If you’re like most solo-preneurs who offer a basic service in your business, you likely got started by just pounding the pavement to hustle up some clients. Then, you began to receive word-of-mouth referrals. And then, perhaps you put up a website and began using email and social media to promote your services.
While these methods can surely work, there are probably nights you wake up at 2 a.m. worrying, “Where are my next clients/customers coming from?”
Putting together a sales funnel will not only solve this problem, but it can add thousands of dollars to your business (and for many of my clients, hundreds of thousands). It’s a valuable system I’ve shared with my clients for years, and it’s also one of the gems we teach step-by-step in my Elevate online training program. Today my goal is to give you an easy overview, so you can get started on your own.
Before we start, picture a funnel. You know a funnel is wide and open at the top, and tiny and narrow at the bottom. Our sales funnel has three distinct parts, from top to bottom, which I’ll list in steps:
Step 1: Your prospects (the discovery)
Step 2: Your leads (the invitation)
Step 3: Your sales (the conversion)
STEP 1: Your prospects (the discovery)
The top of the sales funnel is the widest part, and it’s made up of your prospects. These are people who are strangers to you now, but who fit your ideal market. They don’t know yet that you exist, but if they did know they would likely be interested in what you have to offer. So, your objective is to make yourself known, so you can get these prospects INTO your funnel.
For example, let’s say Jane is a prenatal yoga teacher who mostly relies on referrals to get new business. There are thousands of moms-to-be in Jane’s community who could use her services, but 95% of them have no idea that Jane and her services even exist. So how can she get them into her funnel?
First, let’s look at OFFLINE strategies — Jane could start by attending workshops, events, and clinics specifically for expectant mothers. She could rent a booth or offer to lead a free yoga workshop, so women could get turned on to her services. Jane could also book speaking gigs at these and other events, to showcase her expertise. She could also go for appearances on local TV and radio shows that cater to her target market. See how many people who didn’t know Jane before would suddenly know about her? Your main offline goals in this step are visibility and connections.
Then let’s look at ONLINE strategies — To help prospects discover you online, you need a two-pronged strategy:
- Get in front of your prospects where they already are. Figure out where your prospects already are online in large numbers. For Jane’s example, she could look for websites, online communities, and Facebook pages that are geared toward expectant mothers. Once she identifies them, she should be active in their discussions, contact the hosts to see about guest blogging or moderating opportunities, and also any paid advertising options.And don’t forget about Facebook ads, which I love because they can be so highly targeted, affordable, and often an ideal way to get in front of the type of person you’re looking for. (For Jane’s example, she can have her ad show for all women in her area who “like” pages for The Bump, Fit Pregnancy, the Boppy Company etc.)
- Be in front of your prospects when they are looking for you. Now, you want to make sure people who are actually searching for your type of service or solution will find YOU just your competitors. Make sure you are listed in appropriate sections of your local yellow pages (if applicable.) Make sure your website shows up for people searching online for your products or services (either organically or with paid Google Ads). If you have products, also consider adding Amazon.com to your marketing plan, as many people are using it now almost as a search engine to find what they want quickly.
QUESTION: Who is your ideal prospect, and what methods are you using to reach them… or help them find you?
STEP 2: Your leads (the invitation)
Once people discover you and your business, your next objective is to get them on your list. This is when they move to step 2—the middle of your funnel—and they become a lead.
When most of us are getting started, collecting leads is an offline model. It may simply be your taking a business card when you meet someone who expresses interest in our services or products. Your job is to follow up with them via email or phone, schedule a lunch or conversation, etc.
Years ago in my first little writing business, I literally knocked on doors of prospects around New York City. I looked up ad agencies (since they often hired freelance copywriters), and if they expressed interest, we’d exchange information. Now they became a lead.
This one-to-one model works well for a bit, but then of course you realize you can’t get very far doing this without becoming exhausted! You only have so much time in a day. (However do NOT discount this model—if your business is service based, and you charge well for what you do, having sales conversations with your leads can be your BEST method of conversion to step 3, which is the sale. In fact, I send many clients back here when they are getting too distracted with online methods and need income quickly.)
But for more added leverage, you want to build an automated list as well, so you can market one to many instead of just one-to-one. Offering something of value, whether it’s information or a goodie, is a great way to get people onto your list.
First, let’s look at OFFLINE strategies — Going back to “Jane”, our yoga teacher, if she is doing a speaking gig or complimentary workshop, she could then offer a FREE introductory DVD in exchange for people’s contact information. Or a voucher for a free class at her studio. You get the idea. She’d make it clear that when people sign up, they will also receive her biweekly newsletter with tips on yoga for health. This way she’s getting their information, and getting permission to contact them again on a regular basis.
Often when I am speaking on stages myself, I will offer my FREE CD “Top 10 Secrets for Entrepreneurial Women”, in exchange for a business card. I tell the audience about this free gift I’ve brought for them and invite them to join me and my staff at the back of the room when my talk is through. We ask for a business card in return, or they can use a signup sheet. I also mention they will receive my free weekly “Spotlight” ezine with helpful articles on business success. (If you’d like a sample CD to see what we give away, you’re welcome to request a copy at www.AliBrownFreeCD.com.)
Then let’s look at ONLINE strategies — Always have a way for people who have found your website to get on your list. Invite them to sign up for your newsletter, a VIP club, to get a free report or audio or video, or perhaps a free sample of your product. Or a free live teleclass, webinar, or livecast. If you have a niche business with a high net profit, and your time is worth it, you could even offer a free 15-20 minute phone consultation. (As long as you know many of those people will turn into clients/customers.)
I suggest both a combination of a newsletter and a freebie for best results. (You can see what I offer at www.AliBrown.com in the upper right corner.) Important: Years ago you could just say “sign up for our mailing list” and people would do it! Not anymore. You really have to offer something of value to the prospect to turn them into a lead. Give clear benefits to what they will receive, and give clear instructions on how to sign up immediately.
QUESTION: How are you currently converting your prospects to leads? Do you offer a newsletter, free report, teleclass, webinar, or sample product or service?
PART 3: Your Sales (The Conversion)
If you misread that as “conversation”, then you’re right too. Sales today is more about having a conversation with your leads, versus the old way of shoving your offer in their face. (I like to think of it as the more human, dare I say feminine, angle of business that’s taken over. We’ve totally evolved.)
For some of you with simple products, driving your peeps to buy is as simple as showing them the goods and giving them a simple description and a way to buy. Whether you’re selling dog biscuits or roto-tillers or shoes. You don’t need a ton of information if what you see is what you get. A bit of copy is powerful though, and a story is always a powerful factor if you have one. (Think of the old J. Peterman catalogs, which have been recently resurrected.)
Even simple info-products such as ebooks and audios don’t often need a ton of information or a super long sales letter with 200 testimonials – they do need enough copy to explain what it is, how it solves the reader’s problem or what they will gain from it, some “social proof” in the form of success stories/testimonials, and exactly what the offer is.
My very simple sales page formula is “problem-solution-testimonials-offer”.
For those of you, who sell services such as coaching, consulting, or programs that teach something, and your price points are higher, you DO need to provide more education and information in order for your clients to make a decision to hire you or sign up. Your program may not be a “click and buy” type of offering.
If you’re offering a higher-priced service or program, and you find your sales page isn’t converting, even when it’s jam packed with info, you may just need more ENGAGEMENT in your sales process. Here are some ideas to spark your brain:
• Have the sales page lead to a free 15-minute phone consultation with you or a member of your team (this is great for services or coaching programs).
• Educate your leads via a free teleseminar that gives them great information and then invite them to enroll with a clear offer.
• Lead your peeps into a free video (or video series) that does the education and selling for you.
• If your business is local, invite them to a free local workshop that converts them to paying clients or customers on the spot.
• A hybrid combination is working best right now. Most of my industry peers share that a mix of online strategies leading to a phone conversation is what seals the deal.
For any conversation or offer, make sure to always give your leads a reason to act NOW. Remember we are all so busy these days, so you want to reward them for making a decision. Your choices are usually to either offer a discount or add bonuses if they sign up now.
For “Jane”, our local yoga instructor whom we used above, her sales conversion process could be asking those who signed up for a free trial class to then enroll in her paid series. She has these people in the room, so it’s the best time to get them to sign up. Jane should offer a special package with either a discount or bonus for their enrolling now. Perhaps the package is 20 classes, and the bonus could be her yoga-at-home DVD and a yoga mat, or they get two extra classes for free.
Now that we’ve covered all three parts of your sales funnel, it’s a good time to look at your current process. I bet there’s room for improvement (there always is). Or if you’re starting fresh, take a few minutes to consider your best funnel to get started.
QUESTION: How are you currently converting your leads to sales? Do you do it all online, have a phone conversation, meet them in person, or use a hybrid process?© Copyright 2013 Ali Brown