In part one of this series on the Sales Funnel, I related my story of how a photographer needs to look at the entire sales cycle in order to give it strength and work to grow a successful company over time.
The sales funnel is a systematic marketing process where you filter your prospects into customers, then refine them into raving fans that refer you again and again. But before you can build your base of raving fans, you have to attract high quality prospects at the top of the funnel. This is where your marketing can really shine.
See You At The Top
The top of your sales funnel is the one area that requires the most experimentation. It’s the area where you can try different things, achieve different results, tweak it, and start all over again. There are limitless possibilities when it comes to how you can attract quality prospects, limited only by your imagination and your resources.
For many photographers, they immediately start with the more traditional ways of marketing: business cards, sales brochures, postcards, phone books, magazines, newspapers, etc. You can also dip into the higher priced marketing methods, such as expos, tradeshows, displays, billboards, etc
Thanks to the Internet, you can also find many methods to market and capture leads in the online world. Many people stay with the “free” concept, which can work. Things like Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, Pinterest, and Twitter can all work well if you have the time. Yet the Internet is filled with opportunities – most of which are a lot less expensive than traditional methods. Banner ads, ezine placements, pay per click advertising, blogging, podcasting, guest posting and many other Web 2.0 tools.
The method you use to drive prospects is optional. Yet your ultimate goal is to attract and qualify people that may at some point purchase from you further down the road – down your sales funnel. At this stage, you goal is to drop as many people as you can into the funnel, then use other mechanisms to qualify them and continue them down the path.
The first step of building your sales funnel is to create front end tools that capture the attention of people. The front end tool is important; the call to action is mandatory.
Having a website is important; putting a sign up up box to capture email address is mandatory.
Writing content for your blog is important; making it easy for people to sign up for your RSS feed is mandatory.
Creating a profile on Facebook is important; creating a welcome page that captures information is mandatory.
In all forms of marketing, people rarely make up their mind the first time they come across your information. Instead, they need time to think about it, consider their options, and talk about it with other decision makers. By adding in the call to action, the tool that requires one piece of information in exchange for an email address or a name, is how you can continue marketing again and again, increasing your chances of turning prospects into clients. This is your list – the most important and most valuable piece of your business.
A common focus for many business owners, especially when they are new to the small business world, is to focus on turning as many people as possible into paying clients as quickly as possible. They network with people in speed style, asking if they are willing to buy. The look at everyone as a potential buyer, seeing how quickly they can get them to pull out their credit cards.
When in reality your focus should be on building a solid system that takes people through the entire process, making it as smooth as possible. The more your system is in place, the smoother the process, the more expertise you build into your system, the easier it is to convert. When you’re not “standing by the door” waiting to turn every prospect into a client, you begin showing a comfort level with your business. People sense you aren’t “desperate” for business and are more willing to take the next step.
While these aren’t hardfast rules – there are companies that make a ton of money through hardsales at the top of the sales funnel – through personal experience I know building a strong system that sells itself is much easier for a small business owner. Especially if you want to be in business five, ten, even twenty years from now.
By building a strong system, its easy for your prospects to follow it through from beginning to end. They love what they see at the beginning and can’t wait to move to the next level. And so on down the path they create with you.
The top of the sales funnel is all about capturing attention and drawing people in to your funnel. Since there are many ways of doing this, the only wrong thing to do would be to stop action all together. You can change it, mix it up, add new things and delete things that no longer work. But as long as you are consistently sending people into your funnel, you’ll end up with the right amount of business over time.
In the next article in this series on the Sales Funnel I will look at the back end of the process and why its crucial to develop a strong referral program for long term business growth.