A Complete Guide to Building Effective Sales Funnels

Every business owner must constantly work to improve their business model, reach more people, and create more sales opportunities. Charting the flow of customers may seem like one of the most difficult aspects of your business, but it's not.
Using a sales funnel to identify and assess the successes and shortcomings of your business gives you one of the most effective systems you can implement. From this guide, you will learn why a sales funnel is necessary and how to create an effective funnel for your business. We'll discuss copywriting for the different stages of the funnel, and if you already have a sales funnel, we'll give you tips for updating and improving it. 
Sales funnel definition and basics.
What is a sales funnel?
A sales funnel shows every step of a potential customer's journey from first interaction with your business to customer conversion. The sales funnel acts as a roadmap, showing what needs to happen from the moment a person first learns about your business, to the actions after the purchase.
In Internet marketing, your website or app is at the top of the funnel. As visitors browse your products, add them to their cart and move on to checkout, they move lower and lower down the process, eventually arriving at the purchase — the bottom of the funnel.
Having a clear view of each step a customer might take through your website or business model helps you determine exactly what your team needs to work on to increase conversions. 
Without a sales funnel, it's not easy to identify key areas that need optimization. By taking the time to create one, you'll save time finding solutions for low conversion rates.
The sales funnel versus the buyer's journey and inbound marketing methodology.
With all the variety of marketing strategies available to businesses, it can be difficult to know exactly where to invest your time and money. Which path is best for you to achieve your ultimate goals? Some similar terms that can cause confusion when you're trying to make this decision are «sales funnel,» «customer journey» and «inbound methodology.» So what's the difference and how do they relate to you?
The main difference between these three terms is the perspective you use to consider the potential customer journey through your business. 
The customer journey is looking at the process from the customers' perspective. They have a desire or need for something, and they want it fulfilled as efficiently as possible without paying much attention to the company itself. The steps in this process include:
  • Awareness
  • Consideration
  • Decision
Sales funnel
This phrase comes from your perspective as a business. It begins with someone unfamiliar with the company and working steadily to become a customer and finally an advocate for your business when they walk away feeling satisfied. The sales funnel prioritizes each interaction with a particular business instead of the customer making a purchase and completing it quickly. 
Inbound methodology. Inbound methodology is the broadest process that involves a hybrid mix of the buyer's journey and the sales funnel. It's primarily the perspective of your marketing team, whether it's yourself or a separate division of your company. It's a process that inbound marketers use, starting with bringing visitors into the business, converting them into customers and influencing them to become promoters. Each stage includes a specific set of tools that marketers can use to succeed along the way. The process includes the following steps:
  • Awareness
  • Consideration
  • Decision
What are the stages of the sales funnel?
The sales funnel functions differently at each stage and ideally works to keep visitors moving smoothly through the process until the end. There are different terms that people use to describe the stages and what the people going through them are called, but we'll use the most common terms.
There are four stages, and you can recall them using the acronym AIDA. Remember that each of these stages is intended to demonstrate the mindset of the potential client as they go through the process. The wrong sequence of steps gives potential clients a preemptive signal that often scares them off and causes them to stop everything. 
This first step involves the first moment of awareness between your business and a stranger. You get their attention. They may have noticed a Facebook post, a tweet, or an online advertisement that piqued their interest. It could also be a less direct action on your part, such as a Google search result. After this first interaction, the stranger becomes a potential customer.
Often the awareness stage is the beginning of a relationship rather than the end of a transaction. You need to entice them and attract them to your site, increasing their engagement with your business. 
As they continue to interact with your business, they should develop an interest in it. Typically, they are researching a product or service, looking at your shopping pages, or considering their options. 
At this point, you take advantage of their need or desire to purchase the product and offer them your help or expertise. It's important not to start pushing your product right away, as this often makes potential customers unhappy and discourages them from further interaction. 
«84% of people aged 25-34 left their favorite site because of irrelevant or intrusive advertising.» (Hubspot, 2020)
Decision making
The decision stage is when a potential customer goes from simply being interested in your business to being willing to make a purchase. Often they will consider several companies or several products at different prices at once.
This stage can also be seen as the promotion stage. Make them your best offer that they hopefully can't refuse. This could look like sending out an ad on a website with a discount code, a new sale on some products they are interested in, or a bonus product if they spend more than X amount.
Now is the time to get people to act on their decision. They have to see the offer and can't wait to take advantage of it. By taking that last action, they become part of the business system, integrating into the customer pool.
Some people add another step after the action step: retention.
The idea is that you shouldn't sit back and relax after the purchase. Instead, focus on customer retention is prime real estate for good marketers. This is when you can turn that first purchase into 100 future purchases.
Ways to do this can include a «thank you» card or email communication to tell them more about the new product. Invite them to share their feedback after making a purchase and use that to keep the conversation going.
 How does the sales funnel work?
Here's an example of how the funnel structure works for someone who isn't initially looking for an interested buyer.
1. You advertise your products or services on social media such as Facebook, Instagram or Google. When that ad is clicked on, it leads to a landing page on your company's website. You have now created awareness.
2. After a minute or less of time spent on the site, you have an automatic pop-up message that shows an incentive to people who have signed up for your email list.
3. These people continue to receive emails over the next few days or weeks and begin to show more interest in your brand.
4. You place a call to action (CTA) at the end of each of these emails. This message will vary depending on your services and how you want people to interact with your business.
5. After creating an image of your products and services in their mind, the buyer decides to click on that CTA. This takes them to a new landing page, probably your shopping page. Here they can interact with your products and add some to their cart. They have entered the decision stage.
6. If you haven't already done so in your emails, now is the time to take the last step and offer them a deal they can't refuse. Perhaps it will be a limited time discount or a promotional sale on certain items. You need to move them from the decision stage to the action stage.
7. They can't refuse the offer and have already begun to identify with your brand, so they decide to make the purchase. After that, you can move on to the retention stage. Send them automated emails to make them feel even more satisfied and happy with their purchase. This will help build brand loyalty so they come back to you for similar purchases in the future.
How do you create a sales funnel for yourself?
Now you understand how valuable a sales funnel is and how necessary it is for your business. It's about going purposefully toward your goals and learning every step it will take to achieve them. How do you create such a funnel for yourself? Use these simple steps to simplify the creation process.
Set goals
First, if you don't know what you're aiming for as a businessperson or company, how will you know if you're improving? Setting goals should be a step that happens much earlier than business development. However, if you haven't already done so, take this opportunity to look at your sales, revenue and other results to set attainable goals. 
You can set two sets of goals. The first should be very attainable — numbers that will allow you to stay in the earning category. The next set is the high achievers. These are the ones you strive for to make your business better than ever. Keep them as an opportunity to always strive for stardom.
Identify and analyze your target market
Your goal is not to sell to everyone. Rather, you want to work with the people who are most likely to be interested in your product. An effective marketing strategy determines who these people are and where it's best to work with them.
Knowing what your target audience is interested in will also help you tailor your marketing campaign. Let them know you've added more content or can offer them more information or products that meet their needs.
Create awareness opportunities
Your funnel won't be effective if no one «steps into it,» so to speak. Let's start with awareness, if no one knows about your brand, how should they interact with it?

Once you understand who your audience is and what their preferences are, it's time to spread the word and make yourself known. Get your content out there to raise awareness and reach the right audience.
Your budget and marketing scheme will determine how you do this. Some companies may have a fairly large social media audience due to the development of their brand, so simply posting content regularly on their platforms will further reach audiences. Other companies need to diversify. Share infographics, collaborate with other brands, and start a content channel on YouTube.
Have an actionable landing page
So, they see the ads. They like what they see and click on it, so what's next?
Then they have to be redirected to a landing page that is directly related to what the ad was talking about. Don't try to mislead people with ads, as that will quickly drive them away, and you will inevitably get a higher bounce rate. The landing page should be something relevant, preferably something that leads them to very valuable content or gives them access to an unprecedented offer.
Remember, if you decide to make an offer right away, these new customers are at an early stage. Don't push them too early. Instead, focus on engaging them, drawing them to your brand and helping them identify with it.
The goal of this landing page should be to direct them to the «valuable» areas of the site. These are e-commerce pages, pages with content of great interest to your audience, or pages with resources they may be interested in receiving. They should have clear and bold CTAs so they know exactly what to do next. Suggest they watch a video, direct them to a website, or download your resource.
Put together an email campaign
The next step is to continue engaging with your potential customers. Don't let communication get sidetracked. After they've been interacting with your site for a while, give them the opportunity to sign up for your email list.
Email marketing is extremely valuable. Customers love to get information from their favorite brands. 
«49% of consumers say they enjoy receiving weekly promotional emails from their favorite brands.» (Oberlo)

Use email campaigns to educate potential customers about your brand. Give them the information they want to know in a very accessible way. If you find that people have certain obstacles when it comes to buying or reaching out to your business, reach out to them and offer solutions in those emails.
One way to do this without having to set up weekly messages for different groups of people is to develop a drip campaign. They are set up to give people «drip» information after they initially sign up for the newsletter. They give them introductory information about the brand, a mission statement, how to interact with you and more. 
They often end with an incredible limited-time offer for people who have identified the information in the drip campaign. It's a call to action that has a better chance of prompting potential customers to take action within a certain amount of time.
Relationship building
When it's all done and you've turned visitors into leads and potential customers into buyers, don't let them disappear from view. Many companies make the mistake of focusing on the first phase of marketing and getting people's attention.
Building brand loyalty is an important part of building a loyal customer base instead of relying on attracting new customers. You should express gratitude for their purchases or significant interactions with your brand. Let them know about new sales and coupons, as well as your social media so they can easily follow you on whatever platform they prefer.
Successfully creating a highly functional sales funnel is terminology. As you create your sales funnel, you need to find and use the right words at every stage. These keywords and phrases should help customers move smoothly through the funnel from start to finish. This is why sales funnel copywriting is so important.
5. What is sales funnel copywriting?
This type of copywriting is writing in which words are chosen in such a way as to help achieve the goal of the funnel. Each of these words has meaning and will be constructed differently depending on what stage of the process a person is in. They should encourage people to keep going, not discourage them or push them too hard too soon.
This copy is an important aspect of website marketing and requires quite a bit of skill. Each stage has slightly different goals, so the wording should be different as well. Everything together should work to motivate the site visitor and develop a deeper relationship and emotional connection with the brand. The message should inspire them, meet a need, elicit a response, or all together if you're really good.
Each level needs to be approached differently, so let's look at how to make copywriting work for you.
Awareness stage
The goal of this stage is to turn visitors into leads, turning them from potential or essentially idealized customers into definite leads. For many marketers, the awareness stage is the most challenging. It's all about making that first contact and making it a success.
The medium you use will change the type of copywriting message you use in this stage. You'll want to adapt the text accordingly. Take a look at some of these approaches for various popular marketing platforms:
Social media (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter)
Short messages, viable on most social media platforms, need to be appealing and compelling. You should develop a lead magnet for them. 
A lead magnet is a term marketers use to describe a free product or small service they provide in exchange for someone's contact information. It's what draws people in the way that magnets do. Focus on your lead magnet in these posts, telling people about a free trial, a helpful resource, a consultation, or even a quiz that will tell them something about themselves. 
Social media posts don't have to be wordy. It should be something visually pleasing so people don't scroll through the page. Then the words will hold their attention and hopefully lead them to click through to your landing page.
 Blog posts
Content on a website is effective in attracting people through the results of their search queries. They should be suitable for directly answering questions relevant to your niche. This style of copywriting and content creation should incorporate SEO best practices so you have a better chance of ranking.
Once someone notices your information resource and starts interacting with it, it becomes your entry point. From there, it should start directing them to a clear course of further action. They click on it, and it takes them to the aforementioned landing page. These pages should be very aesthetically pleasing and draw people in by satisfying whatever reason they clicked on the message.
Also, don't forget to add a clear CTA that will give them further opportunities to interact. If they have to search, they will likely lose interest and you will lose the lead.
Interest stage
Going from awareness to interest stage is the next part of your process. They've learned about your brand and now they have the opportunity to interact and increase their interest. Drip email campaigns are one of the best ways to do this.
While a contact request can be made any time a lead is on your site, you can't wait too long and lose them or do it too quickly and seem intrusive. It's best to estimate the average time spent on your landing pages. Set your contact request to show up around the 50-60% mark. This will give them enough time to initiate an interaction before the average person leaves the page.
Once you get their contact information, start an email campaign. Don't underestimate the power of a welcome email. 
«The average email open rate is 21% whereas the average open rate on welcome emails is 82%,» according to MailChimp and GetResponse.
What kind of content should be included in a drip-email campaign? You can structure it in a series or different types of content, always giving the headings constructive titles. Consider these goals when constructing these kinds of content in your messages:
  • Establish your knowledge and expertise in your niche
  • Get them to engage with the site again by offering their feedback or taking an interactive quiz
  • Overdeliver on promises so that you can build trust
  • Educate them about your brand and show how they can relate to it.
Be sure to construct the email in short, scannable paragraphs. Doing so will increase the likelihood that they will read it. Put your most interesting material at the top of the email to get people interested. You can also feature testimonials, accolades, or reviews at the bottom to further promote your expertise and build trust based on previous customer satisfaction.
Decision stage
The copywriting for the decision stage involves more CTAs than in other stages. They should inspire people to take that last stage of action. It is essential not to do this too early. The timing is based on how big of a purchase you want them to make. The larger the purchase directly relates to more time curating trust in the relationship.
Once that relationship is built, you can use the final email in a campaign to spur them into action. It should have a sense of urgency behind it, such as a sale that is being offered only for a limited time.
If they click through, give them a page experience that shares the same branding and aesthetic as the email to create a seamless experience. Give them only a few options so as not to overwhelm them. 
On this landing page, you should continue to stress the urgency or scarcity of the product that was advertised in the email. Give them comforting messages about the flexibility of your return policy or the viability of your trial period. It helps them to feel like they have security to fall back on.
Action stage
Copywriting at this stage doesn't have to be bulky, but it does still create opportunities. After they make the purchase, give them a satisfying thank you page and send out emails expressing gratitude. These should be geared to ward off potential buyer's remorse. Welcome them into the community and make them feel like just scored with their purchase.
Loyalty/retention stage
Forming a consistent client base is one of the best ways to streamline the steps. You circumnavigate the first step and continue to develop interest and brand loyalty.
From this point, treat the customers to language that makes them feel like a valued member of the business's community. Give them a chance to leave feedback and become believers in the brand. Your sales will benefit from selling to existing customers much more than putting your whole focus on developing new leads.
By creating an effective sales funnel visualization and observing the metrics after its integration, you get a much more complete idea about where your business exceeds and where it falls behind. It takes away the guesswork for your marketing team and provides clear answers and solutions.
If developing a sales funnel still seems overwhelming, the copywriting portion isn't your forté, or it all seems difficult to optimize, there are marketing experts and skilled independent copywriters to help. Developing a marketing team often starts with simple steps that lead to a cohesive group working together to set up successful structures you can use to watch your business flourish.