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The Sales Funnel

Before we get too involved in the mechanics of the Sales Funnel, it will be useful to describe the funnel process. The concept is simple but the successful funnel can be complex.

There are several analogies describing the same process. The concept starts with someone who has never heard of your company and ends with a happy, paying customer. Another popular analogy is a ribbon with the prospect on the left and the customer on the right.

The funnel is the preferred analogy because of the way customers fall out on the way to the bottom of the funnel. If you start out with a little over a thousand prospects at the top, you should end up with ten or twelve paying customers at the bottom. As prospects descend down the funnel, many will come out. For example; we will have a number of folks follow you on Facebook but never actually make a purchase. Because the numbers at the bottom of the funnel are quite small, the funnel is more descriptive.

Inside the Sales Funnel we have a path with a number of stations. Each stop on the way down our funnel is going to ask the customer to take another small step. With a moment’s reflection, it must be designed this way. No one is going to go to a strange website and simply hand out their credit card number to someone they have never met.

Let’s look at the three major parts of out funnel:

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The Top of the Funnel -
These are prospects who are just having their first contact with your company. Of course, Internet people will tell you that this happens on Social Media. A marketing person will tell you that this could happen anywhere. A Trade Show is an excellent source of qualified prospects. Don’t listen to experts who compartmentalize these contacts as online or offline (see Spaced Repetition article). The in person prospect or bulk mail prospect will visit your website the same as the Facebook prospect. All of these parts belong to the same machine.

So, the top of the funnel is that initial contact with someone who has never heard of the company before. Notice we are not talking about tourism marketing per se. This is a theory that applies equally to everything.

Most people in this part of the funnel will say “that’s interesting” and go away; but some will start following on Facebook or visit the website to learn more. These people will proceed to the center of our funnel.

The TN Department of Tourism found that 97% of families have someone doing research online before taking a vacation. These people are deciding what they want to see before ever leaving the house. This alone is reason enough to justify a social media campaign.

If you spend much time of this website, you will see this list again. This part of our funnel must impart three pieces of information:

  • Who You Are
  • What You Do
  • The Benefit of Using You

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The Center of the Funnel -
You can find numerous articles that get crazy and create a funnel with six or eight parts but really we are dealing with three major segments and this is the second. Here we need educate our customers. They will learn about the company (the Credibility Statement) and the product. Why is our offering better? What are the benefits in using our product that others don’t have? Education is one of two major components in this segment.

The prospect will start to make small commitments to the company. They will offer their email address so you can communicate. You are earning their trust; they believe you will not sell their address to half the pirates in China.

It’s important that this part of the funnel create trust. Remember our earlier statement about handing out that credit card number to a stranger? The prospect will not move on without trust. It is up to you to create a relationship at this point.

This central part of our funnel has another interesting feature, a segment of the people in this area may remain here for a couple of years. They receive emails and follow the company with great interest, but they don’t purchase - yet.

The Bottom of The Funnel -
Yes, this is the part where folks give you money, but it’s also the area where many tourism based companies seem to fall down. I have met many owners who don’t make an effort to get email addresses. You need ask customers to sign-up for your news letter a couple of times.

These folks can also write a review of your attraction. In Google’s ZMOT Study, we read that world wide, across all industries, companies receive an average of 4.2 out of 5 stars. This pretty good and it makes sense. People don’t like to be stupid and they want to believe they made a good decision in doing business with you. So don’t be afraid of customers writing reviews.

Its also important to remember that most Americans who vacation, go on three or four day weekends a couple of times a year. So they will be back next year, even if they go to other places. You need to go after this business. Repeat business should not be a passive thing. Because they have done business with you in the past, it’s not SPAM to send them an email.

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