Identifying and Optimizing the Stages of a Sales Funnel

Nicole Grodesky
By Nicole Grodesky

It all starts with the buyer’s journey and the different stages of the funnel. Planning can help make the customer journey much more productive through your prospects decision-making process. Much like a utility funnel that is used to deliver oil to the engine, a sales funnel has different stages to make the journey a successful and profitable one. When we talk about a sales funnel, it is something that every online business needs to create. Ultimately, the goal is to convert people that visit your website into paying customers. From the first stage of the initial contact to the last step that closes the deal or the purchase — every successful business needs to create a sales funnel that can turn contacts into rabid, return customers. Think for a moment what that means. Our Guide to Marketing Funnels will also give you a better grasp on the idea of what all of this entails.

Related: What is a Marketing Funnel?

Cold Traffic: Top of the Funnel aka TOFU [Awareness]

Let’s talk about the top of the funnel — the spot where you have a chance to reach out to potential new customers and have them funnel in. We can think of these potential new customers as cold traffic, also known as someone who is not familiar with your brand or your product/service. Cold traffic is comprised of potential customers at the beginning states of the marketing funnel decision-making process.  The main goal of effectively targeting cold traffic is by introducing products and/or services to them, which helps create awareness of your business and/or product. In the beginning stages, most traffic generation, regardless if it’s free or paid, will be cold traffic. This stage of the sales funnel is a critical part, as it involves reaching out to your cold traffic and target audience with the intention of turning them into warm and hot traffic (more on that later).

Related: Integrating your Paid Media Marketing Strategy

The initial contact is created via advertising such as Pay-Per-Click or Cost-Per-Click ads. Non-branded paid ads can appear on sites such as Google, YouTube, LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook. You have likely seen the ads pop up when you are watching YouTube videos or on the sidebar of a SERP. When creating paid ads, be sure to target the right audience. Sometimes paid ads will appear in unrelated searches that boggle the customers’ mind, such as an ad for trees while searching for a paving company. Since the ad is non-branded, it can show up when someone searches for a competitor. Non-branded ads can be useful in attracting an audience that has never heard of you before.

Of course, organic methods such as SEO-friendly blog content and social media posts are also excellent ways for potential customers to familiarize themselves with your brand, products, or services.

Organic methods are great because of the low costs involved. You can send this cold traffic to an informative blog post that offers something your target audience is looking for. Of course, getting your blog noticed by the right audience is going to take some research. Building SEO-friendly blogs mean you need to research the keywords so that people can find your blog. Using a catchy social media update is a great way to drive traffic to your site and build up a fan base. People like quizzes and surveys, too, especially those that are interesting to your audience. You can also send the “cold traffic” group content videos, because, let’s face it, people love videos, especially those that offer something in return. Optimize those videos with specific keywords so that it can generate awareness and traffic to your website. Make the content interesting and informative, and the target audience may start to feel warmer and get closer on the journey to becoming hot traffic.

Warm Traffic: Middle of the Funnel [Consideration]

What is warm traffic? When we talk about warm traffic, we are referring to the people who have been to your site and are familiar with your brand. These prospects are at the consideration phase of the marketing funnel.They may be returning to your site due a subscription email or weekly newsletter that happened to spark their interest — this is great way to build up trust. They may also want to continue a discussion they were involved in with a blog or social media post, or someone they know, like, or trust recommended your site.

Now that you have reached your target audience and got their attention, it is time to re-target them and move them from cold to warm traffic. There are some things we can do to turn those cold leads and help them move into the warmer parts of the sales funnel. You can warm up your traffic sources by engaging your audience. Use your website to post informative blogs, social media updates, and keep those sources warm by getting them to subscribe to your email list. Getting someone involved with your site, and with you, can warm up those prospective customers. After all, everyone likes to receive valuable free gifts, tips, and tutorials.

So what are the best retargeting tactics and email lead nurturing tactics? First off, you are going to want to retarget the user that has been on your site and a competitor’s site. Retargeting is when you target online ads at the same traffic over and over. You can retarget via PPC and display network advertising. Yes, showing or offering something again and again will eventually spark curiosity and turn into a lead. Think of that ad you continuously see for the best tacos in town. Eventually, you are going to want to try those tacos to see what the fuss is all about.

Targeted content seems obvious. When creating targeted content, you need to know your unique buyer personas so that you can focus on your audience effectively. Here is the great news about leads nurtured with targeted content – they produce an increase in sales opportunities of more than 20%.

Related: Content for Consideration/Evaluation Stage

Simple email drip campaigns or generic email blasts tend to have low open rates. That said, email marketing is still a beneficial way of nurturing leads, which is why personalized emails are on the rise. An Experian Email Marketing Study found that personalized emails can generate up to six times higher revenue per email than non-personalized campaigns do. It is all about timing with personalized emails. When someone clicks on the links in your emails, visits specific pages on your site, or demonstrates a high level of engagement, send them a triggered email so that they get the right message at the exact time. Timing is everything, so act fast.

Related: 10 Quick Ways to Generate More Sales Leads Online

Hot Traffic: The Bottom of the Funnel [Transactional]

The bottom stage of the sales funnel holds the hot traffic. The hotter the audience, the better chance they will convert — and we all know, conversion is the ultimate goal. Cold traffic conversion rates are low, super low, they are a measly 2% conversion low; however, now that the cold traffic has engaged and moved further towards the bottom of the sales funnel, you need them to convert. They have shown interest, are engaged, and rather than running from your site; they are happily returning to it. At the bottom of the sales funnel is where you escalate the offer and get them to convert so that you can start doing the money dance to the tune of “Hot, Hot, Hot.”

Once they trust your business, it does not cost any extra to contact them. After all, these people are your customers and are already on your mailing list, following your social media sites, and keeping up with your blog posts. They have gone through the journey and like what they have found. These are your customers, and they are hungry for what you are offering. Feed them, do it fast, and reap the rewards.

One of the goals of the hot traffic sales funnel is high dollar sales. You want your customers to buy another product or keep buying your products more frequently. And, for those customers that have not purchased anything in a while, it pays to remind them. You can offer these customers discounts, and high dollar offers that they won’t want to pass up. Keep them interested and do not let them forget about you. Keep the informative content coming, communicate often, and don’t lose their trust.

Wrapping it All Up

Create your sales funnel so that you can get those prospective customers started on the journey. You will need to gather data and understand your customers. Create those surveys and quizzes we talked about in cold traffic. Create the content for each stage of your sales funnel so that you can help those prospects move down the sales funnel. It is all about engaging your customers. We can use all the stages, from SEO-friendly blogs, videos, and social media posts to paid-search Google Ads, Facebook Ads, LinkedIn Ads, and Twitter Ads, to closing the deal with emails, sales copy and product copy. It is all about timing, so do not hesitate to contact the customers that are already in love with what you are offering.

Related: How to Deliver Value at Every Stage of the Customer Journey

Once you have created your sales funnel, the work is not done. In fact, this is just the beginning. Every journey has bumps in the road. There are always going to be ways to improve. Gather the data you have and analyze it again so that you can get better results. It’s all about refinement and keeping up with your competitors. As the old saying goes, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” Although the words may be old, the message is still relevant and can be a very useful tool when creating and updating your sales funnel.

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Nicole is a Senior SEO Strategist with experience in technical SEO, SEO keyword strategy, content strategy, and Local SEO. She has experience with enterprise level Local SEO initiatives that manages multiple business locations up to over 300 stores nationwide. Her Local SEO expertise is in managing Google My Business accounts and building local citations to create an authoritative local presence for business owners.