• The Truth About Conversion Funnel Optimization

    how to optimize your conversion funnel

    Homeowners will tell you how useful funnels are for making sure all the gasoline gets into their lawnmowers, instead of all over them.

    And how many scientists are endlessly grateful for the funnel that ensures every drop of their new revolutionary compound gets where it’s supposed to go and doesn’t spill and dissolve the entire lab.

    Funnels are one of those tools that are so very useful that we take them for granted. Imagine the incredible frustration for suburbanites and scientists if their funnels were full of holes – and only about 3% of the materials they poured into the top actually made it all the way through.

    Conversion Funnel Optimization

    That last scenario seems unimaginable. Who would use a funnel that didn’t really work? Hands up if you would ever use a funnel that lost 97% of what you put into it.

    If you’re a conversion-focused marketer, you can hold your hand high. The “conversion funnels” that we all use (yes, you use conversion funnels) deliver only 3% of the prospects we pour into them.

    And that abysmal statistic is why you must optimize your conversion funnel(s).

    What is a Conversion Funnel?

    Before we look at optimization, let’s clarify just what we mean by “conversion funnel”. Wikipedia describes it as “a technical term used in e-commerce operations to describe the track a consumer takes through an internet advertising or search system, navigating an e-commerce website and finally converting to a sale.”

    FigPii Heatmaps

    Saad Kamal offers an excellent basic graphic representation of a conversion funnel, using one of the oldest marketing models: AIDA, or Awareness, Interest, Desire and Action.

    AIDA conversion funnel

    The graphic shows that your digital marketing reaches many people – creating Awareness of your product or company. It manages to capture the Interest of some of them. Even fewer develop a Desire for your offer. And only a small percentage of the original number of people you managed to reach at the Awareness level actually take Action, by either becoming a lead or a sale.

    Other funnel graphics show your online customer’s journey from different points of view.

    InteractiveMarketingInc.com shows us a funnel that outlines the percentages of customers who experience each stage of the journey, from arriving on your site to making a purchase.

    Conversion funnel showing percentages of visitors who pass each point in the funnel.

    A conversion funnel from Clickz.com shows the online marketing tools that are in play at each step of the conversion path. It’s important to note the focus this funnel places on the steps following the call-to-action. For many, getting the customer to take the CTA is the end goal; the conversion. But, with ecommerce shopping cart abandonment rates well over 60%, the stages that follow your “Buy Now” or “Register Today” buttons are just as guilty of losing customers as those that come before.

    conversion funnel showing the steps in the conversion path

    Our original lawnmower and science lab metaphors aren’t really a fair representation of a conversion funnel. And neither are most of the funnel graphics we use. When we funnel customers to our conversion goal, we aren’t literally using a funnel. We’re actually using the verb tense of “funnel”, which means, according to Dictionary.com, “to concentrate, channel or focus”.

    But, even the verb imagery doesn’t give us a clear picture of what happens to our customers in the conversion funnel. Just like you wouldn’t use an actual funnel that delivered 97% of your lawnmower’s gasoline to the ground, you would never contribute to a charity that funneled only 3% of the funds you donated to the cause you support.

    A graphic from UK’s Coast Digital gives us a better idea than most about what actually happens through an online conversion funnel. In addition to showing the stages of the funnel, it shows us where leaks happen and how big those leaks can be. In so doing, it tells us where we can begin to optimize.

    conversion funnel showing where customers are lost

    A previous post on the Invesp blog, “Optimizing Your Sales Funnel into a Marketing Funnel”, gives us what is perhaps the clearest image of your customers’ online conversion path. Not only does it show the holes in the funnel, but it highlights why they are there: the failure to engage your customer.

    new sales funnel

    Customer Engagement and Optimizing Your Conversion Funnel

    The Invesp blog post and graphic show us that, compared to traditional sales funnels, more emphasis must be placed on engaging your online customers because of the speed at which they could be sucked out of the funnel by any number of distractions, not the least of which is your competitor’s offer.

    If customer engagement is key to keeping your prospects on the path to conversion, then you must make sure your conversion funnel gives your customer what she seeks at every step of the way.

    The Conversion Funnel of Your Customer’s Mind

    FigPii Heatmaps

    To increase engagement, optimizing your funnel means mapping out your customer’s cognitive progression, as opposed to the literal path they take through your digital marketing.

    Let’s use the basic AIDA marketing model to show what we mean:

    1. Awareness – Hopefully your digital marketing creates latent awareness in a large portion of your target market. But the opportunity to engage them doesn’t present itself until they have a need or a question. In other words, before she engages any company online, your customer seeks a resolution to a perceived need or want. Among other things, your messages at the awareness stage should give answers and solutions to your customers’ specific questions or problems.
    2. Interest – It’s easy for anyone to find lots of web messages that appeal to them. But what tweaks your interest? Your customers don’t develop an interest in you because your offer is exactly the same as your competition’s. They are actually looking for a difference. The thing that makes you different is what will generate the most interest.That’s why it’s so important to develop and convey your unique selling proposition.
    3. Desire – If you are to convince the customer that she wants, or desires, your product, you must heighten the interest you’ve developed by appealing to her particular personality. In other words, not just solve her problem and set yourself apart, but create interest that is specific to the individual customer; that strikes an emotional chord with her.It will grab an analytical person’s attention if you highlight the data that supports your offer. A spontaneous person will want to see a call-to-action at every opportunity.
    4. Action – No action happens without a cause or trigger. Regardless of how many answers and solutions you give; how unique you are; or how well you engage your customer’s personality, it’s a mistake to think that is all you need to get them to take action.It’s the oldest rule of selling: you must ask for (trigger) the sale. Whether you show social proof, create urgency, offer a discount, or use any other trigger, it will help improve your conversion rates.

    In a way, optimizing your conversion funnel is the most worthy pursuit of your online marketing. It puts the focus on your customers, which, in turn, gets you to optimize every other part of your marketing.


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