A sales funnel is a visual representation of the strategy businesses use to stratify and target their sales tactics to buyers at different stages of the buyer’s journey. You’ve likely heard the term, “sales funnel,” floated in boardrooms, business articles, and landing pages selling software.
While this is a commonly used sales and marketing term, many business leaders and decision-makers don’t have a firm grasp on what a sales funnel is, what their own sales funnel involves, and how successful their sales process is. Learn more about what exactly a sales funnel is and how you can effectively apply this marketing and sales strategy to your business in this guide.
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Whatever shape the sales funnel takes, it is essentially an outline that details the steps your prospective customers take on the way to the final sale. A sales funnel is often visually represented as an upside-down funnel. The sales funnel can take a variety of shapes, however, depending on the unique business model.
Every sales funnel has four identifiable stages. Prospects pass through these stages at varying paces as they continue toward their final purchase.
It’s impossible for the prospective customer to convert to a customer before they know that your company and products or services exist. This stage is where the prospect begins to hear about you and your solution category through social media, advertising, or word of mouth.
During the awareness stage, your potential customer may click on one of your digital ads, skim through your latest blog, or get a recommendation or mention from a colleague.
The next noteworthy point in the sales funnel is the point where interest rises. In the interest phase of the sales funnel, the prospect has heard of the type of solution you provide and is determining if your brand, product, or service is worthy of further inspection.
In many cases, the interest stage is no more than an individual knowing they have a problem and having a general idea of what type of product or service could solve it. In other words, they know about your brand but likely have not narrowed down their options yet.
Now that your future customer understands the problem your business solves, as well as your competitors, they are at the critical point of making a decision. During the decision stage of the sales funnel, the prospect determines their willingness and ability to buy and narrows their search to the vendor(s) that best fit their needs.
Before a prospect transitions to customer, they enter stage four of the sales funnel: action. The action stage can be completed when the prospect signs up for your service or a free trial, purchases your product, or hires your team.
TOFU is what’s referred to as “the top of the funnel.” It’s the content type that most closely aligns with the awareness stage of the sales funnel.
MOFU is in the middle of the sales funnel. It’s used during the interest and decision stages of the sales funnel to show how the brand is best suited to meet the customer’s needs. It is frequently comparative content that shows how a vendor’s solutions perform against their competitors.
BOFU is at the bottom of the sales funnel. This is what can be described as the closing stage, or the place where the deal is closed and the prospective customer takes buying action.
Types of content best suited for BOFU include person-to-person contact, case studies, tutorials, webinars, trials, live demos, and consultations.
Sales funnels offer the following benefits to companies that use them for marketing and sales:
As you create a content marketing strategy that nurtures your prospects along the sales funnel, start simple. Create a plan with manageable content goals; from there, you can build and scale. Many marketers make the mistake of creating too many layers and never launching their plan because it’s too much to execute.
It’s important to create a testing strategy to optimize your sales funnel and the quality of your buyer-facing materials. As an example, you might need to test language on landing pages or images in emails. A testing strategy helps your organization to further increase conversions.
Understanding the sales funnel is essential to optimizing how prospects move through it and determining the best ways to convert them into buying customers. At each stage of the sales funnel, you can serve up content that fits the consumer’s needs. As a business leader, you’ll be able to optimize your marketing spend to attract more prospects and drive more revenue.
Learn more about sales funnels with this guide: Expert Round Table: Defining Your Sales Funnel Stages