How to Find & Solve Problems in Your Digital Marketing Funnel

How to Find & Solve Problems in Your Digital Marketing Funnel

By Joel Widmer | Lead Generation

Oct 29
digital marketing funnel

Marketing funnels. Everyone talks about them and how they're essential for your business, but you may ask yourself:

  • What is a sales funnel?
  • How do I know I've made the "right" one?
  • Would I be able to tell if mine was broken?
  • Should I just pay someone else to make my funnel for me?

The reason most businesses have broken sales funnels is because they lack intention on how customers move through their sales process. Most people haven't built a true funnel because they don't know how, and sorry to say, but a contact form forwarding to an email is NOT a funnel.

Not every funnel will look the same for every company, so you need to know how the funnel should operate for your business. 

In this post, I'll walk you through the function of each level of a typical digital marketing funnel, how to identify what's broken and what you can do to fix it.

Create Clarity with Your Team

Before you dig into fixing any problems in your sales process, it's critical you make sure you and your team is on the same page for what happens in each step of the process. 

The first and most foundational step when evaluating your funnel is ensuring it's painfully clear, for your entire team, what happens at each step and who's in charge of it. 

Here are a few examples of questions that should be easy to answer.

  • When an inbound lead comes in, how do you decide who takes it? And how is that person notified?
  • How do you determine if a lead is qualified? Is everyone using the same metrics? 
  • Is everyone using the same email templates when sending first, second etc. emails to prospects? 
  • Are handoffs clear between salespeople and project managers? What are the triggers? 
  • What information must you collect along the way and is that info in a place everyone who needs it can easily access it?

If you have any vagueness around what happens in each stage and the triggers that move prospects into the next phase, you won't be able to fix the rest of your funnel leaks.

Sound too complicated and like something you want to outsource?

You could outsource your funnel creation, but you'll still have to make sure you're clear about the steps with whoever makes it.

Even if you're not the one to create it, knowing how your funnel works gives you invaluable insight into why people are converting or leaving.

But once you and your team are clear, it's time to evaluate what should stay and what should go.

Top of Funnel: Awareness 

The goal of the top of the funnel is the largest and "easiest" part of the sales process with the focus being to create awareness and get your content seen. But there's only so much data you get from attempting to monitor what posts were seen or even word-of-mouth reach. 

Publishing content isn't enough to make prospects aware of your product or service. A mistake that some owners make is that if they just put a piece of content online, thinking that their prospects will find it if they need it because they shared it on their LinkedIn profile and email list once. 

Not sure if you're making the same mistake with the top of your funnel? Here are some metrics to check:

  • Monthly sessions (How many people see your content?) 
  • Engagement rate (Do they check out other content on your site or just bounce somewhere else?) 
  • Return visits (Do they care enough to come back?) 
  • Time on site (Are they actually reading your content?) 

If any of these indicators are trending down, it may be useful to perform a content audit and evaluate these possible problem spots.

Check Your Content Distribution

The first indicator there may be a problem with the top of your funnel is if SEO doesn't circulate your blog, social media, email newsletter, paid advertising, etc. This could be from a lack of an SEO strategy including no targeted keywords or backlinks and not diversifying traffic sources.

This is the "low gas light" for top of the funnel issues. Uploading a post isn't the same as distributing it, and people won't discover your content if it doesn't have the resources to get anywhere.

What to look for and fix:

  1. Are you continually ranking for new high-intent keywords? If not, do you have an SEO strategy?
  2. Have you chosen targeted keywords for each of your posts to rank for? 
  3. How is your site's content structure? Is new content buried 8 clicks from the homepage or can visitors easily access it?

Content Audience Mismatch 

Beyond getting your content seen, it's possible you may be creating content that isn't connecting with your audience

Most of the time this happens when companies try to broaden their blog topics to appeal to a larger audience, resulting in watered-down, unfocused content that's no longer interesting or relevant to their core audience.

It can also happen when your writing isn't in the correct format or sophistication level for your core audience. 

For example, creating podcasts for an audience who doesn't have time to listen and is just looking for something scannable they can read. 

Another example of a content audience mismatch is trying to dumb down a technical guide for a sophisticated audience who needs it to be technical. Instead, you appear an outsider who doesn't understand their world. 

To get these right, you must make sure:

  • You clearly understand your audience's voice, style and communication preferences. 
  • You know the jargon, sophistication level and needs at each stage of the sales process. (Have your salespeople write down every question they get at every stage of your process.) 
  • Ensure your content isn't just informative, but answers the right questions along the way. (Think: Who, Why, When, Where...)

Publishing Confusion

When it comes to a publishing schedule, there's no gold standard. The Seth Godin's and Gary Vee's of the world scream "publish, publish, publish!", but constantly publishing content may not be the best strategy for your team. 

That's why I believe in testing. 

  • Think you're creating too much content? Test it by creating less and getting feedback.
  • Don't think you have enough content? Test it by creating more. 
  • Does your content seem self-serving? Test it by asking your audience if you are.
  • Feel like there's no emotional impact with your content that even you're bored with it? Test it by adding more emotional triggers.
  • Believe that a different of the day of the week would work better for publishing? Test it.

Even when I think I have a process nailed, I want to test it to prove myself wrong. That's right. I want to prove myself wrong. You improve nothing if you're not willing to say that a different approach may be better. 

Middle of the Funnel: Conflicted 

Once your prospect has educated themselves enough to realize they have a problem, it's time for them to evaluate solutions. Your middle stage marketing must educate and motivate them to raise their hand and identify themselves. This often involves signing up for a free resource in exchange for their email (also called a Content Upgrade or lead magnet). 

Examples of middle of the funnel content include:

  • Webinars
  • Tutorials
  • Testimonials
  • Ebooks, case studies
  • Buyer guides

Your content must connect with your prospect’s pain point, so they’re triggered to make a step towards a solution. How can you tell if your offerings aren’t working? 

Low Email Opt-ins 

When you have created an intentional funnel, you should see some movement. Similar to awareness, you can’t create an email opt-in and assume potential clients will flock to hand over their emails. It’s not enough to get someone to your website. How often have you seen an email opt-in appear on a site to only ignore it?

Plenty, right?

If you’re not getting visitors to opt-in on your offers, investigate the following:

  1. Do you have poor or too few calls to action? If you don't have them on every page, are they enticing or valuable enough? If you’re still not sure, ask yourself if YOU would sign up for your own opt-in. 
  2. Are your landing pages converting? If not, are you being clear enough with your copy of the benefits or do you need to fill in the gaps for visitors? Are you hitting their pain point or assuming that once they find the page, they’ll create a pain point for themselves?

Email is the only channel you own, so if people aren’t opting-in to your content, you’re missing out on valuable leads.

Social Proof

Maybe people are opting into your email list, but not moving forward. One problem could be because of a lack of case studies or testimonials AKA there’s no proof that you can do what you say you can do.

There are some flaws with online reviews, especially when business owners don’t have control over unfair postings. But you do have control over case studies and testimonials you share.

You probably wouldn’t spend money on a service or product without knowing what other people thought of it. So, you need to set up your sales process as one that your prospect’s only have one option to fix their biggest pain points: YOU.

Unqualified Leads 

Another indicator that the middle of your funnel is broken is that even though you're acquiring lots of leads, they're low quality and unqualified. This is a big problem, especially if you don't have a down-sell.

A high converting lead magnet with low quality leads is usually a clear sign you've hit a pain point for a broader audience. For example, we created a Target Buyer Persona Template for businesses, but the post ranks well in Google so its lead magnet is downloaded and used by a much broader audience than we intended. 

Because of that, we don't rely on this post for new leads, instead we use it for later in our marketing funnels to send prospects to as an example of a persona creation process. Another thing we could do is create another version that's much more specific and targeted to our audience.

A good rule of thumb is to focus your lead magnet as much as possible on a specific audience and problem, so when someone signs up for your list, you know they're interested.

Bottom of the Funnel: Informed 

At this point in the funnel, your prospect is ready to make a decision and has already made contact with you. Your goal is to help them make that decision and reaffirm it once decided.

Even though the bottom of the funnel is “the goal”, it isn't the end. After making the sale, the bottom of the funnel turns into post-client processes of gathering testimonials, case studies and introducing new products or solutions. 

The funnel can last as long as you want, but most business owners have a hard time solidifying customers for a few reasons.

No Late Stage Content

Bottom of the funnel content is usually the smallest amount of content a business has, in terms of quantity, but in many ways, it’s the most important because it leads to revenue and repeat customers.

You don’t need obsessive calls to action for this stage. Late stage content can include:

  • Product showcases and demos 
  • Comparison charts
  • Success stories 
  • Pricing guides 

The main thing we're doing at this stage is building the prospect's confidence in your solution. If that isn't happening in your late stage processes, it could mean one of the following problems. 

No Follow-Up or Sales Process to Close

For most business owners, leads come from the website, go through the email sequence, then onto the newsletter and forgotten.

Sound familiar?

Besides clients contacting you to close the sale, do you have systems in place to meet prospects where they are?

Here are a few areas to investigate:

  • Email segments
  • Onboarding systems
  • Personal follow-ups
  • Additional touch points or offers 
  • Re-targeting previous prospects or clients

The time, energy and money you put into your funnel has led prospects here. Don’t let a glitch or inconsistency in the system cause you to lose valuable leads.

Keeping Up with Your Funnel for the Future

Now that you’ve made your adjustments, maintaining your funnel is like any other part of your business — revisit it regularly to improve.

Make a habit of looking at your sales funnel with your team once a quarter. Because your entire team now has a clear vision of what it should look like, you’ll be able to identify errors quickly and see where you’ve made gains.

As long as you continue testing and tweaking your funnel as your company grows, you’re less likely to lose leads and important customer insights.


About the Author

Joel Widmer is the Founder & CEO of Fluxe Digital Marketing—a content marketing shop that helps smart businesses create, produce and promote their content through a unique one-on-one interview process. When he’s not working, Joel can be found trying new restaurants with his wife, son, and daughter.

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