Why Your Online Marketing Sales Funnel Management Is Failing
- Jason Kelley
- February 22, 2012
One day you get an email from a friend of a friend, and he asks you to meet him at a restaurant. He has a business proposition to discuss with you. You’ve heard good things about him and his business, so you say alright.
“Where should we go?” you ask in an email.
“How about that sushi place on the other side of town?” he says. “It’s about thirty minutes.”
“That sounds pretty far. What about Lil’ Saignon?” you ask. "It’s a lot closer…"
“Ah, but this one is brand new – and they have the best squid you’ve ever tasted...” He includes the link to the website, but it’s one of those restaurants where the menu doesn’t list the prices.
“Hmmm,” you say to yourself. “I don’t know if it’s worth driving all that way and paying who knows what for squid.” But, your mutual friend vouched for him, so you go ahead and agree.
“Great!” he sends back. Then at the bottom of his email you read, “Hey, by the way, you mind picking me up? My car’s on the fritz.”
"Well, fine,” you say. But you’re starting to think twice about this whole thing.
“Ah, thanks!” he says, “Look, it’s right up your alley. The only thing is I’m not sure how long we’re going to have to wait at the restaurant. See there’s no reservations. And there’s always a line.”
You email him back and say, “Look, can you give me some more info about this deal you’ve got, because I’m pretty busy and I want to make sure it’s for me.” You’re getting anxious now.
His response comes back quickly. “There’s nothing to worry about! You’re going to get a lot out of it, I promise. But hey, one last thing – I’m kinda broke, do you mind picking up my tab – just this time? It’ll pay off in the end. I promise.”
This friend of a friend – We’ll call him Jerry – has just put you through the worst sales funnel of all time. You haven’t even gotten to the business proposition yet, and already, he’s asked you to go somewhere unfamiliar to you. He’s giving you vague reasons that it will be worth your while. There will be a wait during which you’ll probably want to leave. Turns out he also needs a ride – for someone with a business deal, he seems awfully needy. And then, when you finally agree based on his good name, he raises the price by asking you to pay for his meal too.
When a customer hears about your product or services, whether it’s via your website, an email campaign, or an advertisement, they’re looking at an open door. If they step through it, they’re inside your sales funnel. Jerry got you this far. You admitted that you were interested in what he’s got to sell. But – the more difficult that sales process is, and the more confusing terms you heap onto the customer as they travel down the funnel – the more likely they are to back up, to click away, and to cancel the purchase.
The key to a good sales funnel is that it presents the sale without complicated terms, and that each step along the way reinforces the idea that your customer is getting a bargain. All customers want to know three things: what are you selling, what will it do for them, and how much does it cost? I use this simple idea to limit my sales funnels to as few steps as possible, unless each step either adds value to the product, proves that it will do more than the customer originally thought, or lowers the cost.
This is why the “never-ending” sales page exists: Those pages that are so long that the scrollbar in your browser is only an inch tall, where scrolling past ALL the information you could ever require you generally reach a single option: A button marked “Buy”.
You can visualize this funnel as being very wide, narrowing quickly down to a tiny hole where the customer ends up, with no options to leave other than to click back on their browser or to continue with the purchase. No outgoing links, no suggestions to check out the competitor’s pages, just a simple “Here’s what I got, here’s what it’ll do for you, here’s how much it costs.”
Compare that to Jerry’s funnel above. What he’s got is unclear—the proposition is unexplained and the restaurant is unfamiliar. And what it’ll do for you is left to your imagination, which leaves you plenty of time to imagine yourself exiting the funnel. The cost is even left up in the air. Rather than narrow the funnel down, Jerry’s communications widened it until any sane person would get out at the first opportunity. Who knows what additional terms the “proposition” would have when it finally came up!
Too many choices lets your customer back out. This is called the “paradox of choice,” and it’s a common brand-new marketer’s mistake. While you may think that presenting your customer with a lot of options, whether they be links to various parts of the site with a different goal on each page, or various version and upgrade offers, will help them decide, most of the time this serves to confuse your customer and spin them out of the funnel. Have you ever gotten into an argument on a Friday night about what restaurant to visit, but not because everyone had a different favorite, but rather because no one cared? There were too many choices!
This phenomenon is well documented in Barry Schwartz’s “The Paradox of Choice”, a fantastic book of marketing advice that will help you understand how people actually decide to purchase.
Another key mistake I’ve seen marketers make again and again is to ignore their customers once the purchase is complete. Remember, if they’ve already purchased, they’re not only inside your funnel, but they went all the way through. If you have a product or service that you think complements the one that’s already been purchased, then let them know. They’re already in the buying mood, and they clearly trust you. This is why companies often wait until immediately after you’ve made your purchase to ask what sort of warranty you’d like, or if you’d like to upgrade your service for a special price.
With our software, which has three Editions, we narrowed our sales funnel down with a big “Buy Now” button on the homepage. While we have other links to help explain the software and the versions, that button brings them to a checkout page that only lists the Standard edition. After purchase, we created a series of auto-responders that explains the benefits of the software, depending on what version they purchased, over the course of a few weeks. Then, it suggests that they upgrade.
Since implementing this we’ve seen double the upgrades, and all we did was remind the customers that the upgrade exists. Now as we work on additional products, everyone who’s every purchased from us remains in our funnel, and if we have something we think they would find valuable, we will let them know, whether it’s free or has a cost.
There’s nothing more important than the sales funnel to a successful sale. To start improving your sales funnel immediately, take the following steps.
- Open the first communication your customer gets (email, landing page, etc). Is it vague? Does it sound wishy-washy? Are the benefits of continuing down the funnel unclear?
- Continue on through the funnel and make sure that there aren’t too many options (three is usually the highest number you’ll want) or too many ways to leave. If you can get your customer to check out as quickly as possible, while convincing them of the value of your product, you’ll limit the chances for them to think twice about buying.
- After a purchase, keep your customer’s interests in mind, and keep pushing them through the funnel with high-value products. Chances are good they’ll be interested. And chances are great you’ll make more money.
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