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Marketing 101: Understanding & Optimizing Your Marketing Funnel

Increasing traffic to your website is important, but what visitors do when they get there is crucial to growing your business. Unfortunately, some marketers overlook conversion optimization. In fact, one report revealed that for every $92 businesses spend driving traffic to their websites, they only spend $1 converting it (meaning converting visitors into customers).

This is where your conversion funnel comes into action. Understanding how your conversion funnel works—or doesn’t work—and optimizing it is a major success factor for engagement, conversion, and most importantly, retention. A visualization of the flow of people through the different stages of the conversion process is typically shaped like a funnel.

What is a Conversion Funnel?

A conversion funnel is, simply speaking, the steps visitor to your website take to complete an action. That action could be buying a product, signing up for a service, or even subscribing to a newsletter. No matter what the desired action is, a typical conversion funnel has four stages:


1. Awareness: The first time a user visits your website and learns about your company. They may be coming from a piece of content shared on social media, a search engine, or a recommendation from a friend or online reviewer. Your marketing messages at this stage of the conversion funnel should focus on educating the visitor about what your website has to offer.

2. Interest: This is the stage where a visitor wants to learn more. They may visit your “About Us” page, browse your products, click on links to content, or read testimonials. Your marketing messages in the interest stage should focus on your unique value proposition—what makes your website and company stand out from the competition.

3. Desire: At this stage, a visitor is thinking about completing your desired action. Your marketing messages at this stage should be benefit-focused. Why should a visitor buy your product? What can they expect if they sign up for your service? How often will they receive your newsletter, and what will be in it? Your marketing messages should focus on the benefits of conversion and include strong calls to action.

4. Action: This is the stage where you close the deal, and, depending on your goal, a visitor gets out his or her credit card or starts filling out a form. Your marketing messages at this stage should focus on process—what the visitor needs to know to successfully complete the action—and also include strong calls to action.

See the difference in size from the top to the bottom? Only a small number of visitors to your website are likely to make it to the action step. That’s the bad news. The good news is, you can make the bottom of the funnel wider.

How to Improve Your Conversion Funnel

The first step to improving your conversion funnel is understanding where you’re losing potential customers. You’ll find you’re losing customers at each step—that will always be the case, but you can improve those numbers by figuring out why.

Here are some common reasons for conversion funnel drop-off:

  • Not offering a next step in the action stage. If someone follows a social media link to a piece of your content, don’t expect them to be proactive and browse the rest of your site. Offer them related or most popular content and products. Give them a place to go next. AddThis Audience Targeting rules are a great way to make this happen.
  • Not communicating the benefits of your offering in the interest or desire stage. It’s not enough to just explain how your products or services work. What problem do they solve? How do they better your customers’ lives?
  • Not using strong calls-to-action in the interest or desire stage: Use strong language and brightly colored buttons for your CTAs. “Sign up for a free trial,” “Join our VIPs,” and “Buy now” are all examples of strong calls-to-action.
  • Having a complicated action stage. Think about your check out, sign up or subscription process. Are you asking for too much information? Is your process several pages long? Strip action pages down to the essentials—no links, no large images or video—and make the action as painless as possible.

Once you’ve identified your problem areas, it’s time to start testing solutions. AddThis Audience Targeting makes it easy to create marketing messages for your website visitors, and target them based on user interests and behavior. It has built-in A/B testing so you can measure which calls-to-action work with which audience. You can then take what you’ve learned and use it to optimize your conversion funnel where it needs it the most.

How to Prevent Churn

Many businesses focus on attracting new customers, but forget about retaining the ones they already have. When you lose customers—whether it’s after their first purchase or fifth—it’s called “churn.” There are a lot of reasons customers may churn—they may find better prices or products; they may like your products just fine but hate the process of buying from you; or they may forget about your company and offerings entirely. Here are a few ways to minimize churn:

  • Solicit customer feedback. If you’ve bought anything from a third-party seller on Amazon, you’ve likely received an email asking for feedback. Not all customers will respond to your request for feedback, but many will, and you can use the suggestions they provide to improve your processes.
  • Use email marketing to keep customers engaged. Newsletters are a powerful tool for letting customers know about new products and services, announcing sales, and distributing special offers. Maintain regular communication with your customers and subscribers, and if they unsubscribe from your emails, give them an opportunity to tell you why.
  • Make customer service a priority. The customers who are likely to be the most vocal about your company are those who are extremely happy and extremely unhappy. Do what you can to make the latter group happy, and reward the former with a sincere thank you.

Keeping website visitors engaged long enough to convert them to customers isn’t easy, and converting customers into repeat buyers and brand advocates is even harder. Improving your conversion funnel will not only help you to grow your revenue, it will also give you a better understanding of who your customers are and what they want.

Last modified:  January 6th, 2017