Converting customers from prospective to paying is a multi-step process, one I call your "marketing funnel." For every business, this will look different. Take the following examples of marketing funnels for two of my clients:
The first sells a consumer good via their website. Their marketing funnel starts by doing media appearances on local television shows. In those appearances, they drive customers to their website's homepage. From there, they drive customers to their order form. After the order is processed online, they immediately offer two upsell options. Finally, after the sale, they send multiple emails to their customers in order to generate additional sales.
The second company sells consulting services. Their marketing funnel begins with pay-per-click advertising that leads prospective clients to their website. On the website, visitors are asked to call the company directly or fill out a form. From there, prospective clients have an initial consultation call. Next, if appropriate, they take part in a proposal call. Finally, if the business secures the client, they perform the work and follow up with the client long-term to secure additional work.
Here's how to get started with building your own marketing funnel:
1. Sketch it out. On a piece of paper, sketch out all the stages it takes to convert a prospective customer into a repeat customer.
2. Start monitoring. Track and put percentages next to each step. For example, perhaps out of 5,000 visitors to your website; 5.6 percent make it to your order form; 32.1 percent of those people complete the order; and 28.3 percent purchase one of your upsells.
3. Figure out where to improve. If you see percentages declining over time, start testing new options. For example, perhaps changing the text or positioning of images on your homepage would raise the 5.6 percent of visitors who go to your order form to 8 percent. That one change alone could radically improve your performance.
4. Consider ways to expand. What new methods can you add at the top of your marketing funnel? For example, are there new advertising methods like social media, pay-per-click, radio or email that you can use to get more prospects? And what methods can you add at the bottom of your marketing funnel? Could you offer more upsell opportunities, better market to customers after their initial sale, or partner with other companies who pay to market to your customer base?
Understanding and optimizing your marketing funnel is the key to your sales and profits. If you track each aspect of your strategy, you identify key areas to improve. For example, the consumer goods company mentioned above tracked the number of website visitors that resulted from appearing on local television shows, radio shows and in newspaper articles and found that appearance on television shows resulted in 20 times more website visitors than the other media outlets. This gave them the insight to focus solely on television.
Our consulting firm above used a similar tactic. Recently, they had a sales downturn. Because they tracked their marketing process, they were able to identify that their team was giving fewer proposals than before. Management identified the problem, motivated the sales team to offer more proposals, and sales instantly rose.
The author is an Entrepreneur contributor. The opinions expressed are those of the writer.
Dave Lavinsky is the co-founder of Growthink, a Los Angeles-based consulting firm that helps entrepreneurs identify and pursue new opportunities, develop business plans, raise capital and build growth strategies. He also is the author of Start at The End (Wiley, 2012).