The Definitive Guide on How to Create a Sales Funnel

The Definitive Guide on How to Create a Sales Funnel

No matter what you sell, getting prospective customers to buy doesn’t happen in an instant.

Instead, the sales process unfolds in stages: Warming up cold prospects to the idea of spending their hard-earned cash on your products and priming them for purchases in the future.

Unfortunately, in today’s climate of low trust and fierce competition … that’s no easy task.

In fact, if you’ve ever sold a product or service, you already know how frustrating and painful creating a genuinely valuable offer can be only to have it disappear into the wasteland of failure.

That pain is only intensified if you spend money on marketing and advertising with little to no return on investment (ROI).

The antidote to this pain — and the secret to unlocking success — lies in creating a sales funnel built around five stages. In other words, using a proven template that’s not just easier and faster … but converts like wildfire.

Fair warning: This article is long. Of course, that’s only right with a topic as powerful as sales funnels.

To help guide you, we’ve boiled it all down into a single template and 10 point checklist you can grab right here — think of it as your fast-track cheat sheet …

What is a Sales Funnel?

Answering the question, “What is a sales funnel?” is no easy take (that’s why we wrote an entire article on the subject). By way of offering a simplified definition …

A sales funnel is a marketing strategy designed to turn cold prospects into long-term customers by funneling them through five stages. The “funnel” metaphor means you’ll begin with a large audience of prospective buyers that will eventually pare down to a smaller group of highly-targeted, high-value customers.

The final goal is not to make a sale, at least not a single sale. Instead the goal is create returning customers with life-time value.

Breaking the buyer’s journey down into smaller steps (i.e., stages) allows you to be more precise about how and when you present offers.

For a small business owner, you may start with only one or two products. For a large B2B company, you may have numerous offers fueling lead generation and nurturing new leads through the sales cycle, sales pipeline, or sales team.

Suddenly, everything can feel complex. For the sake of simplicity …

Think about ordering at a McDonald’s. If you order a hamburger, you’re asked if you’d like to add cheese. Order chicken nuggets and you’re asked if you want fries with that. Order a combo meal and you’re given the chance to make it a large or “supersize.”

Then, think about McDonald’s new mobile app and its product-specific loyalty programs, like McCafe Rewards:

Every offer is actually a series of offers designed to increase purchase size as well as drive subsequent purchases.

At the biggest of big picture, funnels are usually divided into three parts:

  1. Top of the funnel (ToFu): Target audience
  2. Middle of the funnel (MoFu): Potential customers
  3. Bottom of the funnel (BoFu): New and existing customers
Don’t let top of the funnel, middle of the funnel, and bottom of the funnel confuse you. Later on we’ll unpack AIDA and then reveal the five stages that truly matter!

On some level, this funneling occurs even if you don’t have intentional sales funnel stages in place. By taking a templated approach — especially if you’re growing an online business — you’ll dramatically increase the number of customers you end up generating.

The key to an effective sales funnel: Engage with and provide increasing value to your prospects throughout each stage.

No matter how simple or complex, the fact is sales funnels work when they’re built according to certain universal principles. Case in point:

  • 87% of consumers choose to do business with vendors who provide valuable content at all stages of the buying process
  • 63% of consumers need to hear a company’s value proposition(s) 3-5 times before they trust these claims
  • Nurtured leads make 47% larger purchases than non-nurtured prospects

In addition to top, middle, and bottom, sales funnels have traditionally been structured around four stages known by the acronym …

AIDA: Awareness. Interest. Desire. Action

The AIDA model was developed in the late 19th century by advertising and sales pioneer Elias St. Elmo Lewis. And, it has become the backbone of almost every successful advertising and marketing campaign since.

Why is it so successful?

AIDA takes potential customers through the emotional journey of making a purchase — guiding the buying decision from initial attraction to taking action.

1. Awareness

Sometimes referred to as “attention,” the first stage of the sales funnel is where a brand catches the eye of new audience members via marketing content and/or a valuable baseline offer.

2. Interest

Here, the brand will begin to forge a deeper relationship with their prospects, becoming more actively involved in learning about their goals and/or problems. In doing so, you can begin providing preliminary solutions, allowing them to experience “quick wins” — and become more engaged.

3. Desire

Consumers who reach this third stage have become convinced that they do, in fact, have a larger problem that needs solving. Moreover, they’re coming around to the idea of making a purchase to solve said problem. At this point, the brand showcases how their premium offering can be of service.

4. Action

The final stage of the sales funnel has prospects deciding to purchase (or not purchase) the brand’s premium product or service. You’ll need to reinforce the value of your offer — as well as the downsides of not making a purchase.

These stages describe the general process all of us go through — as well as some general action steps you should take to keep their prospects moving further in the funnel.

Depending on what you’re selling and who your target audience is, you’ll want to tailor each stage of your sales funnel(s) accordingly.

(Yes, you absolutely can have more than one funnel in place at a given time. This will become more clear in a bit.)

AIDA is a great starting point, but there’s a better way …

Sales Funnel Stages Explained: The 5 Stages of Filling Your Sales Pipeline

Though similar in appearance and structure, our approach  — based on the work of Russel Brunson — differs from the common AIDA model:

The key difference involves getting prospects actively engaged with you at every stage of the process.

Whereas AIDA has the company giving, giving, giving until a prospect converts, Brunson’s funnel has both parties engaged in a process of give-and-take throughout. This version elicits smaller conversions from the target consumer along their path to purchase.

It’s called the value ladder and its steps are a direct reflection of the funnel stages:

We might even say that each stage of the sales funnel (bait, frontend, etc.) contains a “mini funnel” within itself. Let’s take a look at how to make this happen.

Know Thy OfferPre-Stage: Know Thy Offer(s)

First things first, you’ll want to define everything you’ll be offering your customers as they move through your funnel, from bait to backend.

Before digging into each section, look at your overall sales funnel in its entirety with the end goals in mind.

This pre-stage step is vital to success. If you don’t know what you’re offering your customers at different points they won’t exactly have good reason to keep going.

You also want to determine how you’ll connect each subsequent offer within your funnel. The idea is to use your lower-tiered offers to prepare customers to get full use out of the next product or service.

Think of it like: “Okay, you’ve experienced great success with Product A — now let’s supercharge this success by implementing Product B into the mix.”

(Again, if “Product B” doesn’t build on “Product A,” your customers may not have much reason to move to the next stage.)

While your customers will, of course, experience your overall sales funnel in stages, you need to have a clear blueprint in place for how and why they’ll move through it on their way to your most valuable offering.

TrafficStage 1. Traffic

Not all traffic is created equal: Be laser-focused on how your target audience enters your sales funnel.

This preliminary stage is a sort of “controlled awareness,” in that you want to be intentional who you bring into your funnel — in turn allowing you to avoid attracting poor-quality prospects.

This stage of the process, then, involves optimizing the ads, content, and affiliate sources you use to drive traffic to your funnel. Think about:

  • Where your high-value prospects “hang out” on the web
  • What social networks and/or content they interact with
  • What free or lower-cost offers get them to take initial steps with a new brand

Needless to say, if you aren’t sure how to get brand new customers interested in even your lowest-tier offers, there’s no way you’ll be able to get them interested in your big-ticket items or services.

But, by meeting your target audience where they are (and where they’re comfortable engaging with your brand), you can get them to enter your funnel on their terms — and get them on track toward where you want them to be.

BaitStage 2. Bait

A lead magnet offered either for free or at a very low cost to the prospect.

Some clarification here …

While “Bait” is a stage of the overall sales funnel, each “mini funnel” will require the use of some kind of low-risk offer to hook your prospects and get them to engage further.

At the lower tiers of the value ladder, bait may come in the form of free content, webinars, a course delivered as an email sequence, or product samples. At the higher tiers, break-even offers — meaning, you intentionally won’t make a profit on the sale but will make a profit as they continue through your funnel — can be used to keep the customer engaged and ready to move forward.

If you give something away for free now, you’ll have primed the recipient to make a more valuable purchase at some point in the near future — which is where the real money is to be made. You can even operate at a loss for bait offers, as long as the next stages in your funnel are ready to step in to sell at a profit.

You’ll also be able to funnel out those who don’t take you up on your bait offer. After all, those who aren’t interested in your low-risk offers likely won’t be looking to purchase your big-ticket items.

Front End OfferStage 3. Front End Offer

A low-price and low-risk offer that provides value to new customers, allowing them to solve surface-level issues with minimal investment.

Once your prospective customers have taken you up on your bait offer, you’ll want to send them directly to a landing page or squeeze page showcasing your “leveled” premium offer. (You can also — and should — simultaneously follow up with email offers; a practice known as “funnel stacking.”)

Here’s where the stakes get a bit higher for your business …

Those who see this sales-focused content have been pre-qualified (via your bait offer) — meaning they should be interested in the premium product or service you have for them at this point.

That is, if you’re able to keep their attention and effectively communicate the true value of your offer. You can make this happen by optimizing the various elements of your squeeze page …

Squeeze Page Copy

Copy — that is, the words themselves — needs to quickly communicate the value of your offer and prime your audience to take immediate action.

This can be done by adhering to the following checklist as you create your squeeze page copy:

  • Let your brand personality come through (be a relatable character)
  • Tailor the message to your audience
  • Shorten sentences and paragraphs, but provide MORE depth
  • Write at or below a 6th grade reading level
  • Use bullet points or numbered lists
  • Include a subheader or image every 200-300 words

In short: Speak directly to your target audience — and don’t over-complicate your message.

MIG Soap’s 14 Day Challenge shines on all these fronts:

The easier it is for your audience to recognize the value of your offer, the more likely they’ll be to take you up on it.

Squeeze Page Images and Videos

Words are the backbone of your squeeze page. But, content can take a variety of forms:

  • A backstory video showcasing what your brand is “all about”
  • A demonstration (or, explainer) video showing your product in action
  • An interview with a current or past client in which they discuss their positive experiences with your product or service

The approach you go with depends heavily on the value ladder level you’re currently targeting.

For example, if you’re aiming to get a new prospect to commit to a preliminary offer, you’d want to quickly introduce them to your brand, and discuss the “quick wins” they can expect to experience.

Typically, this video content should be short and to-the-point — maximizing the chances that your new prospects will watch it in its entirety. VideoMastery.com’s hero video is a mere two minutes and fifteen seconds:

Its testimonial videos (i.e., mini case studies) — later on the same page — are even shorter. All of them are under one minute:

On the other hand, if you’re aiming to make a final sale on a higher-priced product, you might decide to go the longform route with you video content.

Reason being, those who are on the cusp of making a more costly purchase will want as much info as you can give them — and will be more willing to stick around long enough to be convinced to do so.

Squeeze Page Social Proof

Social proof can — and should — be used to reinforce the claims you’ve made on your squeeze page.

Tailor this content to the value ladder level you’re currently targeting. Basically, this means ensuring the customer commentary you use matches the offer being presented — and is specific to the use case of the audience being targeted.

LadyBoss Labs seeds a variety of social proof types throughout its squeeze page, opening with brief testimonials and logos to show authority …

… and adding direct endorsements along with real social media posts from its customers later on:

Generalized social proof regarding your brand may work to engage new prospects. However, you’ll need to use specific anecdotes from successful customers when looking to make bigger sales further down the funnel.

Squeeze Page Call-to-Action

No matter what you’re offering on a given squeeze page, it needs to be crystal clear what your audience needs to do to receive it.

Don’t beat around the bush here. Make sure your CTA stands out from all other elements of your landing page — allowing interested customers to take the next step as soon as they’re ready.

There’s no mistaking what action LadyBoss wants its website visitors to take …

In some cases, you might even want to include CTAs at the top, bottom, and middle of your page. The last thing you want is for your engaged audience to not engage further with your brand simply because they aren’t sure how to do so.

Middle OfferStage 4. Middle Offer

A progressively more valuable and intensive solution that helps customers solve a more deep-seated problem — and better prepares them for your highest-price point product or service.

Now we’re getting down to business.

At each stage of the value ladder, as your prospects reach the bottom of your “mini funnel,” you’ll need to provide an irresistible offer that allows them to accomplish a certain task — and prepares them for the next tier of the ladder.

Going back to LadyBoss, its middle offer is an invitation to “Join The CLUB”:

If you’ve thought about middle offers before, the question is …

Upsell or Downsell?

An upsell is an offer that costs more than your front end offer; a downsell costs less.

Before or immediately after they confirm their order, provide an upsell offer that will increase the value of their initial order — and enhance their overall experience with your brand.

(And, of course, allow you to increase your revenues, too.)

Typically, upsell offers come in the form of:

  • Sale prices on bulk orders
  • Customized version or a variation of the initial product or service
  • An offer to increase subscription length at a discounted price
  • Supplemental products (cross-sells)

If they don’t end up taking the upsell, consider sending them a lower-risk offer that meets them where they are.

Examples of downsells include:

  • A payment plan for the otherwise expensive upsell
  • A smaller, lesser, cheaper version of the upsell offer
  • A limited and discounted trial period for the upsell offer

In either case, the idea is to take full advantage of the opportunity at hand — while providing the exact value your prospective customers are looking for at the present moment.

Email Marketing

You’ll notice that in nearly all examples getting a visitor’s email address is emphasized.

That’s because email marketing is a critical part of the customer journey: Before, during, and after buying.

We don’t want to get off topic, especially because email is a detailed tactic. That’s why we’ve written extensively about it all on its own:

Middle OfferStage 5. Backend Offer

Your most valuable, intensive, and costly product or service that customers can use on a continual basis to solve an ever-present problem in their lives.

By now, we’ve made it pretty clear that your ultimate goal is to tie each of your “mini funnels” together to create one overarching sales funnel.

The hope is to transform brand new customers into high-value patrons of your company. As we’ve said, the vast majority of your target audience simply won’t be ready to engage with your highest-value offer …

Until they’ve gotten a taste via your lower-tiered products or services.

The thing is, there’s no guarantee that your customers will simply move onto the next value level once they’ve experienced all you have to offer at their current stage. In many cases, your customers are more likely to stick to what they know, rather than risk jumping up to your next tier of service.

(Or, they may churn completely after having received all you have to offer at a certain value level.)

The onus is on you to convince them that they stand to gain a ton of value from the next-highest level of your value ladder.

Note that, at this point of ascension, the customer will be in a sort of limbo — they’ve gotten near-full value from the previous stage of the ladder but aren’t quite ready to enter the next “mini funnel” you have prepped for them.

So, instead of heavy-handedly pushing your more valuable offer, you’ll want to simply keep them engaged with your brand.

Basically, this involves doing whatever you can to continue providing value to them after they’ve purchased a given product or service.

This could mean:

  • Providing personalized content, in their preferred format, that allows them to get the absolute most out of the product or service they’re currently using
  • Delivering high-quality customer service and support — from onboarding to troubleshooting to instructions for “power use” of your offering
  • Gradually touching on the added value provided by your higher-tiered service — specific to the value sought by the individual customer
  • A community (Facebook group) they can live and grow within

It’s simple …

If you can prove that your main concern is on providing value to your customers — even after they’ve already given you their money — they’ll be that much more likely to trust your more costly offering will be worth the price of admission.

How to Create a Sales Funnel: Don’t Start from Scratch

Conducting Market Research

Many of your competitors have likely already built funnels, generating engagement and sales from the exact type of customer you’re looking to attract with your own funnels.

We’re not advocating that you simply copy what your competitors are doing. But, you do want to take note of how competing brands are working to nurture their audience toward the “big sale” at the end of their funnel.

Which is where funnel hacking comes into play.

What Is Funnel Hacking?

Funnel hacking is the process of strategically investigating the sales and marketing process of your competitors, which you can use to model and test within your own sales and marketing processes.”

In other words, you’ll actually participate in the various stages of your competitors’ sales funnels, then reverse-engineer the process in order to determine how to go about creating your own.

How to Funnel Hack Your Competitors

1. List Your Competitors

Your main focus, of course, will be on your direct competition. Make a list of all known companies that sell similar products or services to yours.

You also want to consider looking into your indirect competition, as well. Here, you’ll be considering companies who don’t necessarily sell within your niche, but whose audience overlaps with your own.

In doing so, you’ll be able to gain a better understanding of the sales tactics that get your target audience to take action.

Stay broad as you start out. While you’ll eventually pare down your list to your most-successful competitors, you also want to take note of competing companies whose approach isn’t as effective as it could be — allowing you to avoid making the same mistakes.

2. Engage, Document, and Analyze

More than simply checking out your competitors’ websites, landing pages, and other marketing content, you’ll want to take screenshots and create swipe files. As you do so, be sure to categorize these artifacts accordingly.

We advise you create separate folders for Bait, Frontend, and Backend offers for each competitor you analyze. You also may want to create a folder specifically for documenting ad creatives — which you can further categorize based on the medium the creative is presented on (e.g., Google, Facebook, etc.).

At this point, you don’t necessarily need to engage too far with your various competitors — especially if doing so requires that you spend money on their products or services.

You do want to take as many preliminary steps as you can — such as signing up for mailing lists, requesting additional information, and downloading free content.

Once you’ve amassed a robust collection of artifacts, you’ll then want to start analyzing them from a number of different vantage points.

This involves asking blue-print type questions:

  • What words (copywriting) are they using in their headlines?
  • What colors are they using throughout their content?
  • Are buttons located above the fold or below the fold?
  • Do they use videos and images, or just text?
  • Are they listing benefits or features?
  • Do they include social proof like testimonials?
  • Are there any pop-ups during exit intent?
  • Is the header section of the site fixed?
  • Is there a full sign up form or an opt-in form?
  • Do action steps require more than one touchpoint?
  • Is price mentioned for their products (if so, what are their price points?)
  • How many words are there on the homepage?

The idea is to take note of as many different aspects as possible — and to understand why your competitors decided to take the approach they did.

(It’s actually much more important to focus on the “whys” behind these surface-level questions. Remember, you’re not necessarily going to copy your competition — but you will be implementing their successful approaches in your own way as you create your own funnels.)

As you find the answers to these questions, make sure to document this information within the folders you’ve created.

3. Assess Tracking Strategies

Throughout the above stage of the funnel hacking process, you’ve most likely only seen about 20-30% of your competitors’ sales funnels.

That said, we want to know which tools your competitors use and determine whether or not you should be using these same tools as well.

To figure this out, you’ll need to download two add-ons for Google Chrome:

First, check out Ghostery. This extension allows you to see the “invisible” web, detecting trackers, web bugs, pixels and beacons placed on web pages by Facebook, Google, and other platforms that gather information about your internet activity.

While this app is primarily designed to stay hidden from trackers, you can use it to identify which trackers and programs are being used by competing businesses.

The second is BuiltWith Technology Profiler, which allows you to see the tool stack running on a website — especially the marketing and e-commerce platforms — with the simple click of an icon.

This will begin to answer traffic and conversion rate questions about your competitors’ strategies, such as:

  • Are they using remarketing (also known as retargeting)?
  • Are they using Google, Facebook, or other platforms?
  • Are they using any conversion rate tracking software?

The list of questions you might ask (and find the answer to) is nearly inexhaustible.

What’s important is that you dig up the information that will matter most to your company as you begin to build your own sales funnels. All of this should go right into the notes you created during the previous step of the funnel hacking process.

4. Use Competitive Intelligence Tools

You also want to find out how your competitors are acquiring traffic in the first place. This will tell you which sources to focus on when looking to uncover high-value prospects for your own business.

To unearth these game-changers, enlist the help of the following competitive analysis tools:

AdBeat or WhatRunsWhere

These tools instantly show you the strategies of online advertisers in your industry. You can see anything from how many days they’ve been spending money and running a particular ad to the creative content and landing pages they’re sending paid traffic to.

SEMRush

Focusing on the SEO (search engine optimization) and SEM (search engine marketing) side of things, SEMRush gathers insight into how your competitors generate traffic.

This includes information related to search positions (and changes), ads, keywords they’re targeting, the copy, video advertisements, backlinks, estimated traffic generated, keyword research — and much, much more.

SimilarWeb

This traffic-focused tool allows you to check out a wide range of activity that’s going on within the websites you’re profiling. With SimilarWeb, you can identify top referring sites, as well as top destination sites as people flow to and from your competitor.

5. Purchase From Your Top Competitors

Once you’ve determined which of your competitors are worth taking a closer look at, your next step will be to actually engage with them as if you were an interested customer.

(Note: While you might balk at the idea of giving money to your competitors, the insight you’ll be able to glean — and subsequently implement into your own sales funnels — will be well worth the price of admission.)

Here’s where you want to get ultra-meticulous in your documentation and analysis.

You don’t necessarily need to go through with a top-tier purchase — but you want to act like you’re going to do so.

That is, once you’ve nearly reached the end of their sales funnel, you’ll want to hop on a sales call with them — all the while taking note of everything they talk about throughout.

Since this is the “big” sale your competitors have been aiming to make from the get-go, you can be sure they’ll leave everything out on the table, so to speak. This, in turn, provides the perfect opportunity for you to uncover any information you may have overlooked throughout your funnel hacking process.

(Again, while you don’t necessarily need to make this final purchase, doing so may provide even more information regarding the true value of your competitors’ products or services. This can not only help you further develop your own sales funnel, but also allow you to analyze the strengths and weaknesses of your competitors’ offer — and make the necessary improvements to your own offering.)

Ask yourself questions like …

  • What specific value or benefit is being provided by a given offer?
  • What action do you have to take to receive the offer?
  • What strategies do they use to keep you moving forward?
  • How does each subsequent offer relate to the previous and next stage?

The answers to these questions will round out your understanding and allow you to clearly see what you should be offering your customers throughout your own funnel.

1. Match Domain Name and URL to Your Offer

This is pretty self-explanatory, but still worth mentioning …

The domain name and URL you use for your sales funnel must be representative of your brand and your offer.

A URL like “RobsCompany.com/salesfunnel1” comes off not just as generic, but also as overly-salesy. While your customers are smart enough to know when they’re being sold to, there’s no reason for you to be blatant about it.

It sounds like a small detail, but matching your URL to your offer will add to the customer-facing nature of your brand — and will be one less thing to distract your audience from taking the next step.

We’re disciplined about this at ClickFunnels. Not only for the SEO (search engine optimization) benefits of matching URLs to content, but also for the clarity they bring.

Notice the straightforwardness of our own and a couple of the pages we looked at above …

2. Structure Each Stage Relationally: WWWH

Speaking of being customer-facing with your sales funnel content, it’s vital that anything your prospective clients see speaks to them on a personal and individual level.

This means using WWWH …

  • Who is your ideal customer,who do they trust, and who should you put on the page to embody that (current customers)?
  • What do they want out of your product or service? What are they trying to escape from or find a solution to?
  • Why do they want it? What are the deeper emotional needs and pains they’re currently experiencing? Why is the cost less than the benefit?
  • How can your images, words, and calls-to-action bring it to life?

Remember: Your customers don’t want to be sold to; they want to receive value.

And they don’t want to put all that much effort into solving their problem either; they want you to make it easy for them.

3. Address the “Catch”

If you’ve done the above, your prospective customers will likely be left saying to themselves:

“Well, this sounds way too good to be true.”

Your goal is to clarify to them that your offer is the real deal. But, that doesn’t necessarily mean that your offer will always be on the table.

Maybe you’re offering a time-sensitive sale or a one-time offer. Or, maybe you’re planning on discontinuing a product or service after a certain period of time.

Whatever the case may be, addressing the “catch” to your current offer can instill a sense of urgency — making them more likely to take immediate action.

Since your customers will likely be looking for a “catch” anyway, you might as well give them one that puts the ball in their court. That way, they’ll understand that the only thing standing between them and the offer is … themselves.

4. Add a Guarantee

In furthering the customer-facing and “too good to be true” nature of your sales funnel, you also want to minimize the amount of risk your prospects will have to take when going through with a purchase.

In fact, you can even take this a step further and explain that it’s you who will be taking a risk by doing business with your customers. Known as risk-reversal, the idea is to make your potential customers feel like they have no reason not to take advantage of the offer at hand.

Whether you’re offering money-back guarantees, double-your-money-back guarantees, or any other kind of risk-free assurance, you’ll inherently bring your prospects to trust your brand in two key ways …

First, they simply have nothing (or very little) to lose, and a ton of value to gain. Second, confidence in your ability to follow through with your promise will shine — building trust when it matters most.

5. Recap

If a prospect or customer is close to the point-of-purchase at any level of your value ladder, two things are all but certain:

  • You’ve provided them with some sort of value in your relationship thus far
  • They’ve grown in some way since they’ve first engaged with your brand

As you begin to close in on a sale, it’s imperative that you make these two points clear to your potential customer.

The goal is reinforcement. On some level, the customer knows these things — but may not be consciously thinking about them when you actually make your offer.

But, with a little gentle nudging on your end, they’ll be reminded of how far they’ve come — and how much further they’ll be able to go.

Notice how MIG Soap’s 14 Day Challenge order page summarizes all the elements in short-form immediately next to the two-stage order form:

6. Sequence the Right Pages

The key to successfully nurturing consumers through your sales funnel is to get them to take action at every touchpoint.

You even want to go as far as to create touchpoints for your prospects to engage with throughout your sales funnel. This is where techniques such as the two-step tripwire come into play.

As the name suggests, a two-step tripwire has consumers taking two steps to complete the overall task at hand. Most often, this two-step process is as follows:

  1. The prospect fills out a contact info form on the first page of your funnel (typically in exchange for a freebie offer)
  2. On the second page, the prospect is shown a small-ticket, frontend offer. If they choose to make a purchase, only then will they be asked to provide payment info.

This allows you to implement the “foot-in-door” technique, as you’ll be gradually asking the prospect for more information after they commit to providing some surface-level info.

Then, you can hit them with the more valuable offer after they’ve become a bit more invested in your brand.

Even if a prospect decides not to go through with the follow-up purchase, you’ll still have collected their contact info — and can then send them more applicable offers in the future.

7. Order Your Offers Intentionally

It’s vital to know exactly how each of your “mini funnels” connect with one another to create an overarching sales funnel that encompasses all levels of your value ladder.

Within each “mini funnel,” this means offering content and freebies that prepare the customer to get the most out of your main offering at that level. Within your overall sales funnel, it means ensuring those who have gone through one “mini funnel” are fully prepared to enter the next.

Basically, you want your customers to feel like they’ve “graduated” to the next step of your value ladder once they’ve reached a certain point with your lower-tiered products.

If a subsequent offer has little to nothing to do with the previous product or service you’ve offered, your audience will likely be rather hesitant to take the next step with your brand.

8. Connect Bundles, Bumps, Upsells, and Downsells

Once a prospect has gotten to the point where you believe they’re ready to make a purchase, you need to be sure the offer you present them is highly-relevant to their specific circumstances.

Of course, the ideal scenario is that your prospects simply take advantage of your main offering as is.

When your “typical” offer isn’t exactly what a customer is looking for … you’ll need to have subsequent offers at the ready to keep them on track toward converting.

If a prospect doesn’t feel ready to purchase your mid- or top-tier service, you’ll want to have a related, yet lower-value service to offer them. It’s important to tailor these downsells to the prospect’s specific needs (as opposed to providing a more generalized downsell to all prospects who decline your main offer).

On the other hand, if a customer does accept your main offer, you also want to provide an upsell that’s relevant to their needs. They’ll be much more likely to accept this subsequent offer if it provides the specific value they’re looking to get from your brand.

9. Include Social Proof

No matter how valuable your products or services are — and no matter what you have to say about this value — you absolutely need to back up your claims with proof from your current customer base.

By sprinkling social proof throughout your sales funnel, you’ll give your prospects the evidence they need to feel confident.

For one thing, the modern consumer places more trust in their peers than the brands they do business with. Providing various types of social proof can allow prospective customers to truly understand what they have to gain by engaging further with your brand.

Social proof can take lots of different forms:

  • Short endorsements
  • Long-form testimonials
  • Written case studies
  • Video testimonials
  • User-generated content
  • Pictures and videos posted to social
  • Logos or “trust seals”
  • Before and after images
  • Numerical reviews and ratings

10. Remember Exit Intent Offers

As you probably know, most people who click-through to your landing page will end up leaving without taking even the smallest step forward.

While this is to be expected, you shouldn’t just accept it without putting up a fight.

Rather, you’ll want to take action to keep them on your landing page — and, ideally, giving your offer a second thought.

Include exit intent offers on each of your landing pages. This means adding popups, overlays, and other such “extras” to be presented to your site’s visitors once it becomes clear they’re ready to head elsewhere.

Within these overlays, you can include one-time offers for freebies, downsells, or other lower-value offers that your more hesitant prospects may be interested in receiving.

This way, you can make a last-ditch effort to keep these individuals engaged before they navigate away from your site for good.

5 Steps to Create an Outstanding Marketing Plan [Free Templates]

5 Steps to Create an Outstanding Marketing Plan [Free Templates]

Do you take a good, hard look at your team’s marketing strategy every year?

You should. An annual marketing plan helps you set your marketing on the right course to make your company’s business goals a reality. Think of it as a high-level plan that guides the direction of your team’s campaigns, goals, and growth.

Without one, things can get messy — and it’s nearly impossible to put a number on the budget you’ll need to secure for the projects, hiring, and outsourcing you’ll encounter over the course of a year if you don’t have a plan.

Keep in mind there are variations to the marketing plan you need, depending on your industry and the goals of your marketing team. To make your plan’s creation easier, we’ve put together a list of what to include in your plan and a few different planning templates where you can easily fill in the blanks.

Download Now: Free Marketing Plan Template

To start, let’s dive into how to create a marketing plan and then take a look at what a high-level marketing plan has inside.

In this article, we’re going to discuss: 

1. Conduct a situation analysis.

Before you can get started with your marketing plan, you have to know your current situation.

What are your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats? Conduct a basic SWOT analysis is the first step to creating a marketing plan.

Additionally, you should also have an understanding of the current market. How do you compare to your competitors? Doing a competitor analysis should help you with this step.

Think about how other products are better than yours. Plus, consider the gaps in a competitor’s approach. What are they missing? What can you offer that’ll give you a competitive advantage? Think about what sets you apart.

Answering questions like this should help you figure out what your customer wants, which brings us to step number two.

2. Define your target audience.

Once you have a better understanding of the market and your company’s situation, make sure you know who your target audience is.

If your company already has buyer personas, this step might just mean you have to refine your current personas.

If you don’t have a buyer persona, you should create one. To do this, you might have to conduct market research.

Your buyer persona should include demographic information such as age, gender, and income. However, it will also include psychographic information such as pain points and goals. What drives your audience? What problems do they have that your product or service can fix?

Once you have this information written out, it’ll help you define what your goals are, which brings us to step number three.

3. Write SMART goals.

My mother always used to tell me, “You can’t go somewhere unless you have a road map.” Now, for me, someone who’s geographically challenged, that was literal advice.

However, it can also be applied metaphorically to marketing. You can’t improve your ROI unless you know what your goals are.

After you’ve figured out your current situation and know your audience, you can begin to define your SMART goals.

SMART goals are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound. This means that all your goals should be specific and include a time frame for which you want to complete it.

For example, your goal could be to increase your Instagram followers by 15% in three months. Depending on your overall marketing goals, this should be relevant and attainable. Additionally, this goal is specific, measurable, and time-bound.

Before you start any tactic, you should write out your goals. Then, you can begin to analyze which tactics will help you achieve that goal. That brings us to step number four.

4. Analyze your tactics.

At this point, you’ve written down your goals based on your target audience and current situation.

Now, you have to figure out what tactics will help you achieve your goals. Plus, what are the right channels and action items to focus on.

For example, if your goal is to increase your Instagram followers by 15% in three months, your tactics might include hosting a giveaway, responding to every comment, and posting three times on Instagram per week.

Once you know your goals, brainstorming several tactics to achieve those goals should be easy.

However, while you’re writing your tactics, you have to keep your budget in mind, which brings us to step number five.

5. Set your budget.

Before you can begin implementing any of your ideas that you’ve come up with in the steps above, you have to know your budget.

For example, your tactics might include social media advertising. However, if you don’t have the budget for that, then you might not be able to achieve your goals.

While you’re writing out your tactics, be sure to note an estimated budget. You can include the time it’ll take to complete each tactic in addition to the assets you might need to purchase, such as ad space.

Now that you know how to create your marketing plan, let’s dive into the elements that a high-level marketing plan should include.

Marketing Plan Outline

Marketing plans can get quite granular to reflect the industry you’re in, whether you’re selling to consumers (B2C) or other businesses (B2B), and how big your digital presence is. Nonetheless, here are the elements every effective marketing plan includes:

1. Business Summary

In a marketing plan, your Business Summary is exactly what it sounds like: a summary of the organization. This includes:

  • The company name
  • Where it’s headquartered
  • Its mission statement

2. Business Initiatives

The Business Initiatives element of a marketing plan helps you segment the various goals of your department. Be careful not to include big-picture company initiatives, which you’d normally find in a business plan. This section of your marketing plan should outline the projects that are specific to marketing. You’ll also describe the goals of those projects and how those goals will be measured.

3. Customer Analysis

Here’s where you’ll conduct some basic market research. If your company has already done a thorough market research study, this section of your marketing plan might be easier to put together.

Ultimately, this element of your marketing plan will help you describe the industry you’re selling to and your buyer persona. A buyer persona is a semi-fictional description of your ideal customer, focusing on traits like:

  • Age
  • Location
  • Title
  • Goals
  • Personal challenges
  • Pains
  • Triggering events

4. Competitor Analysis

Your buyer persona has choices when it comes to solving their problems, choices in both the types of solutions they consider and the providers that can administer those solutions. In your market research, you should consider your competition, what they do well, and where the gaps are that you can potentially fill. This can include:

  • Positioning
  • Market share
  • Offerings
  • Pricing

5. SWOT Analysis

Your marketing plan’s Business Summary also includes a SWOT analysis, which stands for the business’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. Be patient with your business’s SWOT analysis; you’ll write most of it based on your market research from the sections above and your strategy below.

6. Market Strategy

Your Market Strategy uses the information included in the above sections to describe how your company should approach the market. What will your business offer your buyer personas that your competitors aren’t already offering them?

In a full-length marketing plan, this section can contain the “seven Ps of marketing”:

  • Product
  • Price
  • Place
  • Promotion
  • People
  • Process
  • Physical Evidence

(You’ll learn more about these seven sub-components inside our free marketing plan template, which you can download below.)

7. Budget

Don’t mistake the Budget element of your marketing plan with your product’s price or other company financials. Your budget describes how much money the business has allotted the marketing team to pursue the initiatives and goals outlined in the elements above.

Depending on how many individual expenses you have, you should consider itemizing this budget by what specifically you’ll spend your budget on. Example marketing expenses include:

  • Outsourcing costs to a marketing agency and/or other providers
  • Marketing software
  • Paid promotions
  • Events (those you’ll host and/or attend)

8. Marketing Channels

Lastly, your marketing plan will include a list of your marketing channels. While your company might promote the product itself using certain ad space, your marketing channels are where you’ll publish the content that educates your buyers, generates leads, and spreads awareness of your brand.

If you publish (or intend to publish) on social media, this is the place to talk about it. Use the Marketing Channels section of your marketing plan to lay out which social networks you want to launch a business page on, what you’ll use this social network for, and how you’ll measure your success on this network. Part of this section’s purpose is to prove to your superiors, both inside and outside the marketing department, that these channels will serve to grow the business.

Businesses with extensive social media presences might even consider elaborating on their social strategy in a separate social media plan template.

9. Financial Projections

Knowing the budget and doing analysis on the marketing channels you want to invest in, you should be able to come up with a plan for how much budget to invest in which tactics based on expected ROI. From there, you’ll be able to come up with financial projections for the year. These won’t be 100% accurate but can help with executive planning.

Free Marketing Plan Template [Word]

Now that you know what to include in your marketing plan, it’s time to grab your marketing plan template and see how best to organize the six elements explained above. The following marketing plan template opens directly in Microsoft Word, so you can edit each section as you see fit:

Cover page of free marketing plan template

Download your marketing plan template here.

Social Media Marketing Plan Templates

As marketing departments grow, so will their presence on social media. And as as their social media presence grows, so will their need to measure, plan, and re-plan what types of content they want to publish across each network.

If you’re looking for a way to deepen your social media marketing strategy — even further than the marketing plan template above — the following collection of social media marketing plan templates is perfect for you:

Download 10 social media reporting templates here.

In the above collection of marketing plan templates, you’ll get to fill in the following contents (and more) to suit your company:

  • Annual social media budget tracking
  • Weekly social media themes
  • Required social media image dimension key
  • Pie chart on social media traffic sorted by platform
  • Social media post calendar and publish time

Below, let’s review the social media reporting templates, and what you’ll find in each one.

1. Social Media Questions

Social media publishing analysis and questions.

This template lists out questions to help you decide which social media management platform you should use.

Once you know what social media tactics you’re going to implement in your marketing plan, it’s time to figure out what channels are right for you. This template will help you do that.

2. Hashtag Holidays

Social media hashtag holidays.

If you’re going to lean in to social media in your marketing plan, you can use hashtag holidays to generate ideas.

These holidays are a great way to fill out your social media publishing schedule. With this template, you’ll get a list of all the hashtag holidays for the year.

3. Facebook Live Schedule

Facebook live schedule template.

If Facebook live is one of the marketing tactics in your plan, this template will help you design an editorial calendar. With this template, you can organize what Facebook live’s you want to do and when.

4. Instagram Post Log

Instagram post log for social media publishing management.

Are you going to begin using Instagram regularly? Do you want to increase your following? With this template, you can organize your Instagram posts, so everyone on your team knows what posts are going live and when.

Additionally, you can organize your assets and campaigns on this doc.

5. Paid Social Media Template

paid social media template for annual budgeting

With this template, you can organize your annual and monthly budget for your paid social media calendar.

6. Social Media Audit

Social media audit template.

Conducting a social media audit? You can use this template to help you gather the right analytics.

7. Social Media Editorial Calendar

Social media editorial calendar template.

With this template, you can organize your social media editorial calendar. For example, you can include social media posts for each platform, so your team knows what’s going live on any given day.

8. Social Media Image Sizes

Social media image size template.

With this template, your team can have the latest social media image sizes handy. This template includes image sizes for all major social media platforms, including Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

9. Social Media Marketing Proposal

Social media marketing proposal template.

With this template, you can create an entire social media marketing proposal. This will outline the social media goals, scope of the work, and the tactics that you plan to implement.

10. Social Media Reporting Template

Social media report template.

With this template, you’ll gain access to a slidedeck that includes templates for social media reporting. If you plan to implement social media in your marketing plan, these reporting templates can help you track your progress.

Simple Marketing Plan Template

Of course, this type of planning takes a lot of time and effort. So if you’re strapped for time before the holidays, give our new Marketing Plan Generator a try. This tool simplifies yearly planning and lays your strategies, initiatives, and goals out in a simple template so you can identify what’s most important for the coming year.

Try our free Marketing Plan Generator here.

Once you’ve filled in your information, you’ll come away with a plan that helps you:

  • Outline your annual marketing strategy
  • Identify your most important annual initiatives
  • Nix the projects that won’t help you hit your goals
  • Track the right metrics throughout the year
  • Align your team through a common mission

Pro Tip: The best way to set up your marketing plan for the year is to start with quick wins first, that way you can ramp up fast and set yourself (and your team) up to hit more challenging goals and take on more sophisticated projects by Q4. So, what do you say? Are you ready to give it a spin?

Editor’s note: This post was originally published in December 2016 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.

Marketing Plan Template

How to Easily Create a SlideShare Presentation

How to Easily Create a SlideShare Presentation

You know how hot visual content is, and you want to jump on board to enjoy the engagement, traffic, and leads that follow. But maybe you’re not keen on writing a blog post, and you don’t have the production resources to create videos. What to do? Create a SlideShare presentation.

→ Free Download: 4 PowerPoint Presentation Templates [Access Now]

I know, I know. You may have felt personally victimized by PowerPoint sometime in your career. When you open it up, you’re hit with stark black Calibri font on a white background, killing any creative spark you may have felt. It’s daunting enough to create a 10-slide deck to report your monthly marketing metrics — never mind putting together slides that can be seen by the large volume of SlideShare users.

Well, there’s good news: Creating a SlideShare presentation in PowerPoint doesn’t have to be that daunting. With the right templates and tools at your disposal, you could easily create an engaging, visual presentation — all without fancy design programs, huge budgets, or hiring contractors.

How to Create a Stunning  SlideShare Presentation in PowerPoint

To help you make a SlideShare of your own, we’ve created some free PowerPoint presentation templates for making awesome SlideShares. That way, your presentations will look great and be a breeze to put together.

Download the free PowerPoint templates, scroll down, and we’ll walk through how to use them. When we’re done, you’ll know exactly how to create a sexy presentation that gets featured on SlideShare’s homepage. Ready? Let’s dive in.

1. Get a feel for the types of presentations you can find on SlideShare. 

Just as you’d master any other medium, it helps to consume other content in that medium to get an idea of the format and what works. Go to SlideShare.net and discover SlideShares that interest you. You can view them on the platform or download them to your computer and peruse them on your local machine. 

SlideShare Presentation Download

Here’s how to download a PowerPoint from SlideShare:

  1. Sign up for a SlideShare account.
  2. Navigate to the SlideShare presentation that you want to download.
  3. Click the button labeled “Download.”
  4. When asked if you want to clip the slide, click “Continue to download.”
  5. Click “Save File” and then confirm by clicking “OK.”

Some may not download as a .ppt file, and some may not be available to download at all. However, this method works in all other cases.

2. Decide on fonts and a color scheme. 

Before you get too caught up in the specifics of your storyline, figure out which fonts and color scheme you want to use. (If you’re using our free templates, you can skip this part.) 

When you’re choosing fonts, consider two different ones to use throughout your presentation — one for your headers and one for your body text. Your header font should be bold and eye-catching, and your body text font should be simple and easy to read. The contrast between the two will make it much easier for your SlideShare viewers to grasp your core messages. 

For your color scheme, pick a scheme that will have enough contrast between colors to make colors stand out. Whether you decide to use two, three, or four different colors in your presentation is up to you — but certain color combinations go together better than others.

Below is an example of what certain fonts and color combinations can look like. Notice how the header fonts stand out much more than the body? You can also see what different color palettes might look like: The top is monochromatic, the middle is complementary, and the bottom is analogous. 

3 combinations of header and body fonts.

3. Outline main takeaways and crucial sub-bullets.

Next up: Creating an outline for your SlideShare’s narrative. I like to treat SlideShare outlines just like I would blog posts — you decide on the working title and main takeaways first. Then, you elaborate on those sections with a few supporting points.

For each of those components (title, section headers, and a few supporting points), create a slide. Below is an example of what those slides might look like: 

Title

title slide using hubspot powerpoint template

Headers

header slide using hubspot powerpoint template

Supporting Points

supporting point slide using hubspot powerpoint template

You’ll also want to create slide placeholders for the call-to-action and conclusion slides (you don’t need to elaborate on them just yet).

Keep in mind that these slides should not be complex — just a title and maybe a few details that you want to remember down the road. No paragraphs. No supporting images. Nothing that’s not built into your template already. 

4. Fill out the body of your presentation.

Then, fill in the meat of the content — all the slides between the headers. Just make sure you’re not relying too much on text. SlideShare is a primarily visual platform — people are used to breezing through presentations. So if your presentation reads like an ebook, you should edit down the text and rely more heavily on visual content. 

Another thing to remember is to switch up your format from slide to slide. Try doing a checklist slide followed by, say, a quote slide — it keeps people on their toes as they flip through your presentation.

checklist slide in hubspot powerpoint template

quote slide in hubspot powerpoint template

5. Add introduction slides. 

After you’ve created the majority of your SlideShare presentation, head back to the start. Wonder why we didn’t begin here? It’ll be much easier to tee up the bulk of your content if you already know what that content is about. In this step, just introduce what you just wrote about — it’ll be a breeze. 

6. Wrap up the conclusion.

Then, head to the end of your SlideShare and wrap it up in a slide or two. There is nothing more jarring than going from a body slide right to a CTA slide. You only need a slide or two to conclude your presentation, but it should naturally tee up the CTA that you will have next. 

7. Add a call-to-action slide.

At the verrrrrry end of your SlideShare, you want to keep your viewers engaged by providing a call-to-action. The CTA could be about downloading an ebook, attending an event, or even just visiting your website — pretty much any CTA you’d like to include. Here are two CTA slide examples that we included in the SlideShare template:

cta slide in hubspot powerpoint template

cta slide in hubspot powerpoint template

8. Edit, edit, edit.

You’re almost there! Next, you need to go through and edit your copy and design components. Try to get another coworker — marketer or not — to give it a once over. If you need some direction, you can use our ultimate editing checklist to make sure you’re catching everything you can.

9. Add “animated slides” and clickable links.

Though it’s easy to create a presentation in PowerPoint and upload it immediately to SlideShare, not all of the same features will appear in both programs. As a result, there are two things you’ll need to add in: “animated slides” and clickable links. 

As far as slide animation goes, SlideShare does not support PowerPoint animations. This means that all of those smooth entrances you planned for your text boxes and objects go out the window once you upload your presentation to SlideShare. But, it’s easy to manually introduce new elements on a series of slides to make it seem like it’s “animated.”

Once you’ve built in your animations, you’ll also need to make sure people can actually click on the CTAs in your presentation. 

10. Upload your PDF to SlideShare.

After you’re finished with your clickable links, your presentation will be in a PDF format. At this point, you’re ready for the final step: uploading your PDF to SlideShare. When you do this, you have the option to add a description and tags, and even schedule the SlideShare to go live at a certain time. Once your SlideShare is live, you should spend some time promoting it on your blog and social media accounts, and to your email lists. (For more SlideShare promotion tips, check out this blog post.)

Just follow this process when you need to create a SlideShare presentation, and you won’t have to fear that blank PowerPoint template ever again. 

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in August 2013 and has been updated for freshness, accuracy, and comprehensiveness.

powerpoint slides