Danielle Devereux is an Austin, TX based full-stack marketing consultant with over 10 years experience in digital media.
Danielle brings creative vision, strategic thinking and lean execution to projects for small businesses & start-ups all over the world.
Measuring where you've been, crafting strategy and executing the steps to take your business to "the next level."
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You’ve worked hard to reach your launch day, you are ready to put your assumptions to the test and determine if you have achieved product/market fit. The very last thing you need is a leaky conversion funnel undermining all of your efforts. Every website is different of course, but many experience similar causes for those leaks occurring.
It’s important to be able to identify leakage at the top, the middle and the very bottom of your conversion funnel. Once the locations of your leaks have been identified, you will then need to take action to plug them. It is likely to take some tweaking and landing page experimentation to get it just right.
But first, how do we identify leaks…?
Start With Funnel Visualization
You can’t travel from one place to another, without having an idea of where you currently are and where you ultimately want to end up. Similarly, you can’t fix your conversion funnel if you don’t know where the leaks are. Identifying those leaks can be achieved with conversion funnel analysis within Google Analytics. If you have racked up a few months worth of data, you will be able to begin to draw some insight as to how visitors are interacting with your content and/or product.
Start in Google Analytics. Note: You need to have Goals enabled to see this view! If you haven’t set it up, this video from Kissmetrics will help get you started. It will still benefit you to read on and learn how to identify tactics for acquisition, retention, and advocacy.
In your sidebar menu click the >Conversions section. Then, select >Goals and finally >Funnel Visualization.
Here you will see a visualized 3-step conversion funnel:
In this example, the funnel leaking heavily at all stages. There’s definitely room for improvement. But where do we start?
For the best ROI on our efforts, we should look to address the biggest leaks first. In our example, that is the homepage as only 2.93% of people are proceeding to ‘Why Join’.
When identifying your leaks, consider the following points:
Start with the biggest, costliest leaks and your pages that enjoy the highest levels of traffic. Use Google Analytics reports to help you with this.
Run tests for a month at the very least.
Never stop monitoring results and testing. There is always scope for further improvement. Why not aim to run at least 100 tests this year?
It is important to really dig deep to uncover what is happening as people visit your site. How do you do this? I will show you some specific tactics that will help to plug leaks at different stages of your conversion funnel.
Acquisition Tactics At The Top Of the Funnel (TOFU)
Do you remember my marketing funnel illustration? If you don’t remember it or, perhaps, you’ve never seen it then now is a great time to check it out before you continue reading! It illustrates specific strategic goals and content types representing each stage of the funnel.
Generating awareness is the very first step in attracting potential customers. If your website traffic is low, you need to focus on lead generation. Without consistent levels of traffic, it becomes much more difficult to identify leaks and optimize your sales funnel.
Lead generation doesn’t have to be complicated. You could try:
1. Guest Blogging To Boost Exposure
Guest blogging has come a long way and is still a great strategy to drive targeted traffic, increase exposure, and acquire new customers.
Guest blogging was the secret tactic used by Leo Widrich (co-founder of Buffer) that helped Buffer experience explosive business growth. The business leapfrogged from 0-100,000customers within 9 months, and a large part of this success was due to Leo’s guest blogging.
Guest blogging is hard work and you may find that your first few posts don’t bring you the flow of traffic you need to adequately fill the top of your funnel. However, a consistent approach combined with a solid system will reap the best results.
Start in Google and experiment using your keywords or industry in conjunction with search operators such as “write for us,” and “guest post” etc.
Create a database of sites that you would like to pitch to. Keep track of editorial email addresses and social profiles along with outreach and follow up stats. I have created a handy template to get you started with outreach. Download it here.
Over time, you will enhance your credibility, connect with other people in your niche, and increase the volume of people that successfully move through to the middle of your funnel.
2. Use Direct Mail To Cut Through Online Noise
Direct mail is very much underutilized, and it can really help you to stand out to your potential leads. Few businesses will take this extra step to attract potential customers so, when you do, you will be given a leg up on the competition.
One tactic that could enhance your outreach is to get creative and attach a physical object to your direct mail. By sending physical mail with an eye-catching attachment, you will have a greater chance of being remembered. Unfortunately, it can be too easy for email recipients to click delete.
Ash Ambirge, founder of The Middle Finger Project, had trouble securing leads for a company she worked for. Her cold emails just weren’t working, and she was constantly getting slapped by rejection.
Faced with these disappointments, Ash took a brilliantly creative approach.
Ash marched over to a roofing supply company and grabbed 30 roofing shingles. She then mailed one roofing shingle to each of the 30 home building companies she wanted to work with. Each shingle was inscribed with “My Company + Your Company = sales through the roof.”
The results of this were incredible: Ash enjoyed a response rate of over 90%, and successfully struck deals with most of her leads.
SEO has changed significantly since the era of spun articles and directory links. However, whilst tactics may have changed, the ultimate goal remains the same. You should aim to build quality backlinks to your content, and you also want your content to rank for meaningful keywords.
There are common misconceptions that content marketing for SEO won’t work in certain niches, and that B2B companies are unable to create content an audience will share. Fortunately these are misconceptions and you should not be deterred.
Brian Dean from backlinko.com has provided some great SEO tactics that we can all try, one of which is his “skyscraper technique“. Brian outlines this in three simple steps:
- Find a piece of content that already enjoys a lot of backlinks.
- Create something better.
- Alert all the sites that link to the old content that you’ve come up with a “new and improved version.”
Below is a method for creating the kind of content you can use when executing the skyscraper technique.
WASP Method of White Hat SEO
Write content that will appeal to influencers in your industry, journalists and bloggers who may like to promote your content. You should know who you will promote to before you create, so you can include triggers that will encourage them to share and link. Ensure the content will be better in some way than the top content that already exists in this niche.
Add share triggers – Content is far more likely to succeed if people share and link to it, and it can fail if they won’t. Compel people to share and link to your content by adding triggers. For example, content length is considered to be an important share trigger. Experts recommend aiming for at least 1,500 words in order to maximize the likelihood of obtaining shares and, with those shares, better rankings.
Setup On-Page SEO
- Target keyword needs to be within the URL, but keep it short, Google prefers short URL’s!
- Front load keyword in your Title tag. The location makes a difference – put it closer to the beginning.
- Drop your target keyword in the first 100 words of the content you create. Google gives more weight to pages that include keywords closer to the top.
- Add outbound links to content. By doing so, Google will better understand your subject matter, and you have demonstrated that your page is a hub for high quality content on that topic.
- Add synonyms and closely related words to your content as this helps Google to more clearly understand your topic. Stuck for ideas? You can find suitable terms on the bottom of Google search results where you see “Searches Related to” Try using some of those!
Email people who may be interested in sharing your content. You have carefully created a piece of content that is better than what these influencers have already seen and linked to. If you reach out to these people and introduce them to your new and improved content, many of them will want to link to it.
I created an outreach Excel template that you can use to keep track of your efforts.
If you need the template in a different format please email me with your request. Check out the first tab that provides tips on how to execute the strategy.
4. Social Media
Social media can be a sure-fire way to generate leads and boost awareness. However, take care not to practice this in isolation. Your social media efforts should support your overarching marketing objectives.
Your customer support team can add significant value to your brand by making themselves available to customers on social media channels. Figure out customer needs, understand their pain points, and illustrate just how can you help solve their problems.
Being on Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat, and other networks may draw leads into the top of the funnel, but an additional benefit is that social media can help create a valuable sense of community around your brand and products.
Sprout Social, for example, were able to foster brand advocacy by continuing relationships with customers via social media:
Engage with your customers on social media in a non-salesy way to encourage them to keep using your product to help solve their problems. Your brand will have a wider reach and you will be able to repeatedly refuel your funnel through these conversations.
Using social media in this way can add exceptional value to your business and is a useful tool to patch up the top of your funnel. Check out Courtney Seiter’s complete guide to using social media for customer service on the Buffer blog.
Activation Tactics For The Middle Of The Funnel (MOFU)
The middle of the funnel is where you look to activate leads. This is the process of convincing leads and customers to do something you want them to do. This could be anything from sharing their email address with you to filling out a form.
Activating users is arguably the most important part of the funnel. If you’re leaking heavily in the middle of the funnel, you should give it some serious focus. The following are great examples of how to successfully activate leads.
1. Email + Referrals: A Winning Reward-Based Strategy
In a case study by MarketingSherpa, Sony used a reward-based strategy to get customers to embrace their “Sony Credit Card.”
Sony could have simply and politely asked customers to “check out” the card in a blast to their entire email list, but they made a smarter choice to segment their audience carefully instead.
In emails used for the campaign, Sony led by informing that “the cardholder could receive up to $250 in rewards and $100 credit for any friend referred”, with this initial email being sent only to a list of known Influencers on the Sony customer base.
This approach rewarded friends of those influencers and provided Sony with an amazing 300% conversion boost and 2.8 times more people using their card.
Startups can accelerate early growth by rewarding customers in the same way as big name players.
Dropbox is worth billions of dollars despite spending very little on advertising. During their early days, referrals increased Dropbox signups by 60%. Dropbox makes it really easy for users to tell others about the product and offers them incentives to do so. For example, when one person who has Dropbox refers someone else, they both get a 500MB increase in storage. Everyone is a winner!
Consider whether you can offer a discounted price when a user refers a friend? Perhaps you are able to gift a free extra feature or two…
Offer people something positive to gain from bringing you new business, and many will do so!
2. Tweak CTA’s For Higher Conversions
Your Call To Action (CTA) is where all that effort put into copy, design, and branding can either nudge prospects toward completing your desired action or make them disappear into the ether.
When looking to plug leaks in the middle of your sales funnel, the CTA is a powerful element to tweak and test.
Many landing pages only need a single CTA. If people are supplied with too many competing options, some will become distracted and may wander off.
In this CTA study from Copyblogger, there were no big changes to the CTAs. The only alterations made were small tweaks in wording. These tweaks resulted in an 81% conversion boost with variation B (the green button), and a 95% conversion boost with variation C (the orange button).
To strengthen your CTA, don’t ignore small things and:
- Use powerful language – avoid the fluff.
- Stick to a single call-to-action.
- Make your button prominent.
- Experiment with images and directional cues.
Be sure to prioritize relevance and value over and above everything else. The more relevant your CTA is, and the more value it indicates will be provided to your visitor, the higher your conversions will be.
3. Give Your Copy A Makeover
Good copy will flow smoothly when read. Your content should not create friction with your users, and it should eliminate any resistance they may have to completing tasks on your site.
Your copy should illustrate to your customers just how you will fulfil their needs, and it should help overcome any objections they may have in buying from you. Conversely, bad copy on your site will create obstructions and impedes progress.
Your goal with copy is to resonate with your audience, spark their emotions and capture their interest. Ultimately it should keep people on your pages for longer.
An interesting case study showing the power of tweaking copy comes from writer Bamidele Onibalusi.
He switched the headline of his Hire Me page from “Hire me” to “Let Me Help You Get Results by Writing Quality Content and Guest Posts for You” which skyrocketed his conversions by an astounding 200%.
The initial headline had a vague, boring “pitchy” feel. The revision really drilled down into what many of Bamidele’s visitors wanted, and left them with little option other than to consider how Bamidele’s services would make his/her life better.
That’s why it converted 200% better.
Improving your copy is easier said than done. Below are quick tips to whip bad copy into shape:
- Use the power of the active voice to create hard-hitting sentences.
- Be specific about what you can give, just like the example above.
- Use simple words to prevent confusing your prospects.
- Replace limp, filler adjectives with muscular verbs for added clarity.
4. Write Compelling Case Studies
Case studies are great mid-funnel incentives that educate and inform your users and help to achieve their trust in your product. Educating your audience with real life lessons improves your selling power. Case Studies also show leads how you’ve helped other customers overcome similar problems to their own.
Benefits of case studies:
- They carve out your authority, by showing your audience that you really know your stuff.
- They serve as powerful promotional tools for your business.
- They act as great testimonials.
- They motivate your audience and show just what is possible.
- They naturally tend to get more traffic, views and attention because of their depth and length.
Case studies are used by all types of businesses. You don’t need to be a Fortune 500 to create a compelling case study – they are very effective when used by startups and smaller companies alike.
Use case studies that close with confidence. Write about someone who your customers will be able to relate to and:
- Find the right project to profile.
- Include solid facts, research, figures and data.
- Tell a compelling story.
- End with a strong call to action.
Retaining/Recovery Tactics For The Bottom Of The Funnel (BOFU)
Leads at the bottom of the funnel are low hanging fruit in comparison to leads at other stages, as there is already a clear expression of interest in you. If you can retain leads here you increase the lifetime value of that customer, you can progress them to become a repeat buyer (if you are in e-commerce), and you can reduce your churn. Plugging up the leaks at this stage will be about closing and recovering visitors that left without completing what they had started.
1. Setup Cart-Abandonment Recovery Measures
Did you know the average online cart abandonment rate is 68.6%? This represents significant potential custom that could be lost if you simply do not follow up with customers who abandon their cart.
By using remarketing as well as dynamic remarketing techniques, you can get in front of your old potential leads as they browse other network sites or use network apps.
Google remarketing involves showing past visitors an ad linking back to your site. This reminds and, hopefully, encourages them to come back and complete their transaction.
Dynamic remarketing levels up traditional remarketing by serving past visitors ads which shows them the very products they were looking at on your site when they left.
Additionally, you should also have cart abandonment emails in place. This tactic will focus on recapturing lost leads and will work wonders for plugging the very bottom of your sales funnel.
Some things to consider with your recovery & follow-up efforts:
- Focus on service. How can you convince the lead that you can help them?
- Use a drip email campaign to automate the follow-up process for you.
- Offer an incentive or discount to persuade them to come back and complete their purchase.
- Test, test and test agin! Test number of emails, schedules, copy, design and incentives.
2. Use Net Promoter Score (or NPS®)To Gain Quality Feedback
A NPS® survey asks the question — on a scale of 1-10, how likely a customer would be to recommend a product/service. Then – depending on the answer – customers are split into promoters, passives, and detractors, to give an overall NPS® score which reflects general customer loyalty
Loyalty is such an important metric of customer experience, and it is one that surprisingly few businesses take serious measures to monitor and improve.
Your company promoters and advocates will actively refer their friends and family to you, which can both lower acquisition costs and increase your revenue.
Researchers analyzed customer survey responses, and how they linked to a customer’s referral and repurchase behavior at 14 companies in six different industries. The results are a great read. If you want an in-depth look at the results of how the single most important loyalty question was determined i.e.. ‘how likely are you to recommend us..” check out this Whitepaper on the subject.
No time for that right now? The key takeaways are:
- A single loyalty question was enough to gauge customer purchase and referral patterns across many different industries.
- The “likelihood to recommend” question proved to be the first or second to correlate to actual customer behavior 80% of the time.
NPS surveys will give you a solid idea of your customer satisfaction levels. You will know what your customers both like and dislike, and you can then tailor your marketing tactics to match.
3. Community Building
It’s great to have a product everyone loves, but do you have a community of people who care about your existence and are passionate about your success? The fun thing about the times we live in is any organization – big or small, can try their luck at building a community.
Besides luck, it helps if you have some rules down before you embark on this. Community Roundtable has a great Handbook to help you get started, build, and grow your community.
They advise you to start small; create an effective plan and strategy and get support from others within your organization before you start, not after.
If you are eager to dive right into community building on a budget, some popular approaches have been:
- Facebook Groups
- LinkedIn Groups
- Slack Channels
- Hipchat Groups
These types of groups can prove to be an efficient way to bring together numbers of people with similar interests who can support and help one another.
There are also communities of people who are engaged with your brand on a much deeper level than just simply fulfilling a purchasing need. Smart brands can activate brand advocacy and increase customer loyalty by engaging with their communities in meaningful ways on a daily basis.
My next post will explore options for community building on a much deeper level, so stay tuned for that!
4. Customer Support
At the bottom of the funnel, customer support is an effective way to encourage your customers to become loyal, repeat customers.
For example, at Buffer, customer support is one of their most important values and a service they strive hard to improve upon every time.
Buffer understands that every interaction with a customer, whether initiated for good or bad reasons, is an absolute privilege. That a person has taken time out of their day to think about your company and get in touch is incredibly valuable and should be treated as such.
Building customer support into your funnel provides you with a real opportunity to have meaningful conversations with customers, help them with issues, and maybe even learn something about your own business you didn’t previously know.
Simply, customer support done right helps to secure the bottom of your funnel.
The Buffer Tone Guide shows just how much attention to detail can be given to the customer experience.
Another company renowned for their great customer support is Zappos, who often go to extreme lengths to make their customers have a WOW! experience. One example of this is when Zappos sent flowers to a woman who had to order a number of different pairs of shoes because her feet had been damaged by medical treatments.
We can’t all be like Zappos and send flowers to our customers, but we can all try to go that extra mile with each and every customer interaction, and make time for outstanding customer support in meaningful ways.
Fixing the leaks in your conversion funnel is one of the most important things you can do to help grow your business efficiently.
Properly tying TOFU, MOFU, and BOFU together is key to preventing a tiny trickle of leaks from growing into a tidal wave of lost sales.
Careful attention to your funnel will ensure that you have a system for attracting the right leads, meeting their pain points, nurturing their interests, and converting them into happy customers.
Juggling all the marketing elements is far from easy. You need to be prepared to analyze and test near-constantly in order to squeeze the maximum ROI out of your funnel.
It is also vital to pay regard to the uniqueness of your product and your audience. The great examples presented above are just that: examples. What works well for one company or brand, might not work for you. Having a thorough understanding of your audience, and a thorough understanding of where your funnel is leaking and why, will enable you to successfully patch those leaks and lead yourself down a pathway to increased sales.
I’m curious as to how you’ve identified and dealt with a leaking funnel. Leave your thoughts and questions in the comments below!