There can be no doubt that the Internet has brought incredible new opportunities for entrepreneurs; driven by little more than a great idea and a desire to share it, numerous people have turned their calling into a successful business venture. However, building a great online business is very different from creating a significant online presence. Few people are likely to simply stumble upon a business and immediately want to purchase.

Instead, online business, especially the types set up by millennial entrepreneurs, require some level of planning to convert strangers into leads, leads into customers, customers into return customers, and return customers into advocates that help recruit new clients. This process is known as a sales funnel and understanding how to apply it is essential to help keep a web-based business, or any company, afloat no matter the market conditions.

Optimized Conversion Funnel

The term funnel is used because that is what the entire process looks like. In a perfect world, companies would instead have a pipeline, a tube that does not decrease in width as it goes further down. However, many of the leads that a company gains will be lost through a customer getting cold feet, changing their mind, or going with another provider. That said, as long as there is some flow from the top to the bottom, the funnel is working.

The first step towards building an optimized conversion funnel, a more technical term for a sales funnel, is to identify the needs that the online business in question seeks to address. For example, if the website in question helps people to learn Chinese, it is best to focus on those individuals who have an interest in the Chinese language. The product should be introduced to as many people with that specific interest as possible. It should not, however, be a worry of the entrepreneur to introduce the product to as many people as possible. Instead, focus only on those who have a demonstrated interest.

Attract New Customers

It is not enough to merely put a product in front of people. Instead, smart websites make a point of putting a name, or at least an email address, to any interested parties. This is often done by offering something for free in exchange for signing up for a newsletter or getting a free download. Immediately this helps to ideally establish two things in the mind of the potential customer. First, the product offered is of value, as the first interaction was one that cost the client little more than an email address.

Second, the provider is an authority in the space, as evidenced by the usefulness of the information. This second part is vital – a funnel that includes a free product at the beginning that is of proven quality will be much more successful than one that provides a lackluster or even mediocre offering.

Other Approaches

It is worth noting here that an email-based approach is only one option. Some companies prefer to get phone numbers, followers on social media, or even a physical address. Depending on the nature of the business in question, a different approach may be better for building a funnel.

After the first contact with a customer is made, companies should then find a way to keep pointing out the usefulness of their product, though not to the point of obnoxiousness. For some companies, this is best done by maintaining a smart social media strategy. For others, it can be done through the use of an email newsletter that includes information that would be of interest. No matter what, the point is to be perpetually building value with the lead to prove the value and applicability of the services in question. A good CRM like Hubspot can help tremendously throughout this process. You can even take it a step further by integrating Hubspot with your automation platform.

Evaluate Your Sales Funnel

The point of conversion from a lead to a customer could be instant upon first entering the funnel, or it could take some time. Sometimes, it might never happen. Very occasionally, the funnel could work so well that existing leads and clients recruit their own contacts into it by pointing out the value offered. Regardless, recognizing the importance of capturing leads (and their information) by putting them into a sales funnel is crucial to building a business.

Throughout the process, it is smart to reexamine the funnel itself to see if there are any chokepoints. If a company is getting a lot of interest in the first instance but very little after a signup email, it could be that the product is not of enough interest to keep leads engaged. Likewise, if plenty of people remain engaged but never buy the final product, it could be a hint that pricing may be off.

In any event, an optimized conversion funnel is an essential tool in helping to convert potential leads to valued customers. Rather than just dipping a net into a body of water and hoping to come up with something, it provides a structured approach to finding, retaining, and converting leads while providing value to them along the way.

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More Online Business References

Conversion Funnel 101: How to Uncover and Optimize Your Customer Journey

The Ultimate Guide to Ecommerce Conversion Funnel Optimization

The Conversion Business Process