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October 17, 2023

Episode 114: How to Build a Sales Funnel as a Small Business


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One of the most effective ways to convert prospects into clients is to use a sales funnel—but it’s safe to say many small business owners and leaders don’t know exactly what sales funnel development entails or what elements and tools are needed to create them.

As a result, small businesses tend to either haphazardly market their businesses without ever implementing a sales funnel, or build sales funnels that don’t actually work. 

We don’t want that to be the case for your small business. 

That’s why on this episode of Priority Pursuit, Kelly and Victoria break down all things sales funnel—specifically how to build a sales funnel as a small business.

 

What is a sales funnel?

A sales funnel is simply a content marketing framework that converts potential customers into paying customers. Essentially, a sales funnel allows you to serve your prospects, build trust with them, and help them see that your product or service is the answer to the problem they’re facing.

Now, to clarify, a sales funnel is not a sales pitch. With a sales pitch, you are trying to seal the deal. However, with a sales funnel, you are empowering potential customers to solve their problem by acting as their guide before you go in for the sale.

Building an effective sales funnel is the third step of the flywheel marketing method, which we’ve found to be the most effective and consistent marketing strategy for small businesses by far.

As a reminder, the flywheel marketing method is a marketing strategy where your website and online marketing efforts are in sync and function as a flywheel to continually produce results. It includes four steps:

 

  1. Understanding your audience and creating clear messaging
  2. Building a strong foundation with a strategically built, SEO-optimized website
  3. Creating content and a sales funnel that serve your ideal client well
  4. Promoting your products, services, and content

 


Want to better understand the flywheel marketing method? Check out “Episode 103: The Best Marketing Strategy for Small Businesses: The Flywheel Marketing Method”!


 

How can a sales funnel help your business? 

An effective sales funnel allows you to build relationships with your ideal audience and guide them through the natural phases of a relationship so that they want to do business with you.

As we’ve discussed in past episodes of Priority Pursuit, nobody likes to be sold to. In fact, going straight for the sale is the equivalent of laying eyes on someone for the first time ever, walking up to them, getting down on one knee, and asking them to marry you. It’s uncomfortable, not appropriate, and not likely to end well.

However, a sales funnel is more like dating. By providing your prospects with the content and information they need to get to know you and see how your product or service can make their life better, they’ll naturally want to purchase from you.

Essentially, having an effective sales funnel will help you both increase sales and build a loyal customer base.

 

What do you need before you create a sales funnel? 

We know the prospect of easily converting potential customers into paying customers is exciting—but it’s important that you don’t try to start creating sales funnels without the proper tools.

Clear messaging and a strategically built website will be crucial to your sales funnels’ success.

 

Clear Messaging

In case this is your very first episode of Priority Pursuit, clear messaging—which is communication that your ideal customers can understand quickly and easily—is the key to successful marketing.

Because we know your marketing cannot be successful without clear messaging, we put together a free mini-course on how you can create clear messaging by writing what we call your Marketing Guiding Statements. These statements will be the foundation you’ll use to write copy for your website, content, social media posts, sales funnel, and more.

And, we can almost guarantee that if you take the time to write your Marketing Guiding Statements before developing your sales funnel, you will be able to do so more easily and you will see bigger results from it because you’ll already know what to say.

Now, one thing that I do want to clarify is that while you need overarching Marketing Guiding Statements for your business as a whole, depending on your business model, you may also need to develop Marketing Guiding Statements for each individual product or service you offer.

For example, we have different Marketing Guiding Statements for our web development service and our fractional CMO service because these are two very different services with different target audiences.

And, just to clarify, you can have multiple sales funnels, but each sales funnel needs to focus on one particular product or service. This way, you can naturally guide prospects to a clear solution and not confuse them by talking about anything and everything you could possibly offer.

 

Strategic Website

You also need to build a website before starting on a sales funnel. After all, nearly every part of your sales funnel will be housed on your website. As a result, you need a website to have a sales funnel.

If you’d like to learn how to build an effective website for your small business, please go back and listen to “Episode 104: How to Build a Lead-Generating Website.” In this episode, our web development team breaks down every aspect of creating a website so that your site can serve as a 24/7 salesperson for your business.

 

What are the five elements you need to create a successful sales funnel? 

Now that you have the tools you need, your next step is to plan the content and marketing pieces that are necessary for your sales funnel. But, before you get started, it’s important to understand that a sales funnel consists of three stages: awareness, consideration, and decision.

In the first stage, awareness, a potential customer has a problem, but they don't know what to do about it.

Next, in the consideration stage, a prospect is diving deeper, doing research, and considering different ways to solve their problem.

Then, in the decision stage, the prospect needs to make a decision—meaning they need to be shown that choosing your product or service is the solution they’ve been looking for.

As a small business owner or leader, you need to keep these phases in mind so that you can build a sales funnel that walks prospects through each of them.

Now, if you’re a visual person, imagine a funnel. A funnel is wide at the top and narrow at the bottom. Think of the awareness phase as the top of your funnel, consideration as the middle, and decision where your prospects come out at the bottom ready to purchase from you.

To build a sales funnel and successfully guide prospects through these three phases, you need to develop five marketing pieces:

 

  1. Awareness content
  2. A consideration landing page, also called an opt-in page
  3. A lead-generating offer
  4. An automated, follow-up email campaign
  5. A decision landing page

 

Awareness Content

First, you need to create awareness content. Awareness content is simply content that helps prospects through the awareness phase of the buyer’s journey.

In this first stage, a potential customer has a problem, but they don't know what to do about it. During this phase, your potential customers are looking for answers, resources, and education on a specific topic.

Now, you can create awareness content in nearly any format—including videos, podcast episodes, and any other form of content. But blogging tends to be the easiest option for most small businesses and what we recommend—especially for those just getting started with their content marketing strategy and sales funnel development.

For example, let’s pretend you sell swim goggles, and your ideal client is tired of chlorine irritating their eyes.

An awareness stage blog for this swimmer audience could be about how to prevent eye irritation caused by chlorine. Your blog post could cover DIY hacks like using eye drops before and after swimming, not wearing contacts while swimming, and wearing a pair of properly fitting goggles.

As a company that sells goggles, you’re giving your audience the opportunity to explore all possible solutions, but you’re also giving them a chance to move further into your sales funnel by providing your company’s product as a possible solution.

 


Want to better understand the flywheel marketing method? Check out “Episode 103: The Best Marketing Strategy for Small Businesses: The Flywheel Marketing Method”!


 

Now, to get your prospects to the next part of your sales funnel—which is the opt-in page—your blog post needs to lead them to your opt-in page. You can do this by both including links throughout the blog post and by including a call to action at the very bottom. Basically, you’ll just want to create a graphic that tells readers what to do next.

Also, just to clarify, you do want to have multiple pieces of awareness content that lead to the same opt-in page. For example, you can have dozens of blog posts—assuming they’re all high-quality—that lead people to the same opt-in.

So, while you just need one opt-in page, one lead-generating offer, one email campaign, and one decision landing page per sales funnel, you do want to develop multiple awareness blog posts.

This is going to give you more opportunities to attract prospects and get them to your opt-in page, which is where they’re going to share their email address with you and officially become part of your sales funnel.

 

Landing or Opt-In Page

The next thing you need to create is your opt-in page, which you may also hear referred to as a landing page.

This piece of the sales funnel is part of the consideration portion of your funnel and is a page where your prospects can easily enter their name and email address to receive your lead-generating offer—which we’ll discuss in more detail below.

On this page, you want to include:

 

  1.  An attention-grabbing header at the top of the page
  2.  A heading that tells people exactly what they’ll receive
  3.  A bulleted list that breaks down the benefits of your lead-generating offer
  4.  A form that allows prospects to enter their name and email address to receive the offer via email

 

If you’re a visual person, please visit our Marketing Guiding Statements page to see an example of what an opt-in page should look like. 

Now, before you build this page, you need to decide which email marketing platform you’re going to use so that you can determine how you need to build this form. At Treefrog, we use MailChimp, but there are all kinds of email marketing platforms out there, such as ConvertKit, FloDesk, and many others. 

They all come with pros and cons, but we use MailChimp because it is customizable, straightforward, and an affordable option for most small businesses. 

Regardless of the email marketing platform you choose, a good software is going to allow you to build forms that match the aesthetic of your brand and website. You’ll simply want to follow the email marketing platform’s instructions to build your form, insert it into your website, and use the form to trigger the automated emails that we’ll discuss in just a bit. 

The purpose of this opt-in page and form is so that your prospects can access your lead-generating offer.

 

Lead-Generating Offer

A lead-generating offer is an informational download, checklist, coupon code, quiz, or anything else that your audience can gain access to in exchange for their email address. A lead-generating offer allows prospects to continue engaging with your business without having too much risk associated. Again, they just need to share their name and email address with you.

Your lead-generating offer is part of the consideration portion of your funnel, and as a result, this piece of content needs to help prospects dive deeper and help them solve a problem—or at least be well on their way to solving their problem.

If we go back to the goggle company example, a good opt-in might be a quiz about choosing the right kind of goggles based on their swimming habits and eye care needs. Prospects can take the quiz and then receive a personalized recommendation featuring one of your products via email.

Quizzes tend to make highly effective opt-ins, and you can actually learn more about using quizzes in “Episode 067: How to Build Your Email List Using Quizzes with Josh Haynam of Interact.” However, an even easier option is simply a PDF download. For example, our keyword guide is a PDF guide that walks small businesses through how to choose and use keywords.

Whatever your lead-generating offer is, you want to make sure that it’s worth at least $10. We all have way too many emails in our inboxes these days, and as a result, most of us are pretty hesitant to share our emails. With this in mind, you need to make sure that your offer is worth it.

Also, your offer needs to lead prospects to the decision phase of your sales funnel. Much of this will be done through email—which we’ll discuss in a moment. However, it’s also important to lead prospects to the final offer—the decision phase—in your opt-in.

For example, we always include a call to action at the end of PDF downloads that invites prospects to check out the decision landing page—a landing page where you’ll actually sell your product or service. In other words, it’s where customers will make a decision.

 

Automated, Follow-Up Email Campaign

Even with the call to action on your lead-generating offer, much of the process of transitioning prospects from the consideration phase to the decision phase will happen via email. After a prospect fills out an opt-in form, they’re going to receive six automated emails.

Why six? This is simply the number of emails that StoryBrand has found to be the most effective. Kelly is a StoryBrand Certified Guide, and because their email system is proven to be effective, we use it for both our own and our clients’ sales funnels.

So you can make this system your own—or at least ensure your sales funnel’s automated emails include the right information—we are breaking down exactly what each email should include.

 

Email 1: Deliver of Assets (Welcome Email)

The first email simply needs to give prospects access to the lead-generating offer. For us, this often means that the first email includes a short welcome message with a link to the PDF guide, coupon, or other offer. We call this message the “delivery of assets” email.

 

Email 2: Problem & Solution

Your next email should address your ideal customer’s problem in relation to your product or service and present your product or service as the solution.

 

Email 3: Overcome an Objection

The third email should address and overcome your ideal customer’s biggest objection to your product or service. For example, maybe they’re worried about the price of your offer; however, your product or service will save your customers so much time that their investment will be well worth it.

 

Email 4: Testimonial

Then, your fourth email should include a testimonial from a happy customer. This will allow prospects to see how well your product or service worked for someone else.

 

Email 1: Deliver of Assets (Welcome Email)

The first email simply needs to give prospects access to the lead-generating offer. For us, this often means that the first email includes a short welcome message with a link to the PDF guide, coupon, or other offer. We call this message the “delivery of assets” email.

 

Email 5: Paradigm Shift

The fifth email you want to send is what we call the “paradigm shift” email. Essentially, you need to help your prospects change their mindset or opinion about something. For example, if the cost of your product or service is what’s preventing your prospects from investing, you may need to help them realize how much money they’re losing or failing to earn without your help.

 

Email 6: Sales Letter

Then, last but not least, your final email is going to be a sales letter. In other words, you are going to specifically ask for the sale.

 

Now, with the exception of the delivery of assets email, all of these emails should give recipients an opportunity to visit your decision landing page. By using hyperlinks, buttons, and calls to action, these emails need to lead to your decision page.

Going through each of these emails without having an example in front of you might be confusing. But, this is the exact format we use for all of our sales funnels.

In case you’d like an example, visit our Marketing Guiding Statements page and sign up for our mini course—which is a lead-generating offer. Over the course of the next week, you’ll receive each and every one of these emails, and you’re more than welcome to use them as examples to develop your own sales funnel.

Once you have these emails developed, you will need to put them into your email marketing system and set them up as automated emails that those who use your opt-in form will receive. To do this, simply follow the instructions from your email marketing provider.

In terms of scheduling emails, we recommend scheduling these emails to be sent every or every other day. You’ll need to be the judge based on your ideal customer, but it’s a good rule of thumb to send all of these emails within 10 days so that your offer is still fresh in their minds.

It’s also important to realize that having a sales funnel is also going to help you build your email list. In an ideal world, every single person who signs up for your lead-generating offer will convert. However, that’s pretty unlikely to happen. Even so, once you have a prospect’s email address, you can keep the conversation going past the six emails we listed.

For example, you can continue to serve these individuals with content via your weekly newsletter or target them specifically if you have another offer—currently or in the future—that you believe they may be interested in. Basically, even if they don’t convert right away, having their email address allows you to continue to serve them and stay top of mind, which may result in a sale down the road.

 

Decision Landing Page

Last but not least, your sales funnel needs a decision landing page. As a reminder, the decision phase of the buyer’s journey is when a potential customer is ready to make a decision—meaning, they need to be able to see that choosing your product or service is the right choice.

A decision landing page is a service or product page where you’ll actually sell your product or service. In other words, it’s where customers can make a decision.

If we go back to our goggle example, this would be a product page where prospects can buy from you. Or, if you go to our website, you’ll notice that we have service pages for each and every service. These pages give our prospects the information they need to make a decision and schedule a discovery call. As a result, these are decision landing pages. 

If you would like help writing your decision landing page, please go back and listen to “Episode 107: How to Write Website Copy for Your Small Business.” In this episode, Angel walks you through how to effectively write multiple pages on your website, including service and product pages.

 

 

And there you have it! That’s everything you need to know about how to build a sales funnel as a small business!

Now, this is something you can develop yourself. However, between developing the strategy, writing the copy, and designing every element, creating a sales funnel does take a lot of time. 

Even so, having a strategic sales funnel is often the most effective way to generate leads and turn prospects into paying customers. As a result, most small businesses can’t afford to go forward without a powerful sales funnel. 

If you’re ready to have a powerful sales funnel but don’t have the time to develop one yourself, we want to encourage you to visit our website and check out both our content marketing and flywheel marketing services. Both of these services include having our team handle every aspect of your sales funnel so that you can have a powerful, lead-generating funnel and the capacity to focus on other important aspects of your small business. 

We would absolutely love to chat with you about building your sales funnel because again, there’s nothing we want more than to see your small business succeed. So, please visit our website to schedule a discovery call.

 

Links & Resources Mentioned in This Episode

 

Learn the EXACT marketing strategy we use to help small businesses grow: The Flywheel Marketing Method.

 


 

The Priority Pursuit Podcast is a podcast dedicated to helping small business owners define, maintain, and pursue both their personal and business priorities so they can build lives and businesses they love.

You can find The Priority Pursuit Podcast on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Amazon Podcasts, Stitcher, and wherever you listen to podcasts.

 


 

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Leverage Kelly’s marketing experience, insights, and leadership to grow your business.

As the founder and chief marketing strategist at Treefrog Marketing, a co-host of the Priority Pursuit Podcast, a StoryBrand Certified Guide, and fractional chief marketing officer, Kelly Rice has spent more than two decades helping small businesses take their companies to the next level by providing trustworthy leadership and building effective marketing strategies and systems.

She has dedicated her career to helping small businesses succeed because she knows, firsthand, how hard they work to make their communities a better place. 

Still, many people undervalue the strength and ingenuity of small businesses, but not Kelly. She believes they deserve to have a marketing partner and strategy that works as hard as they do.

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