Funneling Customers Into Your Site

  |  March 19, 2001   |  Comments

Your Web site's home page is both sales funnel and salesperson. You've got to pull your potential buyers through the funnel, showing them the way to what they, and you, want: Their purchase, your sale.

In "Why Should I Buy From You?" we talked about how important it is to have a strong, clear, and simple unique selling proposition (USP) that draws your traffic into your sales funnel, and how your USP has to be crystal clear on your home page.

By now many of you must be thinking I suffer from home-page obsession. I don't know, maybe I do. But the intense focus on getting the home page right comes from looking at potential customers from the far end of the funnel.

What do I mean? Whenever you are looking at a group that you want to persuade, you begin by acknowledging that even under the best conditions you are not going to sell every one of them. The number you lose is called drop-off. (The ones you ultimately convert into buyers you could call, hmm, "the converted.")

Pulling Through

Imagine that you're looking at a group of people from the top -- the wide end -- of a funnel. As the funnel gets narrower, not everyone can or will even want to get through. Your goal is to get as many through the hole on the bottom as possible. (The number of people you convert into buyers divided by the total size of the initial group is called the conversion rate.) To get more people through the funnel, you must engage them in the systematic, professional selling process -- actually called "a buying funnel" in sales circles. (We'll look at the selling process in more detail in the next article.)

Let's look at the group you're trying to pull (not push, right?) through the funnel.

Regardless of what they may say, typically 30 out of 100 people are "just looking." That means the remaining 70 are hoping to buy, most of them today. With 70 percent of people looking to buy, you have to wonder why the average Web site closes less than 2 percent of sales. It has been said that sales is a transfer of enthusiasm. Want to increase your sales volume by 50 percent? (Silly question.) But if your closing rate is average, then all your site has to do is transfer enthusiasm to just ONE disappointed customer who was hoping to buy! If your site could transfer enthusiasm to just two of those unsold visitors, your sales volume would double -- with zero spent in extra marketing expenses. Even if your closing rate is above average, the same principle and process apply.

Showing the Way

Where to begin? The home page, of course!

Whenever we work with a client, a good 30-40 percent of the engagement involves incorporating what we call Digital Salespeople into the home page. In any real-world business, a salesperson's first job is to greet customers, then reassure them they are in the right place, and then quickly, easily, and comfortably orient them toward where they can go to find what they are looking for. Your site is nothing more, or less, than a digital store. Would you build a store and not hire any salespeople?

Ultimately, the job of a good salesperson is to assist the buyer in getting through the funnel. Your home page is the top of the funnel and can, if developed properly, be that good salesperson too.

It amazes me to see sites that cause half their visitors or more to never get past the home page. Can you think of a better way to kill your sales than to drive away half your traffic? And that was traffic you paid for somehow, too, wasn't it? Your first goal should be to strengthen your home page so you lose fewer people at the top. Everything else being equal, that means you will automatically have more coming out at the bottom. (Now just think about the impact of strengthening the rest of the process, too.)

It's so clear, isn't it, that if you don't funnel your traffic -- despite the marketing dollars you pay -- you're letting most of them slip away?


Bryan Eisenberg

Bryan Eisenberg is co-founder and chief marketing officer (CMO) of IdealSpot. He is co-author of the Wall Street Journal, Amazon, BusinessWeek, and New York Times best-selling books Call to Action, Waiting For Your Cat to Bark?, and Always Be Testing, and Buyer Legends. Bryan is a keynote speaker and has keynoted conferences globally such as Gultaggen,, Direct Marketing Association, MarketingSherpa, Econsultancy, Webcom, the Canadian Marketing Association, and others for the past 10 years. Bryan was named a winner of the Marketing Edge's Rising Stars Awards, recognized by eConsultancy members as one of the top 10 User Experience Gurus, selected as one of the inaugural iMedia Top 25 Marketers, and has been recognized as most influential in PPC, Social Selling, OmniChannel Retail. Bryan serves as an advisory board member of several venture capital backed companies such as Sightly, UserTesting, Monetate, ChatID, Nomi, and BazaarVoice. He works with his co-author and brother Jeffrey Eisenberg. You can find them at

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