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How to create a sales funnel on a budget

3rd Feb 2017
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The “big boys” in e-commerce have a lot of money to spend on marketing and sales. The “little guys?” Not so much. Small businesses and startups have to make every penny count and yet still get enough through to the bottom of their sales funnels (paying customers) to make a profit and grow.

What’s in a Name?

The term “sales funnel” came to be because that is exactly how marketing to and nurturing customers works. You begin at the top of the funnel, trying to reach a broad swath of people who fit your customer persona. Some of them show interest and move a little bit into the funnel. Those individuals you nurture and connect with, and they may take you up on an offer or give you their email address for further contact. You continue to nurture and communicate, perhaps making offers or adding incentives until some of them actually take a “bite,” by ordering your product or service.

And even those who do not take that final “bite” will still need to hear from you. If you are selling lawn mowers, for example, and it is winter, many people will wait until spring. When spring comes, you want them to know you and your brand so well, that they buy from you.

Effective Funneling When Money is Tight

Actually, e-commerce has become somewhat of an equalizer. Small businesses with small budgets can still create a funnel and move potential customers through it by using an amazing number of low-cost to no-cost strategies and tools. Here is a process for doing just that, along with some suggestions for low-cost tactics.

Get a Great Website/Home Page

When visitors do come to have a look, they need to be impressed immediately. It should be clean and sleek; it should have links to your other pages; it should be easily navigated; and it should have high-quality images and other visuals. Fortunately, you can use a platform like WordPress to create your site, either on your own if you have the skills or by using a designer and purchasing a package with help and live support.

On that landing page, have something engaging that immediately explains the value of your product or service to a customer. Take a look at the landing page of Dollar Shave Club. The visitor is immediately introduced to a hilarious video that has a serious message – the benefits of subscribing to the club and getting razors delivered to their mailboxes every month. The video cost $2500 to produce, it has had millions of views, and the company has become a resounding success. Lots of people were moved down into that sales funnel as a result of that video.

Make Purchase/Checkout Easy

You want a fast, secure payment process. You want to integrate shipping; you want to send order confirmations; you want a tax support feature if necessary. Shopify can handle all of those operations for you. And the best part is that it comes with a bunch of great extensions for different web engines. Wordpress, Squarespace, Tumblr and  Wix Buy Buttons cost as low as $9 a month. That’s a budget alternative to hiring a web developer to integrate a payment gateway and create a smooth payment form.

Offer Incentives Right Away

Sometimes these are called “front-end offers.” Offer a discount for a first-time customer; offer free shipping; offer a free trial. The idea is to create more value and more desire on the part of that target. You want them to believe that if they act now, they are getting a better “deal.” It will move some people further into the funnel, to the point of considering a potential purchase. They are willing to do a bit of “window shopping” now. As they window shop, continue to show value and benefit.

Offer an Upsell

As the visitor is “shopping,” offer upsells. You can see examples of this everywhere. Software companies have “basic,” “professional,” and “premium” packages. Dollar Shave Club has three packages too, each priced accordingly. If you only sell a single product, offer a great deal if they purchase more than one (as a gift, perhaps).

Get an Email Address

You will have many “window shoppers” who do not make a purchase. You don’t want to lose them, so along the way, even on every page if necessary, offer something in exchange for that email address – a coupon toward a future purchase, the promise of special offers to be sent to them, for example. You must stay in contact with these prospects.

And don’t forget to segment your email list. You have leads; you have people who bought one time but haven’t been back for a while; and you have loyal customers who buy frequently. They need different emails. Find an email automation tool/service that will do some of this “heavy lifting” for you, by scheduling those emails to those segmented lists and sending them out on that schedule. These are known as “dripping campaigns” and they are both effective and pretty reasonable.


Once you have a paying customer, always follow-up with an email asking for comments/feedback on the product/service they purchased. And do something to keep in touch. Set up a rewards program that will provide future discounts and let you tell them about any new products, services, of sales that you are running. These are easy to set up, and you will more than make up for the cost of the rewards by continued purchases.

A sales funnel is a great method to segment your audiences and personalize your communication with them. It is also a method by which you can analyze your effectiveness in getting people through that funnel. And with all of the free to low-cost tools to be more effective, businesses on a budget can do this very well.

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