These aren’t your grandparent’s sales funnels. In years past, making the sale was goal #1, but today we know that word of mouth and returning customers are far more valuable for a business’s long-term success, says Melinda Emerson, also known as SmallBizLady.

Any customer can buy something once. It’s the customer who keeps coming back — and refers new customers — that benefits your small business the most.

Your goal is to build a solid foundation with potential customers … People do business with people they like, know and trust.

What Are Sales Funnels?

Think of sales funnels as a customer’s journey from finding your business to making a purchase to coming back for more. Each funnel represents a stage in their journey with opportunities to connect, entice and purchase at every turn.

A typical customer journey looks like this:

  • Awareness: How consumers find your business and make initial contact
  • Consideration: When a prospect considers your business alongside competitors
  • Purchase: Making a sale or booking a service
  • Retention: Integrating new customers into your ongoing marketing campaigns
  • Advocacy: Turning a customer into a lifelong, raving fan

During our webinar, Emerson explains why sales funnels are the most engaging way to build relationships with consumers, and how to deliver constant communication to leads, prospects and existing customers in each funnel.

Here are a 4 of the 9 funnels she discussed in the webinar. To discover all 9, watch the webinar now.

Lead Magnet Funnel

Securing advocates for your business starts by convincing them to do business with you in the first place. And a lead magnet is the right tool for the job.

Emerson advises that all businesses should have at least a couple of lead magnets (a video series, eBook or downloadable cheat sheet) on their website and in email marketing campaigns.

She also noted that you can’t give away mediocre content and expect consumers to rush to buy from you. It needs to be your best.

You have to surprise and delight. You have to let people know you’re serious, that you’re a real expert and that you’re willing to give.

Welcome Funnel

Congratulations! A customer just opted in to receive your weekly email newsletter. Some business owners might think there’s nothing left to do except send emails. However, there’s an opportunity to capitalize at this stage.

Of all the sales funnels, the Welcome Funnel is when your customer is the most interested in your business, Emerson says. This is the time when you build rapport by introducing yourself and your brand.

For instance, share a thank you message, a discount for new customers, links to social posts or blogs where they can learn more about the business and everything you offer. Now’s your chance to make personal and relatable connections that strengthen the relationship.

Shopping Cart Abandonment Funnel

Consumers abandon their carts 70% of the time, Emerson says. But hope is not lost because you have a sales funnel to reel them back in.

This doesn’t exclusively apply to product-based businesses. Think of cart abandonment for a service-based business as someone who visits your booking page and doesn’t follow through. Or an existing customer who asks for details about a more premium service and never pulls the trigger.

Emerson suggests connecting with these customers four times within 48 hours of abandonment. First, reach out within the first 30 minutes. Then, again in four hours. The next day, send a third message in the morning and a final one in the afternoon.

Try these tips to bring customers back to the purchasing table:

  • Drive home the value of the product or service
  • Incentivize them with a discount to move forward with their purchase
  • Show them any warranties or testimonials associated with the product or service

Transactional (Thank You) Funnel

This sales funnel is pivotal to putting a regular customer on the road to becoming your biggest fan.

After they make a purchase, don’t just send a receipt. It’s called the Thank You Funnel for a reason. Include a sincere message thanking them for their purchase.

You can also include strategies from other funnels in your message like:

  • Content relative to their purchase
  • Links to your social pages so they can get to know the business better
  • Information that shows value in a more premium service, with an exclusive offer
  • 5-star reviews from other customers with a button to leave their own

Sales Funnel Strategies

Sales funnels are a versatile tool for small business owners. Each one has its own way of engaging customers whether your goal is establishing your brand, driving sales or improving customer loyalty.

Watch Melinda Emerson’s webinar to understand the customer’s journey through all 9 sales funnels and how to communicate along the way.