Most people are familiar with the idea of a sales funnel or a sales pipeline. In order to see sales you need a lot of people to enter your funnel because many opportunities will fade as they pass through. To see sales you must have a funnel of some kind, even if it’s a simple one you didn’t really plan out ahead of time.

So what moves people through the pipeline is a process people often refer to as conversion. But what is conversion really. It’s a process of motivation or giving people a reason to move through. There are a lot of tactics for helping people find that motivation and online one of the most common is referred to as the value ladder.

Simply put we need to stop viewing the sale at the bottom of the funnel as the be all and end all. What we need to start doing is looking at the journey through the funnel as a series of trades and not one big destination trade. We trade ‘through’ the funnel.

Funnel processes can be complex and often very esoteric with a lot of moving parts. It’s a whole area of digital marketing which could fill a library and what I’m about to describe is a highly simplified example of how this could be applied in any business. How you apply it will be specific and probably different.

Top of the funnel

A) At the top of the funnel we find the first trade on the value ladder. We are trading something we value for something the customer values. At the top of the funnel this won’t be money, but attention. The value we offer is content.
B) We might invite them from our public content to go deeper with us for something they further value in the form of a useful document or template. For this we’d trade for a customers email address.

Middle of the funnel

C) In the middle of the funnel our prospects are more committed. As we now have their email we’re in a dialogue – as long as we actually use the email.. It’s well known, but little understood that 70% of online sales are driven through email so giving value to the prospect in their inbox matters here. In this stage of the funnel we want to trade for relationship.

D) Can we offer trials, experiences, samples, testimonials, confidence, evidence. This might be through webinars, personal video messages, demonstrations. At this stage of the customer journey we need to be specific and creative.

Bottom of the funnel

At this stage of the funnel we know they are very interested in what we have to offer. They’ve enjoyed the journey so far and now know us quite well and hopefully trust us. Some of them will convert but many will be put off by price but in order to discover this you’ll need to attempt that final trade. At this stage we’ll need…

E) Proposals, Onboarding processes, Up Sells, Cross Sells and potentially Down Sells ( for those people the price put off but still love you. )

A solid funnel process is the foundation of successful digital marketing but it’s very often skipped over by agencies because is takes a lot of time to work through with a client and it often needs that client to rethink their business model for the online world. For example – I see ads online all the time which clearly have no sales funnel attached. All they do is shout from the bottom of the funnel and probably achieve very little.

When an ad has a funnel process attached and you know what to look for it’s obvious. It’s never hidden because the ad is actually offering something of real value. The value at the top of the ladder is the big tell take.

When you build into your digital marketing a well constructed value ladder you change the game online. You don’t need to ask people to buy through your marketing. You get to be the guy who wants to give value. If you can have people move towards your value then the funnel processes will take care of the rest.