In the past, the traditional sales funnel has been a great way to visualize the progress of business leads as they make their way towards becoming customers:

  1. They start as a lead,
  2. you nurture that lead, and
  3. move them down the funnel as they show intent to buy.
  4. Then, if all things go according to plan, they purchase.

But, what happens when you’re unable to get that prospect through the funnel? Is this traditional sales funnel and process d-e-a-d? And shouldn’t customers who continue to purchase be part of this sales funnel?

As the modern customer changes and uses dozens of different mediums available on the internet and their mobile phone, the funnel that is traditionally relied on needs to change, too. The buying experience has evolved in recent years, and so have customers’ expectations when they decide to start their purchasing journey.

For example, did you know that 84% of CEOs and VPs use social media to make purchasing decisions? Social selling might seem a lot more important now than before, but where does it fall in the sales funnel? How do we better understand our customers, where they come from, and how they purchase?

The way people buy is no longer a simple path from awareness to prospect to sale — it’s much more complex. So, how can you “refresh” your sales funnel? Let’s begin with these five strategies:

1. Understand Your Ideal Customer

It doesn’t make sense to drive a bunch of unqualified traffic and leads that won’t actually purchase from you. But, before you find qualified leads, you need to understand your ideal customer. And the more you understand them, the more qualified your leads become.

Your ideal customer profile should include more than the person’s age, gender and job status. Demographics only offer broad descriptions of people, such as male executives, aged 35-50 or mid-level managers at an accounting firm. Dig deeper into these profiles to learn more about the clients’ psychographics — do they like to shop online? Are they more likely to be loyal to a brand or buy what’s on sale? Do they like to watch sports or exercise? You want to know how they spend their money and how they spend their time. Also, where they go to research a product they want to buy and the types of publications they read. You can discover these deeper demographics with simple interviews or online research.

With a better understanding of who the customer is, you can provide relevant content and are more likely to convert these prospects into customers AND retain them.

2. Are You Aiming Too High or Too Low?

Inbound marketing uses the value-added content that a marketing team (or marketer) creates to attract new leads and drop them into a funnel to convert them as customers using nurture and sales tactics. But, there is a lot of room for error in the process. Ensure you take the time to discuss metrics with your marketing and sales team members and decide what it takes to convert leads into buyers.

Pinpointing inefficiencies in your sales funnel is vital as it helps you spot and plug the leaks that are detrimental to your ROI. There are tons of different marketing platform tools to help track and evaluate your success, such as Google Analytics or Crazy Egg. These platforms can help you measure data such as:

  • How you’re capturing leads — what is and isn’t working with your content?
  • Call-to-action effectiveness — are people clicking and converting?
  • Landing page submission rates — can you optimize your landing page designs?
  • Email marketing performance — are people clicking links and can you improve the automation process?

3. Increase Targeted Follow-Up

Customer service can make or break a buyer’s journey. When following up with a lead, you want to make sure you’re not wasting their time by giving them unhelpful, irrelevant content. Massive amounts of customer data is being created at all times and predictive analytics are maturing rapidly. This means that your marketing and sales efforts can become significantly more productive and efficient with the right tools. The use of a customer relationship management (CRM) tool will empower you to do things like provide the most relevant content to a particular lead, better gauge which prospects are likely to become a high-value customer and know what the next steps should be in bringing leads deeper into the sales a funnel.

4. Reward Loyal Customers

While new leads are great (and necessary), don’t forget to reward your current customers with special offers and first-time access to new products. On average, current customers spend 67% more than new customers. Customer retention and increased spending should be an addition to the sales funnel. It’s important to up-sell current customers or keep them in mind as “prospects” still instead of always spending your time on leads who haven’t purchased yet.

So, how can you continue to keep customers coming back to your business? By implementing a loyalty program, such as a point or tier system, or structure a non-monetary program around your customers’ values, similar to Patagonia’s Common Threads initiative. Your loyalty program’s effectiveness can be easily measured through your customer retention rate and a negative churn rate.

5. Generate a Better Customer Onboarding Experience

The way you onboard a new customer will determine whether you retain them or not. It’s important that your onboarding extends seamlessly across both in-person and online by blending the human and digital experience. You want to ensure your team has the same objective and enthusiasm about the company and product they are working for and can represent and articulate that through to the customer.

From a digital standpoint, use a software solution to help manage and streamline customer service, such as Groove. Groove allows small businesses to tackle customer support in a simple, personal and organized solution.

Overall, we may have lost the predictability of the traditional sales funnel, but what we’ve gained is more valuable: more opportunities to understand, connect with and provide value to future customers than ever before.