If you’re not getting much traffic to your website, and/or your list isn’t growing (which means you don’t have as many paying clients as you’d like), your business is likely suffering from S.G.B.S. We need to fix that, stat.
The problem is, you can’t always see the bottleneck in your sales funnel. The inexperienced business owner is often left shaking her head, wondering why no one is buying what she’s selling.
These are the 5 most common funnel bottlenecks:
Now, because this is soooooooo important to building the foundation of your business , I’m going to back up and take this nice and slowwwww… as in, step by step.
You really need to make sure your sales funnel is bottleneck-proof because a bottleneck in your sales funnel is one of the leading causes of slow-to-no growth in an online business and left unchecked it can cause an otherwise smart, savvy, and cool-headed business woman (like you) to spin herself in circles, or worse, howl at the moon (or is that just me?).
So, let’s take this step by step, shall we?
A sales funnel (sometimes called a marketing funnel, or a sales and marketing funnel) is the process you consciously and deliberately use to turn your website visitors (prospective clients and customers) into paying clients and customers, without making them feel like you’re one of those sales-y, icky, slime-y, pushy, used-car-salesman types (which, of course, you’re not).
This means you have to nurture the relationships you’re building before you even think about selling anything to anyone. And, by the way, if you do this right, you’ll never have to “sell” anything… people will naturally want to buy whatever it is you put out into the world. This is authentic selling and I suspect authenticity is important to you. (More about selling later.)
Take a look at the diagram to the right. The wide mouth of the funnel represents the point at which people come to your website because they heard about you somewhere or read about your products and/or services and their interest was piqued.
Perhaps they clicked on a social media link or maybe someone told them, “You have to visit her website!” Either way, someone has come to your site because they’re thinking that maybe, just maybe, you have what they’re looking for.
Since your goal is to turn website visitors into “leads” by inviting them to give you their email address in exchange for your utterly irresistible FREE opt-in offer (an offer they simply can’t refuse because it’s that good, i.e., it’s exactly what they were looking for!) you need to take a good hard look at this entry point into your funnel. You may want to skip ahead but I am strongly encouraging you to SLOW DOWN! (Think Tina Turner singing Proud Mary before she revs things up).
I really want you to get this: At this point in our funnel dissection we’re still only talking about your marketing message, i.e., the copy and images (branding, etc.) on your website, all designed (ideally) to establish a connection between you and your website visitors with the goal of having them opt in to your email list and ultimately buy from you.
We’re not talking about what’s actually inside the opt-in itself. We’ll get to that.
Which is precisely why you have to put a lot of thought and research into every. single. word. of your marketing message.
You see, the only thing you’re “selling” here is that you totally understand your avatar.
You know exactly who she is;
You know exactly what appeals to her (and what doesn’t);
You understand (and speak) the language she speaks;
You understand the problem, issue, or concern she has;
You know exactly how she thinks about her problem (the actual words she uses);
You also know how the problem affects her life on a daily basis;
You know what she’s tried in the past and why it failed;
Most importantly, you’re able to convey that you have the unique solution to her problem in a way that makes her believe you truly get her.
Oh, and you have to do all of the above in 6-seconds or less.
The problem here… and it’s one that so many online business owners struggle with, is that newbie entrepreneurs tend to jump ahead to creating offers and packages and products before they nail their vision, their mission, and their message. They spend a lot of time creating “stuff” and almost zero time on what truly matters at this point: nailing every step of their sales funnel from the top down.
Which means you can’t grow your email list.
Which means you don’t have any prospects to sell to, no matter how awesome your offer is.
It’s a big problem when people leave your website before you even have a chance to “speak” to them, or worse, they don’t even come to your website because your social media message isn’t enticing. But even if you do everything else right when it comes to driving traffic, all momentum will be lost if there is a bottleneck as soon as someone lands on your site.
When your website fails to convey your authentic awesomeness and your unique ability to help someone resolve an issue they’re struggling with, you end up fighting an uphill battle, and it’s more than just frustrating… it’s soul sucking.
The last thing we want is for website visitors to get squeezed out by a bottleneck in your sales funnel called “Message Fail.”
But take heart my dear entrepreneurial friend… you are not the problem; you just need a clear vision, mission, and message, and you need to convey all of it in six seconds (maybe less).
Six. (No pressure.)
The good news is… it can be done. (You were hoping I’d say that, weren’t you?)
No matter what stage you’re at in your business, attending to that first bottleneck, the one at the very top of your sales and marketing funnel, must be your top priority if you’re going to have any chance of protecting your business from Slow Growth Bottleneck Syndrome.
If you’re just starting out, this will save you a lot of time in “do-overs.” If you’ve been at this for a while, it may mean you have to go back to the drawing board to the point where you (didn’t quite) nail your niche, meaning, you didn’t “check all the boxes” that need to be checked when identifying a target market.
To be honest, some people don’t like it when I tell them this, but if you want to be in business, and you want to get it right (i.e., you want your business to grow), you have to have a solid grasp of what it means to “nail your niche” and you have to be willing to take a good hard look at what’s working and what’s not.
Yes, it may take some extra work; yes it’s a pain in the assterisk, but why maintain the status quo if it isn’t going to work? People are very unforgiving on the Internet. They want what they want and they have no patience for anything that is “off message.”
Even though most entrepreneurs think they know their target market, most fail miserably when it comes to articulating their vision, mission, and message to their market.
It’s no wonder their websites aren’t working for them. I don’t want that to happen to you!
NOTE TO ENTREPRENEUR (That would be you): Your website has to work for you, almost like a virtual public relations manager would. Its job is to convey your (say it with me now) vision, mission, and message. This is key to making your funnel bottleneck-proof.
Don’t go thinking you have to hire a copywriter to do this for you. NOT TRUE (at least, not yet). When you properly go through the process of understanding your market, writing copy becomes so much easier.
This means you have to listen in a way that invites people to speak.
You also have to speak in a way that makes people want to listen to what you have to say.
There is no way, no way, no way that you can create a free offer that people will clamor for if you’re unable to convey that you know exactly what they’re clamoring for (without making assumptions about what they’re clamoring for).
Your website visitors are super savvy. And they consider their email address valuable currency. If they’re going to give it to you, you’ll have to promise to give them something very valuable in return.
So, how do we make an irresistible free offer they can’t refuse? One that doesn’t create a bottleneck in your sales funnel?
By knowing exactly what your people want, and then giving them an utterly delicious taste of what you can do to help them.
In other words, you’re giving them a free appetizer to show them what an amazing chef you are and to make them want to stay for the entrée (your paid offer) and the dessert (whatever comes next in your sales funnel).
Be careful though. Before you consider creating a free offer, your message has to be crystal clear in order to ensure you don’t inadvertently create a bottleneck in your sales funnel.
Remember, your sales and marketing funnel needs to be bottleneck-proof, and we want to make sure that, 1) You have traffic flowing freely to your website, 2) Visitors are intrigued by what they see on your website when they land there, 3) They decide to take you up on your free offer in exchange for their email address.
So far so good.
Just be sure your free-offer isn’t a throw-away or it will only become another bottleneck in your sales funnel.
The sad truth is, too many online business owners create free offers that lead to Slow Growth Bottleneck Syndrome.
What a shame it would be to do all that work on your vision, mission, and message, only to create a freebie that misses the target.
Happens all the time.
That’s why I created a bonus offer for my Nail Your Niche Formula that’s entirely about nailing your free offer. The two simply must go hand-in-hand.
The next stage in your funnel, as you can see in the image at the top of this page, is the beginning of the “nurturing sequence.” This is a series of emails that you will have sent out automatically via your email service provider. The purpose, ultimately, is to convert opt-in subscribers into paying customers and clients.
Once you make that initial connection with a website visitor — successfully inviting them to join your list in exchange for the freebie that is short, simple, and loaded with value — the last thing you want is for the relationship to go stone cold.
Sadly, too many entrepreneurs forget all about the people who are on their list. Their excuse usually goes something like this:
“I don’t know what to say.”
“I don’t want to seem pushy.”
“I’m afraid they’ll unsubscribe if I send them too many emails.”
What they don’t consider is that there is no value whatsoever to having a list if its just so that you can say you have a list. A “vanity list” doesn’t do you any good… it only serves to create yet another bottleneck in your sales funnel!
It’s not sound business sense.
If you invited me over to your place for dinner, would you turn off all the lights and pretend not to be home because you were worried that there would be nothing for us to talk about?
Why invite me over in the first place?
(Imagine how this might hurt my feelings!)
Without a clear message and a follow-up plan that takes your prospects on a journey towards converting them into paying clients, why bother?
For successful online business owners, their email list is considered a valuable asset that’s supposed to generate sales. They take great care to keep that list warm and their readers engaged.
Your job here is to serve, serve, and serve again, before you ask for anything, or as Gary Vaynerchuck puts it, jab, jab, jab, right hook. The jabs are the value you deliver. The jabs, if delivered effectively, keep your list nice and warm.
The right hook is when you ask people to buy your product or service.
You get to ask because you have delivered several jabs that have landed.
You’ve proven that you’re the real deal.
But if you’re not asking, you’re not closing the deal.
Selling is a lot like wine, and 85% dark chocolate, and haggis, and Gefilte fish… it’s an acquired taste.
You must acquire a taste for “selling.”
Or you won’t sell anything.
And if you’re not selling you’re not in business, blahblahblahyouknowallthisalready.
This is where we need to step UP and proudly offer our products and services to the world because we have genuinely made every effort to give value first.
Giving is the new marketing.
Giving sets up the ask so that a “Yes” is practically inevitable for anyone who truly is your ideal dream client.
When you love what you’re selling, and believe it will help someone, it naturally feels good to ask for the sale. If you don’t feel good about what you’re offering, then it doesn’t matter that you don’t have a bottleneck anywhere else in your funnel, if you’ve got one here, at the point of sale, you’ve got a BIG problem (and you probably don’t even live in Houston).
Selling from the heart is not the same as selling from your heels, where you’re ready to bolt at the slightest hint that someone might not like what you’re selling. Or worse, that they won’t like you, and you don’t think you could handle that.
Making an offer with your arms and heart wide open is the hallmark of a woman who believes in the vision she has for her business.
She also knows she can withstand scrutiny for she believes in her Self.
No, really. No.
We want to build businesses that allow us to fulfill our mission.
I don’t know about you but I want a business that makes me money AND makes me happy, but most of all I want a business that lifts me UP as I help other women do the same for themselves.
That is my mission and it is so powerful in my mind that it makes me unstoppable.
It gives me the guts I need to go out there and risk the inevitable slings and arrows that come with the territory.
Besides, a business that doesn’t make money isn’t a business, no matter how happy it makes you.
So, let’s think this through. And let me start by giving it to you straight.
YOU. ARE. THE. BOSS. That’s the first rule of being a business woman.
BUT… you may have accidentally become the bottleneck in your sales funnel.
Brace yourself. You may not like hearing about Bottleneck #5.
It’s YOU. (Trust me, I’ve caught myself being “The Bottleneck” in my business several times… not only is it hard to see past our own noses, but it means we really have to step up and put pride aside.
Of course, you get to decide everything. Own that. It’s the best part of being a card-carrying adult woman: You get to be the boss of your entire life. Take charge.
Practice being fearless in order to honor your Big Vision.
Allow others to disagree with you and not make it mean anything about who you are.
Stop apologizing for your choices.
Stop explaining your choices.
Not only do you want to NOT become an accidental bottleneck in your sales funnel, you don’t want to become the bottleneck in your sales funnel at this stage in the other funnel that is your life.
By the way, of course this isn’t easy to do. But something inside you wants this; don’t you owe it to yourself to fight for it?
This is when you might want to consider hiring a coach to help you clear your personal and business funnels of all possible bottlenecks. Hiring a coach can save you a lot of time and a lot of money in the long run.
Sometimes it’s worth paying to accelerate the learning process and making sure there isn’t an invisible bottleneck in your sales funnel.
Keep in mind, however, that the longer your business suffers from Slow Growth Bottleneck Syndrome, the longer it will take you to create a funnel that makes you money (and makes you happy).
Always consider the “opportunity cost” of not taking action.
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