Startups: Get More Customers From Your Website by Understanding the Funnel

One of the rookie mistakes first-time entrepreneurs often make is to assume that visitors on their website are ready to buy their product or service right away. I’ve made this mistake myself.

But in reality, the average visitor to your website isn’t ready to make a buying decision… yet.

In order to grow a successful business, you need to understand the concept of “the funnel” and the stages that fall between “casual website visitor” and “evangelical customer.”

This concept of a funnel is something that applies especially well to B2B products, since your prospects will tend to move more slowly and make more deliberate decisions.

Stage 1: Top of the Funnel

At this stage, a visitor might be hearing about you for the first time. Maybe they saw a link to your blog article on Twitter or found your homepage through a non-branded search query.

They’re probably not ready to buy yet, they’re just checking things out. They don’t know much about you and your product yet, so your goal at this stage should be to start a relationship and build trust, not to sell them.

There are a few specific things you can do at this stage to begin a relationship:

  1. Get them to subscribe to your blog. You are blogging, right? You want them to trust your brand and think of you as a thought leader. Get them clicking through your content and encourage them to subscribe to get the latest articles. This gets you in their inbox regularly, and you become seen as a source of information, not just a company trying to sell.
  2. Suggest your free tool. If they’re on your site, they’re probably looking for help with something. Having a basic, free tool is a great way to help them solve their problems without requiring them to open their wallet. HubSpot does this well with our free Marketing Grader tool — it gives you free analysis of your website and has run millions of reports since it was launched.
  3. Offer a free eBook or webinar. The goal is to help them while only requiring some basic contact info — like an email address — in exchange. Use a landing page to collect their email address and other follow-up information, and then send them a copy of your eBook, or invitation to a webinar.

Stage 2: Middle of the Funnel

At this point, the prospect knows who you are, and has exchanged their contact information for some useful content or service you’ve provided them.

At this point, they may be ready to buy. You’re not 100% sure how long it’ll take them to be ready. But you keep nurturing the relationship by regularly following up and sending them more useful, targeted information.

Usually, this stage of the relationship happens via email since it ensures you’re getting in front of them again. It’s sometimes known as “lead nurturing” or “marketing automation” but the general idea is the same. You should have a pre-planned series of emails you can use to follow up with someone once they’ve provided their email address.

Send them a few of your top-performing blog articles, or a new eBook you’ve written. It’s got to be something useful that will continue to help them solve their problems. You don’t want them to open the email and see a sales pitch – they’ll likely never open another email from you again.

But you also want to make it easy for them to get in touch with you when they’re ready to buy, so that you don’t lose a sale. Allow them to respond to emails with feedback (don’t use a “noreply” email address), or direct them to a “get in touch” landing page where you can answer their questions more directly to begin the sales process.

Stage 3: Bottom of the Funnel

At this point your prospect knows who you are, has come to see you as a trusted source of information, and has raised their hand to say they want to get in touch. They might have signed up for a free trial, or requested a demo of your product.

Their behavior indicates that they’re seriously in the process of evaluating your product and want to learn more about it. This is the easiest kind of sale to make, since they’re an inbound lead and have demonstrated that they’re sales-ready.

You’re much more likely to acquire customers when you set up a sales and marketing funnel that’s focused around your prospects’ needs. Get in front of them with shareable content, help them with free tools and more useful information, and then nurture the relationship to keep your company top of the mind for them.

This stuff is all super high level. If you’re looking for more tactical ways to execute some of this, check out the eBook I’m working on called “Marketing for Hackers.”

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