 92 percent of consumers trust peer recommendations and word-of-mouth over all other forms of advertising. The rise of social media and the Internet in general has affected the way businesses and consumers interact with each other. Gone is the traditional sales funnel that led people on a linear path to becoming paying customers. Instead, it is now replaced with a social sales funnel that accounts for the more erratic path buyers follow today.
Despite these changes, the visual model of the sales funnel is still considered a good resource as it's easy to understand and still focuses on the basic "core" steps buyers generally go through. While they might fall in and out of the funnel at different points, you can still focus on optimizing their transition from one stage to the next. Below are the different stages of the sales funnel:
This is the first step to gaining customers and the most important. Building brand familiarity is the first step in building trust with your customers, which eventually leads to brand loyalty. In the past, this stage required you to spend hundreds if not thousands of dollars on print and TV ads.
Today, companies build awareness through social media by creating compelling content with clear calls to action and compelling visuals. With so much content produced on a daily basis, it's impossible to keep a customer interested for too long. Plus, you are not only competing against other businesses for your customer's attention, you are competing with their friends and family members as well.
In order to increase brand visibility, it's in your best interest to run a variety of targeted social ads such as LinkedIn sponsored updates and Twitter's promoted tweets. Not only will this get you in front of a larger audience, it will help you reach the right audience.
Once you've built enough buzz around your business you need to keep your audience interested by engaging them. This requires you to actively create your community by responding to all comments, joining in conversations and creating quality content on a regular basis.
After you've generated enough interest in your brand and products/services, you need to convert your audience into paying customers by generating leads. The best way to do this is to offer incentives and deals directly on your landing pages.
Things like eBooks, webinars and giveaways are excellent ways to collect email leads. Unfortunately, only 2 percent of visitors convert on their first visit. In order to capture the remaining 98 percent many businesses have turned to retargeting. This method uses a simple code to install an anonymous cookie on your visitor's browser. When they browse the web, this code will let your ad provider know to serve your brand's ads. It's an incredibly effective technique and often increases conversion rate 300-400 percent.
If you have successfully guided people through the previous steps you should be able to generate sales naturally. Make sure the calls to action to buy your solution are obvious and the steps to make the purchase are simple and painless.
You can't stop engaging with your customers after they have made a sale. If you want to build your customer base and receive those positive reviews, you need to continually stay active in the social scene. This means offering the best customer service possible, showing your appreciation to customers and staying connected.
The number one goal of the social sales funnel is to turn your customers into brand advocates. Since consumers are more inclined to trust personal recommendations and reviews, these loyal customers are the strongest weapon in your marketing arsenal. The best part is that consumers who find your brand through their friends will have a built-in level of trust, which will make them more likely to purchase from you.
Harness the Power of Social
All of the steps of the sales funnel build upon one another and require you to make a sustained effort in maintaining your presence. While the Internet provides a variety of opportunities to reach your audience, it also provides them with plenty of distractions. So even if you have built a customer base, if you do not engage with your customers on a constant basis, they will eventually forget about your brand and move on to your competitor. Social media allows you to maintain that connection and should act as the main channel for your sales and customer service strategy.