Sales is a game of stages. Having a process is a necessity if you want to build a successful business long-term. This process is called a sales funnel and in this article we are going to show you our free sales funnel template that generated $720K ARR.
When the lemlist growth team was formed, our core focus was on three pillars. Actionable content to grab attention, enjoyable product onboarding experience and major push to build a deep connection between the lemlist brand and lemlisters.
Our sales funnel lies on these pillars. Today, I'll talk about it in great detail and share all the secrets that helped us achieve some brilliant results. 👇
The most interesting topic would definitely be this exclusive insight into our simple sales funnel where I'll walk you through the things we did across all stages of the funnel.
You'll also discover a bunch of kickass examples from companies operating in different industries that simply crushed it.
Don't worry, we'll cover the basics too...
I'm not much of a textbook nerd. I see no reason for being imprisoned by theory and suffer from information overload.
But, I have heard people speaking about "sales funnel" and "sales pipeline" as if they are the same. They're not. Here's the difference real quick...
Sales funnel represents the prospect's journey from their first contact with your company until the moment your product or service has been purchased.
Sales pipeline outlines all the steps of your sales process. Meaning, set of exact actions prospects needs to take to complete the purchase. Remember how you have these steps...
--> Contact Made > Meeting Booked > Meeting > Contract Offer > Deal Won
... that's a pipeline.
But the easiest way to think about it is... funnel feeds the pipeline. Without a funnel, sales teams wouldn't have leads to process in the first place.
We'll talk about pipelines and best practices in one of our next articles that are coming soon. Particularly after this conversation in the TSAC community...
It's not about having a funnel for sales and another for a marketing team. Any company has one funnel, but multiple departments have a different role to play in it.
It's bonkers to advocate for a one-size-fits-all model too. With so many industries, types of businesses and team sizes involved, there's no sense in copy/pasting someone else's sales funnel example.
There are similar patterns to leverage but at the end of the day, we ought to tailor it to our customers and their journey.
Top-of-the-funnel stage, or TOFU, is the playground for attention and discovery.
These three bullets translate into a pretty clear strategy. Make prospects discover the solution by being fully aware of the problem.
There are three types of weapons to choose from...
The trick is to find out what works best for your needs and don't do everything at once.
Middle-of-the-funnel, a.k.a. MOFU, is where things get interesting. Where we turn prospects into leads.
Keep in mind that they are now very well aware of the problem. Their questions are super specific, BS sensors are sharper and they have certain expectations you need to meet. This is the time where you deliver things in greater detail.
The armory changes a bit...
Finally, there's bottom-of-the-funnel stage or BOFU.
Imagine somebody standing on the edge of a swimming pool, hesitating to jump. As if they just need a little nudge.
In the sales world, your job is to identify your nudge. Here's your armory here...
The best BOFU tactics remove last-minute hesitations and give compelling reasons for prospects to say: "Yes, I want to buy this".
We now have our framework. We understand the sales funnel stages and different intent behind each. Let's go and create one sales funnel from scratch...
There's a strong reason why studying film is one the most frequent things athletes do before and after a game.
It allows them to break the plays down. Identify weaknesses. Realize where opportunities lie. Prepare better.
In the world of digital marketing, your film is research. Start broad...
Once the broad questions are taken care of, begin scratching beyond the surface to find out more. These questions will vary based on the industry you're in, but you will adjust easily...
Of course, you won't go buy stuff from all your competitors. You might do that for top players only. Imagine acting as a prospect on a demo call with your competitor... 😅
The goal is to understand why competitor X chose a specific approach and identify the ones generating successful outcomes.
Make no mistake, you're not copying anyone. You're emulating things that are driving results. The rest comes down to whether you're capable to outwork and outperform your competitors. Let me remind you... 👇
Answer the WHYs and the HOWs, and make sure you document the answers in a file you can always go back to.
Tools to help with research:
In this section, we're going to focus more on examples. We'll break down what worked for some businesses and try to get inspiration from each.
☑️ TOFU talk
For example, at lemlist, our TOFU strategy evolves around educating our audience through actionable articles and how-to guides. Articles are then distributed across our community, subscribers, personal LinkedIn profiles and company's Social Media accounts.
Social Media is probably most interesting to discuss as we distribute one same article more than once and in different forms. Memes and funny conversations have really been great for us, both in terms of engagement and traffic.
And having a laser focus on producing highly-actionable content based on work from the trenches brought us both attention and credibility.
General Electric famously leveraged podcasts to create a "Black Mirror" style show and tell a fictional story which was based on the actual work within the company. And that was in 2015. Check the reviews... ;)
“We hit on all marks. I’d like to say the reception didn’t surprise me, but it really did. I thought to get into the Top 20 would be incredible and I didn’t think we’d hit a million downloads.”
Andy Goldberg, GE’s Chief Creative Officer
You probably remember what kind of a viral impact Dollar Shave Club was able to create thanks to a super-entertaining video.
What they did is they took a relatively boring topic and turned it into an incredible piece of content that grabbed everyone's attention. To this day, this video has over 26 million views.
My favorite SEO tool goes by the name of Ahrefs. Their team managed to impress with an insanely creative tactic that generated huge buzz at an SEO conference. They decided to put metrics for the keyword "coffee" on coffee cups.
Considering this was an SEO gathering, everyone literally took a photo and shared it on Social Media. Attention hacking and brand boost in its coolest form.
A recent example is this dude, Tom Hunt, who caught the eyeballs of marketing people with his incredible guest posts. One that grabbed my attention involved a breakdown of how Ahrefs became what they are today.
Afterward, I got an email from Nathan Latka (imma big fan) that shared this case study on Clickfunnels. The author? Tom. He has a saying btw that every guest post is a networking opportunity. I imagine he got a tone of them. As deserved.
🤔 Ideas for you:
☝️ Mind the key takeaway:
As you see, there are many ways to do this, but the goal remains the same. Grab attention and provide value to people in an engaging way. TOFU is about stories...
☑️ MOFU talk
MOFU is the make-or-break moment. What you do next, in most cases, defines if somebody will give you their trust or not.
At lemlist, we're focused on adding people to our TSAC community. In it, we're trying to accomplish several things.
By listening to what they have to say, we get amazing feedback. It's simpler to invite them to a specific webinar or a closed beta.
Of course, we also send a tone of emails (newsletters + drip campaigns) and do some retargeting occasionally. All these efforts allow us to enjoy a great inflow of qualified leads in our free trial.
For Webris, an SEO agency from Miami, their CEO is non-stop on camera producing super relevant videos, as well as writing top-quality blog posts. Since Webris ranks high on Google, their TOFU content brings people on target pages.
Afterward, you start seeing specific videos through retargeting ads that transfer you to dedicated landing pages that aim to grab your email. Best part? All automated.
Lead gen landing pages and forms are far from a novelty. As we know, it's never about the channel. It comes down to how good you are at using it.
For example, Hubspot is one that comes to mind. Their "The Ultimate List of Marketing Statistics for 2020" promises to give you incredible insights into this dynamic world of ours. But, in order to access it, you have to leave your details.
If you take a closer look, you will see their forms require more data than just a name and email. I imagine this heavily influences the quality of their leads.
You can even create quizzes and gamify specific components.
Take Gary Vee's #60SecClub. People leave a comment whenever Gary posts something on Instagram and they have a chance to win what they've asked for. Plus, it glues people to Gary's content but, more importantly, he brings unselfish value to persistent individuals.
🤔 Ideas for you:
☝️ Mind the key takeaway:
Remember, MOFU gives you the opportunity to produce increasing value. You already got the attention and it's time to make them love you even more.
☑️ BOFU talk
The secret weapon helping prospects feel confident in their decision to buy.
For lemlist, a typical example is our onboarding sequence when somebody signs up for the free trial. It's their first taste of lemlist and we need to be obsessed with making it an enjoyable experience.
In fact, we've just released the 4.0 sequence, based on the tests we run in the 3.0 version and considering the evolution of our product in the meantime.
On top of that, social proof is a big component of our BOFU strategy as well. Case studies, testimonials and word on the street play a role beyond measure.
I don't need to tell you about the importance of social proof. Companies use it in many different ways. Think both G and I are big fans of how Facebook tells its customer success stories. It's just fantastic content.
Also, whenever somebody types "your company name + reviews" query on Google, it's super important to see positive and encouraging stuff.
For me, User Generated Content also belongs here. Take Netflix or Coca-Cola as two examples.
Former used Social Media to spread the word and go viral (e.g. Bird Box, Narcos), whereas the latter absolutely dominated with “Share a Coke” campaign, where they put customers’ names on the bottle labels.
Both managed to literally privatize attention for a while and "converted" thousands of people down the line.
Guarantees, refund policies, carefully written FAQ content, kind customer support, seamless checkout experiences, upsells, product comparisons... they all have a role to play in removing doubts and making people feel confident in their purchase decision.
🤔 Ideas for you:
☝️ Mind the key takeaway:
Understand where the hesitation is coming from. Work towards removing it in any way possible.
When you have a funnel in place, your next task is to analyze the performance and fix leaks... if they happen... and they always do.
The objective here is to chase perfection. We can never accomplish it, but it's damn sure we can relentlessly chase it. For example, here's what we analyze at lemlist.
Website --> Free Trial --> Activation/Usage --> Paid
In short, there are three main goals we measure in Google Analytics:
Later comes the big stuff... MRR, ARR, Growth, Churn...
For instance, if we get 250 free trial subscriptions this week, 80% of them are active during trial and we get 20 paid users at the end, there's evidently a problem.
Then we gotta go back and see what we did wrong. This is where data interpretation and context behind numbers matter most as they help us narrow down reasons (e.g. didn't communicate the value properly, poor onboarding experience, missing features perhaps, etc).
And this is where carefully detailed metrics for all funnel stages come into play. Let's go step by step...
Here is the list of best tools that can help you in creating a sales funnel.
By now you already know what kind of content we use for every stage. In this last section, I'll show you how we put all the pieces together and how we track progress.
To have any leads, we need to grab attention. The only two ways to do that in my mind is with a great product and engaging content.
Nevertheless, we need to measure if that content is actually grabbing eyeballs. Specifically:
Ultimately, I'm trying to understand are we feeding our funnel well enough.
When leads arrive on our website, I'm curious to see how they behave. So I go a little deeper into Google Analytics and Ahrefs.
Phase 1 of data gathering is now completed. Based on numbers and trends, I can comprehend where to double down and how to adjust my strategy.
Free trial is where we need to shine. It's one thing to impress someone by talking about unique features, a whole other to make them understand the value of them.
That's what we try to do during these two weeks. Specifically:
Overall, there are multiple layers of data here.
Product: how are people using it, what are they loving and is there something that's missing?
Conversions: how many users become customers after trial? Were we able to sign prospects before trial ended?
Attention: if we get them to join our community or connect with G on LinkedIn, did we manage to expose them to relevant content.
Whatever happens, the goal is to have enough information to address whatever happens after free trial.
The vast majority of our users go through the free trial first. Bigger accounts and advanced outreach players move to paid immediately.
Regardless of how they converted, we then start to keep an eye on their lemlist journey. We're assessing:
Once summed up, we have the context behind our main KPIs (MRR, ARR, Growth Rate, Churn).
We're able to, as prospects move down the funnel, add tags and segment them. This makes it easier to set up drip campaigns and run remarketing ads.
More importantly, we end up having a huge data pile we use in many ways: future sales campaigns, content ideas, identifying funnel leaks, spotting opportunities, adding and prioritizing features, hiring new people, etc.
And same applies to user segmentation.
That's precisely why you need a funnel and this obsession with metrics. We'll never be perfect, but it doesn't matter. We're not planning to quit chasing perfection.