Sales Funnel Optimization: 9 Ways to Maximize Conversions

Zhenya Zerkalenkov

Nov 21, 202312 min read
Sales funnel conversion strategies


Why Sales Funnels Are Important for Business Success

The sales funnel represents a prospective customer’s stages along the buyer’s journey. From their first interaction with your brand to making a purchase.

In other words:

A sales funnel provides a structured visual that helps you understand and engage with customers.

Because every marketing activity is tied to a particular funnel stage. And reviewing how each of those activities is performing reveals weak points in your funnel that can be improved.

Those improvements are called sales funnel optimizations. They help you increase conversions, revenue, and customer loyalty.

The 4 Stages of a Sales Funnel

Sales funnels can be broken down in different ways. For this article, we’ll keep it simple and talk about four stages that go from top to bottom:

1. Awareness

The awareness stage is when prospective customers first learn about your product or service. 

An infographic showing a sales funnel: from awareness to action, with "awareness" highlighted

This can be through social media, ads, word-of-mouth recommendations, search engine results, etc.

At this stage, your goal is to make a good first impression and build trust with your target audience.

2. Interest

This stage is when people are actively seeking solutions to their problems and show interest in your product or service. 

An infographic showing a sales funnel: from awareness to action, with "interest" highlighted

They might subscribe to your newsletter, follow your social media accounts, or regularly visit your website.

Here, your goal is to nurture relationships with your target audience.

3. Decision

In the decision stage, prospects compare your product or service with other options. They’re almost ready to buy but need to answer a few remaining questions first.

An infographic showing a sales funnel: from awareness to action, with "decision" highlighted

For example, they may be evaluating your product’s pricing, features, and benefits against your competitors.

At this stage, your objective is to convince them that your product or service is the best choice.

4. Action

The action stage is when prospects become customers by making a purchase. 

An infographic showing a sales funnel: from awareness to action, with "action" highlighted

But the journey continues beyond here. 

Delivering exceptional post-purchase service is crucial for customer satisfaction and building loyalty. You can achieve this by:

  • Providing user manuals and product guides
  • Offering proactive customer support
  • Sending follow-up emails

How to Optimize Your Sales Funnel: 9 Tactics to Consider

Here are some of the best ways to optimize your sales funnel:

Identify and Segment Your Target Audience

If you want to optimize your sales funnel, knowing your target audience is crucial. Because you must appeal to their specific wants (not generic things that apply to everyone) to be effective.

How do you identify a specific target audience?

Through market research. And you can use Market Explorer to do this.

Open the tool and select the “Create List” tab. Then, enter some of your top competitors’ domains and click “Create and analyze.”

"sportswear brands" entered into Market Explorer search bar

Once you see the “Overview” report, click the “Audience” tab.

"Audience" tab selected from Market Explorer menu

Here, you’ll see a breakdown of the market’s audience. Including demographic, socioeconomic, and behavioral data.

When you scroll down, you can even see the audience’s top interests and favorite social media platforms. 

"Audience" dashboard in Market Explorer

You can use this information to inform all your marketing efforts. And even to create detailed buyer personas that help you target even more specific segments.

Capture Email Addresses with Lead Magnets

Lead magnets are resources you offer to prospects in exchange for their information.

These can be ebooks, webinars, or exclusive articles. Essentially anything that provides value and addresses problems or needs your potential customers have.

The primary reason for using lead magnets is to capture potential customers’ email addresses.

These email addresses serve as a direct line of communication, allowing you to deliver targeted messages and build relationships. And ultimately guide prospects through the sales funnel.

Our State of Content Marketing report is an example of a lead magnet:

State of Content Marketing report email form

You can leverage the Semrush Topic Research tool to brainstorm ideas for your lead magnet.

Let’s say you’re in the health and fitness niche. And you want to create something around nutrition.

First, enter your main topic and the target location in the search bar. And click the “Get content ideas” button.

"nutrition" entered into Topic Research search bar

The tool will then generate subtopics related to your main theme.

In our case, the main topic was “nutrition.” So, we now see subtopics like “healthy food,” “saturated fat,” etc.

"Content Ideas" dashboard for "nutrition" in Topic Research tool

Some possible lead magnets you could create based on this information are:

  • A guide on healthy eating and meal planning
  • A webinar on how food may affect mood
  • An ebook with healthy recipes for people with dietary restrictions (like those trying to minimize saturated fat)

Personalize Communication

Personalization is the practice of using customer data to tailor your marketing messages. For example, incorporating a prospect’s name in email marketing campaigns.

Personalized communication helps customize messages so they better resonate with your audience’s needs and interests. To boost engagement, foster loyalty, and increase conversion rates.

For instance, using the reader’s name makes this welcome email from AllTrails feel like a personal invite:

AllTrails's welcome email

Source: Semrush | How to Win People Over with Compelling Email Content

You might be wondering how you can use personalization.

Let’s say you’re an online clothing retailer. And you’ve segmented your audience based on browsing behavior.

And Sarah was checking out some yoga pants recently. But didn’t make a purchase.

Using personalization, you could send an email to Sarah with the subject line: “Sarah, complete your look with our top-rated yoga pants.”

The email could include similar recommendations. And you could also offer a limited-time discount code to encourage her to take action.

Engage with Audiences on Social Media

By making good use of social media platforms, you can connect with your target audience. And lead them through your sales funnel.

For instance, you can connect with audiences on a personal level by sharing timely content, offering exclusive product or service previews, and responding to comments.

Here’s how we do it:

Semrush interacting with an user on LinkedIn

Social Inbox allows you to easily manage communication on popular social media platforms.

Just set up the tool, and you’ll see a list of your messages from Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn:

Social Inbox page

From there, you can interact with messages as needed.

For example, you can open the original message on the corresponding social networks or reply to them within the tool. 

And you can also easily organize messages by tagging or assigning them to your teammates.

Message options in Social Inbox

Further reading: 11 Ways to Create Engaging Social Media Content

Build a Community

An online community is a group of people who share similar interests and engage in discussions. And building one is a great way to engage with those people and move them through your sales funnel.

Pat Flynn’s SPI Pro is a great example of an engaged community focused on entrepreneurship:

Pat Flynn's SPI Pro professional community for entrepreneurs

You can create communities on social media platforms (e.g., Facebook Groups), forums, or even within your website.

Why do this?

By nurturing relationships within your community, you have the opportunity to turn community members into strong advocates. Who are more likely to purchase and recommend your products or services. And building a community is just the beginning. Fostering these connections can ultimately lead to brand advocacy.

To build and maintain a community, select the perfect platform for your brand and target audience (e.g., Facebook Groups, Slack, Discord, etc.). 

Then, spark meaningful discussions with interesting topics. And invite new members and foster engagement within your community.

Take Action With Effective Follow-Ups

Follow-ups involve reaching out to potential customers who’ve previously engaged with your brand but remain on the fence about making a purchase. So you can persuade them to take the next step.

Follow-ups can take multiple forms. For example, email remarketing focused on sending personalized content, promotions, or reminders about abandoned shopping carts. 

This helps guide potential customers toward making a purchase.

You can leverage tools like ActiveCampaign or HubSpot to automate follow-up emails triggered by specific actions.

For example, you can create an automated message that sends to users after they visit your pricing page but don’t make a purchase within a certain time range. This email can have a discount code or a special offer. Giving them that extra push to complete the purchase.

Master the Art of Persuasive Copywriting

Copywriting is the art of crafting strategic words that captivate and drive action in marketing.

Here’s an excellent example from Copyblogger’s academy:

Copyblogger's academy "Build your content business to $100k+ per year without spending a fortune on courses and coaching" copy

So, how can you implement good copywriting right now?

Let’s use a newsletter subscription as an example.

You could simply say, “Sign up for our newsletter.” But something like “Join 5,000+ satisfied customers getting exclusive tips and deals” is more compelling.

The language in the second example makes the value proposition clear and highlights the benefits of subscribing.

Further reading: SEO Copywriting: 10 Tips to Boost Your Content Performance

Use Compelling Calls to Action

call to action (CTA) is a prompt or directive used in marketing materials to motivate your audience to take a specific action. Meaning effective CTAs support your sales goals. 

The action could be anything from subscribing to a newsletter, downloading a guide, making a purchase, or even just clicking a button to learn more.

Well-crafted CTAs appeal to the audience’s interests and needs. To create a sense of urgency and compel them to take action.

Here’s an example of how some of our CTAs look in articles:

Semrush's CTA for the On Page SEO Checker tool

Influence Decisions with Social Proof

Using social proof (current customers’ approval or advocacy to influence prospects) can help optimize your sales funnel. Because it can strongly influence buying decisions. 

And social proof can come from customer reviews, case studies, and social media comments or shares.

For example, Slack has a whole page dedicated to customer stories:

Slack's customer stories page

The underlying principle is that prospective customers feel more confident about their purchase decisions when they see others benefiting from a product or service.

So, how can you use social proof?

You can create a dedicated section on your website to display these testimonials. Complemented by pictures, names, and even the customers’ job titles.

Common Challenges When Optimizing Your Sales Funnel

Ignoring Evolving Consumer Preferences

Your target audience’s specific tastes, behaviors, and interests guide how you market to them.

But preferences can quickly change due to market trends, technology advancements, or societal shifts. So, you also need to adapt to stay relevant.

Just look at this chart from Google Trends that shows how interest in the search term “gut health” has risen dramatically over the last five years:

Google Trends's "Interest over time" graph for "gut health"

You can stay on top of changing consumer preferences by collecting feedback through surveys and reading industry publications. And use tools like Google Trends to look into terms you come across.

You can find additional keywords that are relevant to your niche using the Keyword Magic Tool.

Open the tool and enter one of the emerging terms you’ve come across. And click “Search.”

"gut health" entered into Keyword Magic Tool search bar

Then, use the suggested groups and subgroups from the list on the left to home in on more specific topics relevant to you (that your target audience is searching).

"probiotics" and "women" topics highlighted

Insufficient Engagement in the Middle of the Funnel

Prospective customers learn more about your product or service in the middle of your sales funnel. So, they may leave instead of converting if they don’t recognize the value you provide. 

This can happen when businesses focus all their efforts on acquiring leads and neglect lead nurturing in the middle of the funnel. 

To optimize this stage, create valuable content that provides education on the value you provide and how you stand out from competitors. 

You can also use lead magnets like guides or webinars to capture contact information and continue nurturing leads. 

Like this report from Social Media Examiner:

Social Media Examiner's report with "Download my free pdf copy" CTA

Slow Response Times

Slow response times can hinder engagement with prospects. And result in lower conversions and fewer sales.

You might want to think about investing in tools like chatbots (e.g., Botsify) or setting up automated email responses to prospects’ inquiries to tackle this challenge. 

Here’s an what Intercom’s chatbot looks like:

Intercom’s chatbot

This can help you give timely and personalized responses to questions. Keeping leads engaged and increasing the likelihood of them converting.

Poor Lead Qualification Processes

Lead qualification involves assessing each lead's likelihood to convert based on predefined criteria like behavior, needs, budget, and decision-making authority. 

But if your team isn’t aligned on what these criteria are, you may end up wasting resources on leads that probably won’t convert.

To address this issue, you should implement a well-defined lead scoring system that involves assigning a numerical score to prospects based on how likely they are to convert based on their behavior and how closely they resemble your ideal customer.

By prioritizing leads with higher scores, you can optimize your sales funnel.

How to Analyze Your Sales Funnel’s Performance

Key metrics—or key performance indicators (KPIs)—are measurable factors that help you keep tabs on how well your marketing strategies are working.

They give you insights into different parts of your sales funnel. Like how well prospects are converting or whether they’re dropping off at specific points.

Monitoring performance across your funnel can be a bit challenging. You need to keep track of which content pieces align with various funnel stages. 

Then, you can look into metrics like views and average engagement time. Which you can do for individual pieces of content within the “Pages and screens” report in Google Analytics.

“Pages and screens” report in Google Analytics

ImpactHero makes this easier. Because it groups content by funnel stage to see how content across your funnel is performing. 

To get started, enter your domain and click “Start your trial.”

ImpactHero Setup

Next, add the tracking code to your website using Google Tag Manager or manually adding it to your website’s HTML.

"Add tracking code to your site" window in ImpactHero Setup

Wait about a day for data to start populating. Then, specify which URLs you want to analyze.

"Content scope" window in ImpactHero Setup

The “Overview” report gives you a high-level look at your content's performance. And you can see which content types perform best under “Content Performance Insights.”

ImpactHero's overview report

Head to the “User Flow” tab. Here, you can click on each traffic source or funnel stage to see where you’re losing prospects.

“User Flow” tab in ImpactHero

Next, go to the “Explorer” tab to evaluate how your content in each funnel stage is performing. The tool even shares insights that provide recommendations to improve performance.

For example, you might discover that two of your guides intended to convert users aren’t generating as many leads as other pieces. You can see what insights ImpactHero provides. 

But it’s also a good idea to evaluate that content more thoroughly. To determine whether anything might be preventing users from converting. Like technical issues or overly complex forms.

"Attraction" dashboard in ImpactHero

How to Improve Customer Retention

Let’s dive into strategies for retaining customers to maximize their lifetime value.

Use Personalized Upselling

Upselling is a practice that encourages customers to buy higher-end products or add-ons. 

But personalization is vital to successful upselling. So, use customer data to ensure you’re offering products that enhance each customer’s personal experience.

For example, GNC suggests related products to customers as they’re checking out. 

GNC's related products sections

Create a Customer Loyalty Program

A loyalty program is a structured rewards program that encourages people to become loyal customers.

A well-designed loyalty program can create an emotional connection between customers and your brand. And make them feel valued for their repeat business.

For example, Evernote’s loyalty program offers users points for completing certain actions. Like inviting friends or using different features. They can then use the points to redeem rewards like a free month of premium service.

Evernote's loyalty program section of the site

Provide Exceptional Customer Service

Exceptional customer service involves understanding customer needs, responding promptly to inquiries, and providing accurate and helpful information. And it keeps customers satisfied.

Today, good customer service means being available across multiple channels. From traditional phone calls and emails to social media and live chat.

And exceptional customer service builds trust and fosters customer loyalty to contribute to revenue growth.

For example, ConvertKit’s support page provides comprehensive assistance through a creator community, video tips, and live chat support for immediate help.

ConvertKit’s support page section

Embrace the Power of Sales Funnel Optimization

There are clearly many ways to optimize your sales funnel. You don’t have to use every tactic we’ve outlined.

But determining your target market is a great place to begin.

Ready to get started?

Use Market Explorer to identify your target audience. So you can target specific segments and create engaging content for them.

Author Photo
Zhenya is a content strategist and writer with five years of experience. Throughout his career, he has guided numerous start-ups and mentored entrepreneurs and companies globally in the realm of content strategy. Additionally, he is working on his own content-based online business.
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