Introduction: Marketing Funnel vs Sales Ladder - Understanding The Differences
Before we begin setting your strategy and planning for your business you need to have a general understanding of what a “sales ladder” and a “marketing funnel” is. Simply put if you have a destination without transportation, its a wasted idea. And if you have transportation without a destination, it's wasted talent. A clear understanding of the difference between a ladder and a funnel will allow you to use both effectively and increase your productivity exponentially. Using sales ladders and marketing funnels will help you clearly identify your destination as well as provide you with a method to get there. This paired with a solid strategy (your map) puts you in position to lead your customer to your goal.
You may be eager to skip through this guide and go right to the ‘meat and potatoes’ of strategy building. I would not recommend that as the information about funnels and ladders will help build your plan and later on work within the strategies provided in this guide. These next few sections will give you a brief understanding of the purpose of both a funnel and a ladder.
Purpose of a sales ladder
If you have recently been to the dentist or a mechanic, you may have already experienced the beginning stages of a sales ladders. A prime example of a sales ladder is a free cleaning/checkup at the dentist office. Let's say you receive a promotion for a free cleaning. You come into the office, free of charge, and the dentist can then can provide the value of other services you may need. Maybe you have cavities, or need a root canal. Whichever the case is, you may leave the dentist paying more for what you initially thought was free. The important aspect of this scenario is that the business took a risk in making a service free to acquire you as a potential client.
A sales ladder in its simplest form identifies the structure of services or products your company can provide. It organizes the steps your customers should take based on the previous interactions and relationship the customer currently has with you. In the same dentist scenario, if you saw a flyer that stated “Root Canal only $1999!” it would be safe to assume you would be less likely to show up to that office. But this is the mistake that most of us make especially when starting our business. We sometimes get excited and want to put our solution in someones hands immediately. But essentially what we are doing is forcing our solution to unqualified prospects.
That's where a sales ladder comes in. Whether you have 1 product/service or many, you have to create a process that will qualify your customers for each of your products. In essence you will be giving your customer one clear destination that solves their problem. This will also give you an understanding of where your current clients with your business in comparison to prospects. Later in this guide we will discuss how to get started with implementing your business into a sales ladder.
Purpose of a marketing funnel
Now my marketing funnel definition is slightly different than most would define it. A marketing funnel is the process your customer experiences in an effort to complete a goal. This definition is highlights a few keywords: process, experiences, and goal. A funnel is the path you make for a customer to be aware of their problem and your solution, desire your solution, and take action. If your process is not effective, and the customer doesn’t have the greatest experience, he or she will not complete the goal set forth. But that's not all that terrible. Part of creating your funnels is to obtain insights on your business and the path you have created.
Now there have been multiple ways to incorporate a marketing funnel. The best way I have found is to incorporate a separate funnel within each destination identified in a sales ladder. This gives you a vertical approach to understand your customer in greater detail. Let’s assume your entry product is to sign up for a free newsletter. You should create a funnel that will make a customer aware of their problem and your solution, desire the newsletter, and ultimately sign up for it. At this point your customer has satisfied and completed the goal and can now be managed differently.
Ultimately your marketing funnel is best managed and understood in its entirety after you have set your sales ladder and created a plan. For this reason we will revisit building your marketing funnel after you have created your sales ladder and marketing strategies.
Sales Ladder -Creating your sales ladder
I start with your sales ladder because it is best to know where you want to go so that you can take your prospects there. This process will help you organize and segment each product or service in your business. We will start by identifying the services that you provide and dive deeper into each entry for each service. I have added templates and exercise files for you within this guide to help you as well.
What are your services?
It would be simple to write down all of your products and services on a piece of paper and sift through it. But it will make more sense to start from the top and work backwards. Start off by writing down the most value you can provide to a customer. What is the highest level of service that your business provides? If you’re a consultant, is this a special 1 on 1 service between you and your client? If you’re a contractor, is this labor you and your partners provide for a customer? Visually, starting from the top helps you work your way to the bottom. This amazing service is what makes you and your company unique. Your ultimate goal is to lead your prospect here, not bring your solution to them.
The easiest mistake we make is offering our best solution to unqualified customers. We end up offering to people who we dont understand and they see a solution they don’t need. Instead you need to build multiple segments leading to your “ultimate goal”. I want to talk briefly about three segments of customers and how they will play into you organizing your sales ladder. The three segments of customers are your community, your fans, and then your followers.
A community is where people gather under a common goal or understanding. This is where you will obtain your initial prospects. People who want to join or be apart of a larger purpose and feel a specific connection to that community. They also understand that a community will be able to provide something to them at no risk. This is very important to note that prospects are looking for solutions without having to pay. We get impatient sometimes and want to place a ‘face value’ everywhere we can. Investing your time and money for a helpful community is invaluable. If you can help prospects find their place in your community, you will have made them fans of your brand.
Your fans are people who are beginning to trust your movement. They trust your company and more importantly they trust you. If you have a community about “Women Empowerment”, these are the people within your community who would be compelled to take the next step and purchase your book. Your personal connection with your fans will ultimately help them become more than just a fan. They will become a follower.
Your devoted followers
A follower is devoted to you. Using the previous example, they are the people who are at your book signings to get autographs. More importantly, they take selfies of their interaction with you and share it on social. These people are sold on everything you have to offer, so why not offer more? The people that make it to this level of trust with you, have now made it reasonable to offer your “ultimate goal”
Write all of the products and services that your brand has to offer. When you are complete, organize each product/service into one of the 3 categories mentioned above. Ask yourself, is this service I am offering more beneficial to a community, fan, or a follower? When you have finally segmented each service, you will have your first sales ladder. Be sure to check out the exercise files I have included with this guide to help you with this process.
What if you only have 1 main product and can’t create a sales ladder? Don’t worry, a sales ladder is meant for everyone. If you have one main product or service try focusing on the different values it provides. For example if I own a car shop my ultimate goal would be to fix cars, but the different values I can provide would extend your options. You can get an oil change, tire rotation, clutch replacement, you name it. Once you can focus on the different values your 1 service provides, segment them into the 3 categories mentioned before.
Always remember the vertical approach to this sales ladder. Essentially if customers do not come through the top of the funnel (community involvement) they will not find the end of the funnel (ultimate goal). If they do find the end of the funnel without going to through the community, they’re most likely a referral from an avid follower. And even then they still wouldn't be as inclined to purchase everything you have to offer as their referer would. So when we build our strategy and build our marketing funnel (explained later) we will focus on attracting customers from the top.
Best channels to use for your business
You’ve got your ladder complete and now you’re ready to start taking prospects to your ultimate goal! But how do we find these prospects and where are they located? You want to start understanding your customer before you start inviting random people through this experience. You see your ladder is an experience dedicated to help a specific person. What channels are they on? Most importantly what sources and technology do they use? Let’s discuss about the difference between a channel and a source and how your customer will relate
A channel is an entity created to connect with customers. A source is a ‘parameter’ within each channel. There are 5 channels used to connect with prospects.
Each channel has many sources that a customer could be found. For example social media sources include Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Your search engine sources include: Bing, Google, and Yahoo. Think of this as your own tv company. If you had a cable company with 5 channels, which programming would your audience watch? Is your audience on Facebook? Maybe your audience likes reading articles through Yahoo? Understanding where your prospects are and what technology they are using will help you understand the best channels to use for your business. For these next sections I will focus on social media.
Social media usage has been through the roof. An article on Skyword.com written by Christina Warner, suggest Over 3 billion people use social media each month-42 percent of the entire population. Furthermore there is a new user every 11 seconds. You can checkout the other mind blowing stats here: 10 social media usage statistics you should know (and what they mean for your marketing strategy)
Needless to say, your business needs to be on social media. Here are a few guidelines from some of your top social media platforms.
Facebook - Facebook is a “pay to play” space. There are a lot of restrictions when it comes to having a community page and or business page. Although there is an investment, the opportunity may be invaluable. Facebook is a great way to review analytics, as well as understand people in depth comparatively to other platforms. This gives you a chance to improve your branding tremendously. Start by adding yourself to Facebook groups related to your product and service. Understand their communities and be involved. Eventually this may give you the opportunity to offer your service and brand.
Instagram - Instagram is one of the more modern uses of social media recently. Instagram focuses on large images and distinct photos. Everyone’s personality is on display. Think of the best photos that you may be able to include of your business. The inclusion of instagram stories IGTV, and Instagram Live give you opportunities to always stay in front of your community.
Twitter - Twitter is the most engaging social media platforms. If you are thinking of using Twitter there are great benefits. You get to see what people are thinking about your brand and interact with everyone publicly to provide a solution. The downside is that without a management tool, you’ll need to spend time creating multiple tweets throughout the day to keep up. There are almost 350,000 tweets sent per minute and you need to stay ahead of the curve.
Youtube - Youtube is the second most visited website behind google. There are great opportunities to incorporate a video strategy within your marketing plan. Consider informative and educational videos to engage your community. You can show your location or even tell your brand story. This is essential in helping a customer through a buying process. You may need to invest in additional equipment as you’ll want to create high quality and compelling videos. Recording from your phone? Look into buying a tripod and mic to block the background noise.
If you don’t know where to start with creating a video, ask yourself a few questions. What makes your company unique and why did you start your company? What do you share with your community currently that you take passion in? These are great questions to help you understand different ways you can communicate to your prospects. Also, create unique ways to implement a video strategy in each of your sales ladder steps. What video content would make the most sense for a follower vs your community?
Check out a few great stats about Youtube and video marketing here : Youtube Stats
There are plenty of other platforms that are great community building opportunities. Consider which platform your typical customer may use and cultivate a community.
Your full marketing strategy should not only be limited to social media posts and building your community. An influencer outreach plan is a must have if you are looking to grow your business exponentially. Reach out to influencers that are in your market space and find ways to collaborate with them. Offer your newsletter or the free product/service that you are giving to your prospects. If you have a podcast, share it with them and ask for input and advice. This highly effective because an eventual testimony or review by an influencer could grow your community. Think about your influencers customers and where they would fit relative to your business. If there is something you can offer them, inquire about having your product featured on your influencers landing pages and emails. Best part is that it’s actually more affordable than people assume! This is a low-risk high reward practice that should be pursued. Inserting your brand in front of a relevant customer throughout the buying process is a very powerful technique that can change your company.
One of the tools that I use to help me with this is Intellifluence. Intellifluence is a great influencer marketing platform that helps you reach out to influencers with your product and service. It enables smaller brands a larger opportunity to grow their community all in one interface. Check out their platform here : https://intellifluence.com/brands
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