Increase Sales by understanding the Funnel (and why building trust is so important)

Over the past few weeks I’ve been doing research on how to convert more website visitors into customers.  I’ve received leads for my consulting work largely because I write blog posts, and somehow people read them (and apparently enjoy them). Most of the people that email me are not a good fit, but I’ve been trying to dive into how to get more higher quality leads.

I’ve come to the realization that building trust is the key – a random website visitor has no clue who I am, or if I do great work. That’s where understanding the sales funnel comes in handy. Let me explain why understanding the funnel is so important to building trust, and in the end making high-quality sales.

Step 1: Teach with Free Content

There is a time and a place for content marketing. It’s very tough for someone to find you online if you don’t create something, so it’s important to start by writing blog posts, creating videos, and fleshing out your website.

It’s crucial for you to realize that this is the first step, and that there’s many more steps in the sales funnel. Most will visit your site, but will never come back. That’s okay, but other readers will value what you have to say and may be interested in reading more.

In this first step, the majority of readers do not trust you, or the things you have to say. Blog posts and other materials exist to build this first layer of trust, so make it count.

Lastly it’s important to have additional (higher quality) content for the next steps in the funnel.

Step 2: Supplement Free Materials with “Unlockable” content

The next step in the process is to create even more valuable material – but it’s important to require an “opt-in” process. This is the best way to measure how valuable your content marketing is.

If no one wants to sign up for your email newsletter, it’s probably because your content marketing is subpar. I prefer email over Facebook fans or Twitter followers. People say email is dead – it’s not. In fact, it’s the most powerful form of marketing.

It’s important to convince people that your email list is worth subscribing to – take a look at how Sacha Greif offers a free ebook!

In this second step, people who opt-in to receive your content value what you have to say, and you’ve successfully built the first level of trust!

Notice how moving down the sales funnel is incrementally increasing your level of credibility?

Step 3: Drip Marketing

Now you have someone who values your content, and has subscribed to your newsletter. What’s the next step?

Drip. Drip. Drip.

Keep providing quality content – I personally struggle with this next step. I have many different interests, and I fear that my content is stuff subscribers don’t really care about.

Make sure to work in ratios – don’t try to convince the girl that you should be married on the first date. Likewise, don’t ask for the sale constantly – provide value on six emails, and on the seventh, mention that you have an ebook or online course. More on this in step 4…

Based on this next step, your credibility can grow or decline, once again, it’s the quality of your content that matters.

Step 4: Ask for the “Soft” Sale

The quality of your content has got you this far, and now it’s time to ask for the sale. But wait! If you have a SaaS product or consulting business, it might not be the best time to sell that – there’s a layer in-between that should be accomplished first.

Sell your content. Test the waters in this next step. This is where you can filter out the “freeriders” from the people who are willing to pay. This is similar to the step 2, where they sign up for your newsletter, but instead of providing an email, it’s time to fork over the $.

Of course conversion rates will drop, but the people that pay for your content are also the individuals who are more likely to pay more money for your SaaS product or consulting service (assuming your product/service is related to the content you write).

This soft sale (also known as premium marketing), is a great way to filter your leads, so now you can focus on converting for the final step. As a result, this will decrease your cost of acquisition.

Step 5: The Hard Sell

At this point, you now have people who have:

  1. Visited your website
  2. Found your content to be valuable (and sign up to receive your emails)
  3. Have received a few drip emails over the past few weeks
  4. Have purchased your premium content

These people are gold! Your credibility is through the roof, you’ve successfully sold your content, and boom, it’s time for the final sale. This is where you can make the big bucks – whether it’s consulting time, or your SaaS product.

I hope you see how every step of the sales process is built on providing high-quality content, but I hope you realize that trust is critical. Don’t spend your time trying to convert website visitors straight into sales – it’s not worth your time. Focus on turning readers into subscribers, then paying customers, then high-paying customers.