An ideal conversion funnel: the importance of being exhaustive
In contrast to the many boastful claims by the army of self-proclaimed marketing gurus – often bestowed upon the public in the form of unsolicited and wildly inaccurate targeted advertising, which I take as an extra reason to remain sceptical – it can be demoralisingly difficult to set up an effective digital sales and marketing funnel that generates a satisfying conversion rate.
In the spirit of Dropsolid’s commitment to open source and free knowledge sharing – and also in large part because our CEO instructed our marketing team to do so –, we decided to give the interwebs and the tireless human folk who frequent it an in-depth look at an existing, successful conversion funnel.
Whilst we tried to be as comprehensive and open as possible, we had a few inevitable concessions to make when it came to privacy and spilling the beans on our internal data, hence the occasional blurring. Every shot in the video comes straight out of our funnel and all the integrations you see are 100% accurate and functional.
I would advise you to watch the clip first - yes, we have subtitles for you sneaky silent worktime viewers – and then check back for some additional background info that didn’t make the final cut. I will run you through a few points based on the structure of the video, so you know where to look.
For those who lack the attention span or free time to watch the full nine-and-a-half minutes of video material, I’ve selected a condensed TL;DR:
- Marketing funnels always take time to set up
- Always start small, expand later
- Automate, automate, automate
- Avoid software/vendor lock-in at all cost
The semantics of conversion funnels
For starters: I am very well aware that sales and marketing funnels aren’t quite the same, which is why we made the decision to take an undifferentiated approach and simply call them conversion funnels. As every marketer and salesperson will reluctantly admit, sales and marketing have to rely heavily on each other and communicate on a near-constant basis to be able to transcend the back-and-forth that happens all-too-often in siloed teams.
That is also why I explicitly mentioned an elaborate version of the touchpoint model. The abundance of touchpoints available to even the smallest of SMEs makes the silo trap a very treacherous one to fall into – something to avoid at all cost, especially if your company has the potential to scale after time. Hence our tendency to speak of connected digital environments as a marketing machine: a well-oiled, neatly timed combination of elements that consistently provides its operators with a predictable kind of high-quality output – in most cases leads.
Foundations of our funnel machine
As I mentioned in the clip (at around 2'20"), our conversion funnel exists of four key components. A short line-up of the things we have implemented so far:
The key requirement for your components’ implementation should be their ability to scale and integrate with other systems. I am very well aware that not every context allows for completely open integrations – some ERP systems, for example, are very complex and vendor-dependent -, but for the sake of a conversion funnel, most marketing teams should be allowed the freedom to put efficiency before process and find a combination of tools that suit their needs. We assume that you will want to test out a small conversion funnel first and build on the same process to set up a fully-fledged marketing machine. For more info on why my company has been betting on Drupal ever since its inception, check out our CEO’s personal Drupal blog or any of our case studies.
Step-by-step breakdown: additional notes
The user journey of a funnel should always start with good content. You most definitely don’t want to be with the company that invests thousands on expensive placements of third-rate advertorials. You might be able to fool your target audience once with a hastily thrown-together whitepaper, but don’t expect any warming towards your brand from them.
We also invested a lot of time in high-quality content that we knew would be relevant to our Cooldrops brand’s audience. If you start early enough, this will help to improve your SEO, too. Consider hiring a full-time content specialist or run your copy by a good agency or freelancer that knows your tone-of-voice and market. Video seems to work very well for us: just make sure you keep it professional. I quite like the creative approach that StoryMe are taking, though this will be mostly applicable for mid-market companies.
As a marketer, I have developed a certain fondness for the simplicity of Moz as an SEO tracking tool. Don’t get lost in the endless data fields, however! Sometimes you simply have to let go and focus on new content rather than optimising existing posts.
Once you have established a steady content stream, it is time to start creating paid and organic visibility. This particular funnel for Cooldrops leaned heavily on advertising for conversion. For products or services that are perceived as more high-value, we tend to be most successful with our thought leadership and organic community building.
Trial and error is an inevitable part of your funnel building, especially if you are venturing into the realm of conversion funnels for the very first time. I would suggest you find a safe practice space – a small test campaign would be perfect – to see what works best in your market. Of course there are a few ground rules that apply to most funnels, but results may vary wildly, depending on your client base’s quirks. Additionally, an overspend on your budget in the first few days will more than make up for potential missed opportunities and late tweaks at a later stage.
The advanced tracking options that we set up might seem to be a bit overkill for a free website campaign, but trust me: once you hook every single one of your campaigns up to your dashboarding tools, your aggregate statistics will prove to be a most powerful tool.
Just do it
A basic funnel experiment shouldn’t cost that much, especially if you compare it to marketing efforts that are much less guaranteed to generate any return. After all, how much did your last trade show cost you and how many actionable leads did you generate there? Exactly. The return on investment of a conversion funnel is highly measurable and everything you learn about the parameters for your funnels and your target market, will be applicable to all other marketing efforts at your company.