Automated sales funnels take your leads and turn them into paying customers on autopilot.
What if I told you a personal robot could work for your business 24/7? It may sound ridiculous, but that’s exactly what it is with sales funnel automation.
Building an effective sales funnel requires patience, practice, and adjustments. Luckily, we’re here to share all of the tips, tricks, and secrets so you can achieve your business goals.
Let’s start with the basics.
What is an automated sales funnel?
A sales funnel represents the customer journey from brand discovery to a loyal customer.
The funnel is broken down into various stages. Each funnel stage represents where the person is in their buyer’s journey. As a prospect moves through the funnel, a business will work with them until they become a paying customer.
Benefits of an automated sales funnel
A good funnel is like a well-oiled machine that takes cold prospects and converts them into loyal customers like clockwork — all without working inside the business actively.
Free up your time
Why hire people to perform repetitive tasks when you can automate the work with tools?
Every business has limited resources. Scaling a business often requires freeing up time to do other essential activities.
Developing an automated sales funnel can save you time in many ways. For instance:
- Paid ads drive new traffic to your business, meaning less time spent actively finding new leads.
- Content helps build trust with your customers 24/7.
- Automated sales processes for your deal pipeline, email follow-ups, and more can improve your sales cadence, qualify leads, and save a ton of time.
- Webinars can run on auto-pilot and convert sales without needing to hop on a sales call.
- Targeted onboarding emails guide new users (Samdock saved 7 hours per new customer and 17 team members with Encharge.
“We were spending around 3-5 hours in sales and another 2-4 hours in customer success to acquire each new customer. Now we need less than an hour in sales and another hour in CS. Encharge is an important part of that.”Dennis Sturm, Marketing manager at Samdock
Increase sales by responding to potential customers fast
With automation, your leads don’t have to wait hours or even days until they receive an email from you. Automated messages are sent at the right time when a user is most likely to reply and interact with you. This increases the chance of converting a lead into a customer and, most importantly, creates a smooth experience with your product or service.
“A study from MIT/InsideSales.com shows that 35% to 50% of sales go to the business that responds first. When you fill out a contact form, you’re ready to engage. Are you still in that mindset an hour, a day, or a week from now? Of course, not.”Impact of Lead Response Time on Sales
Gain clarity on what activities drive sales
Numbers don’t lie. If your Facebook Ads are exponentially outperforming other marketing channels, you can double down on what’s working.
The Pareto Principle states, “20% of your efforts drive 80% of the results.”
Sales funnels allow you to find the 20% of inputs that generate most of the results. Marketing analytics tools like Encharge will give you analytics based on your marketing campaign. Maybe you find that 20% of the customers give you 80% of the revenue. Or 20% of your content leads to 80% of the lead opt-ins.
The idea is to define your metrics and track the critical events to determine whether a person has moved down the funnel.
The stages of a sales funnel
Understanding the psychology of the buyer and their journey will allow you to craft your offer and personalize your message to what they’re looking for.
The famous AIDA model created by E. St. Elmo Lewis breaks the customer journey into these four stages:
- Awareness: When a prospect becomes aware of your business
- Interest: The prospect is interested in what you have to offer
- Desire: The prospect believes your product or service is a good fit for them.
- Action: The prospect takes action to become a customer
The funnel starts widest at the top and becomes increasingly narrow at the bottom.
At the top, prospects are being introduced to your brand. Each stage disqualifies bad fit prospects and guides the qualified leads to the bottom of the funnel. Automation can be implemented at every step of the funnel.
Top of the Funnel – Awareness
At the beginning of a customer’s journey, a person may face a specific problem. The customer discovers your business through a Google search or advertisement.
They will be looking for solutions to their problem.
In this stage, people are just becoming aware of the problem and are curious about why the problem is occurring.
- A prospect for a personal trainer might ask, “Why am I gaining weight?”
- A lead for an outsourced HR firm might ask, “Why do I struggle to retain employees?”
- A prospective customer for an electricity provider may ask, “Why is my electricity bill so high?”
Your job is to educate them on the problem and engage them on how they could solve it. Consider producing content that drives awareness of the problem, such as “5 fat-loss mistakes” or “7 reasons why your best employees quit.”
Middle of the Funnel – Interest
In this stage, the prospect realizes how their problem affects their life or business. Furthermore, they want to know solutions that can fix their issues.
Questions that the prospect might ask are:
- How can I lose weight?
- How can I retain and nurture talent in my company?
- How can I reduce my electricity bill?
In-depth guides, how-to articles, and other thoughtful pieces perform best in the middle of the funnel.
Bottom of the Funnel – Desire and Action
At the bottom of the funnel, your prospect now understands the problem and the type of solution they need. Now they will decide who to buy from. By now, your customer has trust in your expertise.
You’ve painted the picture that the problem is a big deal and solving it is urgent. Additionally, you’ve positioned your product or service as the solution.
Prospects in this stage may ask:
- Does Business A offer a better solution than Business B?
- Who has the best warranty?
- Which business is more affordable?
Reinforce their trust in you by giving them everything they need to make a decision. Good content pieces could be a product trial, live demos, customer testimonials, side-by-side product, and feature analysis.
9 steps to building an Automated Sales Funnel
1. Conduct market research
Before you run off to build out your funnel, take some time to plan out who you’re targeting and what solutions they’re looking for.
Without product-market fit, the funnel won’t work.
“Approach each customer with the idea of helping them solve a problem or achieve a goal, not of selling a product or service.”
Market research can help you learn about:
- Demand: Is there a strong desire for your product or service?
- Market size: How many people are interested in your offer?
- Location: What markets would be ideal for your product or service?
- Pricing: What do people usually pay for your type of offering?
- Economic indicators: Can your ideal customers afford your offer?
- Market saturation: How competitive is your industry?
There are two forms of research: Primary and Secondary research. Primary is when you collect the information with your own resources, and secondary research uses public information.
There are endless ways you can do research. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
- Find out what problem your customer faces
- Find out what solutions people go to and see how you can make your offer better
- Determine how your competitors generate traffic
The data you gather will help you craft your messaging and offer that speaks to your audience’s deepest fears and desires.
2. Create a unique offer
By crafting the right offer and matching it with the right audience, you can improve the effectiveness of your funnel. You’ll be bringing in more qualified leads into the funnel and have a higher conversion rate.
For example, Planet Fitness is a gym that targets occasional or casual gym members who find traditional gyms to be intimidating. They’ve created a unique value proposition that differentiates them from other businesses.
A unique value proposition defines a brand’s value to the customers.
Create your unique value proposition by asking yourself:
- What can I offer that is better or different than what’s currently offered in the market?
- How can I better appeal to this particular segment of the market?
- What strengths do I have that separate our business from others?
Most business owners think on a surface level, such as making their product or service cheaper than others. By thinking deeper, you can find a more profound solution.
Basecamp combines multiple services into one. They provide an all-in-one platform that can perform many functions such as real-time chat, to-do lists, scheduling, file storage, and more. Their primary competitors only offer one of those services.
Brainstorm ways to make your offer better than your competitors to give your business an edge. Once you’ve crafted an offer and know your unique value proposition, you’re ready to capture leads!
3. Generate traffic through organic or paid channels
Consumers are 131% more likely to purchase from a business once they consume educational content in the early stages of the funnel. Educational content builds trust and brand infinity.
Consumers will have a sense of reciprocity and will be more compelled to build their relationship with you by purchasing what you have to offer. Consider producing content such as solution-oriented articles, how-to videos, and research reports.
The key is to have a call to action in your organic content. We recommend having lead-capture or opt-in forms in your content. Like this one:
This gives your audience a chance to learn more and gain something of value through a lead magnet. Here are examples of excellent content marketing:
Copyblogger is the go-to source for business owners, writers, and marketers looking to improve their content marketing. Their blog posts teach people to create killer content online that attracts prospects. Their blog offers a wealth of knowledge to turn your business into a content marketing machine.
Blogs aren’t the only channel for content. Many people like to consume content through audio. Whether in a podcast in the morning commute or while walking, podcasts are a great way to learn new strategies or hear success stories.
Social Media Examiner uploads weekly podcast episodes to give you proven social media strategies to grow your following and get more customers.
Neil Patel is the king of SEO. His YouTube videos break down SEO in an easy-to-understand manner. He provides tools to improve your website’s search rankings.
As a business owner, you’ll have to decide whether to focus on one channel to maximize traffic or distribute your content across multiple platforms to appeal to a broader audience.
When blogging, you want to create a content hub to allow search engines to index those articles for improved rankings properly. In addition, it helps visitors to search for content based on categories.
Encharge uses content hubs and groups different topics to help customers build their marketing automation systems.
To supplement your organic traffic, you can use paid traffic or ads to generate more leads or even convert them.
You want to target ads at all stages of the funnel.
First, you want to drive brand awareness with your ads. At the top of the funnel, the audience hasn’t yet seen or heard about you.
Your paid ads should capture the audience’s attention by relating to the audience’s problem. This develops a common interest and allows you to position yourself as an authority.
We recommend using ads to drive leads into your content or lead magnet, and then let your funnel convert those leads. Trying to sell directly to cold traffic is difficult, and the conversion rates are low.
AdEspresso is a tool that helps businesses manage, analyze, and learn how to improve their Facebook ad campaigns. Instead of selling their tool, they didn’t mention it all in the ad.
AdEspresso is driving awareness of its brand by helping its target audience improve their Facebook ads. The ad speaks directly to people who struggle with Facebook Ads and want to improve them.
That being said, ads should also be used at the bottom of the funnel. You can use Encharge or another marketing automation platform to add trial users automatically, people who have booked a demo call, or other bottom-of-the-funnel leads to your Facebook ad audiences. Providing personalized retargeting ads could be the last push a lead needs to convert.
4. Offer a lead magnet
A lead magnet is when you give something of value to a person in exchange for their contact information. When customers consent to provide their contact information, they allow you to further engage with them.
Once you’ve received their contact information, your job is to nurture the lead until they become a paying customer.
Your lead magnet should have the following characteristics:
- Provides a quick win.
- Solves a real problem.
- Instantly accessible.
- Easily digestible.
- Demonstrates your expertise.
But it’s best to give a different lead magnet based on where the prospect is in the funnel. Here are some lead magnet ideas based on the top, middle, and bottom parts of the funnel:
Top of the funnel:
For instance, OptinMonster offers an e-book on “12 proven ways to convert more visitors into subscribers.” They strategically have placed the opt-in form at the bottom of their blog post related to conversions.
The key takeaway is to create multiple lead magnets, where each lead magnet is directly related to the content piece or audience.
Middle of the funnel:
- Case study
- Email course
- Video training
Real-world case studies give confidence to readers, knowing they could potentially achieve a similar result. Encharge shares how Landbot used the marketing automation software to save time while scaling up their business. This can be valuable for other companies looking to scale faster.
Bottom of the funnel:
- Free consultation call
- Live demo
- Free trial
- Comparison chart
When creating lead magnets, clearly state who will benefit from it. Let’s say you run a marketing business designed for freelance videographers and photographers.
At the top of the funnel, you may have sent out an eBook about how to book more wedding clients, which appeals to both groups. But you can increase your conversion by segmenting your leads.
In the middle of the funnel, you can offer two lead magnets:
- A case study sharing how you’ve helped a videographer boost their sales by 363%
- An email course on how to get photographers their first clients
5. Build your email marketing automation system
Once you’ve captured your prospect’s email address, it’s time to nurture your lead. Lead nurturing is the journey of developing a solid connection and guiding them through the sales funnel.
Email marketing helps nurture leads because you are sending mini-campaigns that add value to your prospect, such as:
- Educating them about the problem and providing solutions
- Introducing your offer and why your offer is better than your competitors
- Sharing customer testimonials
- Giving industry news or insights
- Send updates about your business
There are hundreds of strategies, templates, and email sequences that you can use to take your warm prospect and turn them into a paying customer.
Here’s a template you can follow to create your first email sequence. Let’s say you offer B2B sales training.
- Email 1: Lead magnet and confirm subscription email – Call Call Script ebook lead magnet
- Email 2: Value email: “5 cold call tips for engaging your dream clients”
- Email 3: Value email: “how to overcome objections.”
- Email 4: Value email: “how to double your sales this month.”
- Email 5: Product-focused – “the only sales training you need.”
- Email 6: Case-study – “how Company A increased sales by 391% in 31 days.”
- Email 7: Re-engagement – “doors closing – last chance to claim our sales training.”
We recommend studying automated email examples to equip yourself with ideas on how you can nurture and sell your products.
Automated email marketing flows
In most cases, having one generic email campaign blasted to your leads won’t work. Customers are too smart and need to be engaged in a way that addresses their specific concerns.
Email marketing flows let you create campaigns based on triggers and lead segmentation.
A trigger is when a person performs an action such as clicking on a link or replying to an email.
Lead segmentation groups your audience into different categories and (optionally) scores them based on their interest.
In the example below, you can see a flow designed to send targeted emails based on the prospect’s job role.
Depending on a person’s job title, they will use Encharge for different purposes. Thus, it’s necessary to direct a targeted campaign to address their needs and paint a picture of how the software may benefit them specifically.
6. Use persuasion to build a successful sales funnel
Robert Cialdini created the 6 principles of persuasion that many expert marketers use in their sales funnels. Implementing persuasion tactics can improve the conversion of your funnel.
- Social proof
Here are ways to implement these persuasion principles into your sales funnel.
Reciprocity: Giving something of perceived high value for free, like a lead magnet, can make a customer feel generous and make a purchase.
Commitment/consistency: Publishing content consistently demonstrates that you’re committed to helping your audience.
“People will do as much as possible to appear consistent about their words and actions.”
Social proof: Share testimonials or case studies about how a prospect in a similar position obtained a specific result.
Authority: 81% of consumers said that they need to be able to trust the brand to buy from them.
Showcase the results you have achieved or partnerships obtained with successful brands. For instance, if you’ve been featured in Forbes, you can mention it.
Or perhaps, if you don’t have authority in your niche yet, you can interview or speak about other successful companies. The consumer will view you as an expert if you prove your results or help them solve their problems.
Liking: Share personal stories or showcase your brand personality.
If you’re light-hearted, personable, and witty, the audience can get to know the person behind the brand!
Scarcity: Provide real scarcity for your clients. Set a deadline to purchase or limit the number of clients that get accepted. Scarcity causes people to act now rather than wait.
Emails conveying a sense of urgency have 14% higher click-to-open rates, 59% higher transaction-to-click rates, and twice as high transaction rates.
7. Upsell or Cross-sell
Most businesses focus on customer acquisition rather than increasing each customer’s lifetime value. It’s 5 to 25 times harder to find a new customer than to retain your current customers. Instead, you can do more with less by increasing sales over time or boosting the average order size.
When selling your product or service, consider what other offers you can make that can sweeten the pot for the customer.
In Dot Com Secrets, Russell Brunson coined a popular concept called the “value ladder.” The value ladder is the steps that customers take to buy more products and services.
For instance, most dental patients come in for their bi-annual teeth check-ups and teeth cleaning. The dentist may offer whitening services, retainers, or cosmetic procedures during the cleaning.
As the customer moves up the ladder, the value and price increase.
Any business can apply the Value Ladder to their existing offerings. For instance, an SEO agency might offer the following:
- First step: Free quiz
- Second step: SEO audit (low-ticket offer)
- Third step: SEO-consulting
- Fourth step: Done-for-you SEO services
We recommend implementing cross-selling and upselling to increase the customer lifetime value.
Cross-selling is selling something related to what they’ve already purchased. For instance, if you’re a web designer, you can offer to build out a live chat box for clients in addition to designing their website.
Upselling is when you sell an existing customer an upgraded product or service from their original purchase. Many software companies will offer a premium or pro version of their software as an upsell.
8. Re-engage prospects
Many customers won’t buy immediately. Therefore, you should always look to continue the relationship. Retargeting campaigns remind your leads of your products or services once they’ve passed up the opportunity to purchase from you.
These campaigns could be done through Facebook Ads, Google Ads, Instagram Ads, YouTube Ads, and any other advertising platform. For instance, you can create retargeting Facebook ads directed to people who have gone through your email sequence but didn’t make a purchase.
Facebook lets you upload email contacts, but you don’t have to do this manually. With Encharge Facebook Ads integration, you can automatically add contacts to specific audiences. Then, Facebook will match the emails with their database of Facebook users.
HubSpot masterfully executed this retargeting ad by addressing the concerns of its prospects. Some prospects may be concerned that the CRM tool takes a long time to set up. However, HubSpot quells these concerns and tells them they will save up to 124 hours per year.
Since their audience already knows HubSpot and what they do, they didn’t need to re-introduce themselves in the ad. Instead, they kept it short, sweet, and simple.
9. Monitor and improve your sales funnel
68% of companies do not measure their sales funnels. Measuring key metrics at each stage allows you to pinpoint weak areas that could be preventing or slowing down sales.
Some key metrics you can look at are:
- Conversion rate
- Acquisition costs
- Customer lifetime value:
- Total sales
- Cycle time
- Average deal size
Here are ways to evaluate the performance of your funnel:
A/B testing: A/B testing is when you experiment with two elements to find which one produces the better result. Consider experimenting with
- Ad copy
- Subject lines
- Lead magnets, etc.
Heat maps: Some website data software track your website visitors and visually demonstrates the “hot” and “cold” areas of your site. Areas that receive the most attention are red and the least attention in blue. Everything in between will be a spectrum of multiple colors.
If you notice there is little attention on the bottom of the page, you may want to put your call to action on the top of the page to help boost conversions.
Track traffic and conversion statistics with Google Analytics: Google Analytics allows you to track various goals such as
- Destination goals
- Event goals
- Duration goals
- Pages or screens per session
For example, if a customer reaches a “Thank You” page, that means you’ve converted a customer into a sale.
You can track all kinds of stats, such as bounce rate, page views, number of users, etc.
Track email open and click-through rates: Nurturing leads is integral to a successful funnel. Doing so in a non-spammy way while providing real value will help guide your prospects from leads to happy customers.
Encharge offers email metrics on all campaigns and flows so that you gain clarity on how well your email automation is performing. If you’re receiving low-open rates, it’s likely that your subject lines can be improved, and your lead magnet or content isn’t strong enough.
However, if you’re receiving high open rates but low click-through rates, your email likely isn’t engaging enough. Or perhaps you may want to segment your email users so that your flows are explicitly aimed at the right audience.
3 crazy-converting sales funnel examples
You now have learned the steps to build an automated sales funnel. Take a look at these three successful sales funnel examples.
Basecamp is an all-in-one project management software that gets people into their funnel with a 30-day free trial. Free trials get prospects to use the product, and once they like it, they’ll be much happier to buy from you without objection.
Why we like their funnel:
- Demonstrates social proof by mentioning “2,967 companies signed up in the last week alone.”
- A free 30-day trial without taking a person’s credit card information is a no-obligation method to attract people into the funnel.
- Their landing page describes why they’re better than their competition.
LawRank is an SEO firm specializing in helping law firms rank on search engines. By branding themselves precisely in the legal niche, they immediately become of higher value to their prospects.
A legal firm would hire a specialized law firm SEO agency rather than a general marketing company. A specialized agency can relate to the problems that legal offices face and provide relevant solutions.
What we like:
- Brands themselves as a specialist for legal firms
- Provides client testimonials and awards received for social proof
- Offers a consultation call. Calls can be a great place to sell high-ticket services. That’s because humans can build a strong connection and handle objections much more successfully when there’s a live contact.
OptinMonster is a conversion software toolkit that helps website owners convert their traffic. They use many conversion tactics to engage prospects, such as exit-intent opt-in pop-ups and many forms of lead magnets.
What we like:
- Their software is a low-ticket offer that sells between $9 to $49/month, which allows them to turn cold traffic into paying customers fast.
- Provides bonuses like their OptinMonster University and Done-For-You Campaign Setup. These bonuses over-deliver on the front end to motivate visitors to purchase.
- Offer a 14-day money-back guarantee.
There are plenty of examples you can learn from.
We encourage you to study successful websites and subscribe to their opt-in forms to get into their sales funnels. From there, you can spy on their email campaigns and sales tactics so that you can implement some ideas into your own funnel.
Your turn — build your automated sales funnel and let it work for you
An automated sales funnel can save your business hundreds of hours and help you convert more leads into customers.
Don’t wait to implement these steps. Get the ball rolling and start acquiring more customers.
Sign up for a free 14-day trial with Encharge and create email marketing automation campaigns to nurture leads in your sales funnel.