The Place of Social Media in Effective Sales Funnels

I was invited as a speaker in the Ibadan Social Media Summit 2016 (organized by SparkConect), that was held in — of course — Ibadan, Nigeria, and I spoke on the topic: The Place of Social Media in Effective Sales Funnels.

I later thought it’d be nice to post same topic on my blog — a kind of development on my slides and notes. I hope you derive a lot of value from it. (And yes, it’s a long one!)

social media sales funnels

What is a Sales Funnel?

Before I give a definition to sales funnel, let’s first describe it and put it into perspective with an everyday (almost!) item.

You’ve seen a funnel before. You know what shape it takes and what it’s used for. To pour stuff, especially liquid, through a smaller opening.

In relation to sales, it’s not the pouring that’s most important – though also vital. The shape of the funnel is what makes it a perfect metaphor for sales.

The funnel is an overturned cone that has a wide opening at the top and a smaller opening at the bottom. That’s what happens in business, whether online or offline: a lot of people come in contact with your business daily, but that number reduces with every step they take further into doing business with you.

Some people leave immediately they come in contact with your business; some people stay a while longer, and maybe evaluate your business and the solutions you offer – they might even fall in love with your business; but only a few of those people end up becoming paid customers or clients.

Those are the fewer people that make it to the end of your funnel, hence the reason the end of the funnel is narrower than the top.

There’s however a smaller part to a sales funnel – which most people ignore. And that’s the advocacy part. If you’ve really done a good job with your customer in delivering your product or service, they become your loyal brand advocate, that is, they tell other people about your business and bring in more customers for you.

But that’s not today’s focus.

Don’t be fooled by the concept of funnel. No matter what business you do, whether you’re conscious about it or not, you have a funnel you use – as long as you have customers. It’s only left to you to optimize each part of your funnel – that’s what sets the winners apart in business.

To cap it all, and to make it official, a sales funnel is the buying process that businesses lead customers through when buying products or services.

Whether your funnel is as simple as opening your shop everyday hoping people would come in and buy stuff, or as sophisticated as having a process that starts from creating awareness to lead generation to closing the deal and to consciously encouraging advocacy, we all use a funnel!

Unfortunately, this [post] is not about creating sales funnels or even optimizing sales funnels to the fullest; we are restricted to how social media helps to make your sales funnel more powerful – whichever you’re using. I only hope you have one!

Social Media and Sales Funnels

From a general sense, the overarching benefit of social media is: it gives you a wider reach than you otherwise would have had.

Social media helps you to get in front of so many people you couldn’t have reached physically, and at a cheaper cost than traditional media.

There’s no arguing that social media benefits businesses in so many ways.

When we put that in the funnels perspective, it’s easy to quickly summarize it as: social media helps in bringing more people into your sales funnel.

But is that all the usefulness social media can offer your funnel and business?

Is there a way to optimize your funnel with social media and get even more goodies for your business – over your competitors?

These are some of the questions I’ll be answering in this [post].

Let’s start by choosing (or creating) a sales funnel!

Since there are various funnels as varied by steps and processes, I’ll just stick to a basic and simple funnel for the purpose of this session – the one from which other funnels spring.

And that’s the 3-step sales funnel of: Awareness, Evaluation, and Conversion.

picture credit: DigitalMarketer

How does this funnel work?

Awareness

The first step in the funnel is awareness. This is the point where a prospect learns about or notices you. It’s your first point of contact with a prospect. This is also the widest part of your funnel because it’s where you have more people, as said earlier.

Sadly, no matter how great your funnel or marketing is, many of these people won’t go further with you.

Nothing personal; they’re probably just not interested in what you do. But at least, they got to meet you. Take solace in that 🙂

Whatever means you use to create awareness for your business – adverts, social media, promos, search traffic, word of mouth, referrals, etc – it’s your job to make this traffic stay longer with you – taking them to the next level of the funnel. I hope you do a very good job here!

Evaluation

This is the next level in a sales funnel.

This is the point where the people that didn’t disappear after getting in contact with you try to learn more about your business. They check out who you really are, what you do, and how (or if) your offer can benefit them.

This is the breaking point. It’s either they’re impressed with you and decide to move to the next level with you (or at least like you enough to hang around to hear more from you) or they also leave at this point.

Again, it’s your job to make sure they don’t leave – as many as you can persuade.

Conversion

This is the next desirable level (not necessarily final level) you want to take your prospect to – the more the merrier!

This is when they’ve liked and trusted you, and decide your solution (offer) is needed – and they pay to get it (either in cash or in kind).

That’s a simple funnel all customers follow for your business, whether you like it or not; whether you’re online or not.

The only choice you have is whether to optimize each step of this funnel (increase the number of people that get to each level) or not.

Mind you, the fact that you’re not consciously optimizing it doesn’t mean you wouldn’t get customers. But optimizing it will give you double, or even triple of the results you currently get.

There are many ways to optimize your sales funnel, but my job here today is to show you how important social media is to sales funnels, and teach you how you can use social media to optimize your funnel.

Importance of Social Media to Sales Funnels

The BIG takeaway is:

…social media is so important to your business, because it can be used to boost the result of your business by optimizing every step of your funnel.

At the awareness stage, you can use social media to reach tons of people – thousands, hundreds of thousands, millions, depending on your ability and capacity. You can now bring as many people as was impossible before social media into your funnel, and in essence, your business!

As at January 2016, 2.307 billion people are active on social media, according to Global Web Index (GWI)!

There are about 147 million Africans and 16 million Nigerians on Facebook alone, as of June 2016 – according to internetworldstats.com.

So you can imagine the potentials social media holds for business, and how much you’re missing out if you’re not already using social media for business.

At the evaluation stage, you can use social media to impress your prospects by showing them you’re indeed their man/woman – that you hold their solutions in your hands. You can also use social media to showcase all the good parts of your business that makes you their preferred choice over the competition.

Trust me, prospects will definitely check you out (on your website, search engines, social media, etc) to know whether you’re worth doing business with or not.

At the conversion stage, you can use social media to close the deal. In fact, if you “passed” the evaluation stage, your prospects will move nearer to becoming customers.

BUT you have to note that some will just hang around you – as warm audience – for a long time and not convert to customers. They might like reading your updates, or may just be content with the freebies you offer.

It’s your job to convert these people to customers – or at least to leads.

This is where social media comes in again, at the bottom of your funnel, to make the conversion easier, and more possible than it would have ordinarily been!

And…let’s not forget the advocacy stage (which I’ll be merging with conversion for the purpose of this discourse – just to keep our funnel simple).

Social media can help you at this stage too. It can be a good customer care tool, a great referral program tool, a way to do whatever would make your customers love you so much that they become brand advocates.

Now that you understand the importance of social media to sales funnels and where it fits in at every step of your funnel…

…it’s time to learn…

How to Use Social Media to Optimize Every Step of Your Funnel.

Awareness

The question is; how do you make people more aware of you, your brand, and what you offer via social media?

Creating awareness is simply bringing people in contact with your brand, making as many people as possible aware of your brand. Here are ways to do that:

  1. Social Media Platform

This goes without saying, but I just felt I should include it here. Hey, why are we even discussing this topic if you don’t have a social media platform?!

To make people aware of your business, you need an account or page that represents your business on social media – at least, on those sites that will benefit your brand.

Note however, that your page/acct must indeed represent your brand;

  • logo
  • perfect pictures and graphics
  • great description
  • brand colours
  • etc
  1. Content

How else would anyone hear/read from you if not through whatever you share?!

When it comes to organic (unpaid) social media, you have to always produce great content that will make anyone that finds you stay to have more of you – because your posts are interesting or educating.

  1. Social Sharing

You should encourage social sharing, that is, people sharing your updates with their own network. This is how you reach more people and your influence grows.

How do you encourage social sharing?

  • By being very interesting – posting updates that are share-worthy
  • By literally asking people to share your stuff
  • By sprinkling share buttons around your online assets – website, blog, emails, etc.
  • and so on..
  1. Word of Mouth

Apart from (and closely related to) social sharing, people can spread the gospel about your brand by telling other people about how awesome you are – either physically or online.

A good example of this in action online is Instagram comments. People mentioning others in the comments section of a particular picture or video, just for the people mentioned to come and see. Nigerian comedians especially.

How do you encourage this? That’s obvious: by being very useful (interesting, entertaining, informative, etc).

  1. Social Ads

This is by far the biggest – and best – way to create awareness for your brand. You can use ads on social media sites to reach as many people as possible with your brand message.

  1. Contests

You want to get more people to know about your brand? Organize contests with rewards on social media. Sure you’ve seen this in action countless times. People don’t just love free things; they love winning things. There’s a good feeling that comes with it.

These are few ways you can use social media to create awareness for your brand. Be creative and come up with more ways.

Evaluation

We already said this is the stage where people check us up, whether we really have what they need, and probably compare us with the competition.

This is obviously where you need to really impress your prospect and do all you can to make her become yours.

How do you get this done?

  1. Social Profile

If first impressions really matter, then this is your chance to create a good one. Don’t blow it.

We’ve talked about profiles earlier at the awareness stage. But basically, what you want to do here is make sure your social profile is well filled out – and represents your brand well.

You want to ensure your bio or description is persuasive and full of benefits the prospects stands to gain from you.

In short, you want to be the best out of the competition.

  1. Quality Content

What if your profile isn’t the first thing a prospects sees about you, or just decides to check out your feeds instead of your profile? What impression would you make?

This is why you must keep your social media feeds up to date with quality, useful content. You want your prospect to find you interesting at the stage he’s evaluating you and comparing you with others.

Don’t make the mistake of only posting stuff for sale; you want to have a balance of activities – from giving value to selling and to networking (sharing other people’s stuff especially).

And don’t forget freebies and contests too!

  1. Social Proof

Humans are naturally wired to follow the masses. If you see many people doing a particular thing, you’ll most likely want to do same – you’ll subconsciously think it’s the right thing.

The patrolman’s account provides certain insights into the way we respond to social proof. First, we seem to assume that if a lot of people are doing the same thing, they must know something we don’t. –  Robert B. Cialdini, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion

For this reason, you want to pepper your social media – and other online assets – with positive testimonials, case studies, customer reviews, ratings, etc.

Even the amount of followers and ‘likes’ you have are social proofs.

Encourage people that have done business with you to leave their ratings and reviews on your social business page, or on review-based social networking sites like Yelp.

  1. Ads

Yes, advertising at this stage too!

Here’s one of the biggest mistakes people make with social ads (and ads generally). They only advertise at the top of their funnel – or wrongly at the bottom of their funnel trying to convert people that don’t even know who they are.

You need to advertise at the middle of your funnel too – at the evaluation stage.

The best way to go about this is using retargeting ads.

These are ads shown only to people that have visited your site or engaged with you one way or another. You can advertise your blog posts or lead magnet to them.

The important thing about the evaluation stage is finding every possible means to make people you initially attracted stick with you. Be creative!

Conversion

Yes, the final stage of our basic funnel.

This is not the time to relent. Your prospect has evaluated you, and she’s still sticking around. It’s time to ask for some commitment – either by cash or by contact details, depending on your goals.

I mean, you want to make your prospect an offer she can take either by giving you her contact details, or by paying money.

Giving you contact details is giving you permission to contact her anytime and sell more to her down the line. Means your conversion efforts can be in 2 steps: first converting into lead, and later into customer.

How can you leverage social media to achieve conversion?

  1. Content

Obviously the king of all assets, you can see content is vital at every point of your sales funnel.

You’ve used content to attract and also engage your prospect. Now it’s time to use same content to sell on social media — make him an offer he can’t refuse.

As I already said, you can either offer a valuable solution for him to get for free by giving you his contact, or offer your product to him as a solution he can get by paying money.

But beware, you don’t want to oversell on social media; since there’s no way to separate your warm audience from your cold audience (that’s the job of good ol’ email!) and they’ll all see your updates.

  1. Social Proof

I don’t have to say much about this again. The point is: you want to encourage your prospect to buy from you by showing that others are happy for buying from you.

Sure you can tell that numbers of followers and ‘likes’ aren’t so useful here.

  1. Ads

Sure you’re no longer surprised it’s here again. You should already can tell that ads can (and should) be used to optimize each step of your funnel – most importantly, retargeting ads. You want to advertise your offer to those that already know, trust, and like you.

  1. Direct Sales

You can sell directly on social media, especially to your warm audience. With your updates or with ads, both as said earlier.

More so, platforms like Facebook and Pinterest now have “Buy” buttons prospects can click on to buy directly and right inside social media.

  1. Follow-Up

Following up with people who’ve bought from you or made enquiries is a great way to increase your sales. You can do this via social media by thanking those who’ve bought from you privately or publicly on your wall, and responding to inquiries wherever they’re posted (inbox or on your wall).

Social media can be a good “return path” to bring both those who’ve done business with you and those who’ve fallen away back into your business or funnel.

  1. Social Listening

Social listening is a very vital part of social media today.

You want to always listen to (read) what your audiences are saying.

You want to acknowledge praises, respond to queries, handle criticisms diplomatically, listen to/for suggestions, etc.

Listening to your audience can also give you an idea of what they really want, which can translate to a new product or service you can offer, which in turn translates to more business for you.

Your aim at this bottom part of your funnel is to (a) convert as many people as possible into customers/client, and (b) get as more profits as possible my making customers buy more from you and bring their friends – more customers – to you.

I hope, NOW, you can see how social media can make your sales funnel more effective and your business more profitable!

Any questions, additions, feedback, suggestions, or even objections, please let’s discuss in the comments. And don’t forget to share too 😉

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