A Rouge Guide to: Decoding Digital Sales Funnels

A graphical funnel shape as a metaphor for a sales funnel

Digital Sales Funnels: Build a customer journey that works for your business website.

A digital sales funnel is necessary for any business with an online presence. As with a traditional sales funnel, it helps you to attract, nurture, and capture prospective clients, resulting in them buying your product or service.

But how is it different from a traditional sales funnel when they do the same thing? And if you’ve never built one before, where do you start? If it’s all overwhelming, this article is precisely what you need!


Digital vs. Traditional: What’s the Difference?

At the most basic level, a sales funnel filters an audience from awareness to purchase. It’s a guided decision-making process that, in essence, does the following:

  • Highlights your brand to a potential customer
  • Explains how you can solve their pain points
  • Advocates for what you do differently to competitors
  • Monitors post-sales behaviour for loyalty and repeat business

Both digital and traditional funnels guide the audience on their journey, supplying information that helps them make informed decisions. So, what’s the difference between the two models?


Digital Sales Funnel

Unsurprisingly, the most significant difference is that a digital sales funnel is online-focused. This isn’t to say a traditional model won’t work online – or that you can only have one or the other. But marketing online is far more complex than conventional (offline) methods because:


Online has More Stages

A traditional sales funnel is known as the AIDA model, which stands for Awareness, Interest, Desire, and Action. Online funnels, however, have many more stages. While these might vary by specific goals, they’re usually defined as follows:

  • Engagement
  • Education
  • Research
  • Evaluation
  • Justification
  • Purchase
  • Post-sales (retention, expansion, advocacy)

This makes it more complex to run, as there are more things to consider when designing your marketing materials. However, some aspects are intuitive once you figure out what they mean!


Online is Less Linear

Traditional sales journeys are fairly linear – customers move through each stage logically with natural progression. Moving things online, however, means your audience can join the funnel at any stage.

For example, they might be made aware of your brand but do their own research and education elsewhere without your resources. Equally, they might not need help evaluating and justifying their decisions. Online funnels require far more flexibility.


Online is More Measurable

This is the biggest (and best) difference for marketers: online materials are highly measurable. This means you can adjust your strategies, make things specific, and jettison things that don’t work.

For example, paid social media ads give great metrics, as do things like website hits and influencer marketing. It is possible to track sales back to their source to determine which channels work best.


Online is More Customer Focused

Traditional sales and marketing often boils down to “print an ad in a magazine and hope that our target audience reads it”. Online funnels, however, are far more personalised and customer-focused.

First, online customers are typically quite aware of when you’re marketing to them. They have higher expectations for your marketing material and want more than they ever used to.

Second, it’s possible to target particular audiences with online marketing. This means you must be more specific about the pain points you’re addressing; otherwise, your audience won’t be interested.


How to Create a Digital Sales Funnel

Building a digital marketing pathway for potential customers can be confusing. There are the standard steps (defining your audience) and the more complex steps (deciding marketing strategies). Below is a brief overview of the steps to build your funnel after you define what problem you are trying to solve.


Define Your Target Audience

Unsurprisingly, the first step is to figure out who you’re selling to. Knowing your audience will help you define your content and choose the most suitable marketing channels in later stages.

We could write a whole book on how to do this, but the key points are:

  • Market research. Look at competitors, send out surveys, and gather insights.
  • Be specific. The more niche you can make your target audience, the more effective your strategies will be.
  • Create buyer personas. Use your market data to create personas for your potential buyers. These should include pain points, motivations, and demographics.
  • Test. Be bold and come back to this stage when you have more information at your disposal.


Set Your Goals

The overall point of your sales funnel is to convert potential into paying customers. But how will you achieve this, and what does “more sales” look like for your business?

Break down your larger goal into more manageable steps, and define KPIs for the process. Work with facts and figures rather than something vague. It could be simple – land 10 new contracts in a year or more complex – broaden your marketing channels and capture five new clients from each.


Figure Out Your Most Suitable Channels

There are so many online marketing channels, so figure out which aligns best with your target audience. For example, LinkedIn might not be your best bet if you offer millennials gym equipment. Similarly, if you provide complex B2B cloud-based storage software, Instagram or TikTok will probably land you few clients.

Some examples include:

  • Social media marketing – LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, etc.
  • B2B marketing – Demand/Lead Generation or ABM
  • Email marketing
  • Paid advertising
  • SEO
  • Supplementary educational content – guides that aren’t specifically about your product or service but are related in some way

The purpose of these channels is to create awareness and engagement. You address customer pain points and showcase your brand. From the online funnel list above, these channels can target Engagement to Justification. This ultimately depends on what you use and how you use it.


Build an Effective Website

So, you invest time and energy into driving traffic. Now what? Without a decent website, you’re wasting your time.

A funnel’s website is typically the endpoint of a customer journey. However, they might join it at any point from education onwards. You can use a website to justify your product, channel your audience into purchasing, or just about anything else.

For example, a website might lead to gated content like ebooks or whitepapers. These are marketing materials designed to educate, which is particularly helpful for complex products. Equally, you might use a website to capture leads and engage them in email marketing.

Either way, a website is the (not-so) hidden gem in a company’s digital sales funnel arsenal. This is because:


It’s Often a Client’s First True Look at You

A client who’s gone through your sales funnel has interacted with your business. You might have showcased your tone of voice, understanding of their pain points, and the solutions you offer. However, it doesn’t showcase your brand.

A website, on the other hand, does. Branding is as much about the visuals you offer as the solutions that go with them. We all know the power of marketing, and websites perfectly capture its key concepts.


It Gives You Credibility

Similarly, a website is where you can display your portfolio, feedback, and the overall ability of your solutions to solve their problems. It helps you to establish trust, nurture interest, and guide them towards making an informed decision.

And why would they want to go any further if your complex website could be easier to navigate, clunky, and doesn’t jump out at them? Potential clients should be satisfied up to and during sales; otherwise, they’ll just look elsewhere. You’re offering to help them, not give them more to stress about.


It Gives You Room to Expand

Digital sales funnels are about flexibility, as your customers can join at any stage. As such, your website needs to respond to this by being equally flexible. For example, you might direct them to your blog to educate and research, or you might have a lead capture form for further interaction.

Setting up dedicated landing pages for different customer journey stages is possible. In turn, you can direct them to the next stage in the funnel, helping you nurture their decision-making process.

The bottom line is that a website is the cornerstone of a digital sales funnel, as it’s typically where all your other efforts end up. It needs to offer enough information to interest customers and set itself apart from the competition without being overwhelming (or giving away too many secrets!).


Building Effective Funnels Starts with Building Better Websites

A digital sales funnel is necessary for any business working online. However, careful customer nurturing means very little without a well-designed website.

Luckily, this is precisely what we at Rouge can do. Check out our article on aligning your website with your sales funnel to see how we can revolutionise your online marketing efforts.

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