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Preparing your sales funnel for 2018

Sales Funnel

Getting ready for a new year means a lot of different areas of your business need attention. Today we are going to discuss preparing your sales funnel.

It’s officially the holiday season in the United States. Maybe it is where you live as well. In the town where I live, we go all out downtown. We have a very tall Christmas tree, a Ferris Wheel, a kid’s train ride, and a funnel cake stand.

Sales Funnel, not funnel cakes
Sales Funnel, not funnel cakes

Now, when I was younger, I remember having those gloriously loaded, carb saturated, cakes of powdered sugar goodness. These days, I stay far away from those types of cakes. Nevertheless, these are not the funnels you have prepare for in the new year, but rather, your sales funnel.

Without prospects in the sales funnel, you won’t be going to the carnival anytime soon.

Frankly, it is hard to through a day without hearing the term “funnel” (or sales funnel) if you work in online marketing. I have learned that a sales funnel and a sales pipeline are not the same, but that causes me to ask how to define a sales funnel.

So, do you want a nice verbose answer or a more simple answer? For the verbose answer, consider this one by R. L. Adams via Forbes,

Thus, the funnel is a multi-modality process, as there are a variety of relationship-building experiences and “touches” that occur through several stages.

Matt Ackerson from Auto Grow defines it like this,

A sales funnel is a series of steps designed to guide visitors towards a buying decision. The steps are composed of marketing assets that do the work of selling, like landing pages and emails.

A more simple definition comes from Seriously Simple Marketing,

By definition, a sales funnel is the ideal process that your customers go through as they move from being someone who could potentially be a customer to an actual one.

And, if you aren’t satisfied with these answers, then you can check out the question on Quora for more options.

A funnel can be as simple as a contact form to capture someone inquiring about your services. A series of emails (an autoresponder series) can nurture the lead to move the visitor towards an engagement, preferably one that includes a purchase.

Looking Forward
Looking Forward

Looking Forward

To start with your preparation, you need to look forward. Looking forward and having a vision of where you want to go with your business is a crucial exercise to plan ahead. There are a couple of simple things you can do to help look forward.

Goals

What goals do you have for next year? Evaluating where you are now is a good way to help set goals. Take an assessment of your business, your revenue, and some of the goals you set for the year 2017. Are there any gaps? Did you miss on some of these goals?

Goals stretch us. Even if we miss our goals, if we were trying, we moved forward. Consider the words of Laura Bonk,

What’s life without growth? And what’s growth without goals? Take advantage of all of this reflection and financial review to set some goals for the coming year. Setting financial, career, and personal goals will give you both the direction and motivation to improve and evolve the quality of your services and business as a whole.1

Update your Autoresponder

This is a good time to take a look at the autoresponder for your funnel. Does it need to be updated? Has any of your information changed? Maybe you need to update your lead magnet to something newer that will help accomplish different goals next year.

Wait. You haven’t set up an autoresponder?  Time to get cracking pappy.

An autoresponder is just a sequence of email marketing messages that gets sent to subscribers in the order and frequency that you decide. Sonia Simone, Copyblogger

Most of the big email software companies have autoresponders including MailChimp.

The new year would be a great time to implement an autoresponder series. Start first by setting up a simple lead magnet and hitch an autoresponder series to those opt-ins.

Follow up

If it weren’t for Client Relationship Managers, we would have a hard time following up with customers and potential customers. Following up can be powerful for preparing your pipeline in 2018.

Schedule meetings for January

Looking forward and creating revenue could come in looking back and following up. At this point in the year, we all have potential clients whom we have been in contact with for most of the year. Those contacts are often ready to do business after the first of the year.

Why not make time now, in December, to schedule meetings for January?

Perhaps you’ve recently contacted some people and the interest was there but the timing for a call wasn’t right. When someone tells me to follow up with them in January, I mark my notes and calendar to follow up 30-days earlier.

Here’s why.

After your target buyers return from some holiday downtime, they will be swamped catching up. If you wait until that first week of January to try to book appointments, it will only delay the time it takes to get a meeting scheduled.  Barbara Giamanco

Evaluate past year’s customers

Take a look at clients this year. See what kind of work you had with those clients. Maybe there is room for more work in the new year. This is something to really consider if these clients are happy with your work.

Giamanco explains that she looks at the companies who generated the most revenue in the past year for her company, create a list of the top 10, and then sets up a year-end review. The reviews provide her with three different goals, one being a chance to look at the future,

. . .these reviews provide a perfect opportunity to talk with customers about their current and future initiatives. Armed with that information, you can educate them about other products or services that may help them achieve their upcoming business objectives.

Could a year-end review with your customers make a difference going forward?

Follow up with potential clients

Finally, follow up with potential clients. Maybe you have some leads you haven’t had a chance to work, but January could be a good time to get in front of those leads and find out what problems you can solve.

Christopher Hawkins points out,

Everyone has that lead. You know the one. They’re a good fit for your offering, they have a budget, they seem like nice folks, you have agreement-in-principle regarding working together, they’re on their 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th contact with you, but for whatever reason the deal just won’t quite close. Conversely, we all have that lead who says they’ll sign up as soon as their budget is renewed.

Networking
Networking

Plan for Networking

Without networking, it will be hard to move forward. Just this week, I was contacted by a guy I’ve known for about seven years and worked with approximately five years ago. This network relationship has existed for a long time.

The new year is a great time to consider networking opportunities and plan.

As WordPress professionals, we have multiple ways to meet others including WordCamp, WordPress Meetups, Facebook Groups, and Slack Groups. Additionally, there is a host of ongoing digital marketing conferences. Further, there are various trade conferences where your target audience may be.

As Bonk says,

One of the single-most effective way to both network your freelancing business and expand your industry knowledge is to attend conferences and meetups within your industry or niche. By sitting down and choosing some of these events ahead of time, you’ll be able to budget around entrance fees, and possibly even snag early-bird discounts.

Don’t stop there. Answer calls to be on a podcast or write a guest blog post. This expands your network further. If at all possible, try to get on podcasts and blogs where your target audience hangs out. Craft a great bio with a link to a freebie give away for an email address. Also, don’t forget that autoresponder.

Over to you

In a perfect world, we would have 2018 ready to go and not be concerned with where we will be in January. Nevertheless, it is good to have a game plan for preparing our pipeline.

A three-step plan to be ready in 2018 can be to Look Forward, Follow Up, and Plan for Networking.  It doesn’t have to be complicated, but focus on a few tasks can make all the difference.

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Todd Jones
Along with being the resident writer for MainWP and content hacker at Copyflight, I specialize in writing about startups, entrepreneurs, social media, WordPress and inbound marketing topics.
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