How to Make More Money Online with an Optimized Sales Funnel - Digital Image Group
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How to Make More Money Online with an Optimized Sales Funnel

What is the first step to a successful marketing strategy?

How do I increase my sales online?

There are a lot of tools that we can use to maximize our digital marketing efforts, but before I ever begin drilling down to the tactics with a client, I always start by looking at their sales funnel, also known as a conversion funnel. Correct use of this straightforward marketing model produces growth for businesses both small and large.

Before we begin, it is important that you understand an important principle: Marketing is an ecosystem. If we focus entirely on sales, then we will never attract new customers. If all of our efforts are on educating new clients, then none of them (or few of them) will every convert to actual business.

What is a sales funnel?

A sales funnel is a holistic view of the process of how people go from knowing nothing about your business to becoming repeat customers. Every business will have different steps in the process, but the principles are the same. In just a few moments I will show you some specific examples of how you can apply this to your business. Some firms will have many more steps in their conversion process; some will have fewer. (Aren’t they fortunate.) But, some standard principles apply to most businesses across the board.

At every step of the process we want to:

A: Offer something of value to our potential customers
B: Receive something of value for our business


You begin by reaching out to potential customers who know nothing about your business. More often than not you do this through some form of paid advertising. You might also do this through networking groups, or your potential customers might see one of your posts on social media. Whatever it takes, you want the cost per lead to be small at this stage because of how many people will hear about you and never move to step 2. We don’t care about everyone; we only care about qualified leads who want what we have and are willing to pay for it.

What Value Can I Offer at this Stage?

At this first stage, you will primarily use either carefully written ads or, if in person, an elevator pitch to introduce who you are and why you do what you do to the potential customer. This is the widest part of the funnel because a lot of people will hear about your business who either aren’t interested at all or not right now. Your goal should be to entice them in some way to enter your funnel and move onto step 2. Your services might be intriguing enough, or you may need to offer some form of discount in your ads. (Example to follow.)

What Do I Get in Return?

If they like what you have to say, they will either come and visit your site or your store. What sort of value does this have for me? I want them to buy! This is often the hardest step of the process for many businesses, so don’t get caught up on the sale yet. At this stage, you can begin to learn if and how you resonate with your audience as well as gaining demographic data, if you are spending on digital ads.


Let’s imagine a baker by the name of Peter has spent his entire life learning how to make the world’s greatest cupcakes. He found an investor, bought some equipment and rented the perfect spot on the corner of 1st & Broadway. On day one, he opens his doors, but no one knows about him. No one buys.

He decides to put a sign in his window that says, “Free tastings every Friday!” He also buys a Facebook ad that offers a free dozen cupcakes included with every order to every customer to visit his site. (Peter is smart with this ad because he is drawing potential customers through several steps of his funnel with this ad, but more on this in a moment.)

His ads are showing him that middle-income housewives and 18-25 year-olds are clicking his ads.


Everyone who has moved into step 2 will likely be intrigued or interested to some degree in what you have to offer. You do want your site to look professional, be easy to navigate and easy to use because you don’t want these potential customers to visit and just leave. We want to move them to step 3. You do this by offering something of value again.

What Value Can I Offer at this Stage?

You provide the potential customer with more information about who you are and why you do what you do. You explain what sets you apart, how affordable you are and why they can’t live without your services or products. You might also offer those free tastings in store or blog about recipes on your site. Tastings and free information are what people get for showing up. Get the free list of tools that I use every day.

What Do I Get in Return?

What you get in return is awareness about your brand, quality and services. Online you can gain traffic information about what they are reading and what questions they are asking. You are also only one step away from your first ‘Yes’. If done well, this stage can also generate referral traffic to your business from people who visit. You can also create ads that are called retargeted. This means that the ad will be served to people who have visited your website.

There are specific strategies to leverage referral marketing, but that is for another post.


Peter has a huge turnout. 150 people visit his online store, and 200 people arrive in his bakery on Friday to taste his cupcakes, they LOVE them…now what?!


In many businesses the first ‘Yes’ will be a sale. If so, congratulations! Otherwise, you will want to find a way to trade wary potential customers a small yes for something of value to you. This idea of a small ‘yes’ does several things:

  • Someone who has said ‘yes’ to you at some point is far more likely to make a purchase in the future.
  • You give them something of value that continues to convince them that you are even better than you claim to be at what you do. Those cupcakes ARE JUST THAT GOOD!
  • You get something back from them that is of value to you but doesn’t seem to cost them anything, like an email address or subscription to a free program.

The importance of the first yes is why the business model of freemium subscriptions works so well. A site like Grammarly will offer a core of their services for free and then dot those users with sales offers to move them through to the final stage of conversion once those potential customers have fallen in love with the service. Drug dealers have used the ‘first one’s free, second one will cost you’ method for years…because it works, but I digress.

Now sure how your funnel is converting? Reach out today for a FREE consultation, and as always, there are never any commitments.

What Value Can I Offer at this Stage?

Offer them something in trade, such as a birthday cake recipe for their email address, or monthly discounts for their email address. Ibotta is a company that has made hundreds of millions of dollars on the idea of small, seemingly ‘free’ trades with consumers. The Ibotta app offers rebates on groceries in trade for answering a survey question or watching a short ad. Customers love it because they get actual money back for their groceries in trade for what seems like nothing. However, the businesses paying Ibotta for those ads know that those customers are entering the companies conversion funnel, which will hopefully lead to future sales.

What Do I Get in Return?

You either get a sale or permission to market to them on a regular basis. Yes, you heard that correctly. Requesting email addresses is the core of successful digital marketing because it is the one way that we have direct permission to go to our potential customers on a regular basis.

Salesforce did some research and found that “77% of consumers prefer to receive permission-based marketing communications through email,” and email marketing often generates triple-digital returns for businesses.


Peter asks for an email from everyone who makes a purchase, but some people are leaving after only one taste. “Did you enjoy the cupcake you tasted?” his wife asks by the door. “Of course,” they say, “But we weren’t planning on buying anything today.” “No problem. I’m happy to give you a freebie of your choice for your email.”

Two out of three of the customers who were going to leave without even saying goodbye trade their email address for a cupcake.

Marketing is an ecosystem.


This is a critical step that most businesses either skip or simply don’t consider. People get so focused on the sale that they ignore the possibility that the potential customer is a potential repeat customer with many potential customer friends and family members. Optimizing this step will not only increase conversions (sales) but increase the lifetime value of your clients. Think of it like this: It’s hard to find people who want what we have. When we do find them, why would we just let them go?

What Value Can I Offer at this Stage?

Now is when you hit your growing email list. Don’t just send a flat, boring email or even a robust sales email. Try sharing tools that you are building or tips that you are learning or recipes that you have created through trial and error. Offer discounts and coupons. Stuff these emails with enough good stuff to keep people looking for them.

Red Robin does a great job of this. If you subscribe to their membership program, which is their email program, you get a free burger on your birthday, a free 10th purchase and regular discounts on food. Every time I step into one of their restaurants, I scroll through my email hoping to find something new. And yes, I have gone to them when I was planning on going somewhere else because a beautiful photo of a delicious burger landed in my inbox earlier that day.

What Do I Get in Return?

What you get in return is a greater chance to close the deal, a high potential for repeat business from current customers or even new business through incentivized referrals.


Peter offers a 25% off bring-a-friend day to everyone on his email list. If anyone receiving his emails comes in next week with a friend (from whom he will request an email), they will receive 25% off an entire order.


Close the deal and make that sale. But, don’t even think about stopping there.


Continue sending emails with unique offers for repeat customers or referrals or whatever part of your funnel you need to increase.

If you continue to offer value, customers will become fans and repeat customers before you know it.

Some of the strategies that I have outlined above were difficult to achieve in the days of traditional marketing, but with today’s digital tools we not only make more money online but turn customers into repeat business over time.

How is your conversion funnel working for you? Is there a step in the process that you are missing? Don’t hesitate to leave a comment below.