Sales funnel fundamentals every web designer should know

Sales funnel fundamentals every web designer should know

Ashley Gainer's Layout avatar

Ever heard of a sales funnel? Of course you have. But do you know what a funnel is and how to use one? That one’s less of a no-brainer. But have no fear! Today we’re going to start unpacking the online marketing universe of the sales funnel…starting with the basics.

In this article, I’ll cover: 

What is a sales funnel?

The customer journey. The value ladder. The front-end and back-end.

There are all kinds of ways people talk about sales funnels. No matter what you call it, though, the thing you’re talking about is most frequently referred to as a “sales funnel.”

Learn how to use the Flywheel framework for inbound marketing here!

So what does any of that mean? To put it in web design terms, a sales funnel is the series of steps a website visitor takes from initial page view to purchase.

Every sales funnel has conversion as the endgame, and many sales funnels have multiple conversion levels built in. Understanding how to maximize conversion is the key to sales funnels, and web design can play a big part in that.

Let’s look at a fairly common example of a sales funnel:

  1. Traffic
  2. Landing page or blog post
  3. Email opt-in
  4. Low-price upsell on confirmation page
  5. Email sequence
  6. New higher offer
  7. The funnel continues

There are a few things going on here that might not be jumping out at you, so let’s break each step down.

1. Traffic

Traffic can come from all kinds of sources, and odds are good that as a designer, you know a bit about this. Getting traffic to the website (whether it’s a business site, a blog, a landing page, or whatever) is always the first step in any funnel — and this is the “widest” part of the funnel.

2. Landing page

Once your site visitor is at the website, they have the opportunity to take in the (free, no-strings-attached) content. This is critical in terms of web design because it needs to be incredibly easy for the site visitor to find what they’re looking for. There also needs to be a visible, compelling call to action — which brings us to the…

3. Email opt-in

In many sales funnels, the call-to-action is to exchange an email address for something of value. It may be a coupon to a shop, a downloadable checklist, an ebook, or even a free email course. No matter what the offer is, the goal for the vast majority of sales funnels at this point is to get someone to give you their email address. The number of people who do this will be smaller than the number of people who hit the site, so at this point your funnel is beginning to “taper.”

4. The upsell

Sometimes called a “trip wire,” the upsell is your first step out of the realm of “free” and into the realm of “paid.” (This is a sales funnel, after all.) Usually, the upsell appears on the confirmation page after someone opts in, and it presents a limited-time offer (usually with a countdown timer) to get a high-value product at a very low price. From a conversion perspective, the goal is to convert the visitor from reader to customer by offering something that usually sells for $49 for the limited-time price of $7 (for example).

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5. Email sequence

Whether the new prospect buys the upsell or not, they’ll get put into an email sequence. Usually, the first email of this sequence is to deliver the opt-in they were originally after. There may be separate sequences for those who buy and those who don’t, or they may all go into the same sequence. The goal of the sequence is to “nurture the relationship” and there’s a lot of emphasis placed on the copy of these emails. The content needs to layer in additional value that complements the original opt-in while showing the reader what the next logical steps are.

6. New offer

This offer may be another product, a course, or a specialized service. It should be the next logical step for the prospect to take after making good use of the free opt-in and (if applicable) the upsell. It’s also usually at a higher price point than the upsell.

7. The funnel continues (or not)

Each time there’s a new step in the funnel, the number of people acting on it will shrink, making that part of the “funnel” narrower. It’s this decreasing “shape” or “volume” that gives the sales funnel its name.

Why do sales funnels matter?

Ultimately sales funnels are about generating an income for the business owner (whether that’s you or a client of yours). When done well, they can be an extremely effective way of solving problems in the market and getting paid handsomely to do so.

“In other words, great funnels build successful businesses by solving the needs of customers. ”

Many successful businesses are built on a free opt-in, solid emails, and then one more offer (like a high-ticket program, subscription, or membership). Many other businesses have a multi-layered series of steps in their funnel with five, 10, or even 15 or more rungs. There’s no limit to how many steps your funnel can have, really.

You, as a web designer, may even set up your own sales funnel. If you run a blog, you might offer an email opt-in that your ideal client can’t help but want, and then you could use a welcome series to show why you’re the ideal web designer for that person, if and when the time comes. That’s the basics of a simple but effective sales funnel.

Why should designers care?

The thing that you need to understand about sales funnels is that they only work when the content they deliver is solid. If a funnel isn’t converting, or it breaks down somewhere in the middle, then the issue is with either the positioning or with the content itself.

Sales funnels are a crucial element of digital marketing. You, as a web designer, also land firmly within the digital marketing universe. They’re two separate areas of expertise, but they’re closely related. Web design isn’t just about making websites that look good — it’s about websites that meet needs…both of your clients and of their audience.

You might not want to specialize in designing sales funnels, but at the very minimum, you absolutely do need to have at least some basic working knowledge about what each step of the process should “look like.” Equipped with that knowledge, you can translate your client’s sales goals into functional web design that fits within their overall online presence while still delivering their sales copy in the most effective, compelling visual design as possible.

Article originally published on 7/20/17. Last updated on 9/10/19.

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Comments (2 )

  1. Creative Solutions

    July 29, 2017

    Thank you for sharing the very informative article

  2. Lyn Leon

    September 29, 2018

    Helo Im looking for information about sales funnel to web design agency. Do you have any info about it?

    • Britt Dreisbach

      October 1, 2018

      Hey, Lyn! A sales funnel can be applied or modified to almost any business structure. For an agency, it's still similar from the concept that you're working down a funnel and trying to get a stranger to interact with you and your site until they gain brand awareness and become a customer!

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