It turns out that for good online marketing the funnel is a pretty useful tool too. It’s a great way to visually describe the activities which begin with making customers aware of your brand and products/services online (the wider end of the funnel), to leading them to your website (the middle part of the funnel), to finally making a sale at the narrow end. A bit like filling a sauce bottle or a jerry can…
The online marketing “sales funnel” works by attracting potential customers using online activities and enticing them to sign up to your mailing list to receive information or to visit your website. Once you have their contact details you can start building a long-term relationship so when they are ready to purchase they will simply ask you for the sale or you can ask them!
The layout of a sales funnel can vary from business to business, but to explain how they work we’ll use one containing these 4 stages: Generate Leads, Improve Conversion, Repeat Business and Increase Revenues.
STAGE ONE : Generate Leads
This is where you want to get as many people interested in your brand or organisation as possible. The more leads generated at the top of your sales funnel, the more prospects that are available to be led down the funnel for conversion into sales outcomes and loyal customers.
Leads can be generated by:
- EMAIL MARKETING - Creating clever, informative newsletters, updates and offers that are sent to prospects in your contact list. Your contact list can also grow by allowing those who visit your site to sign up for information or by allowing subscribers to share with friends.
- SEARCH ENGINE MARKETING - Ensuring your website and offering can be seen on search engines through Search Engine Optimisation (SEO), blog articles and paid ads.
- SOCIAL MEDIA MARKETING - Regular posts to Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest etc., so you can interact with potential leads in an online social setting and build a relationship.
STAGE TWO: Improve Conversion
Now customers have learned more about your brand and you are in contact with them, we need them to continue through the funnel towards a sale.
- A WELL DESIGNED WEBSITE - This is where content really is king. Through using quality content and imagery, the key is to address the visitor’s problem or need and then demonstrate that you have the solution and the credibility! The visitor should be faced with well-designed calls to action and opportunities to purchase immediately upon entering the site. And the steps the visitor must take to select an item and purchase it (the “conversion route”) should be obvious, easy and able to be executed in 3 clicks or less! If they think your content is useful they may also sign up to your newsletters or mailing lists to receive even more information, increasing your chances of them calling on your products or services in the future.
- E-COMMERCE -
Having a well designed online environment where prospects can shop and purchase your products or services is crucial. Allowing potential customers to not only order and pay but fully engage with your web store will increase your chances of sales and repeat custom. This can be done using online estimates, wish lists, the ability to share products with friends and offering free consultations or useful information to persuade visitors to subscribe to your website’s mailing list and make purchases at a later stage.
STAGE THREE: Repeat business
To use the sales funnel to full effect you need to be looking towards the end goal of creating long-term relationships with prospects that fit well with the solutions you are providing. We all know that most businesses simply don’t have the time to personally nurture every potential customer, so a documented system for lead follow-ups will make you more efficient. Then creating relationships with potential leads can be done even while you sleep…
Some ways to do this are:
- AUTORESPONDERS -
These allow emails and newsletters to be sent automatically to those who sign up to your database or fill in one of your contact forms on your website.
- CREATING A LEAD DATABASE -
Creating a data base with the demographics of the lead, contact info and perhaps how they came to you is a great tool for being able to group your potential leads for future segmented marketing campaigns.
- LEAD SCORING -
You can also score your leads in terms of their quality or whether they are ready to buy. This is a good way to weed out those that aren’t worth pursuing or help in working out what sort of follow up they require. You can set up your own scoring system for use with your database or some companies will provide you with programs that score leads for you.
STAGE FOUR: Increase Revenues
By this stage you will be creating a good volume of potential leads in the top of your funnel, converting a good percentage of those to website visits or subscribers and forming some productive long-term relationships. Now it is time to make the sale and increase your revenues by moving them to the final stage in your funnel.
There are endless sales models, but some suggestions on how to approach sales are:
- Use clear calls to action, telling the prospect what you want them to do
- Make sure you thoroughly understand the prospect’s problem or need
- Make sure you have presented your product properly, focusing on benefits, not features
- Ask for the sale!
- If necessary, offer bonuses or extra value for immediate sales or repeat sales
- Be persistent but not ‘pushy’.
So you’re now well on your way to using an efficient online marketing sales funnel to increase revenues – just don’t forget – marketelements is always happy to help! Click here to talk to us…
This could be the least of your worries – if your hacker has changed the passwords to your site or added malicious coding, your page could carry a red warning flag which can be harder to get rid of than the hacker!
So who are these hackers, why do they attack sites and how can you protect yourself?
Clever but devious...
Hackers are clever but devious individuals who will attack your sites in different ways:
- Website defacing
, a bit like ‘tagging’.
- Editing site pages
in order to place spammy links on your site to unscrupulous web pages.
- Changing your trustworthy business site to a trashy site
with gambling, pornography, etc. These hackers are known as website hijackers and have bots that scan for ways to breach your website or server. Your site can end up blacklisted with search engines which can create problems for SEO.
- Password and username theft.
Why do they do it?
Most hackers do what they do for one reason – cold, hard cash. Even those with small websites are good pickings for website hackers as most will on-sell the access to your accounts to spammers. Spammers need hosting access from owners who do not know their identity. This way if they are investigated the trail will stop with you.
Criminals also need hosting access in order to set up web pages that look just like a login page or a payment page and can therefore divert your customer’s money and password information towards them.
So how can you protect your website?
Unfortunately you can’t protect your site from hackers with 100% certainty but you can make it harder for them to gain access and easier for you to get your site back up and running after an attack.
- Back up your site regularly –
this is an insurance policy for your website should things go wrong and will help you to rebuild your site if required after an attack.
- Choose a strong password
such as those with alpha numeric components and keep it safe.
- Keep your software up to date –
some applications require updates to keep up with the latest security concerns.
- Keep your PC virus free
by using up to date anti-virus software.
Don’t panic, there are two main options for back-up storage and with a bit of preparation you can be sorted and secure. Data can be stored either locally (external hard drives, etc.) or online (in the cloud). Both options have pros and cons which we will discuss further.
Local Data Storage
Local data storage includes storing data on external hard drives, NAS drives or tape drives. There is a one-off cost to purchase the hardware but no on-going costs.
- One-off cost
- Fast back-up and recovery
- Data is stored offline so it is safe from online privacy and security concerns
- You must remember to back up regularly or use software to automate the process
- The device must be plugged in to the network or a computer in order to back up
- If the device is kept with your computer it won’t help in the event of a natural disaster or theft
- The storage device must be moved to a secure location and bought back regularly to back-up
- Size of the storage device will depend on amount of data you need to store – if you outgrow your storage device you will need to purchase additional storage
Cloud Data Storage
Storing data in the cloud does not mean sending your data hurtling into the sky – it is simply stored on remote servers by a data storage provider and can be accessed via the internet.
- On-going yearly or monthly costs
- As much space as you require – but with cost pegged to size of storage required
- The initial backup will take a while depending on the amount of data and upload speed.
- There are online privacy concerns such as what happens to your data if the company gets shut down or investigated (e.g. Megaupload and Kim Dotcom!)
- You need to choose your provider carefully to ensure they have procedures in place to secure your data against hackers and natural disasters at their data centres.
So..… while cloud is an excellent, flexible and secure option in the event of natural disaster, your local options also provide safe data storage if you are uneasy with risk around online privacy and the cloud service’s own security in the case of disaster.
Unfortunately, those looking for a silver bullet to cover all eventualities for data storage probably won’t find it by choosing either cloud or local storage. It may well be that a mix of both will give you the best mix of risk and get your business back up and running should disaster strike.
For more information on data storage options - contact us