Defining a Sales Funnel in Terms of People
The first way to think about your sales funnel is in terms of the human beings that travel through it. From this perspective, a sales funnel is an ever-smaller group of people, each of which is more familiar with and excited by your product or service than the last. The layers lay out like this:
- The Ignorant Masses who have never even heard of you.
- The Aware Masses who have heard of you, but haven’t directly interacted with any of your content except possibly to glance at something in passing.
- The Potentials who have interacted with your content but haven’t actively reached out to you.
- The Leads who have shown an interest in, but not made any move to purchase or sign up for your service.
- The Prospects who have started the process of purchasing or signing up for your services, but haven’t actually paid for them yet.
- The Customers who have paid for your services.
- The Fans who have used your services and liked them enough to comment positively about them.
- The Fanatics who actively (and without being paid) talk up your service and lead other people to sign up for it.
It’s impossible to measure the size of first two layers—because they haven’t done anything measurable yet. The third layer is almost impossible to measure because it’s a ridiculous amount of work to track views on every piece of content you put out there. So most of the time, leads is where you start keeping track of the ratio of people who move from each layer further down the funnel, which is called the conversion rate of that layer.
It’s pretty normal for conversion rates to be in the single digits, so you might have in a given month 4,000 new leads, 200 new prospects, 16 new customers, and one new fan. (Fanatics are extremely rare.) The “people” side of the sales funnel is a straight-up numbers game—the bigger you can get that initial pool of aware masses, the more people there are to convert down the funnel, and the more customers you end up with at the bottom.
The other side of the funnel is how you play that numbers game, and it’s a significantly more complex subject.
Defining a Sales Funnel in Terms of Content
The Mouth of the River: Your Website
This kind of sales funnel is built from the “mouth of the river” upward, which is to say you start with your sales page(s), where you intend for your future clientele to actually make the decision to, and then actually, pay for your services. Obviously, the content on that page is the “motivation action” kind of content, but it’s important that the page exist within a larger context—an entire website that has content on it that is made to relate information. Specifically, information that tells the reader “this is a legitimate company that has something to offer that you can’t easily find elsewhere,” including:
- Functional pages that help your existing customers like a “contact us” page, a “pay rent here” page, and similar pages that say, “We want our customers to have an easy time interacting with us.”
- Pages that inform your leads and prospects about your business and what makes it unique among property managers in your area.
If you don’t have all that, your sales page won’t convert as many prospects as it could, which is bad for business.
The Main Branches: Content Built for Your Target Market Segments
The reason why the river branches once you get above the level of your website is that your audience isn’t a single coherent entity. It’s a bunch of individual people, and you should definitely put the effort into identifying what groups within the Aware Masses that you most want to appeal to. Common groups for property managers to target include:
- Do-it-yourself landlords who eventually have too much to do and need to offload the burden,
- Foreign investors who can’t get local often enough to landlord personally,
- Individual (non-corporate) investors who just purchased a new home and can’t/don’t want to put the work in to landlord themselves,
- Apartment complexes that appear to be failing due to crappy existing managers, or
- Businesses that create new investors by selling investment properties to other individuals or small businesses, and thus create a steady stream of new customers.
There are two different “layers” within the main branches part of the content funnel. The lower of the two layers is made of static web pages—usually one per target market segment—that are essentially “pre-sales pages” designed to get one specific segment ready to buy. They then link to the sales page.
The upper layer of main branches are generally blog posts or similar midrange-to-long-form content that you produce at regular intervals to attract the attention of your target market. They link to the lower layer of the same branch. The critical difference is that the upper layer should be regularly refreshed with new content, while the lower layer should be static—we’ll talk about why in the SEO post.
The Minor Tributaries: Provocative Content Designed to Capture Attention and Get Shares
Content that isn’t durable had better have something else going for it—and in the world of marketing, there’s really only one other factor that genuinely matters—reach. If you can’t count on content to get you thousands of views over several years, you need to be able to use it to get several hundreds of views in a week or so. We’ll get into the precise reasons why more in the post on social media, but for now, let’s talk about how to create the effect.
We mentioned above that durable content needs to solve problems—non-durable content needs to provoke reactions. That means you generally want your minor tributary content to be at least one of:
- Radical in that it promotes a view contrary to the norm (with a good reason why, naturally),
- Timely in that is responds to a well-known event that affects your industry,
- Emotionally engaging in that it tells a (real, relevant) story your audience will identify with,
- Useful in that it provides relevant but somewhat rare information in a snackable format, or
- Funny in a way that doesn’t go against your brand or your industry’s general values.
The best minor tributary content makes its reader think, “OMG, definitely would want to see this!”—and then sneaks in a link back to any of the layers below it, depending on what it’s most relevant to.
The Streams and Creeks: Content Designed to Spread the Reach of Other Content
The final, uppermost layer of the content sales funnel consists of short, extremely-low-effort creations that do little more than summarize another piece of content and point a link at it. Think a particular blog post of yours
is awesome enough to deserve more attention than normal? Write a two-sentence summary of it, link to it, and then slap that puppy into Twitter, Facebook, and whatever other channels work well with that kind of thing.
Generally, you don’t want to create this kind of content once the thing you’re linking to is more than a week old, because the Internet audience doesn’t like to be linked to old content—not unless your summary points out why that older content is freshly relevant due to a recent event or market change.
And that’s the two sides of internet sales funnels—the one that measures how your audience is moving toward selling, and the one that creates links in a ever expanding web drawing people inward toward the point of sale. But that’s not the only function of the content funnel! The other, even more important function of the content funnel is SEO. Which means we’ve reached the end of this post, and you’ll have to check back in next time to learn how to optimize your content—and have your content, in turn, optimize your position on the search engines.