This is the first post in a series of posts concerning the optimization of a sales or marketing funnel. This post will be updated with links to related articles as they’re written.
It’s A System
The first issue that needs to be addressed in this post is your view on “optimization”.
Too many people only focus on one aspect of optimization without taking into account the fact that it’s a whole system.
For example, people know they’re supposed to optimize their landing pages and they go about changing wording, colors, layouts, fonts, images, etc. Trying to improve the page’s conversion rate.
And you know what? That's “Ok”.
It’s certainly better than nothing; however, it’s only one piece to the whole puzzle.
This is what the puzzle looks like when put together:
See, it’s a system, and the landing page is one small piece.
It’s the system, as a whole, that produces (or fails to produce) the desired result.
What Makes A System Run Smoothly?
Since you now see, and understand, that the whole sales/marketing funnel is a system, it would make sense to explain how to get the most out of it.
It has to flow.
The traffic source and advertisement need to match the landing page, which need to match the thank you page, which need to match the follow up email series, and so on.
You cannot have an advertisement for a car, which goes to a landing page that talks about a new diet, which goes to a thank you page that talks about how to get started blogging, which leads to a follow up email series that discusses the stock market.
That paragraph above is plain ridiculous, yet it happens all the time. (Ok, maybe not quite that bad; however, there are ads that promise one thing while the landing page delivers something totally different. For example, you click an ad expecting the opportunity to get a coupon; however, the landing page doesn't mention a single thing about a coupon ... bad flow = bad system).
To get the most out of your sales system, ensure it flows!
Simply put, there are two types of metrics that exist in the world of digital marketing:
- Vanity Metrics
- Actionable Metrics
Vanity metrics are “pretty” and “fun” to look at, but are only skin deep. For example, how many people visit your site, how many followers you have, and how many subscribers you have is fairly meaningless.
Sure, it’s exciting to see a 100% growth in traffic from one month to the next, but – what if sales stay stagnate or even decline?
Which is more important? How many people visited your site? Or, how many people visited your site and made a purchase?
The latter – right? All that matters is that conversion because it’s what keeps the lights on.
Conversions or conversion rates = actionable metrics. THIS is what you want to measure and optimize for.
The "technical" term for this is Conversion Rate Optimization or CRO.
Related article: Vanity Metrics vs Actionable Metrics
The first piece of the system, when it comes to optimizing your sales funnel, is your traffic source.
Without a doubt, this is arguably the most crucial piece of the puzzle because if you’re sending junk traffic, it doesn’t matter how good the rest of your system is – it’ll never lead to your desired result.
There’s obviously a plethora of traffic sources and they all have their strengths and weaknesses. Some sources of traffic are “free” like SEO, social media, word of mouth, etc. While others are paid like Facebook Advertising, Google Adwords, banner ads, etc.
The best type of traffic for accurately measuring results is paid traffic - and it’s what I’ll discuss in related posts.
Paid traffic is the best form because not only can you accurately target your specific market, but you can easily measure actionable metrics like Cost Per Action/Conversion (CPA). Remember, it’s all about actionable metrics!
Whereas, with “free” traffic, it’s more holistic and less measurable. Sure, certain aspects can be measured, but it’s not nearly as precise as paid traffic.
Related article: How to drive traffic to your sales funnel
As you'll notice by looking at the diagram above - Landing Pages are listed twice, because they're used ... A LOT!
Technically, a landing page is simply the page someone "lands" on when they arrive on your site through whatever source of traffic (search engine, ad, link in an email, guest post, etc).
As much as is humanly possible, you want to control the pages visitors land on. Especially, when you're paying money for that visitor to land on your website. You never, ever, want to send people willy-nilly onto random pages within your site.
Each landing page in your sales funnel should have one purpose only (a conversion [actionable metric]). You then measure the results and optimize.
For example, the landing page someone arrives on after clicking on an ad should probably be a squeeze page with a lead magnet that "squeezes" contact information out of the visitor. This way you can follow up with emails and build a relationship.
Another example, the landing page someone arrives on after clicking on a link in an email, should probably be a sales page with the objective being to sell a product or service.
That's all I'll say about Landing Pages in this post, but there is more in related articles!
Related article: What is a Landing Page?
Follow Up Email Series
The main point of having an email series is to build a relationship with the lead. This is done through providing informational and entertaining content with the underlying purpose of driving some kind of action (mainly a purchase, but can include other actions like social media follows, volunteer work, etc.).
The emails should include links to various landing pages like sales pages with the sole purpose to drive one action – ie, a purchase.
Actionable metrics (like open rates, click through rates, and ultimately conversion rates) are tracked and optimized in regard to an email series.
Related article: What's My Email List Worth? [calculator]
Sale (Final? Action)
The only actionable metric that really matters is the conversion rate between the start (the traffic source) and the finish (the sale).
This metric alone answers the question of, "How well is my sales funnel doing?"
Everything in between either increases or decreases this one metric.
So, when you make a change to your system - you see what happens to this one metric - and judge from there if the change you made was good or not.
For example, let's say you change your squeeze page and it happens to get a lower opt-in conversion rate than the previous one; HOWEVER, when you look at this final metric (the conversion rate from traffic source to sale) you see that it's gone up! And, that's ALL THAT MATTERS!!!!
Butterfly Effect (Chaos Theory)
It has been said that something as small as the flutter of a butterfly's wing can ultimately cause a typhoon halfway around the world - Chaos Theory
Earlier in the article I talked about your sales funnel “needing to flow” – where the traffic source is in line with the landing page, which is in line with the emails series, and so on.
Remember, the entire sales/marketing funnel is a system and, in order to properly optimize it, you need to measure the results of the system as a whole.
Where the Butterfly Effect (Chaos Theory) comes into play is when you make one change, anywhere in the system, it can have dramatic effects on subsequent portions of the system. This can either dramatically improve or diminish its overall results.
Knowing the Butterfly Effect exists in your sales funnel (system) is the first step, in the next article I’ll show you a few ways to control it.
Related article: How to use Chaos Theory to optimize your sales funnel
Why Final With A ?
As you noticed, I had a question mark behind final. Because, realistically - the initial sale is not the final step in the sales funnel.
It's only the beginning.
You now have a paying customer that has money and trusts you and your business enough to make a purchase! It's now time to nurture that relationship and generate more and more sales for years to come!
However, this is beyond the scope of this post ... at a later date we'll dive more into maximizing your customers' lifetime value. Today, we're just focusing on turning leads into customers.
Your sales funnel is going to leak. People are going to fall out of it by not opening emails, not clicking links, not committing action, etc.
It’s going to happen – and that’s why it’s in the shape of a funnel.
There are ways to “plug the holes” in your sales funnel.
The primary way, and the way I’ll explain in a later article, is through retargeting (remarketing).
Essentially, retargeting allows you to create ads that “follow” individuals across the Internet.
For example, someone clicks on your ad and goes to your squeeze page; however, they don’t convert. Maybe that particular landing page wasn’t good, or maybe the lead wasn't interested in that particular lead magnet. Through retargeting, you can show that lead different ads and different landing pages (squeeze pages) in order to try and get that initial conversion and thus, "plugging a hole in your funnel."
Related article: How Does Retargeting Work?
- A sales/marketing funnel is a system made up of many parts
- Each part needs to “flow” with the other parts in order to have an optimized system
- Only track actionable metrics and optimize based on those results
- The Butterfly Effect is ever present, you must measure the success of the entire system, not just one part
- There are ways to plug some of the holes in your system through retargeting