The sales funnel is one of the most fundamental pieces of marketing. It outlines the path that customers follow when purchasing products or services.
The Sales Funnel: A Five-Step Structure
Most sales funnels have five stages:
- Awareness: The prospect becomes aware of your business through an ad, social media share, or search result.
- Interest: The prospect decides to join your email list, follow you on social media, sign up for a trial, or learn more about your product or service.
- Decision: The prospect is now ready to buy. They are actively comparing pricing, features, and options.
- Action: The customer makes a purchase.
- Retention: You maintain a strong relationship so your new customer will buy again and recommend you to others.
An example of a funnel structure might look like this:
- An advertisement on Google or Facebook links to a landing page.
- The landing page offers an incentive to sign up for an email list.
- A series of automated emails builds interest in your brand and offerings.
- A compelling call-to-action (CTA) at the end of the series encourages a purchase and links to a second landing page.
- The second landing page and shopping cart page complete the sale.
- The new customer email series makes the buyer feel great about their purchase and builds brand loyalty
When designed well, a sales funnel is an automated selling machine that works around the clock to gather leads and close deals for your business, even while you're asleep or on vacation.
What is sales funnel copywriting?
Sales funnel copywriting is the process of creating the words that move prospects through the funnel, encouraging them to share their email addresses with you and eventually become loyal, long term customers. A well-written sales funnel captures a steady stream of prospects and turns them into customers or even fans of your business.
Why does copywriting need to be tailored to each step?
Creating a funnel is simple, but building a system that drives sales requires marketing finesse.
During each stage of the process, the customer's motivations, relationship with your business, and emotions change. Compelling sales funnel copywriting will use language that sparks a response in the reader, based on their position in the funnel, to keep them moving toward the next step.
Awareness: Turn prospects into leads
Many marketers consider this the most difficult stage of the funnel. In a recent HubSpot survey, 37% of marketers considered prospecting the most challenging aspect of their work, and 40% felt that getting prospects to respond to their messages is more difficult than it was 2–3 years ago.
The entry point
At this stage, copywriting will vary depending on the medium.
If your funnel’s entry point is a blog post, the copywriting needs to incorporate SEO best practices. The writer needs to pay close attention to visitors’ search intent and create posts that deliver content with authority and style.
If your funnel’s entry point is a social media post or ad, it must be irresistible. One effective approach is to focus on the value of your lead magnet — the free trial, downloadable, or gift you're offering in exchange for their email address.
A well-crafted quiz is an example of an effective lead magnet. One company targeted digital marketers by imitating one of Facebook’s most effective campaigns in 2018. The headline of its ad was, "How would you do in my 9-question quiz on Facebook advertising?" You could only access the correct answers if you shared your email address.
The ad performed very well, bringing in leads at an average cost of just $0.66 per lead. Any quiz you use should be specific to your target market and offer to provide personalized insight. Quiz topics like, "What type of _______ are you?" or, "How much do you know about "___________" are always popular with readers.
The landing page
96 percent of site visitors aren't ready to buy on their first visit, so your landing page should focus on collecting email addresses rather than selling. The industry standard is to assume that you have the customer's attention for 15 seconds — if they spend that time reading about your business or product, they might leave without sharing their contact information. Keep your messaging brief and concentrate only on selling the lead magnet.
One compelling approach is to read relevant Facebook groups and Quora pages to learn what language your customers use to describe their needs. Using their own language in your copywriting makes them feel understood and builds instant trust.
Stressing the value of the lead magnet is also very effective. When Peter Diamandis relaunched his Abundance book, he gave away hardcover copies as a valuable incentive to collect email addresses.
The word "Free" appeared in almost every heading on the page, even though the customer had to pay $6.95 for shipping. The text also emphasized that the book was a best-seller, which raised the perceived value. This effective copywriting added 46,000 people to Diamandis's mailing list and led to $430,000 in sales of related courses.
Interest: Turn leads into fans of your brand
Once a prospect joins your email list or follows you on social media, the writer's job changes. Instead of trying to capture attention, their goal is to nurture the lead, build their interest in your offerings, and cultivate warm feelings and loyalty toward your brand.
The most popular tool at this stage is a drip campaign — an automated series of emails that welcomes the new lead and guides them toward a purchase. Your newsletters and social media are also part of this stage.
What kind of content should be in the drip campaign?
Setting up a drip campaign is easy, but the wrong content will drive people away instead of drawing them in. If your new lead doesn't find your first email useful, they won't open your emails in the future. This is not the time to tell your company's story or make a heavy sales pitch. Instead, engage with the customer and give them value so they are enthused to see messages from you in their inbox.
- Establish your expertise by offering useful, insightful content.
- Invite the lead to take a quick survey so you can learn more about their needs.
- Ask for their input on products and services in development.
- Build trust by continuing to overdeliver on your promises.
- Build goodwill by offering free toolkits, webinars, or downloads.
- Use short lines and brief paragraphs, so the reader isn't overwhelmed with a wall of text.
- Put your best material first, at the top of the email, or last, in a P.S. at the bottom.
- Communicate your brand style with word choice and graphics; don't try to tell people what your brand is about.
- Include brief messages about your company — especially social proof like testimonials, awards, glowing reviews, or the number of satisfied customers using your product.
Don't be afraid to repeat your messaging — 63 percent of consumers need to hear a company's claims 3–5 times before they believe them. Nurturing leads this way takes time, but it pays off. The Annuitas Group reports that nurtured leads make 47 percent larger purchases than non-nurtured leads, on average.
Decision: Present the purchasing options
When will it be time to offer a CTA message? The answer depends on what you're trying to sell.
If you're selling a $2 item, you can get to the point pretty quickly. If you're asking people to commit to a $500 monthly expense, you'll need to build trust first. Asking for a big sale too early is like proposing marriage on a first date — it frightens potential customers and destroys a budding relationship.
When the time comes to make the sale, the copywriting switches tones slightly again. In your CTA, you'll want to create a sense of urgency. Let your customers know about an expiring discount, a limited-time sale, or a sell-out risk. Surround that message with more social proof to build trust.
It's best if your CTA sends the lead to another dedicated landing page instead of a generic product page or your home page. This landing page should match your emails in terms of branding, overall look, and messaging, so the customer experience is seamless.
Present no more than three pricing levels, with the highest price first. The first price a customer sees establishes an anchor in their mind — especially if they don't know what to expect. Having too many options leads to "analysis paralysis." The overwhelmed buyer will leave your site to think over their options, only to never return.
The copywriting on this page should stress the scarcity message that brought them here, along with more social proof — "Join over 100,000 happy customers!" — and include comforting messages about your return policy or trial period to help them feel safe about buying.
Small choices matter
Be sure to test different CTA wording and landing pages. In one case, a company found that changing their CTA wording from "Start your free 30-day trial" to "Start my free 30-day trial" boosted the response rate by 90 percent!
Action: The moment of truth
Your thank you page and receipt emails are also opportunities to build a relationship with your customer. The copywriting for these materials should include phrasing designed to ward off buyer's remorse. Give your new client a sense of belonging by welcoming them to your customer community. Remind them of the great deal they scored and repeat your social proof messaging. "Congratulations! You've just saved 45% on your order, and joined ranks with 50,000 other happy customers who use Widgets!"
If the lead doesn't respond to your first CTA, don't give up. Perhaps the timing wasn't right for them. Start a second drip campaign or let your newsletter continue nurturing the lead until they are ready to buy. Try a different CTA every once in a while, and pay attention to which ones work and what timing converts best.
Retention: Keep the customer happy
There's an old adage in business: "A customer is nothing but a prospect who has already bought from you once." Make sure you don't stop courting customers at this crucial juncture. Keep nurturing your customers like prospects, with regular communication and messages that have emotional appeal.
Your onboarding email series should lean heavily on warm, inclusive phrasing and support the consumer through any learning curve they may face. The first email should reinforce their buying decision one more time and direct them to tutorials, instructions, and customer support. The copywriter's goal at this point is to make the new client feel like a valued member of your community and to make sure they are happy with their purchase.
It’s a smart business move to cultivate an audience of return customers. Sales efforts have a success rate of 60–70 percent when selling to existing customers, versus less than 20 percent when trying to attract new leads. It's far easier and cheaper to retain customers than to find new ones.
What kind of content should you offer in your customer emails and newsletters?
- Tips and tricks to get the most out of your products and services.
- Useful industry information so they trust your brand as a helpful, authoritative figure.
- Invite their feedback on the products you have in development — people find it very hard to resist products they helped design.
- Incentives for referrals and social media shares.
- Compliment and define your brand users as a group, so their association with your brand becomes part of their identity
Sales funnel copywriting is complex. Each stage, from creating initial awareness to supporting new customers, brings unique challenges. Throughout the process, the copywriter must take into account the reader's interests and emotional triggers. If you present well-written content that is customer-focused and demonstrates value at each stage of the sales funnel, your copy will lead prospects into a satisfying and fruitful relationship with your business.
This article was written by Compose.ly writer Lauren Haas.