If you sell online, or market for leads online, you definitely have a sales funnel. You may not know what your sales funnel is, but you have one.
The question is: how effective is your funnel?
When we map out a business’s funnels and assign numbers to them, they’re usually stunned by how many people drop out at each step.
In this example, we have only 5 steps and we start with 100,000 fans:
Only 5 sales? We lost 9,995 people in the process? Crap!
In digital marketing, the number of people lost at each funnel step is gigantic. It’s amazing to me that anyone sells anything online. And, in reality, many people fail.
Many much tears.
Unfortunately, many business people assume that online sales and lead gen is easy. In fact, it’s near-impossible.
Successful sales online (including inbound lead gen and offline sales) requires:
- Great planning,
- Lots of iteration (that’s the fancy word for trial and error), or
- Sheer luck.
The ones who succeed by sheer luck don’t learn anything. Usually they fail with their second business attempt and can’t figure out what happened.
Successful digital marketing requires:
- An offering people want,
- Marketing well planned and executed,
- Time, and
That’s the truth about selling online, and it’s not sexy. Unless you think executing wisely and achieving business profits is sexy. That would be like calling Gandalf sexy. Well I suppose there is someone out there who has… anyway-
To me digital marketing is not about sexiness or fun (though you can definitely have fun with the testing). It’s about finding and using a system that gets you results.
If you want to confront the cold hard facts and succeed, then you need to overcome the 5 most common mistakes that businesses make with their digital sales funnels.
Funnel Mistake #1: Too Many Steps
Every action people have to take requires a decision. At most decision points, more than 50% of your audience (usually more like 80-99%) opts out. That means they do things like:
- Don’t click on your ad or link.
- Don’t opt into your email list or your lead magnet (ebook, whitepaper, webinar).
- Don’t put something in a shopping cart.
- Don’t check out.
- Don’t finish paying.
So, let’s imagine you have only those 5 steps above, and 10,000 people see your ad. Here’s what happens if ONLY 50% (we’ll be generous and give you a best-case dream scenario) don’t go through with it:
- 5,000 don’t click on your ad or link.
- 2,500 don’t opt into your email list or your lead magnet (ebook, whitepaper, webinar).
- 1,250 Don’t put something in a shopping cart.
- 625 Don’t check out.
- 312 Don’t finish paying.
- 156 buy
Let’s say you spent $5,000 on those clicks ($1 CPC). If you don’t profit at least $32 per sale ($5,000/156 sales), you lose money.
But let’s be more realistic with those numbers. Let’s say 100,000 see your ad…
- At a 1% CTR, 99,000 don’t click on your ad or link. 1,000 do.
- At 20% lead conversion rate, 800 don’t opt into your email list or your lead magnet (ebook, whitepaper, webinar). 200 do. (We’ll save this number for later)
- At a 1% sales rate, 792 people don’t buy. 8 people do buy.
So if you spent $1,000 on those clicks ($1 CPC), if you don’t profit at least $125 per sale ($1,000/4 sales), you lose money.
Pretty dire, right?
But we still have those 200 emails. Here’s what happens with them:
- 20% of them open your email. That’s 40 people.
- 10% click to the site. That’s 4 people.
- 1% buy. Shoot, you only have 1/25th of a buyer! That’s smaller than Mini-Me.
One more demonstration:
- Let’s say you manage to get 100,000 Facebook fans.
- 10% of them see your Facebook post- that’s 10,000 people.
- Many Facebook posts get 99.9% interaction, not website clicks. A post that does well with website clicks may get a 4% clickthrough rate. That’s 400 people.
- 1% of these buy- that’s 4 people. 0.004% of fans convert per post.
So your 100,000 fan page got your 4 sales. Pretty lame, huh? This is why we stopped doing Facebook fan growth: too many extra steps and too many people lost in the process.
Relax. It’s not the end of the world. If 4 people buy per Facebook post per day x 365 days = 1,460 people buy per year.
But how did you get those 100,000? You may have to pay $10-50k to get 100,000 quality fans with Facebook ads. Because the low quality fans will never buy.
So, you’d have to be profiting $7 to $34 per sale to break even on that fan cost after a year. And that means you’d have to be able to wait a year to make that $10-50k back.
This is assuming:
- You don’t run any ads to promote posts (which many people do), and
- You reach 10% of your fans (which many pages don’t).
The Facebook post visibility problem is just too expensive. A “Facebook Fan-Reliant Strategy” reduces your sales funnel’s effectiveness by 90%.
That’s why we switched to three funnels with fewer steps:
- Facebook ad -> Squeeze page to get email -> email -> click -> sale
- The shortest one: Facebook ad -> Sales page -> Sale [only 3 steps!]
- Retargeting audiences from #1 and #2 -> email or sale
Now, we’ve seen profits up to 2,200% from Facebook ad campaigns. To get that high, you have to create 100 ads a month. That’s how you find the ads that work incredibly well.
The upshot: Reduce the number of steps in your funnel.
Funnel Mistake #2: Not Getting Enough People Into Your Funnel
Advertising helps, and it’s critical for new sites. But only so many ads will be profitable. It will bring you a limited volume of sales.
You’re going to need more affordable traffic.
That means you need SEO or unpaid social media. And that means you have to create awesome content like this blog post. You have to create something that helps your prospect and you don’t get paid for it. But it brings in tons of people, some of whom opt into your emails and some of which buy.
But the most common mistake with content marketing is to create content that gets lots of buzz. You get tons of shares and comments and you slap each other on the back. But this often doesn’t move your prospects toward the sale. Check out this article to learn how to create content that gets shares and retweets and website clicks and sells.
The upshot: Create content that brings in traffic and sales.
Funnel Mistake #3: Keeping It Too Private
Because of how many people we lose at each funnel step, we need to do whatever we can to get shares at every step. For example:
- Create ads that are tweets and Facebook posts that deserve shares/retweets and website clicks.
- Create landing pages that deserve shares and retweets.
- For example, a free lead magnet (ebook, whitepaper, video series, webinar) that’s so cool that people have to share it.
- You can put Facebook commenting at the bottom of their free content so that excited people can comment. Those comments get shared via their Facebook account as well. Here’s how you add it. And Leadpages (note: affiliate link) has some squeeze page templates that have it built in. I use Leadpages and Clickfunnels (aff link) both for creating opt-in and sales pages. They’re both great.
- Create thank you pages that empower people to share or tweet about it- especially after email opt-ins- but also for sales.
The upshot: Learn what kind of content the research shows people share and don’t share here (free whitepaper I wrote for Marketo).
Funnel Mistake #4: Only One Idea Per Funnel Segment
In the olden days of marketing, people created one campaign and ran it for months and months. If it tanked- they were screwed.
Then a few brilliant folks like Claude C. Hopkins started using coupons to track what worked and didn’t. Direct mail was born. This evolved over the decades- and with digital marketing it has become standard to at least split-test your ideas. If you aren’t familiar with split-testing, you’re way behind. Google it.
- Get a platform like LeadPages or Clickfunnels that empowers you to easily test 2 or 3 opt-in pages.
- Create 2 or 3 sales pages, too.
- Combine that with your ad testing and you will cut your cost per lead or sale by 50-80%.
You can’t afford not to do this, because many people who don’t just go out of business. It’s hard to make the math of profits work without this kind of testing.
And it’s how some marketers enter old niches and quickly dominate them. Some companies get put out of business. The most vulnerable businesses are the ones that have been around long enough to get cocky and think they don’t need to keep up with the times.
Don’t be lazy here or you’ll regret it.
The upshot: Split-test wherever possible.
Funnel Mistake #5: Being So Inbound That You Don’t Close The Sale
I get it. It’s cool to just market. To just do inbound. You aren’t pushy and you don’t get rejected.
Except you do. Someone else gets the customer.
Stop being afraid of selling. Get more of them to convert to the next step.
Figure out what objections or fears are keeping people from buying. Tell them about the other things that will happen if they don’t work with you that they should be more afraid of.
The upshot: Figure out what it takes to move them to the next step. Close the sale. Coffee is for closers.
In conclusion, my English teachers in school told me to write conclusions.
Brian Carter is a popular digital marketer and keynote speaker with Fortune 500 clients like NBC, Microsoft and Humana as well as small businesses who delivers motivational keynotes with practical takeaways based his ad agency’s 15 years of daily cutting-edge work driving awareness, leads and sales for their business clients. His agency, The Brian Carter Group, creates marketing that excites customers and increases brand visibility, sales and loyalty. Brian is a bestselling author you’ve probably seen on Bloomberg TV or in Inc, Entrepreneur, The Wall Street Journal or The New York Times. He has over 250,000 online fans and reaches over 3 million people per year.