What’s the difference between profitable businesses that consistently throw money in the bank month after month, and businesses that fail? A huge factor is building a high converting marketing funnel around the customer journey.
But the truth is, there are a lot of factors to think about.
You need a good product. A good niche. Good marketing hacks.
But one thing that most entrepreneurs miss is building airtight sales and marketing funnels.
A sales funnel will throw money in your bank consistently, month after month.
It’ll add more predictability to your sales. It’ll give you a nice buffer, so you can test out newer (riskier) marketing tactics without worrying about losing revenue. A sales funnel, or a marketing funnel, is a process that businesses can use to turn website visitors or prospects into paying customers. It’s a way of creating the right type of content (or experience) at each stage of the customer journey, and moving customers to a point of purchase.
Before we can understand what a high converting sales funnel looks like, we need to first understand what customer journey mapping is.
We need to understand how to gradually push prospects along the journey, and take the right actions at every step.
In order to understand the customer journey, it’s important to understand why people take the actions they take. A big part of this is understanding consumer psychology.
In 2009, Stanford psychologist BJ Fogg developed the Fogg Behavior Model, a chart that explains the three key factors that determine whether or not someone takes an action.
According to BJ Fogg, “three elements must converge at the same moment for a behavior to occur: Motivation, Ability, and a Prompt.”
As an entrepreneur, it’s important to keep your ‘prompts’ (or calls to action) in the top right area of the graph. You want CTAs that are easy to complete, and you want to give your audience high enough motivation to take those actions.
Let’s break each of these three factors down:
You can motivate potential customers in different ways.
One way is through urgency or fear of missing out. Take The 5th for example, an apparel company that releases limited edition watches on the fifth of every month.
You can also do it by developing a brand or a story that customers feel attached to.
For example, Will Bowen created the “No Complaints Bracelet” – a simple purple bracelet that helps people kick their habit of complaining. The bracelet got traction after Bowen shared in a book how going 21 days without complaining changed his life
His story helped get the bracelet featured on Oprah, Dr. Oz, and more.
According to Fogg, motivators always boil down to some version of hope/fear, seeking pleasure/avoiding pain, or chasing social acceptance/avoiding social rejection.
Ability refers to whether or not the customer is actually able to take the action you want them to take.
For example, is your product priced appropriately? Do your customers have the money to buy it? Is your checkout process simple, or does it take extra effort on the customer’s part to navigate through the process? How many ‘brain cycles’ does it take for them to figure out how to take the action?
Much of this involves proper user experience design, which we’ll get into later in this e-book.
The prompt is also known as a trigger, a call to action, or a request for a sale.
Triggers should be shown appropriately depending on how familiar a customer is with your product or brand.
For example, driving someone directly to a checkout page for a high-priced product when they have never heard of your brand before may not convert so well.
Instead, a more effective prompt for new visitor might be something like the following – a smaller commitment where you present something of value (i.e. a discount code) instead of asking for a purchase:
We’ll talk more about the above factors later in this e-book when discussing sales funnels and conversion optimization.
But it’s important to remember that there are many different stages in the customer’s journey to buying your product – and having the right motivation, ability, and trigger is important to help move customers down the journey as effectively as possible.
When customers find your products and buy from you online, they usually go through these four stages:
At the awareness stage, customers have just discovered your brand. This typically happens through social media channels you might be active on, your website, or advertising channels.
At the awareness stage, customers don’t know much about your company or who you are.
At the consideration stage, customers are checking out your product or service and seeing what you have to offer. They might be browsing your product catalog, or adding items to their cart.
One way to push customers down from the awareness stage to the consideration stage is by offering a coupon code, or special promotion to people visiting your site.
For example, notice how GlassesUSA gives visitors a 50% off discount code for their first frame, if they opt-in with their email.
Asking people to opt-in with their email allows you to both push them down the customer journey faster by presenting them with a discount code directly in their inbox. And it also gives you their contact information so you can remarket to them later.
At the preference stage, customers do research on your company and similar products.
If you’re selling a commodity product that differentiates on brand (like a watch, a t-shirt, shoes, etc) then the ‘preference’ stage will consist of checking out product reviews, or social proof from others who have ordered from you. Customers would want to know whether product quality lives up to the pictures they see online.
This is probably the most important stage of the customer journey.
According to the numbers, 90% of consumers read less than 10 reviews before forming an opinion about a business, And 84% of shoppers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations from their friends.
A study from Reevoo also showed that 50 or more reviews per product can result in a 4.6% conversion rate boost. For a business that gets a lot of traffic, this could be a difference of tens of thousands (or even hundreds of thousands) of dollars.
If you’re selling a utility product (i.e. a product that solves a unique problem), then customers would also be looking at other companies that sell similar products and comparing differences.
As we’ll mention later, it’s important to have some social proof, testimonials, or case studies for this stage in the customer journey.
If everything is done right up to this point, customers will be ready to make a purchase.
At this stage, the ‘ability’ factor (from BJ Fogg’s framework) matters most. If you have a smooth checkout and payment system (along with a cart abandonment funnel to recapture customers), you’ll make it easier for customers to make a payment decision.
We’ll talk more about cart abandonment sequences later in this e-book.
So far, we’ve talked about consumer psychology and the psychological triggers that get people to take action.
We’ve talked about the stages of the customer journey from awareness to purchase.
And in this section, we’ll talk about how this applies to you. We’ll talk about how to map the customer journey for your own site, or what the customer journey map would look like (if you’re just getting started).
Let’s dig in.
Before you can create the perfect content and experience for your visitors’ customer journeys, you need to first understand who you’re creating them for. You need to narrow in on your buyer personas.
If you already have an online business, you can use Google Analytics (as we’ll show you) to find out who’s landing on your site. If you’re just getting started, you can use this section to help identify who your ideal customers would be.
Customer personas are typically broken down into a few categories: geographic, demographic, psychographic, and behavioral.
Where are your ideal customers based? Are they in the US, UK, or worldwide? Keep in mind that there may be shipping considerations to account for depending on where your customers are located.
What kind of person are you looking to sell to? Are they younger or older? Are they men, women, or both?
Other (seemingly unrelated) demographic traits can also be a great indicator of the personality type of your audience – things like whether they own homes or rent homes, whether they own cars or take the bus, etc. These characteristics can help you adjust your content, brand, and the details of your customer journey.
In addition to the demographic and geographic details, you’ll also want to dial in on the views and values of your audience. What’s their ‘identity’?
For example, do they see themselves as ‘gym rats’? Vegans? Fashionable? Forward-thinking? Religious?
Beliefs play a big role in the types of brands and personalities people respond to.
If you’re just getting started with your online business, you can write down some initial answers to these questions to for clearer direction. If you already have a business and a website set up, you can analyze your existing traffic in Google Analytics to answer these questions with your existing data.
We’ll cover analytics more in depth later in this e-book, but quick way to use Google Analytics to uncover details about your visitors is by looking at your Audience Reports.
For example, you could check out the tabs under ‘Audience’ on the left hand bar as shown below:
If you click on ‘Demographics’, you’ll get a snapshot of the gender and age breakdowns of the people visiting your site:
You could answer behavioral questions about your audience by hitting the ‘Interests’ tab on the left hand bar:
You’ll get a sense for what kind of hobbies your audience has. For example, in the screenshot above, the top interest among visitors is movies and TV shows, closely followed by news.
You can use the Location tab under ‘Geo’ to see where your visitors are primarily based:
Once you know who you’re targeting, you’ll be in a much better position to create the right type of content at every step in the customer journey.
As you recall, at the awareness stage, customers are just finding out about your business and your products. Usually this happens through social media, paid advertising, organic traffic, or other channels you’re using to promote your business.
The first step in mapping your customer journey is getting a deep sense of where your customers are coming from and who they are. It’s about understanding the analytics around the customer journey.
If you’re just getting started in launching your business, now’s a great time to set up Google Analytics – so that when you do get customers, you’ll know exactly who they are and where they’re coming from. You’ll have a good sense for what the awareness stage of your customer journey looks like.
We’ll talk more about the technical details of analytics setup later in this e-book.
The best way to leverage Google Analytics to envision your customer journey map is by looking at the Google Analytics Behavior Flow report.
If you login to Google Analytics, you can access the Behavior reports in the left hand bar:
In the ‘Behavior Flow’ tab, you’ll find the path that visitors take when checking out your site. You’ll see their ‘journey’ from how they find your site to the first page they view to the last page they visit before leaving.
This will show you data on where your site’s visitors are coming from. You’ll see data on what pages they visit, how long they stay on those pages, and where the ‘dropoff’ is.
Here are the different elements of the Google Analytics Behavior Flow report:
The grey bands that connect the boxes at the different stages are called ‘connections’. These bands signal where visitors are moving. For example, in the screenshot above, you can see that a bulk of organic traffic visitors land on the homepage of the site while a smaller chunk lands on one of the 48 other pages.
Connections help you uncover the path that the majority of visitors travel down from finding your site to buying your product.
Drop-offs are points where visitors leave your site. In the above screenshot, drop-off points are shown through the red bands. The thicker the band, the more drop-off there is on the page.
These bands can help you uncover pages on your site that prevent visitors from advancing down the customer journey. Based on the data, you could optimize the UX on your site to push customers down the process of ‘awareness’, ‘consideration’, ‘preference’, and ‘purchase’ as fast as possible.
For example, you might add exit-intent popups with discount codes to capture visitors that on the verge of bouncing.
Loopbacks refer to connections between a page and a previous page that a visitor has previously seen. For example, in the screenshot above, there are a number of people going from the home page to the careers page and back to the home page.
Loopbacks signal that visitors haven’t found what they’re looking for, and aren’t progressing down the customer journey. While this might be fine when viewing a careers page, it might be a sign of some UX issues if this were happening on a product page, for example.
In addition to Google Analytics, another strategy you can use to analyze how users interact with your site is recording visitor sessions.
Hindsight records visitor sessions through screen recordings. You can see where visitors are viewing (and clicking) through heatmaps:
A more advanced option would be a product like User Testing. User Testing allows you to request a certain number of people who fit your target demographic requirements to go through your site and complete specific tasks.
For example, you could ask people to go through your checkout process, or give feedback on your product selection.
Once you know who you’re targeting, and once you know the path they travel down when they hit your site (or the path you want them to travel down), then you can begin to create a customer journey map.
To create a customer journey map, first take your research data and organize it into an easy-to-read table.
Here’s an example:
You can replace ‘X’ with whatever product you’re trying to sell.
Based on your buyer persona research, and based on the data from how users interact with your site, what’s their psychology at each step of the purchase process? What are they thinking? What are they doing? What are they feeling?
And based on that information, what opportunities do you have to move them down the journey faster (or more effectively)?
Here’s a similar template you can use to document the action steps you can take to apply your research to crafting a more compelling customer journey.
The above customer journey map template also includes a column for ‘Post Experience’ – the experience a customer has after purchasing your product.
In the later sections, we’ll talk more in depth about the specific types of content work best at each stage of the customer journey, and how to use this as a foundation for building sales funnels that convert customers consistently.
Once you understand what customer journey mapping is, and once you understand your buyer persona, you can start thinking about how to optimize every stage of the customer journey.