The thinking and tactics behind funnels that work!
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Just really good discussions about everything funnels
Funnels are a thing. The buzz is all around and there is no shortage of punters screaming “YOU NEED A FUNNEL!”. It’s hard not to be cynical with the potential for promoters to be incentivised and always looking to push what is good for them and not for you.
But in this particular case, I think they are right. But you don’t NEED a funnel, you already HAVE a funnel. What you need is a GOOD funnel.
But I am getting ahead of myself. Firstly what do we mean by a sales funnel (or any kind of funnel for that matter!)? This is widely misunderstood and widely ignored as an important concept to fully grasp. Because if you can grasp exactly what a funnel is, why you need one and how they work, then you will be in a much better position to assess for yourself how your business of attracting new subscribers/customers/clients actually works.
What you don’t need (at least to begin with) is just the latest tips and tricks on which ad is working on Facebook and how to drive traffic to your website. There is a place for tips and tricks - and a place for best practice when it comes to your own online presence. But without the basic framework of what a funnel is and why they work you will be left tweaking This, That, and The Other Thing, never being fully certain of what the goal is or where the solution might lie. At best you become a copy cat (but 12 or 18 months behind) and at worse you go around in circles not making any progress.
Ok, enough of that already. What is a sales funnel?
Sales Funnels Defined For You
A sales funnel is a summary of the stages your customer goes through when buying a product from you. Put simply, the stages are psychological stages your sales funnel takes the customer through. Sales funnels are less about what buttons are clicked on your website by the customer, and more about what buttons your website is hitting with your customer. (The funnel narrows because not everyone buys, and not everyone buys everything).
Sales funnels are less about what buttons are clicked on your website by the customer, and more about what buttons your website is hitting with your customer.
Sales funnels take advantage of an essential but not well understood principle of all communication. Namely, what you present first, changes the way people experience what comes next. Sounds simple eh? But it is extremely powerful and don’t forget it: *what you say first directly impacts how people receive what you say next*.
Sometimes people define a sales funnel as a graphical representation of those steps - which in some ways is true (the funnel can probably be drawn on a white board during a brain-storming session). But don’t get hung up on on the ‘graphical representation’. Because whether it is graphical or not, there ARE stages that any customer goes through when buying a product from you, whether you can draw them or not, and whether you like it or not!
The other confusing factor is that sales funnels can be stacked together - a customer can enter one funnel, then another, then another. Sometimes these are collectively called ‘sales funnels’. But it is better to think of these as a series of funnels put together (which together form your Business Funnel - more on that later).
At which stage you might be thinking: “Whoopie doo! Marketers get paid for coming up with these stupid analogies? Of course there are steps, people come to our website, find their product and then add to cart!”.
But before you leave the page in search of cat videos, take a step back because we want to go a bit deeper and ask a few more searching questions: i. What is the psychology of buying; ii. How do sales funnels help increase sales?
When Buyers Buy They Buy In A Privileged Moment
Here I was staring at the Audi brochure trying to decide between two shades of tan leather. They both were gorgeous, they both could be ordered for the model I was interested in and right then it was all that mattered. Before that Saturday morning I hadn’t ever given any thought to Audi’s range of car leathers, or for that matter any car makers range.
But right there, right then, it was all that mattered. I was absorbed, I was focused, I was hooked, and I was in the buying frenzy. I would have bought the boot mat and roof racks as well as the Bose stereo add-on. Right then they were all that mattered.
Only I didn’t (something about needing to check in with my wife first). And by Monday morning, the power of the moment was gone. And by the time Tuesday came and the Audi salesman called I had moved on - why did I think I even needed a new car let alone with tan leather??
Was I crazy? Was I out of control? Was I temporarily insane?
But I was very human and very much affected by important universal traits that make selling work and that the best sales funnels make use of well.
Robert Cialdini in his excellent book Pre-Suasion (essential readying for any /Thinking Funnels/ devotee) calls my Audi-leather-color moment, “*privileged moments*”. These are windows of opportunity that don’t open permanently, but when they are open, the seller has a special opportunity to engage with the buyer, and have out-sized influence on the buyer for the sale. Sales funnels work to both create privileged moments and take advantage of privileged moments.
For this reason, sales funnels are short-term experiences for your customers (lead funnels are different and can be over a much longer time period). But in essence with a sales funnel you are trying to create these privileged moments in which a potential customer is converted into a buying customer and a buying customer is allowed to buy more of what they are after.
So the purpose of any sales funnel is to move the psychology of the buyer: from closed to open, from cynical to trusting, from uncertain to affirming, from disengagement to engagement. It is less about your website or store and the buttons to click to get to checkout, and more about how you enter into the psychology of your customer and help them enter into privileged moments. Only then do you have the best chance of your buttons and checkout actually being needed.
Sounds simple enough - so how do you do that?
The Art of the Funnel is Creating Privileged Moments
What makes a customer particularly receptive to your message? It is the job of a well set up sales funnel to do just that - to make the customer particularly receptive to your message (to create the privileged moment).
What are well set up sales funnels doing that your website is NOT doing? And how to you set up you sales funnel to get more sales from your customers?
Answering these questions is the art of the funnel. The art of converting.
And at the heart of a well set up sales funnel is: attention that is channeled to certain specific principles of influence. Or to put it another way, the purpose of your sales funnel is to channel the attention of your potential customer into certain psychological chutes that will then make them more willing to accept your sales offer. Let me give you an example (we will have more to say about why this works).
There is a famous example that researchers performed to show what we are talking about. Two researchers (San Bolkan and Peter Andersen) were trying to get randoms at shopping centres answer a survey. You know what happened … not many people want to answer the survey (about 29%).
So what did San and Peter do? They asked a single and simple question first up when approaching people: “Do you consider yourself a helpful person?”. People responded yes or now after a brief reflection. Then San and Peter asked the same question about the survey just like before. And guess what happened? 77.3% of the people they approached now volunteered for the survey. 77.3!! More than double when that simple lead-in questions wasn’t asked.
What San and Peter did was create a simple “sales funnel” in which they channeled the attention of the customers into a particular psychological chute (namely, the participants desire for consistency).
Interrupting a stranger in the shopping mall to ask them to participate in a survey certainly gets their attention briefly. But people are so adverse to surveys that the attention lasts just seconds for someone to say “No” quickly. But the insertion of the question “Do you consider yourself a helpful person?” does two things at once. Yes, the stranger who was thinking about where they parked their car now has their attention chatted into a completely different area (their character: am I helpful?). And more another reason altogether, most people consider themselves helpful. They affirm it in their own minds and affirm it publicly by answering San and Peter in the affirmative: “Yes I am helpful”.
San and Peter have created a privileged moment. The stranger now has their attention channeled to their own helpfulness (no longer thinking about what level they parked the car!) and are also now have a special moment to engage with this stranger in a related area. In this case, the related area is their request for a short survey to be answered. Sure, the participant can still walk away (22.7% of people still do!). But many more now want to act consistently with what they have just been channeled to think about (“helpfulness”) and have publicly affirmed.
And with that privileged moment opened up, San and Peter got more than 2x the number of respondents (without offering steak knives or free parking!). Nothing else was changed. Nothing else was offered as an inducement.
That is the power of a successful sales funnel. That is the power of channeling attention of your customers into certain psychological chutes. What is important is what is prominent (ie has their attention) in the customer’s mind at that moment of decision. It is not just what to say, it is /when/ to say it (order and flow matter when you are trying to persuade a customer to concede, or change, or buy!).
But keep in mind these windows of opportunity - these privileged moments - don’t last very long, and are never propped open permanently. They are temporary. So when you have created the opportunity, make the most of it!
Why Do Sales Funnels Create More Sales?
So how do sales funnels help increase sales? We have already noted that the art of a good sales funnel is to make your customer particularly receptive to your message (to create “privileged moments”). But if privileged moments open the door to the sale, how do sales funnels then increase your sales?
The initial goal of the sales funnel is to channel the attention of your customer into certain psychological chutes. There may be a number of openings that you take your customer down, but by the end of the chute they will think your product is the most important thing in the world to them right now and the right decision is to buy. And once this focused attention is in place with the buyer moment, customers will buy more too.
Once key reason that channeled attention is so effective (and necessary) is, like my Audi leather experience above, humans ascribe importance to what has their attention. Which is not so crazy. When sleeping under a tree in the Savannah we are wired to quickly give importance to being woken up by what might be a wild animal. We are wired to give elevated importance to what has our attention. A good sales funnel is designed to capture your customer’s attention. And in doing so, elevates the importance of your offering in their minds.
What has attention is given importance. Like my experience with Audi leather seat colours - nothing else mattered.
This is how sales funnels create more sales. A well constructed sales funnel is 80% of the way there by the time it has created a privileged moment and channeled the attention of your customer into certain psychological chutes. You have their attention (and what you are offering is now important as a result) and the sales funnel has prepared the customer to enter the buying stage.
This last part (the buying stage) of the sales funnel is where you can maximise what you sell. And when people are buying don’t just sell them one item or product. The goal is to sell them as many products as they are interested in buying. Period. They may have come to buy the pen only, but they leave with a matching pencil and leather case. They came to buy your book, but left with the ebook and audio book versions too. Sales funnels sell more because sales funnels keep selling!
There are two important ingredients for successful sales funnels at the point of your customer buying: a unique product offering; and up-selling. Or to put it another way, you have to offer your customers great value and then more value. The sales funnel has already elevated in importance what you are offering in the mid of the customer. Now it needs to elevate the value of what you are offering.
The genius of the unique product offering is that it achieves two important roles at once. First it will (and must) show just how valuable the product offering is for the customer which helps justify the purchase to the customer (and in the mind of the customer the justification they might need to explain to friends or family after the purchase). Second, by being unique, the customer knows that you are the only provider - it’s no longer a commodity and you are the only place to buy.
The Sales Funnel doesn’t stop once you have identified a buyer who has bought your unique product offering. The Sales Funnel keeps going. As Russel Brunson says in his excellent book DotCom Secrets, you identify “hyperactive buyers”. These buyers have a particular pain right now and you are there to address their problems. When you are about to go on a family holiday camping tomorrow, and the trailer you were going to borrow breaks today , you have a real need NOW. Suddenly you walk into the 4WD roof rack store and buy roof racks, and a luggage cage, and a bike holder and a number of expensive ties. All because right then you are a hyperactive buyer.
Putting Sales Funnels All Together
So lets put all this together.
A sales funnel is a summary of the stages your customer goes through when buying a product from you.
Sales funnels are less about what buttons are clicked on your website by the customer, and more about what buttons your website is hitting with your customer.
And you don’t NEED a funnel, you already HAVE a funnel. What you need is a GOOD funnel.
The art of a GOOD sales funnel takes advantage of human psychology. They create “privileged moments”: windows of opportunity that don’t open permanently, but when they are open, the seller has a special opportunity to engage with the buyer, and have out-sized influence on the buyer for the sale. Sales funnels work to both create privileged moments and take advantage of privileged moments.
To increase sales, sales funnels have two important ingredients at the point of your customer buying: a unique product offering; and up-selling. You want to sell something unique of great value, and identify the hyperactive buyers who will buy more from you.
The process of a customer being in any given sales funnel might only last 7 to 10 minutes. Short, sharp and effective.
But in the life of any customer’s experience with your business they might enter a number of type of funnels and a number of sales funnels. Put these all together and they become your Business Funnel.
Finally at Thinking Funnels I have found less used-car salesman strategies and instead up-to-date explanations on why some funnels perform well and others don't. Today a website on its own is not enough, you need a funnel - so make it the best you can get!
Anna Smith - Sales Director
It's competitive out there and the case studies on the latest funnels keeps pushing us to do our work better. Few people understand funnel examples better than Thinking Funnels. We can never stand still, but the bottom line of our business shows the benefits.
Marc Jacobs - Manager
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